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Archive for the ‘What Really Matters’ Category

I knew when I read the synopsis of this film that it would be an emotional experience for me. What I did not anticipate was enjoying it as much as I did.

As the film played out, I could see Afleck’s character, Christian Wolff, exhibit some of the same characteristics I would expect of an individual who is on the Autism Spectrum, but I was encouraged by the fact that he seemed to be outwardly successful and independent, even as the unfolding story shows a man kept in check by unusual rituals that go back to childhood, and a father whose training compelled him to acclimate his son to the world, rather than insisting that the world create a bubble around his son.

The flashbacks are not evenly paced, and the shifts back to the present are sometimes jarring, but the picture that forms is that of a person who is instantly capable of grasping complicated information and using it to his advantage.  His condition allows him a great deal of focus on the tasks at hand which make him invaluable to his clients and deadly to those who violate his moral code.

Against this backdrop, we are introduced to a high-ranking bureaucrat at the Department of the Treasury who ruthlessly recruits a smart and talented analyst to figure out who this mysterious accountant who has been tied to some of the most evil people on the planet actually is, with the idea that he could be an informational gold mine.

The flashbacks reveal how Wolff cultivated his effortless brutality, but they also reveal that the bureaucrat, played by JK Simmons, owes his career and station to Wolff, and that their history is an odd symbiotic relationship, in which Simmons’ character had to decide what he was willing to compromise with in order to bring down infamous criminals. When this is revealed to his reluctant protegé, she has to face the expectation that she will replace him when he retires.

Meanwhile, Wolff has taken what he and his “agent” believed to be an “honest” job, only to find calculation and intrigue of a degree that only someone with his skill set could have uncovered, and in a manner that is contrary to his normal instincts, he feels a duty to protect the innocent who inadvertently discovered the financial chicanery at a robotics company. This puts him on a collision course with a mysterious enforcer, hired by the owner of the company to clean up the loose ends, including the lowly account clerk who discovered the missing money in the first place.

As the flashbacks progress, you see how Wolff changed from a boy who was very obviously autistic into a man who is very controlled, very precise, and very deadly. We see the conflict between his parents, a mother who is out of her depth and at her wit’s end…at one point making a very revealing remark that made me deeply, deeply dislike her, and a father who is an Army officer working in psy ops. The mother is eager to leave her oldest son with strangers, and let them raise him and teach him how to live in a controlled environment. The father refuses, because of a love for both of his sons that his career and training can never allow him to express in a “normal” way, but exists just the same, and because he wants his oldest son to be able to meet and interact in the world the way that it is, and not in a bubble created for him. These conflicts eventually take their toll, and the mother leaves, causing the oldest son to slip into an epic meltdown, and the younger son to express his resentment of his mother and her inability or unwillingness to give both boys what they need in a simple expression when she departs. As the father continues to travel the world, he takes the boys with him and subjects them to brutal training, while eventually revealing to them at a crucial moment that his purpose is to keep them from ever becoming victims.  He also instilled in the boys the same sense of loyalty, borne in love, that has caused him to soldier on as a solo parent. One of the final flashbacks completes the transition from past to present, while revealing to the audience just how much the father loved his oldest son.

This is a movie about decisions.  Decisions always matter, but I don’t think movies always focus on just how much decisions are fulcrums in people’s lives.  And while decisions drive every story, my biggest surprise in this one was the decision made by the Treasury Agent’s reluctant protegé, who made a decision about compromise, and whether or not the calculus she had to use had expanded beyond just herself.

Conversely, the final showdown between Wolff and the mysterious enforcer lead to a decision that couldn’t really be considered a difficult choice at all.  It was violent, bloody, loud, and shocking to the man who hired the enforcer, but ultimately, I found it to be one of the film’s most rewarding moments.

Ultimately, I can see why this movie is controversial for people. To some, it appears to paint a portrait of a high-functioning autistic as a soulless monster, but this is really far too facile a conclusion. Wolff doesn’t consider the right or wrong of what many of his clients do to make their money. For him, the payoff is the challenge of diving into their books and finding the cause of the issue that brought him there. His apparent lack of emotion puts the monsters he works for at ease…sometimes fatally, when they underestimate his ability to take care of himself.  It would be easy to believe that he doesn’t have emotions, but the reality is that he just cannot comprehend what to do with them, and he himself is quite surprised when he makes a decision based on emotion, against his training and instinct, for reasons he himself does not fully understand.

