Some Thoughts on Religious Beliefs

This little commentary is not intended to promote any particular religion or atheism either. I’m not making judgments, but rather a little commentary on the subject of religious belief, or lack thereof.
Many find great comfort in their beliefs and church attendance, and I have no quarrel with that. This is overall a pretty cold world and most churches of all faiths offer us hope of a better life ahead. If we can believe and take comfort from that, then I’m all for it.
However, I look around me, after more years than I’m willing to admit (since I can’t understand why I’m still here), I see very disturbing signs. Not that this is new. I started feeling the way I feel many many years ago, and the feeling has grown, but I’ve kept silent, not wanting to argue or hurt anyone’s feelings.
Since the beginning, I believe religious beliefs have caused more war, intolerance, strife, hatred and lack of empathy or understanding than all the other man-made and or natural causes put together.
That’s very sad, because every religion I’ve ever heard of seems to promote brotherly love, peace, tolerance, and love for our fellow man. I don’t know of any of our great religious leaders, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, and so on who has told us to hate any non-believers, kill the unfaithful unless they can be brought into the fold. And here I’m not targeting only people like ISIS. We’ve had inquisitions, witch hunts and general intolerance in every church of which I’m aware, since the very beginning. Even today different denominations, be they Muslim, Christian or Jew, are at best quietly intolerant of other offshoots of the same religions, and at worst…well, we know where that leads.
But aside from all that. No matter who we choose for a God, be it Thor, Ares, Allah, Ra…Whoever, I really wonder. Do we honestly believe this God, in our case, a benevolent Santa Claus lookalike without the red suit (which Satan copped early on), do we honestly believe this God wants us on our knees groveling night and day, thanking him for food we had to struggle to get, begging for our child’s health or a better job?
As parents, we raise our children and to them, up until a certain age at least, we are their Gods. Now they are grown and does any one of us want these grown children on their groveling before us every day to thank us for not killing them the day they spilled a gallon of milk all over the kitchen floor, or the time they casually tossed a dirty sock on the lamp starting a fire? Of course not. Nor do we expect them to thank us every time they put food into their mouths. As we all know, we’re lucky to get a thank you even when we do something extra nice. Our kids love us, but they take us for granted. We’re the parent and we know they love us and they know we know they love us. They see no reason why they should reassure us at least once every day.
I know the world we see around us is a sort of illusion. Nothing is what it appears to be, because if we could look deeply into it, we’d see that all the atoms that make up our bodies, our trees, our scorpions and worms and chickens, etc. are basically identical. And the atoms are made up of particles and the particles really have no substance, therefore no shape, no color, and the entire world, including us, is made from a gigantic collection of them. So in the end, we are nothing, made from nothing, and in my opinion, that’s a piece of work in itself. So I’ll give a God a pass on that. If the world was only what we can see and touch with the naked eye and ungloved hand, I’d say no God. No nothing.
But knowing that it’s much more complex than that, and now we’re talking of infinite universes and black holes and wormholes and space-time, and that tells me there may just be some sort of intelligence behind and beyond all this. If so, I doubt that this intelligence looks anything like a benevolent Santa Claus in a long white robe with a gilded shepherd’s staff in his hand.
So I’m not saying we shouldn’t bother to go to church, if that brings us any comfort. But too many I’ve seen remind me of Jesus’ comments on the Pharisees, feeling holier than people who don’t spend as much time in church as they do. I do wish we could be a lot more tolerant of others, no matter what their religion or faith. If we could do just that, the world would be a much better place for all, and perhaps bring us a lot closer to God as well.

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Prescription Medication, the Panacea that will keep us happy forever.

