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By Fire LIght
by Dan Brooks
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique


The condensation dripped down the outside of the long neck beer and made a cold, wet ring on his jeans. Today had been a bad day. Others had been worse, but this one was one of those days that seemed to defy imagination. John tilted his head back and looked up at the southern California sky, crystal clear and cloudless. A slight sea breeze had driven back the haze allowing one of those precious moments when the sky is an absolutely limitless blue bowl, but John did not notice. The next drop of cool liquid dropped onto his jeans, stirring him back to life. With another drink, a little more of the day washed away.

That morning did not start well. It started with Alisha. As part of the morning ritual, Alisha is wakened first because she inevitably takes the longest to prepare. At two foot six, she fills every inch of her small frame with intense attitude. She has the capability of taking everything in her path and either turning it to gold or making it entirely unusable. Today was not a gold day. It is always amazing to John how something only 5 years old can make a grown man shiver in his tracks. John had read somewhere that hurricanes are measured by a scale that goes from 1 to 5 in severity. It was this method that he used to determine the extent of damage to follow in her wake, when she developed a mood.

Alisha awoke grumpy because her night gown had twisted around her legs. Recognizing the signs, he elevated the situation to stage one. Then it was the socks. The dress was pink with lavender flowers, therefore the socks could only be pink or lavender and one each of those had been eaten by the sock monster. Alisha elevated from stage 1 to stage 2 on this issue. White was marginally acceptable, but only marginally. Then it was the Coco-puffs, which unfortunately were now gone. The two beautiful eyebrows became one and she moved from stage 2 to stage 3. At stage 4, JPL starts registering changes in air pressure.

Now it was Nathan and Andrew. Both boys knew the routine well at 9 and 13, but they also knew the buttons that needed to be pushed to move the little one from stage 3 to stage 4.
On this day, being peculiar as it was, Alisha decided to throw away the normal warning signs of stage development and go directly to stage five.

After dealing with hurricane Alisha and the collateral damage of a slightly bleeding Nathan, John realized he was five minutes late leaving.

Phase one of the bad day was over and phase two was ready to begin. John’s vehicle was a blue Taurus with many more miles on it that it should have. It used to be called a car, but now had many other names. The front window had a crack across it that vaguely resembled the southern California coastline. Both rear tires were balding to the point of showing belts and the front tires would throw sparks at night. The motor ran well, though. Four of the six cylinders fired quite well, leaving the other two to fend for themselves. They did, allowing the exhaust to contribute to the pervasive smog. John felt it only right that he do his part. The body was in good shape on the right rear quarter panel. Everything else was dented and treated with spray on primer to keep the rust at bay. The interior was another story. John kept it immaculately clean. It was his only solace amid all the other chaos.

The car with multiple names was the source of phase 2 of the bad day. The starter, which previously had never given any indication of trouble, now failed completely. A swift kick added character to the front quarter panel but did nothing for the starter. Checking his wallet, there was a single crisp twenty dollars. The cab ride to the sitter was exactly twenty dollars in the opposite direction from work. Twenty minutes later, hurricane Alisha, Nathan and Andrew were loaded into the cab and the last twenty dollars deposited with directions.

Now the long walk to work. He would arrive about thirty minutes late, if he hurried. John worked for a construction company that specialized in the most dirty and nasty jobs that can be found. Nasty jobs create a better income for the owner. The problem was that John had been late more than his fare share. John pushed hard toward the work site, hoping against hope that they would still be there when he arrived. The company was located in the center of a long block of similar businesses. An 8 foot fence surrounded an office trailer, a large storage shed and some stacked industrial tool boxes. The lot itself was mud with one paved area directly in front of the trailer. Usually, there were four vehicles parked there, the owners Hum-V, a 15 passenger van and a large work truck with ladder racks and a panel truck that transported the tools. The only one visible was the Hum-V, which meant that the crew had already left for some other work site.

Climbing the metal stairs to the trailer door, John paused for just a moment before going in. There were two things waiting for him inside. One of them was information concerning is current employment and the other was Brittany Holmes. The question was which one was worse.

