August 2015


Yes it is August, but here in West Virginia fall is in the air. My trip has been extended a week, but I am taking full advantage by spending some quality time with my dear friends Graeme & Janette Taylor.

The weather is beautiful across the country on this Saturday and I suggest you let go of your troubles and enjoy the day. Leave that work behind and let a light heart spread a smile across your face. We will all be back to work soon enough.

Breakfast with friends somewhere in the mountains. August 29, 2015

Breakfast with friends somewhere in the mountains.
August 29, 2015

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Can I Talk To You Man To Man?


Today I want to talk with someone no one ever talks with. We talk about them, we talk at them, and we never talk with them. Today I want to talk with the people who do the things society calls abuse.

Since I brought society into this and for those of you reading this that I am not talking with, let’s look at whom society says the people are that commit abusive acts. Then we will look at who actually commits those acts. Then I’ll go back to the conversation and those of you not in our conversation can continue your eavesdropping.

Turn to the government or one of the many domestic violence groups and most of them will tell you that people who commit abusive acts are men. Also, they will tell you they are men who are or have been in a relationship and that most of them have kids they are also abusive too. Many of the organizations get upset if you try to include anyone who is not in that group. They do that for many reasons not the least of which is a political agenda.

Now, who is it that actually does things that have been called abusive by our society – EVERYONE. No I do not mean that everyone is abusive. I mean that the people who do those things can be anyone. Men, women, children, rich, poor, and middle class, and they can be of any or no religion young or old – anyone can commit abusive acts.

If you are a kid, what society calls your actions is bullying, but it is domestic violence too. They will classify you as a bully and bring a world of hurt down on you. If you are a woman who is abusive to your kids, just like the bully, society is looking for you and they will not be nice about it when they find you. If you are a woman who is abusive to your man, well society is not ready for that yet. You can get by and your man will most likely be the one arrested. I know. I found that out in Columbus, Ohio, independently from three law enforcement officers all off the record. But times are changing some organizations are actually accepting the idea that women can physically abuse men. It won’t be long and they will come for you too.

I’m a man and I want to talk with men who do this. But I want you kids and women in our conversation too. This applies to you as well.

Now the rest of you can snoop while we have our conversation.

Hi, I’m Joe and I do understand you. No I do not abuse people, but my dad and one of my ex-wives did. First I just want to say I know you do not wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “I think I’m going to be mean to so and so today,” or “I think I’ll go hit so and so today.”

I know you don’t do that. You are a good person. I know that sometimes they just don’t know when to quit. I know that. I have people in my life who push me and push me, they just don’t know when to quit.

But you know what? There are probably other people who feel like you about the same person that gets you started. You know what? Those other people do not hit her. That’s the difference. I know you don’t want to. And even if you have not been arrested yet, there are people who know you hit her. You think no one knows, but you would be surprised who knows, I guarantee it. Today in our world, anyone of them can pick up the phone, call 911, and you are going to jail. They do not even have to see you hit her. All they have to do is to say they have seen bruises. When that happens all kinds of bad things are going to happen to you. It gets written up in the paper and now everyone who knows you, knows you were arrested for domestic violence. You spend time in jail and now you have to go to court and defend yourself. That means you have to hire a lawyer. Some employers will fire you if you have been arrested for domestic violence.

Also, every time you fill out a job application you have to answer “yes” to that question “have you ever been arrested?” and you have to tell them why. Most employers won’t hire you if they see you have been arrested for domestic violence. And if you are arrested, even if the charges are dropped, you now have an arrest record that will follow you for the rest of your life. You cannot get that erased.

If you have not been arrested yet there is a reason why. Because that woman that you hit, she knows you are really a good man and she does not want all those bad things to happen to you. She just wants you to stop hitting her. Also those other people who know what you are doing? They know you are a good man too. And they do not want to see all those bad things happen to you too.

I want you to think about something though. You do not have to tell me, but I just want you to think about this. Remember the first time you hit her and remember the last time you hit her. The last time was worse wasn’t it? You don’t have to answer. Just think about it.

You know what? Over time, you are going to hurt her even more. It is not your fault, but you can’t help it. One of these times you will hurt her bad enough she will have to go to the hospital. Hospitals look for this now-a-days, and they report it on their own. All those bad things I talked about before? When that hospital makes that call – every one of them will happen and even more. She can’t stop it. Those friends of yours that know you have been hitting her? They can’t stop it either.

And if you have kids living at home the court can (and often does) tell her that if she does not want the kids to go to Foster Care, her and the kids cannot live with you.

Do you see all the bad things that can happen to you? All because you are doing something you really do not want to do?

Here is something else for you to think about.

How important is she to you?

How important are your kids to you?

Do you want to lose them?

From the moment the cops are called this is where you are headed and no one can stop it. She can tell them she does not want to press charges. But many states now have laws so they can go after you WITHOUT her pressing charges.