Didja ever notice? (My chance to be comedian for a day, well for a few minutes).
If you take any one (or better yet, half a dozen) of those medications constantly hyped to us on our TVs, (despite side effects more frightening than the threat of a North Korean prison), you no longer have to work for a living.
All day, you just lie around in a hammock, or lie by the pool sipping cool refreshment, or even swim if that’s your pleasure. You walk your dogs in the park and schmooze with other dog walkers who’re on the same medication(s). You take long leisurely walks along trails past bubbling brooks and yes, even do a little mountain climbing.
Or you can hook up the trailer and go traveling. You can go anyplace and park your trailer at the very edge of a sheer thousand foot drop and confidently stand there hugging your companion while you contentedly contemplate the beauty of nature. You go driving, hiking, biking and running. You’re bursting with the energy you need to play with your grandchildren and you can even go sky-diving, enjoy that cruise to the Bahamas and best of all, if you can afford two bathtubs, you and your loved one can pig out on Cialis and, sitting side by side and holding hands across the short abyss, contemplate the marvelous colors of the setting sun. And of course, once out of the tub, no matter where you are, be it at the tennis court, the club, the swimming pool, maybe even in church? That urge comes on and Cialis has you covered. Don’t worry about prurient onlookers. They’re only jealous of you, a ninety-year old man humping a gasping woman like she’s never been humped before.
In my case, I can’t afford to stop working long enough to enjoy the benefits of all these (mostly very expensive) medications, and in the case of most of them, I’d probably have to bribe my doctor to get them, or order on the Internet from Canada or Mexico (shipped in a plain brown wrapper). And if the item is OTC I can order today and they’ll double the offer. Trouble there is I just can’t afford to pay the separate shipping and handling – and, by the way, neither can you.
So even if I had all the pep, sense of well-being and youthfulness bursting at every seam, I couldn’t afford to stop working long enough to leave town for more than a day. Bummer.

The Great Wall of Mexico

I was thinking about Mr. Trump’s great idea to build a gigantic (and expensive) wall between the United States of America and the United States of Mexico. First, looking back at history, I see that our most artistic and well-built wall, was the Great Wall of China, most of which stands today. Unfortunately, it didn’t keep anybody out. The Berlin Wall, which was pretty nasty from its beginnings, failed to keep people in, and eventually fell. The walls we already have between our country and Mexico are not only a shame upon our nation, but are also useless and expensive to boot. Where’s the great wall that keeps Canadians from invading our country?
Mr. Trump talks of keeping out drug peddlers, rapists and criminals. Does he really believe that the majority of people who come here can be placed in that category? Nearly all these people are coming here to seek a better life, not to get welfare or rob liquor stores or rape our womenfolk. They come here looking for a job, a chance to earn a little money so their kids can go to school and hopefully get a better education than they had.
Supposing for a moment, we get that ridiculous and shameful wall constructed and somehow, despite human ingenuity, we manage to keep everybody out, what will become of our country?
Who will pick the lettuce, weed the beets and pick the hops and berries? Who will mow our lawns, do our gardening and landscaping? Who will do the dishes, mop the floors and clean up the kitchen in countless fast food joints? Who will wash our cars Who will clear the table in our favorite restaurant? In short, who will do all the dirty, menial work nobody else wants, or is willing, to do?
Face it: A gringo simply can’t weed beets. (Trust me on this!) It’s a back-breaking job under a relentless sun that only an underpaid completely desperate person can possibly hope to accomplish.
The average North American citizen isn’t willing to wash dishes, bus tables, scrub floors, mow lawns and do landscaping, nor is he willing to wash cars all day under a scorching sun for what amounts to peanuts. Almost nobody is willing, or capable, of working in the fields.
There are hundreds of menial jobs in our country that nobody wants, or is willing, to do. Without the Mexican labor force that slips across our borders, we’d be at a standstill.
We need the Mexicans as much as they need us. And as they come here, learn and educate their children, like the Irish and Italians, Poles and Armenians, etc. before them, they start at the bottom and move up the ladder to better jobs and better lives and become a valuable asset to our country.
America, let’s wake up! Let’s get real!

The Shame of Television

It really bothers me to see that the people who program television as well as the people who create the ads for television, set such a low bar on our national IQ.

They feed us “reality” that is patently unreal and mostly so boring I have a feeling the director and cameraman go to sleep during taping and only deal with what turns up later. But to really rub it in, after each little segment, a “psychologist” or “legal expert” or former criminal turned honest or even a former disgraced police officer tosses out “expert” opinions.

A couple is looking for a house. Yeah. Like the producers are going to waste time and money looking at houses when in the end, the couple decides to stay in Mom’s basement where they’ve been since they married five years ago. They look at house Number 1 and the wife complains that there are no granite counter tops while the husband says he wants a bigger back yard for his dog.

Immediately after this, a honey-voiced narrator, like a UN translator, tells us the wife wants granite counter tops and the husband wants a larger yard for his dog. Have we finally got it? Do we care?

