My news feed over the last few days has vacillated between frustrating to comical.  Between tragic to oblivious.  Between…well, you get the picture.

The turmoil?  Republican Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump’s remarks about a married woman he wanted to seduce caught on a hot mic eleven years ago.

As this issue has unfolded, I’ve watched with amusement as people who already left the party to throw their weight and effort behind an unserious third-party challenger jump on board the rafts of glass houses full of self-identified Republicans tripping over themselves to throw their stones at Trump.  Sadly, a number of these people were arguably in a position to actually demand changes in the party governance which might have made a Trump candidacy a bad joke unable to advance beyond the primary season, but maintaining the integrity of their own primaries by keeping them closed was as horrifying to many of these same people as opposing the crony capitalism which has blossomed in recent years.  Others are people who have hobbies and interests which mirror some of Mr. Trump’s more prurient proclivities, but have lacked either the opportunity or the courage to pursue them with equal dedication.  Regardless of which camp all the now mortified individuals now fall, they are share the same condition:  They all either knew or should have known who Donald Trump is.

And as I watch them all try to distance themselves from the spectacle that the media has dutifully turned him into for this, I’m trying very hard to not say that Bill Clinton was right.

In 1992, Bill Clinton went on record as saying that “Character does not matter.”  As much as the idea distresses me, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was correct, based on empirical evidence.

If character mattered, Bill Clinton’s impeachment wouldn’t have happened,  because his past with women, which was made clear to the American electorate, would have prevented him from being elected in the first place.

If character mattered, Bill Clinton would have resigned, rather than been impeached.

If character mattered, Bill Clinton’s impeachment would have ended with  Al Gore becoming President.

If character mattered, Teddy Kennedy would have lost his election after Chappaquiddick if he had the nerve to run in the first place.

If character mattered, Maxine Waters’ conflicts of interest, and those of Nancy Pelosi would have ended in discipline from ethics investigations, and them choosing not to run for re-election after.

If character mattered, John Conyers would have been back in Detroit decades ago, bumming dimes from bypassers on the street for his next bottle of Ripple.

If character mattered, Alan Grayson would have been prosecuted, rather than elected.

If character mattered, Tim Geithner never would have been the Secretary of the Treasury, and Hilda Solis never would have been the Secretary of Labor.

If character mattered, Mitt Romney would be running for his second term.

If character mattered, the RNC would have someone…anyone else as their standard-bearer in this election.

If character mattered, then there would be no shortage of Democrats telling Hillary Clinton that she needs to shut her mouth and not comment how Trump treats women.

The uncomfortable truth is this:  While character SHOULD matter, it doesn’t…at least not to Democrats, because the only way that anyone could turn a blind eye to the corruption and immorality that the party and its various candidates are rife with is if character doesn’t matter.  Yet they successfully use their compromised position to their advantage.  It’s easy to be cynical, and reject morality for yourself, but use it as a cudgel against other flawed human beings.  And proving themselves to be the party of stupid, the Republicans inevitably retreat with their tails between their legs when this cynical strategy is employed.

I’m sure that some of you are reading this, and screaming obscenities at me already about my “defense” of Trump.  Make no mistake.  I don’t defend him.  But I do note that he has enjoyed an unusual degree of success at simply ignoring previous attempts to cow him for things he has said and done, such attempts being of a kind that would have more traditional GOP candidates falling all over themselves, apologizing profusely in the pursuit of a respect, or even adoration that not quite half of the population has been conditioned to not give them, simply because they purport to represent the Republican Party.  In my own more cynical moments, I allow myself to believe that this is precisely why he is the Republican standard-bearer, and it completes my break with the Republican Party, which could have enjoyed a well-deserved loyalty from a solid constituency had it actually made a stand on issues, including character issues, not because they believed they could win, but because it mattered.  Instead, with a handful of exceptions, they frittered away these opportunities, and joined their morally rudderless opponents in openly mocking and ridiculing their own number who chose to fight the fights that mattered.

And now, as I watch the rats scurrying through the hawser holes of their sinking ship, in search of some sort of political cover, I want to scream “OWN IT, YOU FAITHLESS S.O.B.S.!  You made your choice.  You took this snake to your bosom, knowing it was a snake!”

No matter who wins in November, America lost.

If Hillary Clinton wins, we have lost the rule of law, and the countless benefits and blessings of residing in a republic.

Donald Trump wins, we lose our self-respect, and maybe our soul.

I find either choice spiritually damning, so I fall back on the next priority:  Will we remain a nation of laws?