Here is the kicker. You cannot stop the abuse. Not by yourself, it is not going to happen. I know you think you can. I know how sorry you are after it happens. I know you swear it will never happen again. But you cannot stop yourself. She knows all of this. Those other people that you think do not know – but do know? They also know all of that. All of them are waiting for just one thing. They are waiting for you to get help.

It does not mean you are crazy, it does not mean you are not a man. Actually it means you are a man who is willing to do anything you can for your family. As men we are taught to make sacrifices for our family, to do everything we can for our family. Has your dad or uncles ever told you to “man up,” mine did. They said it as a put down to shame you. But there is no shame in getting help when you need it. When something needs to be done and you are not good at it what do you do? You go to a professional – no shame.

I’m bad at plumbing. If I do it it is going to cost three times as much. So I call the plumber. This is no different.

You do not want to hit her, but you cannot stop on your own. So call a professional. No shame. Just another man doing what he has to for his family just like you always do. If you don’t eventually you will have all those bad things happen to you. I guarantee it.

Every day a woman ends up in the hospital or even worse. Not one of those men wanted to do that, but it happens. And if you have drugs or alcohol involved when you become violent you need help even more. I’m not saying you need to stop drinking (I won’t comment on drugs). Once you go for help they might not even tell you to stop drinking. But you need to stop the abuse.

You are a good guy and there are plenty of people who want to help you. They do not want to see anything bad happen to you. And if you do not know anyone to turn too, contact me, I’ll help you, and together we can find someone near you that is a professional (because I’m not). If you do not know how to contact me, leave a comment asking me to contact you and tell me how to contact you. I have people do that on other topics all the time. No one will know why you want to talk with me and I will keep it secret. You know what? It probably won’t even cost you anything. Most insurance will pay for it.

I know how bad you feel after you hit her. And if she has bruises every time you look at her you are reminded of it. It stinks doesn’t it? You have no idea how many of us there are that are willing to help you and support you, if you will just take that first step and ask for help.

Like I said if you have no one to turn to, ask me. I will help you.

Think about it ok?

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Who Knows YOU May Be The One To Make A Difference!


This year I have had a lot of people come to me with all kinds of problems. I don’t know why I have no certificates or special training. I am just a working stiff like you. But, I try to help people as best I can. This week while listening to another person I remember something that happened when I was with my daughter.

Elizabeth (my daughter) can be very shy in public or around strangers – dad is not like that. We were walking along one of our favorite places Creekside in Gahanna, Ohio. I saw a man with a tie I admired and I stopped and told him so. Then we went on our way. Our conversation afterwards went like this:

E: “Daddy why do you do that you embarrass me?”

J: “Sweetheart did you see that man’s smile when I gave him a compliment?”

E: “Yes.”

J: “It made him happy. It did not cost me any money. It only took a few seconds of my time. And he thanked me for the compliment which was good for you to see someone else with manners.”

E: “Yes, daddy but it is embarrassing.”

J: “Well Sweetheart you never know what kind of day that man was having. He could be having a really bad day. And if he is having a bad day, maybe, just maybe, someone giving him a compliment is enough to turn his bad day into a good day. And if he gives someone a compliment and changes that person’s day it could just keep going on and on. So you see giving just one person a compliment can make a whole bunch of people have a good day. Do you understand?”

E: “Yes, but it is still embarrassing daddy.”

What my daughter did start doing was telling me when she saw something she liked and I would go and give the compliment. She would stand behind me trying to hide, but she didn’t complain about daddy embarrassing her. What I also noticed was my daughter noticing the smile spread across the other person’s face when I complimented them. What I noticed was the smile that spread across my daughter’s face when she saw the other person smile.

You see we cannot bring someone back from the dead, we cannot fix a broken relationship, and we cannot get someone’s job back for them, or stop a foreclosure. But we can bring a smile to someone. And sometimes that smile is just enough to change their day and make the burdens of their day just a little bit lighter.

We cannot save the world. But we can help just one person today. And for today, that one person will be enough, just one person for today. If you do that each day, at the end of a year you have helped 365 people. And if each one of those people helps just one person and each of them helps just one person … well you get the idea.

We can’t save the world. There is going to be hunger and disease, there will be nuclear weapons and wars, there will be hate and terrorists, none of those things will go away no matter what anyone tells you. But if you help just one person you come into contact with you make the world around you better. As we all make the world around us better what we do is to lessen the influence of all the bad things in the world.

In recycling the slogan is “Think globally, act locally.” That works here. So, if you are tired of the hate in the world, the hunger and poverty. If you are tired of the terrorists and the haters in the world. Do something about it today. Today help just one person. Today give just one person a compliment. Today help just one person cross the street. Today help just one person get a good meal.