A criminal casually tells how he butchered a young woman, buried her remains and then went to McDonald’s for dinner. Immediately a psychologist appears and explains that criminals often relive their crimes and feel a need to talk about them. Who knew?

Hillbillies are big. Evidently the television industry thinks we’re fascinated by hillbillies and strange people who live off the grid. I don’t know, maybe they’re right. Maybe that’s why we have so many problems and everybody in the world hates Americans. After all, most of our politicians act and talk as if they were the slow kids who spent three years in the third grade. One told his mom, ‘You got to get out of that third grade before you can get no place.’ Besides, while they’re kicking back in front of the TV they can afford to sip martinis, and plenty of ‘em.

From its very beginnings, television has been for the masses, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve always had advertising and commercials, but in the past they didn’t talk down to us in the same way they do today.

We had little jingles. “Luckies taste good…” “Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat” Jell-O, Alka-Seltzer…all they did was tell you their product was good. As one commercial said, “Try it, you’ll like it”.

Now we have to sit through long dry commercials about new prescription drugs with more fancy names than new cars. That’s bad enough, but then the commercial turns into a horror movie while we’re quickly warned of all the deadly side effects, immediately switching to a happy couple with nothing to do but hike in the woods or go boating. We see people practically having sexual relations in front of people on the beach, etc. because the guy took Cialis. Hot women lie impatiently in bed waiting for (we hope) their husbands to down a Viagra. We’re hounded by attorneys begging us to sue somebody for almost anything. Mesothelioma, Mesh, and on and on ad nauseam. And then the real snapper: the amazing new product that will keep your car looking and running like new forever or the kitchen gadget you can’t live without. Just $19.95, but wait! Order today and we’ll double your offer and upgrade you to the model with a built-in flashlight, and then more softly, just pay separate shipping and handling. People who have fallen for those ads often end up having paid $75 or more dollars for junk they’ll later find at Walgreen’s in the “As seen on TV” shelf for something like ten bucks.

What really troubles me is not so much that they try this stuff, but evidently it’s working. They’re getting worse every day.

When TLC started, TLC meant The Learning Channel and I expected a rival of public television. Commercials? Sure as long as I get some educational and interesting programming…but sadly, it looks as if there wasn’t much of an audience for that, and now TLC, while no long teaching anything but bad taste to prurient viewers, has found its niche. Others are just as guilty. With its reputation I would expect National Geographic to offer really interesting programming. Yeah. And the History Channel. Sounds like you really learn a lot of that history you missed out on in school because you were daydreaming. I like truck drivers and their work is important. I’ve had two brothers-in-law who were truckers, but what do modern-day truck drivers have to do with yesterday’s happening? Well, as to history, one of the brothers-in-law, while visiting us on a delivery trip, went to sleep and his cigarette burned our new coffee table, but, well…that’s sort of history I guess.

Come on America. We (the few of us who are outraged at today’s TV programming and advertising) need to stand up and, like in the movie, “Network”, yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more. Good-bye Dish, Direct TV, Comcast and all the other panderers who peddle this stuff. Well, I can’t cut them off completely. I need my Turner Classic Movie Channel. At least Mr. Turner hasn’t let us down. I even watch CNN sometimes.

After thinking about it, I may look into getting two bathtubs on the patio and maybe I too could, you know…

It’s a cold world.

The Sand Bluff Murders by C.M Albrecht

Rosie Amber

Sand Bluff MurdersSand Bluff Murders by Carl Albrecht

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Sand Bluff Murders are set in a small fictional town in northern California. Jonas Cleary has applied for the post of detective, he likes the idea of a small sleepy town where he can settle down and hopefully start a family.

So when a dead body turns up, the first in twenty years, he’s not sure if the other officers are pulling a prank on the newbie. When the corpse proves to be real Jonas finds himself deep in his first homicide. He must try to put the pieces of the puzzle together with the help of the local townsfolk. When the body is identified they find the man was a stranger, and Jonas must try to reason what brought him to Sand Bluff.

A second dead body has Jonas trying to discover if the two murders…

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Mystery Tour Day 17 #MysteryNovember The Sand Bluff Murders by C.M Albrecht

Rosie is doing a great job. We need more Rosie Ambers.