I only hope that if Trump loses, we are finally rid of the Republican Party, and can build something in its place that values liberty, freedom, integrity, and can actually communicate conservative principles to voters, and then LIVE them in office.

For hours, Denny drove the ancient Land Rover over numerous back roads of the kind that Cooper and Jake had frequented before Lise brought them in.  He didn’t doubt that the people he could see in the shadows intended to be there, avoiding discovery by anyone who might be looking for them.  What he questioned was whether or not the silent, hard man who drove the antiquated SUV  actually knew where to find Lise and Teresa.

Cooper looked to Rick, who was looking out the other side of the vehicle, his eyes studying the topography and the faces as they rolled past.  Deciding that he could no longer wait, Cooper broke the silence and asked “Where are we going?”

Denny’s eyes never left the road as he stated ” A warehouse.  It’s in the middle of no where.  Our southern neighbors use it as a staging area for their ops here.  It has a clearing where helicopters can go in and out.  That’s how they plan on getting your fiancee and your wife to Toronto, where they will be put on a boat, and ferried across to the US.”

Cooper marveled at the matter-of-fact way Denny announced this, and how his own brain seemed to fill in the omitted “Everyone knows this.” at the end of Denny’s declaration.  He barely started to ask “How…” when Denny, trying not to look perturbed, turned to him and said “Did you think Agent Roy was kidding when he said he wanted to help?  They’ve known about this place for years.  It’s under constant surveillance.  You can say what you want about the RCMP, but they observe the Coventry rule better than any outfit I’m aware of, and the fact that we’re going to act on this information means that someone is going to lose their intelligence gathering capabilities.  Roy’s got pull with his peers, and even some of his superiors…maybe even enough to avoid getting in trouble for using those   connections to get us this information.”

Denny’s gaze returned to the road before him, and before another five minutes had passed, he pulled off to the side of the road, and put the Land Rover in park.  He turned to Rick and Cooper and said “Right.  The warehouse is less than a kilometer in that direction.” as he pointed  to the right, where the trees were thick enough to obscure their view of anything.  “I’ll go first and take out the sentries.  Then you two can follow.  Try to be quiet.  I’m certain that they have a man advantage on us, but I’m equally certain that as long as we maintain the advantage of surprise, I can cut their advantage down to size.”

The three got out and checked their equipment, and then Denny quietly walked off toward the warehouse.  Cooper watched him leave, then turned to Rick, who was checking ammunition and his knives.  “You haven’t had much to say, Old Man.”

Rick  holstered his knives, and  looked at Cooper, his expression neutral, but his eyes smiling.  “You remember that bit of Yankee poetry you used ta be fond of quotin’?” he asked Cooper.  Cooper looked at him and asked “The hand that knows his work won’t be told to do it better or faster; those two things?”  Rick nodded and said “Yup.  That’s it.”  He paused for effect, then said “That guy?  He knows his work, and he’s a damn sight better at it than I’ll ever be, despite the best training available at Ma Benning’s Home for Wayward Boys.”  Cooper paused.  Coming from Rick, this was high praise, and he decided to let it go.  Rick looked at his watch, and said “I reckon it’s been long enough.  We should follow on, now.”


Lise could hear the sound of her own heart beating in her ears.  She didn’t relish dying, but the idea that she would be used to lure the only man she ever loved to her death was more than she wanted to live with.  She finished untying the ropes on Teresa’s wrists, and waited as Teresa untied those around her own wrists.

After they had each untied the ropes around their ankles, they stood up.  Lise realized for the first time that they were about the same height.  Teresa looked at Lise with a look of disdain, then allowed it to soften.  “I see what he sees in you.”  Teresa said quietly.  Then, almost as an afterthought, she asked “Is he happy?”

Lise was caught off guard by the question, and by how earnestly it was asked.  She replied softly “Yes.  At least as much as can be expected.”  Teresa nodded, then said “Ok.  Let’s go save his life.” and she opened the door, only to find the guard on the floor, his lifeless eyes staring at the growing pool of blood running out of his body.


Rick sat watching as Cooper paced back and forth across the hospital room floor, favoring his right leg in the process.

“Dammit, she’s overdue.”

Rick shifted in his chair, understanding that there was nothing he could say at this moment to help his friend find comfort, but knowing that he had to say something.

“Mr. Wilson?”

Cooper and Rick turned to see Agent Roy standing in the doorway, teetering on a wobbly cane.

“I know what you plan to do, and I want to help.  I can’t go,” Roy said, looking down at a body that he clearly could not yet rely on, “but I have a friend who wants to help.”

Rick turned to Cooper and smiled before saying “Who’da thunk it?  Roy actually has a friend.”

