The Shaking - sample
“Krueger! Incoming! Heads up!”
Ryan Krueger, a field training officer for the Portland Police Bureau, raised his shield in time to divert the bottle of what appeared to be urine that had been hurled his way. Urine was the least of his concerns. The recent crowds of “protesters” had been “lively” to say the least—rolling trashcans on fire, Molotov cocktails, chunks of concrete and bricks—all aimed at the “poh-leece.”
One of his fellow officers, a well-liked and respected man of color, had deflected an arrow. Sure, black lives mattered, unless they wore blue. The guy with the bow ultimately had been taken down and arrested, but that coordinated action had cost them. Their district and Central Precinct offices were within the police headquarters building on 2nd Avenue, all of which had come under direct attack as a result of pulling men away from the protection line to go after the scumbag, um, peaceful protester. They weren’t allowed to call these people anything derogatory, which meant the truth was again nowhere to be found.
Day 182. Three days before Congress was expected to ratify the vote and declare Charles Henry “Po” Sidon as president-elect. One would think the Antifa and BLM crowds would have been satisfied that they’d gotten what they wanted in the election, but no. After six months of nightly protests, 30-plus “officially-declared” riots—that looked little different from the protests, and over $4 million in property destruction, downtown Portland looked like the loser in a war they had never asked for.
New Year’s Eve had seen the resumption of protests with two Starbucks, a bank, jewelers, and many other small businesses once again becoming targets. Now, three nights later, Ryan and his comrades were once more suited up for “battle,” except their hands were still tied to prevent them from winning.
To say this was getting old was, well, getting old.
“Kreuger, Diamonte, St. James! Push that line back. We need more breathing room.”
Standing next to him, Joe Diamonte grunted. “More like maneuvering room. We’re packed in here like sardines.”
Ryan had to agree. Wedged between hastily erected concrete barriers, they had little space to move should they themselves become targets for more than the occasional missile.
“We shoulda cordoned off the entire block,” said Jesse St. James as the three officers used their shields and verbal commands to move people farther back from the building and sidewalk.
Out of habit, Ryan nodded, not that he expected anyone to see the gesture of acknowledgment behind his protective gear. “That would have taken twice as many men. And if we took them from the Eastern Precinct, then these animals would have taken advantage of that and attacked that precinct building like they did before.”
The news media continued reporting that officers were leaving the force in “unprecedented” numbers. That was an understatement. Several of Ryan’s friends had left over the summer. Those who remained did so for a variety of personal reasons, but morale was so low it had nowhere to go but up or out. And in November, the outs won. Nine officers left in November alone. By Christmas, seven more had filed papers to resign and 14 put in their retirement paperwork for the end of the year. He’d overheard the assistant chief say that they’d received 25 new requests for records, which meant those officers had applied for jobs at other departments.
Diamonte had joked about it. “Between the attrition and the bureau’s policy of promoting from within, I expect to be assistant chief by June.” Joe had only one year of seniority over Ryan, and Ryan had been there just shy of five years.
Ryan felt resistance to his shield and turned his full attention to the people in front of him. “C’mon, move back! We don’t want any trouble. We’re here to protect the building.”
One man, in particular, resisted his directive and stood his ground. The man’s stare from within the dark hoodie appeared menacing. Perfect white teeth from within a snarl on the man’s lips reflected more than the surrounding light. They broadcasted a privileged upbringing, one able to afford the best of orthodontia. And yet, here he was, in essence biting the capitalist hand that fed him.
“Sir! Move back!”
Instead of stepping back, the man lunged for Ryan’s shield and pushed it aside. Within that second, the man had reached Ryan’s gun and with a practiced move, unbuckled it and began to retrieve the weapon. Ryan dropped the shield and wrestled the man for control of the handgun. As he did so, three additional officers from behind the line moved forward to assist. They took the man down as Ryan secured his weapon.
He saw that Diamonte and St. James had also moved in to help, but that left an opening within the line. In that instant, Ryan knew that perfect-snarl guy had been little more than a distraction. Another man raced through the line carrying what appeared to be a two-gallon metal spraying canister. He reached the front doors of police headquarters and began to spray the contents of the tank onto and around the doors. Two other officers ran to intercept and stop him, but he turned, knowing of their approach as if he had eyes in the back of his head. As the two men neared him, he began to spray them as well. They stopped well short.
The two policemen backed away as quickly as they had approached the man. In fact, the entire crowd, including the police line, dispersed at the cry. If the guy tried to ignite the gas, that gas-filled tank would become a bomb capable of taking out the lobby, much of the front half of the building, and everyone within 25 yards.