You can’t change the whole world. But you can change the world of just one person today. And changing the world of just one person may not seem like much to you. But to that one person you help it might just be a life changing event. And even if it isn’t … what did it cost you? Maybe 15 seconds or at the most maybe 2 or 3 minutes? In one day you have 86,400 second or 1,440 minutes. So, maybe those few seconds or couple of minutes really aren’t that much out of your day. What do you think?

I already helped my person today. What about you? (I think I’m going to squeeze in a second person today. You know what they say “Every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”)

You have a good day, take care of yourself, and go change someone’s world!

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A Walk in the Forest


At the Writers Guild a couple of weeks ago we had a writing exercise. A one word prompt & 15 minutes to write 250 words. Here is mine.

A Walk in the Forrest

David didn’t know what he was going to do. They were out in the middle of a forest and Lisa now lay on the ground maybe dying. How was he supposed to know she was allergic to bees or that they would stumble upon a swarm of them in the middle of the trail? Fortunately he was able to get her away from the bees to relative safety. He laid her down on her back her head slightly elevated. But she was unresponsive.
He needed some way of getting help. The phone would be of no use and they had not seen anyone in over an hour. He decided to walk an ever expanding circle around Lisa. He didn’t want to go too far from her. But he needed to get her help as soon as possible. He walked as far from Lisa as he felt safe. He saw no people or anything he felt would get them help.
Maybe he would see something from a tree top. He chose the tallest tree near Lisa and began his climb. Near the top of the tree he spotted something. He saw a ranger station close enough he could make out the windows in the top of the tower. He needed to contact them somehow.
David thought better when he smoked. Pulling out his Zippo and cigarettes he realized he had the answer in his hand. He angled the lighter to reflect the sun at the ranger station. He flashed SOS.

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I Want Your Opinion


Yes, you read that right ~ I want your opinion.

I have an historical fiction series that takes place in the Gilded Age. You know that period of time before World War One. I want you to read the first book and tell me what the series should be called. I have a title for the first book (I’ll tell you later), but I need a title for the series.

The story is about a young German aristocrat who is the black sheep of the family. Tired of his playboy ways, his family disowns him leaving him with no money and no place to turn. He becomes a spy for Germany to continue to live the lifestyle he has become accustom to (plus it will anger his family even further having a spy for an EX-son).

Here’s the story, tell me what you think and what should the series be called (it is short about 20 minutes worth of reading)