Pulling the door open revealed a small desk. It was probably large but dwarfed by Brittany. It was not that she was big, but her breasts were enormous and she carried about thirty or forty extra pounds. Her hair was bleached blond and wound up her head, standing a full foot above her forehead in a bee hive reminiscent of the early sixties. Over her more than ample body had been stretched a flowered spandex. The fact that the spandex survived this treatment was a testament to the integrity of this amazing cloth. The small roses were now the size of saucers and the breasts spilled out of the top and formed a large table below her brilliant red waxy smile. Her mid section was a collection of highly compressed rolls. Today, she was wearing a denim skirt that appeared to have been woven around her hips and dropped mid way down her thighs. This was a normal method of dress for this woman that had the body of Larry the cable guy and the mind of a super model. For some reason, this woman had taken a special liking to him and made that very clear.

She looked up from her computer and smiled. “Good morning, hun. It’s great to see you again”. The eyes drifted slightly to side creating the illusion of a somewhat amorous intent to those words.

“Good morning, Brittany. How are my favorite girls today?” There was a running dialog about the size of her breasts between them.

Glancing down with a mock shyness, “Oh, hun, we are just fine; just waiting on you to ask us out on a date. After that, we can find out what their names are.”

“You know I cannot do that. I just cannot get away from the kids that long. But someday, we will find a way. Until then, you just take care of them for me.”

“You know I will, sugar.” She gently patted the top of one of the tables. “They will wait for you.”

“Brittany, did Roger leave directions to the work site?” Roger Hastings is the owner of Hastings Construction and the boss of the operation.

Now her gaze changed to one of sincere apology. “No, he left you this envelope and said he thanks you for your service, kinda.” John politely took the offered envelope, finding a check for the last week of work and a slip asking him not to return.

“It’s okay, sweetie. I half expected this. You have a nice life. When we meet again, I will take you out.”

“You take care, now.” He knew she meant it.

Stepping outside, he went over to the construction box that was his. There were about forty boxes, each one numbered with a large stencil below the locks. They had been painted many gaudy colors and were adorned with drawing and phrases that accompanied men of this environment. The rules were simple. Nobody touches another’s box. To do so, even if unlocked, was an immediate firing and possibly a good beating. Inside these boxes were men’s livelihoods. Inside of his were the tools that he had borrowed from Roger, each one signed for with a receipt detailing the value and replacement cost. Roger might be a weasel, but he is an extremely shrewd weasel. When he got to his box, he saw the lock cut and box emptied. Again, the day was taking another turn in the wrong direction. Eyes turned upward looking for the gathering clouds. Just clear, blue, beautiful and silent sky.

“God, can this day get worse?”


Kreagor surveyed the troops with a practiced eye. Everything was in order, the regiment properly aligned. Many battles had taught him the necessity of disciplined excellence. In battle, his troops were feared and many times, just him showing up was enough to cause the enemy to turn. Today was practice and minor skirmish encounters between battalions. The third battalion had shown a weakness in hand to hand and today was to be a challenge between third and second, a particularly practiced group. The seventh battalion had been dispatched on a surveillance mission. In his mind, the contents of the seventh crossed his mind. The third company was his premier guerilla warfare group.

A messenger came running up, interrupting his review.

“Excuse me, sir.”

“Yes, how may I help you?” Regardless of his authority, he believed in and taught respect for every rank and position.

“You have been summoned by the high council.”

The words went through like a bolt of lightning. The high council was composed of the senior leaders and received direction from a single source. When the council summoned, it was not to be taken lightly as it usually preceded the beginning of a major encounter. Without even a change of tone or reference to the importance of the information on his countenance, he turned and faced the messenger. “Thank you. Please inform them that I will be there within the hour.”

“I will, sir. They have requested that you bring your second in command as well.”

“Thank you, it will be as they request.”

This was extremely unusual but not without precedent. Kreagor waited until the messenger was gone, called the various battalion commanders together for their instructions, collected the second in command and departed for the council.


On his way home, John stopped and purchased a new starter for his aging vehicle. Despite the obvious lack of funds, without the car, he would not be able to locate another job. Logic demanded that the precious few dollars be spent. Along with the starter, a few necessities and a six pack of long necks.