Cooper’s lips twisted into a wry smile, and said “Quiet.  A very serious guy is about to tell us about another serious guy who we should take seriously.”

Agent Roy’s poker face almost melted away for a second, and he said “I suppose I deserve that.”

Cooper’s smile faded and he looked Agent Roy squarely in the eye.  “No.  No, you don’t.  You have the job you have because you’re serious, and you wouldn’t be good at it if you weren’t.  The fact is that I owe you my life, and that is only because your sovereign deemed it worthy of that sacrifice, not because of anything I am or have done.  It’s a thankless job, and if you’re lucky, you might live to retirement, and have a chance to have a life of your own before you die.”

Roy regarded Cooper for a long moment, then said “And that is why I’m going to remain on your detail.  And why my friend is willing to help.”

Rick stood up and said “So who is this guy?”

Roy shifted on his cane and said “His name’s Denny.  He’s ex-SAS.  Not much on conversation, but the only person I’d want more to be on my side in a fight would be a ghurka.”

The question was on Cooper’s face before it escaped his lips.  “Ex-SAS?  I didn’t think anyone in the King’s service was “Ex” anything right now.  I thought it was all hands on deck.”

It was Roy’s turn to laugh.  “I said he was good.  I didn’t say he had authority issues that make the Colonel over there look like a well-mannered school boy.  Honestly, in different times, he’d be in prison, but the Crown would be wasting too many resources keeping him incarcerated.  And if things ever got bleak, he’d be “doing the right thing” out of sheer self-interest.”

“And how would you happen to know this guy?” Rick asked.

“We’ve been friends since childhood.  When I told him what was at stake, and he realized that this was something that I’d do for you if I could be an asset rather than a liability, he agreed to go in my place.”

Roy paused for a minute, looking at Cooper. “And any other time, he’d refuse to take you, because you’re a liability, but he knows nothing would keep you from going.”

Cooper nodded to Roy, saying nothing.

Roy said “I’m gonna send him in, and I’m going back to my room, because if I knew what you were planning, I’d have to report it to my superiors, who would report it to the Crown, and then we would all be clapped in irons to keep us from doing it.”

And with that, Agent Roy turned and slowly made his way down the hall.

A minute later, a tall man with brown hair and five o’clock shadow strolled silently into the room, and said “Colonel, Mr. Wilson?  I’m Denny, and apparently, we’re going after a member of His Majesty’s Forces who has been kidnapped by our southern neighbors.  Get your coats, we disappear now, before the Crown can act to stop us.”


Lise came to slowly, and marveled at how the pain in her head started softly, and came to creep out over her entire body.  As her vision drifted slowly into focus, and she came to fully hear sounds again, she realized that her arms and legs were bound, and she was lying on her side on a very cold slab of concrete.  The pain in her head started to radiate in waves, and she could see daylight, of a sort, drifting in through filthy windows overhead, illuminating the dust in the air.  Her mouth and throat were dry, and she suddenly felt an uncontrollable urge to cough.

From behind her, Teresa croaked “You’re finally awake.  For all the good it will do you.”

“Where are we?” Lise choked.

“A safehouse, somewhere near the border.”  Teresa said.

Lise thought she heard something…resigned…in Teresa’s voice.

“What are they going to do with us?”  Lise asked, trying to keep her voice level.

Teresa sighed.  “Well, they’re working on a way to get us across the border undetected.  When they do, I’ll face a summary hearing, and a firing squad.  They’ll use you as bait to get Cooper, then probably kill you in front of him, before executing him in away that will leave no doubt that he is well and truly dead this time.”

Although it was close to what Lise expected to hear, she still felt the sting of the description of the fate that likely awaited them both south of the border.  As she held her breath in, Teresa continued “Thankfully, Cooper is still in the hospital, so they won’t succeed in using you as bait.”

Lise tried not to shift too much upon hearing this declaration, but Teresa picked right up on her discomfort.

“No…” she rasped.  “He can’t…”

Lise sighed, and said “He would.  Rick knows he couldn’t stop him.  He was already getting up and getting around before I left.  And Agent Roy was trying to get out of bed too.”

“Damn him.  Damn him to Hell.  What is he thinking?” Teresa asked.

Lise realized that up until this moment, she never truly understood “It’s Complicated” as a relationship status.

“Still, the King will stop him.  His intelligence people have to know what he is doing.”

Lise frowned, and was glad that her back was to Teresa.  “I’m pretty sure that he and Rick have probably  figured out a way to bypass the intelligence groups.”

