Saturday, November 9, 2019

Chapter 2 - Following Honey

Image result for A&W homeless

(If you are new to my John York book here is a link to Chapter 1.)

The waves crashed against the rock cliffs hundreds of feet below. The moon was just bright enough to make out the white foam from the waves as they kept up their rhythmic dance along where a vast sea met the land. “It’s been too long.” John York thought to himself. Work took John all over the world but there was something special about California’s coast line. It drew him in even as he avoided it. For amidst all its beauty it carried with it, great pain. Ocean breeze had become a cliche with every air freshener or candle maker trying to provide you access to it, even if you lived in the dust bowl of Kansas, but only the true fragrance reminded him of her.

How long had it been? He tried to stop his mind from asking the question, one whose answer he knew perfectly: 7 years. It was hard not to know the answer to a question you ask yourself multiple times everyday. When he woke up, when he was in the shower, when he sat down for lunch, anytime he tried to clear his mind, there it was. The only thing that entered his mind as often was the thought to stop asking, to let it go, to move on, and then the inevitable thought. “Will I see her again?”

But he wasn’t here to be dragged into his past like surf back into the vast ocean from whence it had come, nor was he here to simply enjoy the view. At least, not the view that anyone's eyes would naturally be drawn to, from this particular vantage point. It had taken him over 45 mins of hiking through thick brush and far too many thorns to get to this view. Below sat a mansion that was vast enough that even the word mansion seemed lacking. Arnold McMaster’s Father had owned the property before him back when coastal property in Southern California could be afforded by your everyday millionaire. Had that not been the case, even a fortune like the CEO’s of McMaster Mattresses would have been unable to purchase this much land, in this perfect a location.

Located far enough north of Los Angeles to have the amazing cliffs and yet close enough to make the commute to the mattress factory in the metropolis reasonable. Not that traffic was really an issue for the McMaster family. Arnold McMaster, the Master of the McMasters had his Chauffeur leave every morning promptly at 4:30 to be in the office by 4:45, priding himself that he beat even most people on the east coast to work. This had been his practice since his youth, and the business had been propped up by no shortage of sheer grit and hard work. He used to stay late enough that there was also little traffic on the way home, which, in LA, meant some very late nights. However, since his 80th birthday he was not putting in the hours he once did and often left the office in the early afternoon.

The other McMasters in the house, the pudgy man who spurned root beer floats and called himself Jake and his sister Adaline, who went by Jennifer, (John York regretted that he would be unable to give her the same lecture he had so eloquently given Barnaby about the world being chock full of Jennifers, but he knew such an opportunity would not present itself given the circumstances that she and he would meet under.) They too had very regimented schedules. They both held high positions in the mattress company, at least in pay, not necessarily in responsibility. They left every day shortly after waking up around 11:30. After stopping for a nice lunch and catching up on facebook and latest news from buzzfeed, they would wander into work just as their father was on his way out. They would leave promptly at 5, unless they felt like leaving earlier. Traffic at this time would have been horrendous but luckily their favorite bars, and clubs were all a short distance from the office.

This was John’s fourth trip to this particular look out, it was one of his many stops that he had made in order to understand the goings and comings of the McMasters. But the persons whose goings and comings he had spent the most time studying wasn’t a McMaster at all. Exactly on que, the small pink porsche boxster pulled up to the gate. John York wished that all the people he had to follow would chose to drive custom made bright pink cars, not that he needed it. He could track a rainbow through a gay parade. Yet he was always grateful when life made things easy.

Mrs. Honey’s habits were much more mundane then her vehicle but no less expensive. She worked very hard at her chosen profession, shopping. John York had seen the insides of more jewelry shops, hat shops, clothes shops, pet shops and even soap shops than he hoped he would ever have to endure. The one establishment that she went into that she didn’t do any shopping at was McMaster Mattresses, several times a day she would stop by to see how the old man was doing. From a distance, it became very clear that to Mrs. Honey the business was not only useful as a place to manufacture sleep aides but also a very useful bank. The best bank you could possibly think of, one that allows withdrawals without requiring any deposits.