Rosie Amber

November Mystery Tour

Today our guest on the Mystery Book Tour is Carl Albrecht and his book The Sand Bluff Murders.

21740188

Where is your home town?

I write under the name, C. M. Albrecht, but my friends call me Carl. Lord knows what my enemies might call me, but fortunately I don’t believe I really have any.

Although I sometimes talk tough when I write, I’m really a pretty meek mild-mannered fellow. I’m not a thrill-seeker. I don’t go sky-diving, base-jumping and I don’t take any of those wonder drugs they peddle on TV (the ones that are clinically tested and so miraculous but carry along with them life-threatening side-effects).

Save for a stint in the army, I spent most of my formative years in Portland, Oregon. I loved it there, partially because, from my reading, I felt it must be a lot like London. Old bridges over a wide river. Dark narrow…

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Sharia

Apparently around the world there’s a growing belief that sharia should be imposed upon all the countries of the world. I was aghast at first, but then I thought a little about this.

After all, upon due consideration, I have to admit there’s something to be said about Sharia.

Men get to sit around all day and night smoking and drinking, have girlfriends and boyfriends and come and go as they wish. If they get the chance to rape a woman, hey, it’s her fault because she probably didn’t have her veil properly attached. When they come home their wife better have dinner on the table and keep her mouth shut about never helping with the kids or taking out the trash. Quelle idée ! If she starts complaining about too much work, just get another wife or two to help her out.

Generally speaking, men can do just about anything they want to, while women know their place and if they forget for a moment, they’ll be so sharply reminded that they’ll be unlikely ever to forget again. They don’t discuss your money with you or get to drive your new car.  Sweet.

Just think about the possibilities. When you go out she doesn’t ask where you’re going or when you’ll be back. When you crawl through the door at three in the morning, she’ll never ask where you’ve been all night or what you’ve been up to. When you want to watch a game she’ll be there with the beer and popcorn for you and your buddies, and when you load up your golf clubs or bowling ball, she’ll help you carry the load to the car and bow humbly as you drive off on yet another tryst.

Yes, I’m beginning to think I like this sharia stuff. Only one hitch. I don’t think my wife will go for it. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Thrift Stores

Thrift Store

When I was young I worked in a fast food place similar to McDo. This was inside-only service and we had to collect when served. Every time my manager passed one of us hs’d mutter: “Get the money!” He drove us crazy with that, but now, being older and wiser, I have to say he was right. We were there to make money. Here’s a quote reputedly made by a man far wiser than I am:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption to our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

When we go into some of our local thrift stores we’re constantly faced with the same thing: a store full of workers, wandering about, clogging aisles with their wagons and generally doing little but stocking shelves (a job most stores primarily do during off hours), while a long line stands behind a yellow line waiting for a lone cashier to handle each customer, one…by….one….More than one time my wife and I have laid our potential purchases aside and walked out, unwilling to stand there while the cashier piddles with some customer over the price of an item or whatever. I wonder how many other customers do the same.

The object of all stores, aside from training etc., is — or certainly should be — to get money. I realize that most of the people wandering about on the floor may not be trained to work the cash register, but that should be an important part of  training. For us, it’s infuriating to see all this personnel, all this activity while we have to climb around aisle-clogging wagons filled with merchandise while employees push rolling hangers of clothing about, and then when we finally settle on our purchases and get to the register, STOP! Stop and wait…and wait and wait.

On the plus side, most of the employees we see are very polite and greet visitors and try to be helpful.

For us, going to thrift stores is sort of a scavenger hunt. We usually don’t know what we’re looking for, and never know what we’ll find (even if we don’t need it), but we stopped shopping at Kmart years ago because of the very same problem: aisles clogged with merchandise, unmarked merchandise and long, long waits at the register while a clerk calls out over the loudspeaker, “Price check on register three!”

We won’t stop going to thrift stores. We enjoy poking around and we almost always end up buying something. But don’t make it difficult for a customer to spend money.

And back to what I said in the beginning as I feel  my former boss’s ghost hovering above my shoulder:

“Get the money!”

Evidence: Read the first chapter. Good reading! Amazon, Kobo, Nook, etc.