Teresa laughed softly, then harder.  When she regained her composure, she said “Well, if anyone knows how to get by without intelligence, it’s Rick and Cooper.”

The two women stopped talking, and listened to the wind blow through the gaps in the building’s aging walls.

Finally, as the light outside started to fade, Teresa said “Alright.  I guess we have t think of a way to prevent those two from getting killed.  I’m sure that is something we can both agree is important, Major.  I suspect that we can agree on that, even if it means we lose our own lives in the process.”

Lise rolled over on the cold concrete to look Teresa in the eye, and to assure herself that the two really were in agreement.  She was not disappointed.


Lise looked over her shoulder one more time, shivering involuntarily in the cold night.

The instructions that Teresa had sent brought her to this broken down loading dock at an hour where even the drunks were sleeping it off.  She had followed a circuitous route, trying not to capture anyone’s attention.  As near as she could tell, she succeeded.  She stepped up to the dilapidated door, and knocked softly.  The door opened slightly, but she could only see darkness inside.  She heard Teresa rasp “Get in here,” so she stepped forward and let out a slight gasp as the door slammed behind her.

“I didn’t think you’d come.” Teresa said, her form obscured by darkness.

“Well, the consensus was that it is a trap.”  Lise replied softly.

A low chuckle drifted from Teresa’s darkened form.  “I’m sure he didn’t want you to come.”

Lise replied  “Actually, Colonel Gearheart was the one who tried to talk me out of it.  He left me with the distinct impression that if something happened to me, he would make the life of the person responsible short, hot, and very unpleasant.”

“Rick.” Teresa spat.  I never understood why he and Cooper are such good friends.  And if it weren’t for him, Evan might…”  Her voice trailed off in the darkness.

Lise didn’t know what to say, but she was fairly certain that anything she might say would be wrong, so she opted to let Teresa talk.

“I’m sure I must seem like quite a bitch to you, Major.  Maybe I am.  I’ve come to think that I never really appreciated my husband.  I know I never understood his kind of power, at least not until I came to see how it has endured.  I guess I would have never been satisfied with him, because it was bound to make him a magnet for all the wrong kinds of attention, and it did.  But I loved my sons…I STILL love my remaining son, but I never had the closeness with them they had with Cooper.”

Lise listened, feeling not quite surprised at these admissions, but wondering why Teresa had chosen to confide in her.

“And I would like to get something straight, Major.  I don’t like you.  I probably never will.  But I like how happy Cooper is with you.  I’ve been watching you all for a month or so now, and you are clearly a good thing for him.  Just because I left him, it doesn’t mean that I hate him, and I really am glad to see the two of you together.”

Teresa paused, and even in the dark room, Lise could see her tilt her head upward.  Lise thought she could hear the tiniest noises crossing the ceiling above them.

“Dammit!  You were followed!” Teresa hissed.  Before Lise could respond, the door crashed in and chaos, disguised as flashes, smoke, and pain followed.

“You can’t trust her.  It’s a trap.”  Rick spat, shaking his head.

Lise looked at him, and retorted “Of course it’s a trap.  But if she has information on what the States are likely to do next, I think we have to proceed.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that she wants to kill you?  I mean, you are sleeping with her husband, and her son has clearly grown attached to you.”  Rick asked, trying to not let the concern he felt creep into his voice.

“Why Colonel,  I didn’t realize that you cared.” Lise said sarcastically.

Rick shifted his weight on his feet, a cloud rolling over his face before he growled in a low voice “If something happened to you…I don’t want to see Cooper or Jake go through that.  Ever.  You have been great for them both, and Cooper deserves that happiness.  I’ve never seen a man endure so much to finally achieve it.  He’s my friend, and I don’t want to see him hollowed out with grief over losing you, and the effect it would have on Jake.”  He looked down at the floor, clearly disturbed that he’d said this much, and maybe a little angry that she could draw it out of him to begin with.

Lise quietly contemplated him for a few minutes before asking “Colonel…Rick…how long have you been married?”

“I’ve never mentioned that I’m ma…”

“You didn’t have to.  Remember what I do for a living.”

A smirk twisted Rick’s expression.

“So you’re just messin’ with me for fun?”


“Did he tell you?”

“Cooper?  Oh no.  I’ve never asked him anything about you, and he’s volunteered very little.  But when I see you two together, I know you’ve known each other a long time, and that you both trust each other, which is a big deal, because neither of you are “trusting souls”.  But I watch you sometimes, and I’ve listened to what you’ve said about me and him, and I know that you’re married.”

Rick looked at Lise and said “Yeah.  She’s my second wife.  And after the crap I went through with the first, I never thought I’d get married again.  I think it worked so well because I fell in love with her brain first.”