Tonight was exactly what John York had hoped for. While the going and coming of the McMaster Clan was his primary interest, the other thing that he hoped to gain by these late night house watch parties was a decent layout of the home. From his studies, he had figured out which of the guests homes belong to each of the children, and most of the layout of the main home. But several rooms, particularly on the upper floor had remained a mystery. But tonight with perfect weather, the curtains had been drawn and windows opened.

Despite his profession often requiring him to expand the limits of what was strictly legal, he liked to keep such activity to a minimum. Sneaking around someone's home without permission was something he generally avoided. But, at times, it was necessary, and when it became necessary he had learned the two most important rooms to be prepared to enter were the bedroom and the study. He now knew where both were located.

But with this information in hand it was time to be on the move. The past few nights had always had a surprising ending, and that was with the pink porsche making an exit. There could be many reasons for such an exit. While the number of people who waited until marriage to consummate their relationship seemed to be ever shrinking, John York did know such people existed. Mr. McMaster was a devout Catholic, who each Sunday after putting in a few hours at the office, attended mass. But John York had known many devout Catholics, who contrary to Billy Joel’s theory, didn’t start much too late. The other possibility was Ms. Honey’s morals, she did not strike him as religious in anyway. However, if one was after an old man’s fortune, it would be wise to find or feign morals and hold out the goods until you have secured your spot in the family tree as rightful heir. But wise, was not a word regularly coupled with Ms. Honey. It is true that if she had been in a battle of wits with a jellyfish she would have likely won, but that is only if it happened to not be a particularly smart jellyfish. There was also the possibility that she helped the old man to bed, as it were, and then departed. After all, at 85 some people keep some rather early bedtimes.

So, this left John York with a particularly hard choice. With the bedroom window open he could observe at what time the old man did chose to retire, and even perhaps his activities prior to laying down for the night, but more importantly he wanted to know where that little pink boxster went to each night. With the decision made, he packed up his high powered binoculars and headed to his car. As noted earlier, it was quite a hike, but he would have to do it at a rapid pace if he was going to make it.

Forty five minutes later and he sat quietly with his headlights off, on the side of the road. The pattern of what time she left and in what direction had been the same for the past few nights. Knowing this allowed John York the rare opportunity of not waiting long. Five minutes after picking his spot, he saw the unique headlights of the little Porsche coming up behind him. As she passed he began to follow. It was now a little after 9 and the roads were busy but not packed. This made keeping track of her car more difficult as she carelessly cut people off and sped around semi’s. Usually, John York took care to ensure that there was no chance the person could figure out he was following them. With Scarlet, such precautions were totally unnecessary. She didn’t seem to notice anyone or anything on the road. Given her driving habits, John York would have put her life expectancy on par with that of Mr. McMaster. If Barnaby had seen her drive, he thought, maybe he wouldn’t have been so worried.

The neighborhood in which he now found himself was very different from the one they had left. Apartments were everywhere, people and litter lined the streets as they drove by pawn, smoke, and liquor shops. The car pulled up to one side of a yellow rundown duplex that sat back no more than 5 feet from the street. There was no shortage of vagrants throughout the neighborhoods but there was a particular gathering outside the home she pulled up to, as if they had been waiting for her.

As she pulled up they gathered around. Two questions instantly came to John York. One was how her car stayed unstolen in this neighborhood and more prominent on his mind, why the conflagration of homeless acting as a greeting party. John York could see the disdain in Scarlet’s eyes as she walked out of the car.

“What you got for us tonight Ms. Honey?” one of them called out.

Her hands were filled with shopping bags and she carefully selected two bags and handed them over. “You know the deal. Keep the car safe.” The group crowded around the bags and began to riffle through the contents as Ms. Honey went inside.

Given how generous Master McMaster seemed to be with his money he was surprised to see his girlfriend living in such conditions. Especially since two guests homes remained unoccupied.

As he thought his eyes caught a beautiful sight just down the street, an A&W sign. A smile kept across his face. Tonight he would get to do two things he loved, drink root beer floats, and interview the homeless. A pretty good way to spend his last night as John York.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

1 year Election Day Goal

Today is election day in the US. That means in 1 year we will be electing the person we want to be the president of our country for the next four years. At this point it will likely be Trump, Biden, Warren, or Sanders. Of course, there are many more on the democratic side and who knows, maybe an independent or two will throw their name in the hat.