EVIDENCE
Book Two: Steve Music Mystery Series

©2008 All Rights Reserved C.M. Albrecht
First Electronic Edition, September, 2008 ©2008
Cover art Shelley Rodgerson

ISBN 1-59431-633-3 or 978-1-59431-633-3
Bowker Standard Address Number: 254-0304

                                                    Chapter One
At ten o’clock at night a rusty black pickup edged to the curb before a stately white Colonial house. Earlier, on that bright fall morning, Artis Browne had targeted the property. There was only one car in the driveway, a shiny black Lincoln Navigator.
No wife kissing the man good-bye, no dog trying to get out as he opened the front door. Artis watched the man lock the door and pull a suitcase that bounced down the steps behind him. He wheeled the suitcase over to the driveway and loaded it into the rear of the Navigator. The man got into the driver’s side and Artis watched while the man fumbled around for a moment. He started the engine and the Navigator moved smoothly out of the driveway and headed south toward Folsom.
Artis slapped his hand on the steering wheel. He licked his lips and smiled broadly. This was going to be easy. Well, maybe—if, like so many people, the homeowner did not bother to set his alarm.
Now, in the moonless night, two dark figures descended from the pickup and headed up the leaf strewn driveway toward the rear of the house.
The only illumination at the rear fell in a yellow ring from a small coach light above the back door. A cricket’s chirp stopped abruptly as the two young men came to a halt just outside the ring of light. The men stood looking up, listening.
Artis, taller and thinner, flexed sinewy fingers on the screwdriver he carried in his right hand. He nodded to his buddy, Leon Curtis. With Leon close at his heels, Artis moved up the five steps to the door.
“Why didn’t we just back up here in the first place?” Leon whispered.
Artis sighed, speaking slowly and distinctly, as if talking to an idiot child: “Because if there’s somebody in the house, Leon, they might hear the fucking engine.” Artis pulled his lips into his mouth, moistening them. “Get ready now,” he cautioned. He shifted his grip on the screwdriver.
With their dark skins and clothing, the men had been nearly invisible until they mounted the five steps and stepped into the pool of light by the back door. They might have been brothers.
Leon shot a nervous glance into the shadows around him. He sniffed. “Smells like a graveyard.” He moved closer to Artis.
“How would you know?” Artis said. He peered through the window set in the door, but it was too dark inside to see clearly. He tested the doorknob. Both the men glanced nervously about again and Artis wedged the screwdriver into the jamb. The door ceded to the screwdriver with barely a whimper.
Immediately the men took off, racing around the corner of the home and down the driveway. By the time they reached the pickup, sweat popped from their skin despite the coolness of the evening. Their faces shone in the weak light that fell from the street light half a block away.
They hopped into the vehicle and Artis deftly inserted the key into the ignition. Then they waited, listening.
“When you going to get that nasty white tailgate painted?” Leon asked.
“Maybe tonight’s the night, my man,” Artis said. “I’ll get the whole fucking truck painted. Maybe purple with racing stripes.” He stared into space for a moment. “Yeah…green racing stripes.” He smiled.
After a moment of silence, Leon said, “I don’t hear anything.” He sniffed. “Man, smells worse than a locker room in here.”
“Yeah, well you half deaf anyways,” Artis told him, ignoring the remark about the smell of the truck’s interior. “We’ll wait ten minutes.”
“I ain’t deaf,” Leon protested without conviction. “I hear just fine.” Then in a more contemptuous tone, “Hah, half the time these rich people don’t set their alarms anyway.”
“I’m the one told you that,” Artis reminded him.
Leon’s eyes shown white in the darkness. “Oh yeah,” he said. He fell silent for a moment, then: “Are you sure about this, Artis? I never did anything like this before.”
“I have,” Artis boasted. “I just never told you about it before. That’s how these mothers get caught; they go around bragging about what they did. You got to learn to keep your mouth shut.”
“Oh—no you didn’t,” Leon said. “You didn’t tell me about that.” He glanced through his window at the house. It looked much like most of the homes on this street, big and luxurious. He noted how the house sat well back on the beautifully manicured lawn, the drive curving gracefully around toward the garage at the right rear of the house. “Looks like there’s a light on upstairs there,” he said, noticing the pale light that illuminated one of the upstairs windows.