It was a long walk from the store back to the trailer park. The sight of it always made him wince. A long row of beautiful crepe myrtle trees lined the road up to the entrance where a sign proclaimed arrival at “Paradise End”. This in fact, was the end of paradise. On the other side of the trees stood collections of the most run down trailers in the history of trailer parks. This is where people ended up when homelessness was not an option. Most of the buildings had large discolorations from years of neglect. His was located near the back where the worst had been moved to keep them invisible to the most of the world.

As he walked back, he noticed that some of the houses had the familiar yellow sheet tacked to the door; an eviction notice. The owners did not stand on ceremony or worry too much about the law. People here could ill afford to be visited by law enforcement to complain that the evictions were not following the correct procedure. It was simple. If you did not pay for two months, then you were out. If you did not like that idea, then make sure that something was paid. Today was the day that those went out. He felt a kind of remorse for those people who were living on hard times that just got worse.

Rounding the last corner, he was welcomed with the answer to his earlier question about what else could go wrong. A yellow sheet fluttered gently from his front door. Rushing through the payments, he was sure that he had paid at least a portion of the rent, enough to stave off the eviction. It did not make sense.

Hurrying the last few steps, he set the bags down and ripped down the sheet. It had nothing to do with payments, it was the trailer. It had been condemned by the city and was being demolished. It was not worth arguing about since the condemnation order had come more than a year prior and now the owners were faced with fines if they did not comply.

John dropped heavily into one of the white plastic chairs outside his front door. This was almost surrealistic. The mail man arrived and handed him a bundle of envelopes. Leafing through, he noticed one from the electric company and another from a credit collection agency. It seemed fitting somehow that this would happen today. The first long neck opened with a swish and promptly overflowed onto his hand and poured down the bottle into his crotch. John stared at the cold, wetness creeping through with a feeling of emptiness creeping through his body.

The beer finished, he entered the trailer to put away the food and beer and then turned his attention to the car. John was not a mechanic by any means but necessity had forced him to learn the rudiments of mechanical repair. Nearly two hours later, he had worked through the mystery of starter and had the car running again. It was now time to go get his children from the sitter.

Driving down Mercedes Avenue, a police officer turned casually in behind him. A few short seconds later, the lights of the cruiser turned on. John pulled into the parking lot of a now closed taco stand.

The officer approached the driver side window and asked for the compulsory evidence of license and insurance. John stared at the man for a few moments before responding.

“Have you ever had a day that just never seemed to end?”

“Sir, your license, registration and insurance card, please.”

There was a point when he would have just complied with the officer’s request without comment, but not today. John needed to talk for just a moment. “Today has been one of those moments in history that add up to a very bad day. First, my daughter blew a fuse this morning and punched my son in the nose. How is it that a five year old girl can break the nose of a nine year old boy?”

“Sir, your license, registration and insurance card, please.”

Ignoring the second request, he continued. “This added up to make me late for work. If that wasn’t bad enough, my car broke down. Now I have a bleeding son, a wound up she-devil of a daughter and a broken car.

“Sir, all of this is very sad but…”

“Officer, I have to tell you this. If I don’t tell someone, I am liable to go postal. Can I finish my story and then I will give you anything you want. Please?”

“Sir, …”


The officer shifted his weight from one foot to another, removed his sunglasses and placed on hand on his gun butt. “Please step out of the car, sir.”



John understood the meaning of the inflection and ceased to argue. Stepping out, John was escorted to the back seat of the cruiser. Inside it was air conditioned and at least comfortable. John was not hand cuffed, just locked in.

The office climbed into the front seat and continued. “You seemed determined to talk to me so and I am not inclined to stand out in the heat. “

“Thank you. You would not believe this day. It started off bad and has gone steadily worse.” John proceeded to repeat back to the officer the events of the day. In the end, the officer was laughing at his misfortune.

“The reason I pulled you over is that your plates have expired, more than a year ago.”

“I was really hoping you would not notice that.”

“It seems that no one has for some time.”

“Today would certainly be the day for someone to notice.”