I am making a goal, a simple one. To say nothing negative about any of them over the next year. Not to focus on where I disagree or why I think they will be bad for our country but rather focus on their good traits, what we have in common and how they could help our country. Everyone of them is hard working, successful people in their own right, and that is what I will focus on.

This is stupid and ignorant, some may say. You are simply putting your head in the sand. You need to know the truth and expose them for what they are. I am not at all blind to the fact that these are not perfect people. They often have policies or proposals I disagree with, they may not live their lives to my standards, but trust me, the negatives of each and everyone of these candidates will be covered ad nauseam. Unfortunately, there is so much effort in telling you why they are bad for our country, no matter who the candidates are, we are likely to feel we are stuck with the lesser of two evils.

And much of this is our own fault. If it bothers you to hear or acknowledge anything good about Trump, or vice versa, Biden or Warren, I think that is a shame and might say more about you than about them. I will still weigh, the good and bad of all candidates on the ballet. But my hope is by focusing on the positive I can actually go into the voting both excited about voting for our next leader, instead of fearfully voting against their opponent.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

John York- Chapter 1

Image result for root beer float

Bugs flicked in and out under the only street lamp left a glow. The sidewalks had long ago been rolled up. The quiet of the desert enveloped the small town as the street saw its first guest in hours. A large coyote striding through the landscaped rock. Lone headlights appeared competing with the street light for the bugs attention. The sleek Tesla pulled up into the parking lot of the small brick building.

The building had no signs, descriptive paints, signs or logos. The gap in the wall where once stood an ATM and the abandoned drive thru bore testimony that this building was once the trusted establishment of people's hard earned money, their hopes and dreams. No dreams seamed stored inside now. The building was completely dark and void of life.

The man who stepped out of the car as it’s electric engine purr grew silent did not match the sleekness of the vehicle. The suit was of similar caliber but a tailor can only do so much and buns and roles were as plentiful as they were in the all you could eat buffet in Las Vegas, the town that still it up the horizon only a few miles away.

“This idiot better show up.” The man muttered under his breath, as he broke the silence again and again with each step towards the front door. After staring into the glass doors for a moment and with nothing else to do he pulled on the front door and was surprised to find the large door unlocked. But having entered, he found the place no more life like on the inside of the threshold.

The once bank lobby was vast and void. And the man's blood pressure, already high, began to rise. “Drag me to the podunk town and doesn’t even bother to show up, what a”

“What exactly am I?”

The man jumped about a foot off the ground, which is the highest he had jumped since over a hundred pounds ago.

“What the devil. What’s the idea of creeping about in the dark?”

“Darkness in my profession is very often required. Not that I enjoy it. I believe in light, rainbows and lollipops but one must do what one must do. Shall we?”

They walked over to a massive metal door that bore a large wheel on it’s center. If one has ever wondered why bank vaults seemed to be adorned with pirate ship wheels, well blood sucking pirates had to do something in retirement and never seemed willing to give up the helm.

“Um...why the vault?” The man asked with trepidation as the stranger took the helm.

“Ah, this cozy little place is where I keep my office.” With a couple of well placed turns the door began to open. The door had barely cracked when light began to poor into the void in which they stood. Once fully opened, the man stared inside. The office was in perfect contrast to its surroundings. Light from several antique fixtures, lining the walls, filled the room. The floor was an antique carpet of reds and golds. The entire office looked like it had been transplanted from the 1800’s.

“Well, have a seat...Barnaby.”

“Thank you...and the names Jake.”

“No it is not. Barnaby Jacorum McMaster is the name. I find birth certificates most reliable.”

“Fine. I go by Jake.”

“What a shame. Parents give you a unique jewel in the name Barnaby, and to really make you an individual they top it with the middle name Jacorum and you cast it off to be one of the millions of Jakes in the world. My boy, the world is stock full of Jakes.”

“Isn’t your name John?”

“No, while the monosyllable is among the world's best, my name is John York. Always, John York. John is the vanilla ice cream, but York is the root beer. Speaking of which, would you like one?”

“A root beer?”

“You have completely missed my point. Always John York. I’m offering you this. He handed his guest a large root beer float in a classic glass mug.

“No thank you.”

“Well you don’t mind if I indulge do you?”