“That’s just a night light,” Artis said in exasperation. “It was on when we drove up here.”
Leon nodded and looked back at Artis. “Oh,” he said. As he glanced back at Artis, Leon just missed the faint passage of a shadow across the softly lighted upstairs window.
After a moment Leon moved his shoulders. “What are we looking for, exactly?”
Artis arched his eyebrows at Leon. “Whatever, man. Jewelry, DVD player, silver shit. Just small shit. Money would be nice.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Leon murmured. “And bling bling…or a laptop. Everybody wants laptops.”
Artis screwed up his face. Had the man been carrying a laptop? “Yeah, maybe. Maybe he left a laptop up in there.”
“And DVD’s, CD’s,” Leon said.
Artis threw Leon a contemptuous look. “Man…that shit don’t bring nothing.”
“Maybe not,” Leon conceded. “But we could use them.” He sat silent for a moment and then brightened. “You really think you going to hump Alvin’s sister?”
“Shit yes,” Artis told him. “I already been through all that with you. I told you: Anybody be dumb enough to pay her, she’d be a ho’. You know that. I can hump that girl anytime the urge hits me.”
“She’s not a ho’,” Leon said. “Least I don’t think so. I mean…man, she’s talking about going to college next year and she goes to church regular as clockwork.”
“Going to church, that don’t mean nothin’. Lots of ho’s go to church. That don’t mean nothin’…” Artis studied his Geneva watch closely.” He sighed. “All right. It must be about ten minutes. Let’s go, man.”
Artis shifted into reverse and slowly backed the truck around and up the driveway toward the garage. He braked near the back door.
“Nobody hardly can see us from the street,” he murmured. Leon nodded, and they descended from the truck with small flashlights in their hands. They closed the doors quietly.
“Don’t forget the bag,” Artis instructed.
Leon fumbled around behind the seat and brought up a large canvas bag. He rolled it up and stuffed it under his jacket.
On the back porch again, Artis gently pushed the door open. He briefly flashed a light about a mudroom. The flashlight’s pale beam touched on a utility sink; a chair and a small table with a couple of gardening tools. Yellow rain jackets on hooks at the side. He passed that and tried the actual back door. It too was locked. But this time Artis did not waste time. He popped the door quickly. Inside the kitchen, he hesitated for one beat.
“Okay,” he breathed. He shoved the screwdriver down into his belt beneath his jacket and moved forward with Leon at his heels.
“Wow,” Leon whispered as his eyes roved over a large stainless restaurant type range that stood against the left wall, and a stainless built-in refrigerator that took up another large space nearby. He stared in admiration at the granite island with a sink in the center of the room, and above that, pots and pans that gleamed in the jumping beam of his flashlight.
“Man, could my mama cook up some shit in this kitchen,” Leon whispered.
“Well,” Artis grumbled, “your mama ain’t fixing to cook nothing up in here tonight. Come on.”
Leon snickered.
Artis moved forward through a small pantry filled with shelves of foodstuffs and on into a dining room. Beneath a heavy crystal chandelier, a long table gleamed in the darkness. Chairs surrounded the table and to one side a wide hunt board held vases and a silver tea service.
“See if they’s any silverware or something in those drawers,” Artis commanded.
While Artis continued into the central hall, Leon dutifully pulled out drawers and smiled widely at the sight of heavy silverware laid out in dark felt compartments.
“Yeah, we got us some shit here,” he breathed, smiling broadly. Suddenly he jerked and hurried out into the hall. He touched Artis’ arm. “Artis. You hear something?”
Artis froze, listening. He turned back to Leon. “Don’t you go getting hincky on me, man.”
Leon sighed and grinned. “We got some silver in there,” he said, “but—”
“Keep it down, stupid” he admonished, “or you’ll be hearing something from me. Maybe we’ll pick up some of that silver shit on the way back.”
They stepped across the hall into a media room.
“Damn!” Leon exclaimed, having a difficult time keeping his voice low as stood behind the double row of large leather seats and stared at the very large plasma screen that dominated one end of the room. “Get me some popcorn! This’s just like the Cineplex.”
“Will you shut up, Leon? You want to admire big TV’s I’ll take you down to Sears or someplace.”
Artis glanced at the television with a sneer. “Shit, what these people be needin’ with a TV like that anyway? Well, I guess we ain’t packin’ off this set,” he said. “But there must be some video stuff behind some of those cabinets. Maybe we can get something there. DVD players, shit like that. We check on the way back.”