“I understand that your day is bad, but I just cannot let this pass. I am going to write you a ticket for the expired tags but am not going to notice the expired inspection. You can get the tags fixed and show up in court with the current registration and get the charges dismissed. You need to show up at the court house with a current inspection, also.”

“Officer, you are being more than fair, in fact you are being quite kind." John handed over the required information to the officer.

A few moments later, John was again on the road with a fifty dollar ticket. He picked up the kids from the sitter and went directly back home. At least we have our health, he thought.

John got back to the trailer without event and took up his position outside the door while his kids went inside to watch television. The long neck rested on his leg, creating a cold, wet ring as the sun moved toward the horizon.

“Dear God, I know we have not talked much, and I really don’t know how any more, but I need your help.” His eyes glanced across the yard, with its car, toys, and small flowers growing from a bed that surrounded the neighbor’s trailer. “I remember that you said that you care for the flowers, can you care for me, now? If you don’t help, there is nothing else that can be done. I am done.” His eyes toward to the azure blue sky that answered back with a profound silence.

Alisha came out the door carrying a soda in her little hand. She took up a seat next to her father and shoved the soda toward him with a simple command. “Open.”

He smiled at the flawless beauty that sat next to him and pulled back the pull tab, leaving it standing up. She got great joy out of pushing the tab back into position then rotating it ninety degrees as a trademark that this was her soda. She pulled her chair forward and propped her leg up on the rail to exactly mimic his position. He slowly lifted is right hand and held up one finger. Slowly her hand and finger did an exact mirror. One finger expanded into five spread digits then descended to his lap. The little hand followed ever movement; a smile then a frown; wiggle a foot then purse the lips. The long neck slowly lifted for a drink and was mirrored by the soda. This was a favorite game and both got great joy out of the few moments, each movement creating a new memory that was carefully stored away.

Inside, the sounds of Sponge Bob rolling through the screens was interrupted by the staccato ringing of the phone.

Nathan appeared at the screen door with the phone. “Dad, it’s for you – Uncle Ron.”
Ron was his twin brother who lived in Virginia. He was very successful and very much a Christian man, active in the church and the community. Every time he called it was a reminder of how poor is life is compared to his mirror image.

Taking the phone, he winced and dreaded what was coming. A smile crossed his face before he answered. “Ron, it has been a while.”

“Forever – you never keep in touch any more. You seem to have become a ghost over the past few years.”

“Well, things have been a little difficult since…”

“I know. Sarah did you wrong in the way she left.”

“That is history. I have not even thought about her lately.”

“You never did lie very well. Waking up, finding a note and nothing else does rough things to a man.”

In fact, it had nearly destroyed him. She just packed and left in the night without reason. Alisha was three when she left. It had destroyed him inside. He lost his job, a beautiful house and everything that mattered. The only thing he had left were the three kids. He had been able to make ends meet, but just barely. Emotionally, he was almost recovered but financially, he was a miserable wreck.

“Well, that is ancient history, what can I do for you?” He did not mean to be short with his brother, but also did not relish the thought of having wounds opened.

“Marsha and I have been thinking about you and the kids lately. How have you been doing, really?”

“We are getting along just fine. Nothing could be better right now.”

“Well, I have a proposition for you. Marsha and I just bought another house and moved into it. That leaves our first house standing empty. We really don’t want to sell it right now, so we thought it might be a good place for you and the kids to live in.

“That is a nice thought, but your house is in Virginia and I am in California. Commute would be a bear.”

“Granted, but… “

“Ron, again, it’s a nice thought, but just not feasible.”
“John, let me be blunt. You have been on Marsha and my mind of late. We have prayed about this and feel absolutely certain that you need to move out here. We are willing to purchase plane tickets for you and the kids. The house is furnished. Sell everything that you have and come to Virginia. Financially, we can afford this and we have the ability to get you a job at the bank. I know your skills in banking.”

"How can you guarantee that I will have a job? That is a big risk just to pull up stakes on a word?" John knew that it really wasn't but was fishing for an out.