“No, go ahead.” Barnaby, or Jake as he preferred, was anxious to move beyond strange analogies that produced deserts. “Mr. York”

“Call me John...York. Always John York.”

“Okay, John...York. I wanted to meet you because I heard you may be able to help.”

“I could help you to an excellent root beer float. This really is amazing. You know, when I retire I think I’ll turn this place into a soda shop. Everyone loves soda.”

“Can we get back to the point?”

“Oh sure, go on. But now that I think of it, forget the soda shop. I think a mortuary would be better. Anyways, continue.”

Barnaby was beginning to doubt if he’d come to the right place. Dillon, a trusted friend, said he had heard that John York was a miracle worker, the only thing for such situations. And given the job, perhaps a healthy level of insanity was required.

“I have come here for your help.”

“As you know, I am no detective, but that much I gathered.”

“Remind me again, Why couldn’t do this over the phone?”

“I never take a client I don’t meet in person. You can appreciate that.” John York said as he drew in a huge slurp of root beer from his mug.

“I understand. Well, it’s my Father.”

“Ah yes, the master of the McMaster’s. And CEO of the family business, McMaster Mattresses. Dream masterfully on a McMaster. I believe your commercials say.”

“Quite. Well two years ago my dear Mother died.”

“Ha. Your dear Mother? You hadn’t spoken to her in years. Ever since she said she’d cut you off if you wrecked another company car. Why does a mattress company need a Jaguar?”

“I see you do your homework.” But ignoring the question, Jake continued. “While we had our rifts, I loved her and so did my Father. Life without Mother has been hard on my Dad, but I am worried that he is about to ruin his life.”

“Strong words. How exactly is he going to effect this ruin?”

“Well, there is this girl.”

“There always is.”

“She is after my Father.”

“Oh, she is lurking in alleys and bushes hoping Master McMaster walks by so she can leap forth and stab the man?”

“No. But I do believe she plans to kill him. But not until after she marries him.”

“Are you sure? I find that most people do not possess the strong desire to dash one another to pieces until after they’re married. But you say she wants to now, but for good form will wait until after the I do’s.”

“She is after his money. She’s a gold digger.”

“A hefty accusation. May I ask you a few questions?”

“Go ahead.”

“How much cabbage would you say your old man has socked into these mattresses of his?”

“My Father's estate is around 100 million dollars.”

“No wonder you all dream masterfully. And what is the name of this girl you say works so hard mining for precious metals?”

Jake had to think for a moment but eventually caught on. “Her name is Scarlet Honey.”

A snort escaped John York’s nose as a small amount of root beer escaped it. “Excuse me, but just to clarify, you did say, Scarlet Honey?”


John York snorted again. “Okay, moving on. When your Father lays down on the mattress smothering his hundreds of Benjamin Franklins are his masterful dreams filled with Honey?”

“Can you drop the riddles?”

“Life is a riddle, my dear Barnaby. But to clarify for you, Jake. Does your Father fancy himself to be a bee after this Honey.” Jake was not amused. “I’m sorry it’s just so perfect.”

“My Dad is a bit taken by her, which is the problem. He doesn’t know what he is getting into.”

“Love can strike at any time, why stop this young, sweet couple?”

“He is 85.”

“Good for him.”

“She is 30.”

“Well as they say, to the victor goes the spoils.”

“I don’t believe this. You make me drive to this pathetic town, drag me into your creepy vault and you are not even willing to help.”

John York stood up with a start. “Barnaby my boy, Boulder City is not a pathetic town.” softening he continued. “And I am perfectly willing to help. What is it you want? Me to swoop in and save your inheritance from the clutches of this hussy?”

Barnaby was clearly hurt, that struck too close to home. “No, it is for my Father. I just don’t want him hurt.” He paused and thought of the best way to add something, “Also for the sake of the company. He loves that company, if he married and she ran it into the ground and lost it’s money, it would kill him.”

“I agree that he would at least find it difficult to sleep at night.” Before Barnaby could respond John York continued, “I’d require half my 40,000 dollar fee upfront and all expenses covered.”

“I understand.”

“So be clear. What is it you want me to do?”

“Do what you do, get rid of her.”

John York paused, looked closely at the overgrown mattress heir, disappointingly noticed his root beer float was gone and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”