Lise smiled, but didn’t say anything.

Rick shifted again and said “When I see Cooper with you, I see him relaxed.  I can see you  care, probably more than you ever meant to, and I see that the two of you can just be.  You don’t have to be talking.  You don’t have to be doing anything specific, you can just be together and enjoy each other’s company without saying anything at all.  That’s a good thing.  Maybe the only thing.  And he needs that.”

“What the hell, Old Man?” came Cooper’s voice in a hoarse croak.  “She’s MY hot shrink.  Get your own, dammit.”

Lise and Rick looked towards the bed in the center of the room, where Cooper sat grinning, squinting through narrowed eyes clearly pained by the antiseptic fluorescent lights humming overhead.

Rick stepped toward Cooper and asked “How much did you hear, Hoss?”

Cooper turned his head slightly to face his friend and said “Enough.”

Rick’s face asked the question that remained locked behind his lips.  “Yes, Old Man.  I think Nick was scared to death of you while you were cooking the bacon at the party at Mack and Kat’s house.  Does that answer your question?” Cooper said quietly.

Rick let out a chuckle and nodded.

Cooper’s smile faded.  “Good.  Because I think Lise is right.  If Teresa has even a hint of what they are planning, we need to find out what it is.”

Lise stepped to the opposite side of Cooper’s bed, and quietly took his left hand into hers.  She found herself unable to put into words all the feelings she had for this man, but realized when his eyes met hers that she didn’t have to, because she had said it all without saying a word.

Lise froze, trying to decide what to do next.  “Don’t bother with the elevator,” Teresa said, anticipating one course of action.  “It will not work again until I want it to.”  She stepped out of the darkness, into the light spilling out from the open elevator door.

Teresa looked at Lise with a combination of haughtiness and grudging respect.  “If I wanted to hurt you, that would have already happened.” she stated flatly.  “And if I wanted you dead, you would have never seen it coming.”

Lise stood quietly, weighing the truth of these words, but not knowing why they had been spoken in the first place, before deciding to let Teresa keep talking without any interruption.

“You really are quite beautiful.  Certainly not a fashion model, or the normal ideal of beauty, but you are beautiful.” Teresa said while walking around Lise, who was standing quietly.  “I can certainly see what my husband sees in you.” She said, pausing while looking at Lise’s backside.

“By now, you are undoubtedly wondering why I brought you here.  Believe it or not, I still love my husband, and my remaining son.” Lise couldn’t conceal the slight flinch at the mention of Jake.  Teresa’s eyes seemed to sparkle a bit more at this involuntary tell.  “You needn’t worry.  I didn’t come to get either one back.  Not really.  I know there is too much water under those bridges to safely cross them again, even if I could get either one of them to trust me enough to do so.  Actually, I’m glad for the three of you.  I can tell how happy Cooper is with you.  He might never say it out loud, but his body language with you says all there is to say about that.  And Jake.  He trusts you.  I’m guessing that the two of them are the most truly relaxed and at peace that they have been in years.”

Lise felt her angry growing, and could take no more. “Only if you don’t count the nightmares.  They are less frequent, if you don’t count when Rick showed up, but they both still dream about Evan.”

Teresa’s face clouded as anger filled her eyes, and her mouth contorted into a snarl.  “Evan.  He didn’t have to die.  I had already guaranteed his safety, and Jake’s.  But then Cooper ran, and took them with him.  And then Rick showed up, and spoiled the raid.  You don’t know the whole story.  You only know what happened.  I miss him.  I miss all of them.”  Both women were silent for a few moments.

When she spoke again, her words were calm and measured.  “I heard that they were alive.  I wasn’t sure I believed it, but I knew I had to see for myself.  I left myself think that maybe I could bring him home…that I could bring them both home.  And then they came for me.   They actually thought they could keep me, and so they were careless, and discussed their plans in front of me.”

Teresa paused for a few seconds, before taking a tangent.  “I saw how you defended Jake.  I couldn’t have done better myself.  Thank you.”

Taking another moment, Teresa recomposed herself, and said “They’re planning on coming for him.  They won’t be subtle.  They WILL come in force.  I know the details.  I will share them, but…”

Lise looked at Teresa “But what, exactly?”

Teresa turned and looked Lise in the eye and said “But I want asylum.  I want a place here.  Things are about blow up completely, and I think they don’t care who gets hurt now.”

Lise silently analyzed what she had just heard, trying to figure out if she believed any of it, and if she could afford to pretend that she could afford to not try to learn more.