"John, I didn't want to say anything but both Marsha and I have been promoted. I am the Vice President of Overseas Investments and Marsha is the Personnel Director. We have been really blessed by God and put in a position to help others."

John looked up at the sky and actually noticed that it was blue and beautiful. “I am not one to take charity.”

“What charity? All of this is on credit and you can pay it all back as you get established. Before Sarah, you were a top notch banking inspector. I know times are hard now, but you can get back everything that you had, and more.”

“That sounds almost tempting. It really does, except I have a lot of unfinished business around here.”

There was a pregnant pause. “John, I know you are going to be upset, but I pulled your credit report and it looks like chicken scratch.”

Hackles tickled the back of John's neck. “You should not have done that” the sound of a wounded pride clear in the spat words. Being in banking gives you specific opportunities not available to others. Having a social security number that was one number different from your own also helps.

“I know that I should not have but I did and there is nothing that you can do to change it. Your credit cards have been paid off and your problem with the electric company has been resolved as of this morning. You will also find that five thousand has been deposited in your checking account for the purposes of closing up shop and buying airplane tickets. Are you still upset at me?"

The lump in Johns throat prevented words from coming out.

"If you still do not want to do this, take the five thousand on loan. I googled your address and you are welcome to continue living in the trailer park at the end of the world, if you want to, but this really below you. How can I, as a blessed man of God, see my brother live in squander while I live in His blessing?”

“I really don’t know what to say.”

“Say that you will come to Virginia.”

“How could I possibly say no?”

“You could, but it would not be very smart of you.”

They continued talking for the next few minutes, exchanging stories about children, reminiscing about times gone past and making plans for future endeavors together. “Ron, I really don’t know how to thank you.”

“You don’t have to. Just give praise to God for his ability to provide for both of us and get your tail to Virginia!”

John hung up the phone and went into the trailer. “Kids, we are moving.”

Andrew responded first. “Are we getting a nicer trailer? The roaches in this one are getting big.”

Nathan piped up “Can I get my own room this time? Andrew stinks when he farts”. Andrew launched himself from seated to on top of his brother in one smooth move.

Reaching out to the two combatants, John held both of them at eye level by the shirt collar. “If you two can stop fighting for just a moment, first we are going to get some ice cream and then we are moving to Virginia with your Uncle Ron.”

Alisha started running in a circle and screaming “Ice Cream! I WANT ICE CREAM”. Nathan and Andrew stop trying to wrestle free and stared at each other then at their father, the impact of the words beginning to sink in.

They both looked at him and said in unison “Virginia?”


Kreagor had just left the meeting with the high council. He had been given new direction and was now preparing for his descent. He had been relieved of command and given a new task specifically assigned by the Lord of the Angel Armies. To Kreagor, the decision was not a matter of question or a matter that caused him any angst. Angels responded to commands from above and he answered to the elders who answered to the Lord of the Angel Armies. It did not cross his mind as to why an angel of his size and authority had been given purpose to guard a child family. This type of tasking was normally assigned to a guerilla task force, specifically trained in the art of camouflage and covert operations. He would stick out like an oak tree in the middle of a scrub pine forest. My child standards, he stood over 10 feet tall with a chest that was nearly the same thickness around. His sword was larger than most children are tall. Yet, his command was clear – protect, assist as little as necessary and try to stay out of sight. His job is to observe and ensure that they got to where they were going, although he did not know where that was.

Getting down to earth was an easy task. He needed a column of prayer. Finding one, he dropped down through it, reveling at the power and marveling that the children had such open conversation with the Lord of the Angel Armies. The numbers of columns that were strong enough to support transfer were far fewer than had been in times past, but there were still a few. Dropping down, he quickly crossed the surface until he found the target of his interest.

It was a family of four holding a yard sale. He looked around at the surrounding area and quickly identified some nasty but small demons. Inside, he found one associated with the music and drove it out with just a look. Alcoholism looked out from the neighboring house and quickly disappeared out of view. Others in the area just glared and him and make a showing of wanting to take him on, but nothing moved forward.

Kreagor settled in and found a quiet spot to isolate himself for a moment.