If you are the first person who comes up with the name I use for the series, I will send you and autographed copy of the first print book in the series when I publish it.

~~~~

“Now be a good boy and quietly take your seat, Herr Straus,” a voice said.

Erik could feel a gun pressed firmly into his back. He froze with fear. What was happening to him? Erik didn’t know it now, but that gun was the crossroads that changed the rest of his life – forever. Ten minutes earlier his train had stopped at the station. He stepped off the train looking around for the porter’s office.

Erik stepped from the porter’s office at the train station towards where the cabs awaited fares. He had made arrangements for his baggage to be taken home. Now he was looking for the family motor car. Wolfe waited him at the end of the long line of cabs. He walked briskly to the door Wolfe held open for him.

“I trust you had a successful trip sir.”

“Yes it was,” Eric replied.

Erik smiled at Wolfe, he was thinking of the tour of Europe he had just completed. He counted it as very successful though he was sure his father would be furious. Although that was a comparative description, it simply meant his father’s mustache might twitch. Always aware of their station, his father was excessively restrained.

He started to enter the backseat when he noticed a stranger sitting against the far door. Erik turned to look at Wolfe when he felt something poke him in the back.

“Now be a good boy and quietly take your seat, Herr Straus,” a voice said.

Erik did as he was told. The stranger entered the motor car after him and Wolfe shut the door. As Wolfe was taking his seat behind the wheel Erik turned to look at the man who entered his car behind him.

“Do you know who I am?”

“Erik von Straus, wayward son of Baron von Straus,” said the stranger.

It was at this moment the man behind Erik put a bag over Erik’s head. Erik started to resist and the man behind him grabbed him in powerful arms wrapped around his chest. The first man spoke again.

“Now be a good boy and stop this silliness. You can change nothing and you will only hurt yourself.”

Erik continued to struggle. He started to call out for Wolfe and then everything went black.

“Now why did you do that? The boss said don’t hurt him,” the first man said.

“He is not hurt, Hans, he is pliable.”

“You are always quick to violence, Otto. You did not need to do that. He was not going to go anywhere.”

“And now he will not be any trouble at all, will he,” Otto said. It was not a question.

The second man put a blackjack back inside his coat and sat against the seat back. Hans let go of his grip on Erik and leaned him back against the seat between them. Hans handcuffed Erik’s hands in front of him before leaning back in his seat.

“And if he does not wake up by the time we get there, what then?” asked Hans.

“Stop worrying. The boss said rough him up, but do not hurt him. We did that,” Otto replied.

“I still do not like it. You did not need to knock him out.”

“Quit fussing and enjoy the quiet ride.”

The two men sat quietly for the rest of the trip. Wolfe drove to a rough side of town. Each block they passed was in more need of repair than the one before it. After a few minutes even the prostitutes were not on the streets. The motor car pulled into a large lot beside a large dilapidated warehouse, Wolfe parked the motor car at the corner door of the warehouse. Wolfe stayed in the motor car with the engine running while the two men lifted Erik out of the motor car and carried him toward the warehouse.

“I told you, you should not have knocked him out.”

“Oh shut up. Are you afraid of a little work? Quit your complaining, we are paid well, aren’t we? He is easy to handle, he is not struggling, and we do not have to listen to his arrogant mouth.”

“I’m just saying you did not have to hit him so hard.”

“Shut up and get the door while I hold him.”

Otto grabbed Erik under both arms while Hans walked to the door. Hans opened the door and stepped back revealing a dark interior with what looked like a pinpoint of light directly across from the door on the far side of a large empty space. Hans grabbed Erik’s feet and followed Otto inside the warehouse. They carried their burden to the far side of the warehouse where the single light was sitting on a table. They set Erik in the lone chair by the table and tied his hands behind his back and feet to the chair legs.

“Go shut the door,” Otto said.

Hans walked back across the warehouse and shut the door. As soon as the door was shut Otto turned up the wick on the kerosene lamp that sat on the table. Otto stood in front of Erik with his hands on his hips looking at Erik. Hans walked up and stood beside Otto.

“Stand behind him, where he cannot see you,” Otto said.

Hans did as he was told. Otto stood looking at Erik for a minute. He was slumped against his restraints with his head on his chest. Otto took Erik’s chin in his hand and lifted it. Then he slapped Erik in the face a few times with his other hand to arouse him.

“Come on pretty boy, time to wake up.”

Startled, Erik woke up. He jerked his chin out of Otto’s hand and looked around at his surroundings. Then he looked up at Otto, anger and determination filled his face and eyes.

“I do not know what you think you are doing, but you will not get whatever it is you want!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that boy.”

Otto stepped back from Erik taking off his coat and laying it across the table, and then he began rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. He sat his derby hat on the table on top of the coat, and dropped his suspenders off his shoulders letting them hang by his legs. Then he raised his left hand and pumped his right fist into the open palm.

“What is this about? I demand to know!”

“Sonny boy, your demanding days are over,” Otto said.

Without warning, Otto delivered a quick jab to Erik’s stomach. Catching Erik by surprise, the blow knocked the wind out of him. He lurched as far forward as the ropes would let him gasping for air and coughing. Otto backhanded Erik with his left hand, laughing in his face.

“You do not listen too well, do you boy? But then if you did you would not be here now. Would you, boy? Well, I am going to see if I can smarten you up a little bit. Maybe your daddy should have done this to you a little more when you were growing up.”