The man must have a death wish, thought Ryan. Ryan faced the arsonist with his gun coincidentally pointed toward the man as a result of his tussle for control. He wasn’t about to shoot. An errant ricochet and spark could be catastrophic.
He flinched as the retort of a single gunshot reverberated along the avenue between the buildings of downtown Portland. And he dove to the ground expecting the fireball to come.
Aric Afton gazed out the window toward the small lake next to which the cabin sat. For the first Monday in January, the weather was warmer than he had anticipated—partly sunny with a high near freezing. He had expectations of much colder temperatures for southeastern Wisconsin. The lake had begun to freeze over a few weeks earlier, and some locals were now comfortable with ice skating on it.
He finished his breakfast, returned to the couch, and continued surfing news portals looking for anything of interest. At one article, he began shaking his head. He’d been in Portland only a few months earlier and had experienced the riots firsthand, although against his will. And now, they were protesting again? What did those people want?
Duh, he chastised himself. Did he really have to ask that question? Even silently? Despite the presidential election being challenged in numerous states, the odds were not in favor of the results being overturned, and Congress was expected to ratify the vote in two days. President Graham had been too honest and unwilling to bend to the globalist agenda. He had been good for the country and the economy, no matter what the haters and media pundits pronounced. He had provided a reprieve for the U.S. from its ongoing march to progressivism, a temporary fence keeping the lemmings from running en masse off a cliff.
A totalitarian utopia was the goal of the globalists. The term was an oxymoron. The paradise expected by the elitists would never materialize. Aric had been studying the Book of Revelation with Lynch Cully, and together they had concluded that a major shaking was coming. Not in the sense of a global earthquake that many pastors taught would be coming but as a major political upheaval. Was that what they were to expect once Charles Sidon took office in two-plus weeks?
“Hey, Adam, did you see these reports about Portland? Antifa and BLM are up to no good again.”
Aric arose from the couch and walked to the nearby doorway leading to what would have been a bedroom in the lakeside cabin. His brother sat in the room, in front of four large computer monitors and two large-screen televisions mounted on the wall, engrossed in his “work,” whatever that was these days. Whenever Aric brought up the topic, Adam changed the subject.
“Did you even hear what—“
“Uh-huh.” Adam pointed to the television to his left.
Aric entered the room to see what was displayed on the screen. He smiled and shook his head. Of course he’s aware of what was happening in Portland, he thought. The television showed what appeared to Aric to be real-time coverage of those very events. Compared to the previous few nights, not much was going on during the day, but the aerial view told Aric that someone was watching 24/7.
Adam worked his mouse to pull up something else on one of his monitors. He didn’t seem to hear Aric.
“Someone else’s” was the terse reply.
“No kidding. Look, maybe I should just head home to St. Louis for the week. Get out of your hair.”
Adam had sold his properties in D.C. and rural Maryland, using the proceeds to purchase the Wisconsin cabin they had used as a base while investigating the human trafficking and experimentation facility run by YFM Corp near Camp Douglas. Located in the middle of a triangle formed by Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, the location was rural enough to remain off the grid while being heavily invested in the grid, as Adam once told him. Strangely, the phrase made perfect sense to Aric.
“I can leave first thing tomorrow morning. Even though we were there for Christmas, Mom would probably appreciate seeing me one more time before classes start.”
“One sec . . .”
Adam glanced through three of his screens and pumped his fist once in the air as he smiled. Then he feverishly typed something on his keyboard. A minute later, he clicked on an icon with his mouse, sat back, and smiled with a gleam of satisfaction on his face.
“Sorry. That was important, truly important.” He stood and led Aric back into the living room area before sitting in his favorite chair.
“As I said, maybe I should head home and spend a few days there before classes start. Mom is probably deep into the empty nest syndrome by now.” He sat back on the couch where he had been using his laptop.
“I doubt it. She’s a nana now and has a new grandbaby to dote on.”
Aric had to concede that point. His oldest sister, Gwyneth, had delivered a healthy baby girl just before Christmas. “That’s true. Anyway, maybe you should join me. I’m sure Rachael and your kids would like to see you, too.”
Adam offered a brief frown. “Yeah, about that. We’re making headway, Rach and me, but she asked me to give her time with Grace. She wants to establish that relationship before working on ours.” He looked down toward the floor. “I get that. The damage done to our relationship is on me. I need to respect her wishes, but at the same time, still be available if she needs me.”