Just then, the darkness that approached was indication of a more formidable adversary. Much like a fly is formidable to the dragon, but more so than he had faced before. Accompanying a black Hum-V, the demon was particularly proud of his achievements with this particular child.

The Hum-V pulled up in front of the trailer and blocked two available parking spaces as Roger Hastings stepped out. Roger Hastings was small in stature, about five feet four and balding. He was balding and wearing a polo shirt and slacks.

“Good morning, John. How are you today?”

“Just fine Roger, what brings you into this neighborhood?”

Ignoring the question, Roger admired some of the wares for sale. “How is the sale going?”

“Roger, what do you want? You did not come up here for small talk.” Until now, Kreagor had stayed out of sight, now he stepped forward, exposing himself to the particularly nasty demon with the man.

“When you left, you did not pay up for the tools you borrowed from me. I am here to collect for them. By my accounting, you owe me about three grand. Hopefully, your sale is going quite well.”

“You and I have quite different calculations. How do you figure that I owe you anything?”

“Well, I have here a signed receipt for every tool that was loaned to you and the value. At the bottom of the receipt, you agreed to return the tools to me in similar condition at the end of the employment. Since you did not return the tools, you owe me for their value. Its seems fairly simple to me.”

“You know, Roger, I kind of suspected that you would try something like this.” Turning, he spoke to Nathan. “Son, there is a brown envelope setting beside my bed, would you go get it?”

When I got to the office last week, I noticed that the lock had been cut on my box and everything removed. Even the pencils had been taken out.”

“What does that have to do with anything? You know that you are responsible to return all of tools and security is not my responsibility or my fault if you use a cheap lock.”

Nathan arrived with the envelope. It was a full sized manila envelope that held within in a double entry bookkeeping journal. John took it without opening. “Thank you son, excuse us while we talk. You see, Roger, I understand how you control everything that happens inside the fence. Nobody touches those boxes without your say so, I figure that you had the lock cut and everything taken out when I didn’t show up for work on time.”

“Again, you fail to realize a simple point. There is no connection between anything that may or may not have happened and your responsibility to return those tools to me.”

“Again, you fail to understand the gravity of the situation. “ John removed the book from its envelope and turned to the front page, exposing a stack of Polaroid’s taped to the inside cover. “Recorded here is every tool that I signed for and a picture of the tool with is serial number. I ensured that each hand tool was marked with serial number. Now, I believe that there has been a theft and since the tools were locked inside a closed box and by your own company rules that lock could only be cut on your authorization, then you would be the one responsible for the theft. If that is true, what we need to do is contact the police and have them check your other boxes to see if any of these tools are anywhere on your business property. I believe that would make you liable for theft, and since the value of the tools is over five hundred dollars, that means that this is grand theft.”

“All of that is conjecture and nothing can be proven.”

“You are correct, but it will be interesting to see your business shut down for a day or so while the police search your business for the stolen tools. Haven’t they been to your site just recently looking for a connection to drug trafficking? I am quite sure that would jump at a chance to search your entire site looking for the tools. No telling what they might turn up.”

Roger began to visible squirm and Kreagor saw is opportunity. Stepping from cover, the impish demon never saw the sword until it was too late. Demons don’t die as they are spirits, but they can be terribly damaged. This one suffered a horrible slash down its side. It turned just in time to see the sword come down and tear through its black hide. Screaming, it ripped its claws out of Roger and scurried for cover. The countenance on Roger’s face changed immediately. He went from confidence to worry as if a light switch had been flipped.

“Another thing, Roger, about number and figures – they don’t lie. I noticed the first few weeks of working for you that my check was always shorted an hour or two. I fought with you to get those back the first few times, but it proved to be more hassle than it was worth. What I did was keep very accurate track of what I was doing.” John turned the page in his book.

More, specifically, what you were doing. Every job that I went on – the address, type of work, job order number, hours worked, even the number of people that were at the job site.” John showed him the lines and entries. “I even recorded the deliveries that arrived at the site and from what company on what day. Curious thing how many times one truck would show up to deliver material and later that same day another truck would show up and take some of the materials away. I have recorded every license plate number and what was delivered and or taken.”