With that Otto struck Erik again, this time with a powerful punch to the jaw. Erik’s head whipped to his right and a small line of blood appeared on his lip. He quickly looked up at his tormentor.

“You untie me and we will see who learns some manners.”

“Sorry boy, I do not do Marques of Queensbury rules. So, you will just have to take your beating.”

Otto hit him again, this time to the chest. After the first two punches Otto began to pull his blows. The boss did say to rough him up, but not to hurt him. He was just a kid, and a privileged one at that. Otto was afraid of hurting Erik if he hit him full force. The beating went on for about another twenty minutes with banter going back and forth between Erik and his attacker. Erik could not image what this was all about, except maybe one of his dalliances during his trip. But, these men looked German, like himself. Of course they were probably just hired thugs.

Behind him, Erik heard a door open followed by footsteps across the floor. Hans stepped around the table and stood behind Otto. Otto stepped back and hastily put his hat and coat back on. He bowed slightly at the waist putting his hand to his derby while backing up into Hans.

“Evening, sir, I – I – I did not realize you would be here sir,” said Otto.

The man did not say anything, but walked up behind Erik and hit him with a gloved open palm across the back of his head. Erik turned his head trying to see who this third man was. But, the man moved back and forth sideways avoiding Erik’s gaze. Then the new comer motioned for Otto to continue. Otto took off his hat and coat again, throwing them haphazardly on the table this time. After a few more blows the man held up his hand for Otto to stop. Then he walked around in front of Erik, standing in the light of the kerosene lantern so that Erik could get a good look at him.

Erik looked up, a look of shock immediately coming across his face, his jaw dropping slightly open. He stared at the man for a moment, and then said the only word he could think of.

“Father!”

“You will never call me that again,” Baron von Straus said.

The baron stood his with feet a shoulder’s width apart. He raised his hands and began to take off his leather gloves, loosening them by pulling at the finger tips one at a time. When he had removed his gloves, he held them both in his right hand and slowly drew them through his fisted left hand. Then the baron dropped his hands to his side and looked back up at his son. He studied his son’s face for a moment before he spoke. Erik simply sat in shock, realizing his father was responsible for his treatment. The slap to the back of his head was the first time in his twenty-two years that his father had ever struck him.

“But, father why –”

The baron’s right hand darted out striking Erik across the mouth with his gloves.

“Shut up,” the baron yelled.

“For years we have tolerated your behavior. We’ve even tried to straighten you out. That trip was supposed to be your introduction to the family business. Not your opportunity to sample the decadence of other countries!”

Erik lowered his head. He had never seen his father like this, and he would have never imagined his father would have had him kidnapped and beaten. He could not believe this was happening to him. The baron looked down on his son with a twitching mustache, quivering lower lip, and wild eyes. He clenched his fists and then began striking his open palm with the gloves he held tightly in his right hand.

“The daughter of a high level diplomat! Did you really think it would go unnoticed? She is pregnant.”

“We are the same age, she knew what she was doing.”

The baron struck his son full force with his gloves across the face. Erik’s head whipped to his right, his cheek immediately becoming red. The stinging on his face almost brought tears to Erik’s eyes, he gritted his teeth determined not to cry. He would not give his father the satisfaction.

“You are no longer my son. You will not return to our home ever again. If you cannot learn to be responsible with our guidance then you will learn on your own in destitution.”

The baron turned and looked at the two men behind him. Hans tried to become invisible behind Otto, which was not hard to do, considering Otto’s size.

“Wolfe will take you two men wherever you need to go. You are to leave this disgrace here. Untie him, but give him no assistance whatsoever. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” the two men said in unison.

The baron turned abruptly, without even a glance at his son, and walked from the warehouse. Otto stood looking down on Erik without saying anything. He waited until the baron had left the warehouse and the door had shut before he spoke. Erik sat looking at Otto the whole time, showing no emotion and not taking his eyes off of Otto. Hans stepped around Otto and spoke first.

“Well kid, we would like to help but, you heard the baron. You are on your own.”

“We cannot leave him here. He would never survive to the end of the block. The boss would have never told us to do that. The boss would have at least told us to take the kid back to the train station,” Otto said.

“The boss would do what the baron told him to do. I am not going against him. Are you?”

“We are taking him back to the train station. Do you have a problem with that?”

Otto squared off against Hans and raised his fists. Hans looked at Otto. He shrank back from Otto and held his hands up in front of him.

“Ok, Ok. But you just remember when the baron finds out. The boss won’t protect us.”

“We won’t need protection. Untie the kid.”

Otto relaxed his stance while Hans walked around behind Erik to untie his hands. After Hans untied Erik’s hands he stood up behind the chair. Erik began rubbing his wrists.

“His legs too.”

“He can untie them himself.”

“I said untie his legs!”

Hans walked to the front of the chair and squatted down to untie Erik’s legs. Erik sat rubbing his wrists, looking up at Otto. He did not know what the big man had in store for him. But, for now he decided he would behave himself while waiting to see what they would do. Hans finished untying Erik and stood up behind the chair. Otto and Erik locked eyes for a few seconds before Otto spoke.

“Unless you want to try and walk out of here, get up.”