Aric nodded. They had talked about this before. Washington was 12 hours from St. Louis, while now Adam was only six hours away. That had been one factor in his moving to the small town of East Troy. He resisted moving closer because the temptation to see them on a daily basis would be great.
“Up to you. My first class starts next week. After that, I won’t have time to see the folks until spring break.”
Aric’s growing relationship with Lynch Cully as his mentor had led Aric to make two decisions. First, he had become fascinated by criminal forensics and knew he owed it to himself to explore that discipline. Second, because Lynch had been hired by the college to help take its criminal justice program to the top national rankings, Aric had decided he wanted to be part of that. He had applied to the college for its J-term, as they called their one-month intense study program in January where he would cover in that month a course that normally took a full semester. That would be followed by his first full semester.
“Yeah, about that. Um . . .”
Aric noticed the atypical face on his brother. He had been encouraging about Aric’s decisions before this. What had changed?
Adam shuffled about in his chair. “Look, I know you’ve developed a special friendship with the Cullys and little Joshua adores you. But, I, uh . . .”
This wasn’t like Adam. His brother never beat around the bush about anything.
“What? Is something going on with them that I should know about?”
His brother was correct. He had developed a bond with both Lynch and Amy. They had become like family to him.
“Well, what if Lynch isn’t at the college anymore? Would you still want to go there? I mean, their criminology program doesn’t even have a national ranking, while UMSL’s program is, like, number 11 in the country. And if you want to focus on forensics, the college here doesn’t even offer that yet.”
Aric had seriously considered the University of Missouri-St. Louis program. In-state tuition and the potential of living at home for the first year, maybe two, made it the soundest financial choice. Plus, graduating top of his class and having numerous AP credits and superior test scores pretty much guaranteed his acceptance. On top of that, Lynch had received his doctorate from that program and had offered a letter of recommendation, too. Was Aric throwing away a better opportunity?
Yet, it wasn’t Adam’s comments about the program that caught his attention. “What do you mean, if Lynch isn’t there anymore?”
“Nothing concrete, but there seems to be a growing sentiment on campus to remove Lynch.”
Adam knew his brother was right. Rachel and the kids would love to see him. Yet, he hadn’t lied to Aric. Rach had asked for time to bond with the daughter they had named Carolyn, but who had grown up under the name of Grace after being kidnapped and then “adopted” by a French couple living in the U.S.
That woman was a homemaker, wife, and mother who knew nothing of her husband’s illicit work but was aware that they had never legally adopted the little girl he had brought home with him one day. She had been unable to have children, longed for a family, and never asked where the girl came from. In a sickening reality, he was a “scientist” who experimented on children trafficked by the company he worked for. While she might see freedom and deportation within ten years, he would never have freedom again.
Well, in a just world he would never again be free. That world was about to change. The soon-to-be president had directly benefited from the man’s work. And the soon-to-be “leader” of the Free World was as corrupt as they came, using his various positions throughout his lifelong political career to enrich himself, his family, and his friends. Adam held no doubts that the “scientist” would be secretly deported back to his home country and dodge his life sentence in the U.S. In fact, he had intercepted an email confirming that belief shortly after the election when it became evident that President-elect Charles Henry “Po” Sidon would be in the position to accomplish that goal.
Adam had never been the vengeful sort. His brother would repeatedly say that vengeance was the Lord’s prerogative. Adam’s nascent belief in God hadn’t grown to that point, and this had been personal. He made sure that every inmate in the jail where the man was being held for trial knew of the man’s crimes against children. They say that pedophiles don’t last long in prison. Adam could only imagine what might happen to a man who used children for medical experiments to benefit the rich and well-connected.
“What do you mean, if Lynch isn’t there anymore?”
How much should he tell his little brother? He had become secretive about the work he now performed, but not because he didn’t trust Aric. The two of them had been through the wringer together. He had trusted Aric with his life . . . and would again if it came down to it. No, Aric had decided on a career in forensic criminology, while Adam now, well, skirted the law, as one might spin it, even if that law was unjust. Adam didn’t want to jeopardize Aric’s future by involving him. Plus, Aric was super smart and intuitive. If Adam gave up too much info, his brother would figure out where it came from in no time.
Adam had not only adapted and improved the AlterNet software he had developed for his previous employer, but he had launched a viral attack against the original AlterNet program that now rendered it a useless virtual pile of bits and bytes. The new administration, its DOJ, and its military would never be able to claim it for their own gain.
“Nothing concrete, but there seems to be a growing sentiment on campus to remove Lynch.”
He had no need to say more. If things panned out as he had discovered, Aric would know just what he meant soon enough.