Roger was not looking particularly good. His face was beginning to take on the reddish sheen of a person caught with his hand in the cookie jar. John continued “Also, I recorded the number of people who were at the job site. Since you did not allow people to drive directly there, they all had to ride in your fifteen passenger van. Here is recorded the number of people in the van both coming and going and when we arrived and left. Here is the name of the job foreman each day at every site. I know (based on conversations with some of your finance people) that you bid every job as time and material, taking only the jobs that no one else wanted. It would be interesting to find out how many people you billed for. You mailed each and every one of the bills through the mail. Did you know that every act of mail fraud carries with it a penalty of up to $10,000? I wonder what the states attorney could do with this kind of information.”

Roger was vacillating between and angry red and a horrified pale at the prospect of this kind of detail getting out. Switching between various opportunities and without his advising spirit, he was left with making a decision on his own – something he was not used to doing. “You are bluffing and none of that is of any value to anyone.”

“Let's find out.” He putted the book back into its envelope, pulled the sealing tape and securely closed the flap. “Andrew, go into my room and get the other envelop that looks just like this one out of my side table.”

By now, a group of people had gathered around to witness the rich man squirm. These were the type you might expect to find at a place like this, a proud people, fierce about their friendships because they had little else. One of them was Tiny Johnson. A hulk of a man both tattooed and an excellent gardener.

Tiny stepped up and spoke to his friend. “Any problems here, Johnny my boy?”

“Nothing, Tiny – hey, I noticed the pansies are blooming beautifully.”

“Thanks, man. Anything that I can do, let me know.”

Just then, Andrew showed up with the other envelop that was identical to the first.

“What are you going to do with those?”

“Well, this one is address to the California Attorney General, EOC. The other is addressed to our local district attorney. What I am going to do now is call the police so they can help us investigate the theft of the tools.”

“You can’t do that.”

“I can and will. They are already addressed. All I have to do is drop them in the mail box and make a phone call.” Kreagor stepped up to Tiny and whispered softly in his ear, speaking to the love that he had for this family.

“What do you want for them? You know this is blackmail.”

“The books are worth about $1.50 each. I don’t believe that I have asked anything of you. It is you that has demanded money from me. Who is the one trying to perpetrate a crime here?”

“Let me call my lawyer now and he can meet us here and discuss what is in those books.”

“I don’t think that is in my plans for today. Andrew, please take these down to the mailbox.” John removed the first page and all the pictures out of the second book, placed it in the envelope, sealed it shut, and handed both of them to Andrew.

Andrew accepted the two packages and headed for the mail box, which took him directly past Roger. Roger growled at the opportunity and reached for the boy. At that very instance, Kreagor shoved Tiny forward who picked up the small man with one arm and tossed him on the hood of the Hum-V.

“If you ever touch one of those boys, your life and everything about it will come to an end.” The face on Tiny made it very clear that the threat was real.

Andrew stood frozen in his tracks.

Roger stammered and Kreagor whispered to Tiny. “I did not mean to hurt the boy, I only want the books.”

Tiny turned to John. “How much does he owe you for back wages?”

“About $400.”

Tiny turned to the pale man. “How much are the books worth to you?”

“Let me down.” Roger slipped down to his feet and opened his wallet. “I have two thousand in cash.”

“What is that for? You only owe me about $400 and the books are only worth $3.”

“I will gladly pay you for the trouble you took in recording this information. I would only seem fair of me to reward you for your diligence.” Roger glanced up at the towering giant standing over him.

“John, does that seem fair to you?”

“It seems more than a fair offering.” Tiny took the books from Andrew and held them while Roger counted out the money. Tiny accepted the money from the man and handed him the books.

“I have a third book that I will keep for my own record keeping, but it will be safely destroyed when I leave the state.”

Roger glowered, nodded and climbed back into his Hum-V, the damaged spirit dragging along after him as a sped from the group of onlookers.

“Tiny, I think I owe you dinner.”

“You owe me more than that. You have my grill and he drove over one of my Azaleas.” Both laughed and John peeled out three hundred dollars. “Will that cover it, my giant friend?”

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