Erik stood up, still rubbing his wrists. Otto motioned Hans toward the door. The three men started walking single file to the door with Erik in the middle. Hans opened the door and the three men walked out into the cool night air. Wolfe was standing by the motor car. Otto motioned Hans and Erik inside the motor car. Otto walked over to Wolfe and laid his big paw on Wolfe’s shoulder.

“We left the kid here. Right?”

“Yes, sir,” Wolfe gulped.

“Take us back to the train station.”

Both men climbed into the motor car. Erik sat between his captors in the back. Hans started to put the hood back onto Erik, but Erik balked, jerking his head back.

“Either you wear that hood or you walk out of here,” Otto said.

Erik dropped his head forward again. Hans put the hood over Erik’s head and then both men sat back in their seats. Otto leaned forward to tap Wolfe on the shoulder. Wolfe pulled out of the warehouse lot and started driving back to the train station. The drive back to the station was quiet and seemed longer. It gave Erik a chance to think about what had just happened. His father had threatened to disown him before, but he had never actually disowned him. His father had never struck him before either. He would wait until he was back at the station and plan his next move. One thing he knew, whatever he did, he would be on his own.

Erik knew when they were approaching the station because the motor car slowed, and then turned into the station. When they arrived at the station the cabs were all gone. Wolfe pulled up to the side and stopped the motor car. Otto pulled the hood off of Erik and then stepped out and held the door for Erik. Erik climbed out of the backseat and stood in front of Otto staring at him.

“What am I supposed to do now?”

“Not my problem. You are alive, you should be grateful. You would have never made it to the end of the block without us.”

Otto sat back down in the motor car. He tapped Wolfe on the shoulder while he closed the door. Wolfe pulled away. Erik stood in the same spot, watching the motor car until it turned a corner and he could not see it any more. After the motor car was gone he doubled over in pain, dropping to the ground, a grimace sweeping across his face. He did not have to be a doctor to know that Otto broke ribs on his left side. There was just no way he was going to let those thugs know they hurt him.

He decided to stay at the station. When the morning train came through the cabs would come back, and he could take one to a doctor. He knew he would not sleep much, if at all. He did not really think his ribs were broken. He probably just cracked one or two. But, God he had never had pain like this. Of course Erik had never cracked a bone before, much less broken one, so he did not have anything to compare his pain too. Besides, the time alone at the train station would give him time to decide what he was going to do after the doctor’s office.

Erik walked up to the boarding platform and sat down on one of the benches for waiting passengers. He replayed the entire evening in his mind for a while. Then he started making plans for what he would do. He did have degrees in engineering and medicine. He was not a doctor, but there were still ways to put his education to work for him. First though he would have to go to the doctor. If he did hurt a rib, instead of just bruising one, he would need to get his chest wrapped. Then he would have to find suitable accommodations for himself.

As Erik sat thinking about his future he fell asleep and began dreaming about his conquests during his six month trip on family business. His dream eventually took him back to the warehouse from the previous evening. Suddenly a pair of rough hands grabbed Erik, yanking him up right on the bench he had fallen asleep on. In Erik’s mind this was still part of the dream, he was groggy and having a hard time waking up. When a large man took a step back from him and spoke. He had Erik’s full, wide-awake attention.

“Well, look what we have here.”

Erik started to leap up when another arm, this one behind him, reached around his chest pulling him back to the bench. It was not the hand on his chest that stopped him. It was the other hand that was holding a very sharp knife at his throat.

The first man opened Erik’s jacket and was looking in his pockets when he saw a hand come down on top of the man’s head and knock him out. The attack on the first man was immediately followed by the second man dropping his knife and the other hand losing its grip on him. Erik whipped around and looked into the face of his rescuer.

“Just like school wouldn’t you say?”

“Wilhelm! But, how did you – ?”

“I just got in, my train was hours late, let me tell you. But, first maybe we need to get to someplace more friendlily.”

The two men went out to the front of the station where Wilhelm’s motor car was waiting on him. The driver opened the door and Wilhelm stepped back to let Erik enter first. Erik started to get in, then paused and looked into the back seat first. Then, smiling over his shoulder at his friend he climbed in. During the ride to Wilhelm’s house Erik told him about everything that had happened.

When they arrived, Wilhelm sent his driver for a doctor. The two college friends sat sipping brandy until the doctor arrived. The doctor examined Erik in the guest room. When the doctor was finished both men rejoined Wilhelm.

“Well, he did not break anything, but he has certainly taken a bad beating. He needs to spend the next couple of days in bed,” said the doctor.

“Not a problem, he is my guest. He can stay here as long as he needs to. My man will take you back. Thank you, Doctor.”

The driver and the doctor left the room leaving Wilhelm and Erik alone again. Wilhelm handed Erik a fresh brandy. Erik felt the warmth of the brandy through the glass of the brandy snifter. He held the snifter up to his nose while breathing in the refreshing aroma. The texture of the leather chair he sat in felt inviting after his experience at the train station. Erik could have sat here with his brandy all night.

“First thing in the morning we will get you to your bank so you can withdraw your money. Then we will come back here so you can rest. When you feel better, we will find you some place suitable.”

“Thank you, Wilhelm, I do not know what I would have done without you.”

“Think nothing of it. You should retire. You have had a long day and we will be busy tomorrow.”