They peered into the living room. They saw lots of furniture. “Nothing here for us,” Artis said. His flashlight beam swept over an ivory parlor grand piano.
“I bet that piano’s worth a few ducats,” Leon said.
“Yeah,” Artis agreed. “You put it up on the truck, man, and I’ll sell it.” He shook his head. “Come on, man.” He headed toward the wide curving staircase at the front of the house. Leon ducked his head and followed close behind.
Halfway up the staircase, Leon grabbed Artis’ arm again. “You hear something now?”
Artis stopped and listened. After a long silent moment he looked back at Leon with scorn. “Don’t you be trying to fuck me up now, man. This shit makes me nervous enough without you running your mouth. You want to be a sheep, you don’t be runnin’ with no wolves.”
“I don’t know man. I thought I heard something.” After a moment, Leon added: “You make that up—about the running with the wolves?”
Artis ignored this and they continued up the stairs. “Ninety-nine percent of the time these rich people they hide the good shit up in their bedroom,” Artis whispered. He snickered. “They think people don’t know that.”
They headed past other rooms toward the front of the house where a faint light glowed around the slightly open door.
Artis nudged Leon, “I think that’s just the night light we saw,” he whispered. “But we’ll make sure.”
With Leon right behind him, Artis stepped very softly across the thick carpeting to the doors. The door was open inward barely half an inch, just enough for Artis to put one eye to it. Seeing nothing, he pressed his hand against the door. At that very instant a violent grunt and a heavy thunk froze his hand on the door. A meteoric trail of blood shot past his line of vision spattering against the ceiling, this followed by a heavy sickening thud. Another grunt, and more blood shot past his line of vision. After what seemed to him an eternity, he licked his lips and swallowed hard. He managed a shaky step backward bumping hard into Leon. Suddenly alive again, he spun about and jabbed hard at Leon, pushing violently. “Go man! Go!”
With Leon at his heels, Artis ran in total panic back down the hall. They hit the main floor and as they ran through the pantry, the bag slipped from beneath Leon’s jacket. The bag fell between his feet throwing him roughly to his knees on the tile floor. He got back to his feet, moaning slightly as he furiously snatched up the bag and continued after Artis who had already exited the home.
Moments later the boys were back in the pickup, breathing hard and throwing quick glances behind them. Artis gunned the engine and the pickup shot back down the driveway and into the street. As they hit the street, the upstairs window opened and a shadow nearly blocked the window completely.
Inside the pickup, Leon leaned forward rubbing his tender knees. He threw another quick nervous glance back at the house and then turned to Artis. “Man, what happened? What did you see there, man? Man, what did you see?”
“Man, you don’t even want to know,” Artis told him. “Man—I never see nothing like that in my life before.” He steered recklessly toward Folsom Boulevard now. He kept pulling his upper lip in and biting it. “That’s a fucking madhouse up in there, you know what I’m saying, man? I don’t know what’s goin’ on up in that bedroom. I mean I never saw so much blood in my life, I—”
Leon’s eyes widened. “Blood?”
“That’s what I said. Blood. Oh man, it been flying all over that place. Man…” He fell silent, his mind confused by what he had seen.
“Oh man,” Leon said. “Oh man,” he repeated. “Oh my God, Artis, we can’t be mixed up in any murders.” They rode in silence for a moment as they barreled west down Folsom while Leon allowed this information to soak in. Suddenly he had another chilling thought. “You don’t think anybody saw us, do you?”
Artis drove without responding.
“Artis?”
“No. I don’t think so.” Artis continued driving. He wet his lips, frowning. Suddenly he spoke again, more loudly: “Fuck no, man. Nobody saw us. And you didn’t see nothing either, man. Just remember that—and you keep your fat mouth shut. We were never there, Leon. Remember that. We don’t know nothing, and we sure don’t want to get messed up in no white people’s troubles. I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t want to know. Next thing they be setting us up to go to San Quentin or something—unless you’re a personal friend of Johnnie Cochran.”
“Johnnie Cochran? Get out! You know I don’t know him.”
“Well, I rest my case. You keep your fat mouth shut, hear?”
The pickup turned south into Franklin and disappeared into the night.

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