Erik bid his friend goodnight and retired to the guest room. The last thing he remembered before falling asleep was how much he liked clean starched sheets.

The next morning both men were up bright and early. They had a quick breakfast, and then they left to go to the bank. When they arrived at the bank the car let Erik out at the front entrance and then drove to wait at the corner. Erik walked into the bank and went straight to the vice president’s office. The door was open and he paused in the doorway before being welcomed in.

“I thought I would see you this morning, sir.”

“Yes, I am going to be finding new accommodations and doing some travel. I will need to close my account.”

“Your account is already closed sir.”

“Oh good, then just right me a check for the balance.”

“I am afraid I cannot do that. Your father closed your account yesterday.”

The vice president rose from his chair when Erik walked into the office. By the time he broke the news to Erik he was at the door closing it. The discussion became heated, but the door muffled their voices so that no one in the bank could hear what was being said. Minutes after the door closed Erik emerged stern faced and walking briskly out of the bank. He looked down the street at the car.

As Erik walked to the car a man in the street wearing a long grey coat and soft hat was bent down at the rear window and then abruptly started walking away. Erik tried to get a look at the man’s face, but he never looked in Erik’s direction. As he approached the car the driver stepped out and opened the rear door for Erik. He climbed into the backseat and the driver closed the door, took his place behind the wheel, and began to join the traffic on the street.

“Another of our school mates?” Erik asked.

“No, just a man doing some work for me. How did it go at the bank? Did you get your check?”

During the drive home Erik told Wilhelm everything that had happened in the bank. Wilhelm told Erik not to worry about it. He thought he could find suitable employment for him tomorrow. The two arrived back at Wilhelm’s home and went to the study to drink and smoke cigars while waiting on lunch. After lunch they spent the rest of the afternoon in the study reminiscing about college while enjoying a couple more rounds of brandy and cigars.

The next morning both men rose early and met in the study again before breakfast. They both had tea while waiting for breakfast. Erik was feeling worse today than he did yesterday. He also noticed bruises while he was shaving this morning. Either he had not noticed them yesterday morning, or they were worse today.

“So, what is this job you think I would be good at?”

“We will talk about it later this morning. I need to talk with a man first and we will feel better after a light breakfast.”

“What type of work is it?”

“It is something that is well suited for someone in our status and culture. You will see, travel, good pay, and a bit of excitement from time to time as well. You will be good at it and you will enjoy it.”

The two men engaged in small talk as they ate. Wilhelm picked up the morning paper from the table and started scanning it while they talked. He held the paper, folded in half, in one hand. Wilhelm held up his hand for Erik to stop for a minute. He took the paper in both hands and began intently reading it.

“It seems there was trouble at the Deutsche Bank yesterday morning.”

“Really? What sort of trouble?”

Wilhelm lowered the paper slightly, looking over the top at Erik for a moment. He folded the paper into fourths with the lower left corner on top. He reached across the table, turning the paper around so Erik could read it as he passed the paper to him.

“Perhaps you should tell me.”

Erik took the paper, his mouth slightly open, his eyebrows scrunched up together, and his eyes widening slightly. He took the paper in his right hand and began to read. After a few moments he gripped the paper in both hands. Then he flipped the paper open to see the headlines across the top just before he dropped the paper over his plate.

“What is that? That wasn’t me! They told me my father closed my account the day before and then asked me to leave. I did not even see anything that looked like a robbery. It must have happened after I left!”

One of the servants walked into the dining room, stopping at Wilhelm’s shoulder.

“Sir, there is a gentleman to see you. He says it is important.”

“Show him in.”

The servant left and then moments later entered with the man. The man was dressed in a long grey coat and soft hat. He walked up and stood behind Wilhelm without saying a word. Wilhelm addressed him without turning around.

“Inspector, may I introduce you to Erik von Straus.”

“Sir, will you please rise. Turn slowly around and place your hands behind your back sir, slowly.”

Erik did as he was told, his mouth agape, eyes wide. He tried to speak, but no words came out. He could not believe this. He was being arrested for a bank robbery he did not commit, and his best friend from college is the one who called the police on him.

“I am arresting you for robbing the Deutsche Bank and injuring the bank teller with a pistol,” the inspector said.

Erik was still trying to talk when he felt the cold steel of the handcuffs as they locked around his wrists. The inspector grabbed him and roughly turned Erik around. Finally Erik found his voice while looking at the inspector with indignation and surprise.

“Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, sir, your friend indentified you. You are Erik von Straus, youngest son of Baron von Straus, bank robber, and shooter of unarmed bank tellers.”

The inspector turned to Wilhelm and spoke as he roughly guided Erik to the front door.

“Thank you sir, sorry for the intrusion.”

Erik could not believe what was happening to him. As they approached the front the butler opened the door and bid the inspector good day. The inspector roughly pulled Erik down the steps to a horse-drawn police wagon. Another officer was standing by the back holding the door open. The inspector roughly tossed Erik in the back and the other officer slammed the door shut.

Erik fell on his face and chest. He struggled to his knees just as the wagon started forward with a jolt, dropping him on his face again. He struggled back to his knees and then onto the narrow bench that ran down the side of the wagon. He sat on the bench, hunched over so his head would not bump the roof. Erik began to go over the past couple of days in his head.

He was kidnapped and beaten up, disowned by his family, almost robbed at knife point, all of his money taken and his accounts closed, and wrongly arrested for robbing a bank. If that was not bad enough, it was his own friend who turned him over to the police! This was all a bad nightmare. That was the only plausible explanation. It had to be. Tomorrow he would wake up in his own bed and tell his mother about the horrible dream he had.

The wagon stopped with a jolt. Erik was just struggling to his knees when the door opened and the second police officer grabbed him by his ankle and yanked him out of the wagon. He fell on the ground, only to be grabbed by his arm and roughly yanked to his feet.

“This way Herr Straus,” said the inspector.

They entered the police station where Erik was chained to a bench. The inspector began processing paperwork on Erik’s arrest and incarceration. When he was finished he walked around a big wooden desk to Erik. He unchained him from the bench and took him down a long hallway of jail cells. The inmates of the other cells whistled and yelled catcalls at Erik as he was led past them. The inspector pushed Erik into an empty cell, spun him around, and took the handcuffs off. Then he pushed Erik back into the cell where he fell on his back. The inspector slammed the door shut and clasped the bars in both hands.

“Don’t think you are getting special treatment, because you are not. If I put you in with those other animals you will never make it to trial, that’s all, and nothing more. You young kids with the silver spoons in your mouths think everyone owes you. We owe you time in prison for what you did, or a rope around your neck if that bank teller dies.”

Then the inspector was gone. He sat up on the floor, pulled his knees up and sat with his head on his knees. He felt like crying, but he could not do that in front of the scum in the cells around him. They were still calling out to him. They would not shut up and leave him alone. There were no windows in his cell. There were bars on one side of his cell and the other sides were grimy bricks. The only light came from a kerosene lantern hanging from the ceiling of the hallway.

Erik had no friends, no family, and no money. He had no idea what he was going to do. His life was over and he was not even twenty-three years old yet. He kept trying to think of some way to defend himself against the charges. But, the only way he could defend himself was with the testimony of the people at the bank. They already said he robbed the bank, so he would have to get them to change their testimony or go to prison. He could not even bribe them, he had no money. With the right lawyer he could get out, but again, he had no money.

While Erik was trying desperately to find some way of getting himself out of the fix he was in Wilhelm was with the inspector. The two men were in the inspector’s cramped office. The office was small, one table that served as a desk, two chairs a trash can, paperwork everywhere, and one dirty window. Wilhelm stood, reached across the table and took back the business card he had given the inspector earlier. Emblazoned across the top of the card was a doubled-headed eagle. The only other thing on the card were Wilhelm’s full name and an address and office room number at a government office building with a phone number.

The inspector rose and the two men began to walk to the door that led to the cells.

“You are absolutely sure, sir?”

“Yes, Inspector, even as we speak everything is being handled in the prosecutor’s office. This is of the utmost importance to His Majesty the Kaiser. As such I must ask you to speak not a word of it to anyone. Later today a man similar to young Herr Straus will be transferred here and you shall hold him for the robbery. You will list Herr Straus’s imprisonment as a case of mistaken identity.”

“And the bank teller? We will not be able to keep that a secret.”

“I will handle it. You have nothing to fear, my good man.”

At that Wilhelm reached his hand out to shake hands with the inspector. When he pulled his hand back there was a roll of bills in the inspector’s hand, which he quickly put into his pocket. The inspector opened the door and the two men walked down the hallway leading to Erik’s cell.

“It is always an honor and pleasure to be of service to the Kaiser.”

“The Kaiser appreciates that, and your secrecy in this whole matter as well.”

The two men stopped in front of Erik’s cell. Erik was sitting against the wall on the floor, knees up head down on his knees.

“On your feet. You have a visitor, Straus,” the inspector yelled.

Erik stood up and saw Wilhelm. He said nothing. He had no idea what Wilhelm wanted, but Wilhelm was the reason he was in this cell. He did not know what he wanted but he was sure it was not good. He stepped back and placed his back against the wall, watching Wilhelm enter his cell. The inspector shut the door behind him.

“I will be back in five minutes, sir, and you behave yourself Straus. We know how to handle inmates who misbehave.”

With that the inspector was gone. Wilhelm walked over to the bed. He could see why Straus chose the dirty floor to sit on. The bed was worse, but Wilhelm sat down anyway.

“I am afraid I have some bad news, my friend. The bank teller died.”

Erik just stood in shocked disbelief. Now he would be on trial for his very life.

“They are going to hang me and you put the noose around my neck!”

“I understand why you think that. But you need to listen to me. I can take care of all of this and you can walk out of here with me – a free man.”

“What’s the catch?”

Erik was catching on quick, the money his father spent on his education was not totally wasted.

“The British are starting problems again. Your government, your Kaiser, is in need of someone who can move around in affluent circles without causing suspicion, but who will not be taken seriously by the British, or anyone else for that matter.”

“You want a playboy to spy for the Kaiser. Is that it?”

“Well – that is not exactly the way I would put it, but something along those lines. The choice is yours.”

Erik looked down at Wilhelm for a moment before he replied, he liked the idea. His government was going to pay him to be exactly what his parents detested.

“It’s nice to be needed.”

####

 

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