I can see where people would feel justified in condemning the father, and his very hard way of raising his sons, but that would ignore the fact that he wasn’t the one who left them, despite a demanding career that required travel all over the world. Like his oldest son, he saw the world in a way very different from most, based on a reality that many are never exposed to, and because of that, he knew the best way to protect both of his sons was to teach them how to never be hurt by the world or caught flat-footed by it. I expect that I will catch heat for saying so, but I think the biggest villain in the film is the mother, and it wasn’t lost on me just how much pain she caused for her sons, even in death.

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Sometimes, you are faced with a disconnect that is so profound that it is alarming in its implications.  One such example is the conduct that I and other friends have been on the receiving end of since Tuesday night.  The vitriol itself would normally be bad enough, as it has come at the hands of people who are usually vocal to the point of preachiness about “tolerance” and “diversity”, but when its coming from people we thought were our friends, it is as disappointing as their venom is disturbing.

Earlier today, I read a long post on Facebook from someone whom I have known a long, long time, explaining his justification for such behavior.  In several ways, this was a continuation of a series of disparagements and slanders he started Tuesday night, but to read just how much he’s allowed this poison to cloud this thinking really took me aback.  I had resolved to sleep on it before writing this piece, but when I got home, I saw this from another friend who I have only known for about ten years, a friend who I first befriended online, but who I later met in person (he lives in the north part of the Puget Sound region, and whom I have since met up with several other times):

so I’ve been called a racist three times in the last two days….twice by people who know me well and who should know better, and once by some idiot who doesn’t know me at all. So, I make this request of all of you…….If you consider me a racist for how I voted (which I’ve explained numerous times). Instead of dirtying yourself with that kind of ugliness, unfriend me both here and in real life…..It is wrong and ignorant and prejudiced and you know it. I have a pretty high opinion of all of you and would like to hold onto that opinion…..so just unfriend me and not ruin my perception of the better person that I believe you to be.
I wish you well.

Reading this angered me.

It angered me, because I know this man.  I’ve done business with this man.  I’ve had coffee with this man.  I’ve met his wife, and I’ve done work for the both of them.  This slander angered me.  And my disappointment tempered it.  I was disappointed because two other people who knew him could still hurl this accusation in a way that clearly displayed serious enough intent that he took it seriously.  I was disappointed because he was not the only person I knew experiencing this.

Which brings me back not only to the friend justifying this kind of behavior, but all my friends.  Facebook is really an interesting development.  While it can be a timesuck, it has also been a means  for me to keep in contact with family all over the country, to renew friendships with people I went to college with, people I went to law school with, people I worked pre-law jobs with, or to strengthen friendships formed in other places on the internet, as well as make new friends with friends of my friends, and join some online communities based on shared interests, some of which don’t really have too much at all to do with politics.

Now when you think about it, having friends from so many different experiences and times in my life, it should not be too terribly  shocking that some of them hold political leanings to the opposite of my own.  While this can “get loud” sometimes, I have never considered “unfriending” anyone because we disagree about something.  I have often said, my tongue only partially in my cheek, that if I were to act in such a manner every time someone else was wrong, I would have long ago given the world the finger, and moved to a remote cabin up in the mountains where I would no longer have to deal with such effrontery.  The truth is that I’m actually used to having relationships of various degrees with people who believe differently than I do.  Much of my family actually falls into this category, but it doesn’t dim my affection for them.  Some of my friends on Facebook are people whom I chose to be friends with, knowing full well their opposition to my viewpoint on various matters. I was able to do so because I still shared some sort of interest with them, or because I enjoyed the exchanges I had with them, because they were able to debate without the hyperbole, the slander, and the pigeon strutting which is all too common in my experience when dealing with those who have political views which oppose my own.  As for those who subscribe to a different view who are my friends from previous shared experiences, the point remains the same; I chose to be friends with them, if only because my previous experiences with them taught me that they weren’t bad people, regardless of their political views.  Put another way, their opposing viewpoints do not dim my affection for these people whom I made a conscious decision to associate with and  “friend” on the social media platform.  So when I see these same people unflinchingly and reflexively assert that the possession of an opposite opinion can ONLY be the result of evil intention and/or some debilitating form of ignorance or intellectual disability, which then somehow justifies the ongoing slander and disparagement, like some perverse cadence of curiously permissible hate and intolerance of the now “unfriended” or soon to be “unfriended” individual, my sadness becomes profound.  When the justification includes naked assertions of “facts” which are no such thing, and when the justifier is someone you know to be smarter than the things they are saying, I am disappointed.  When the justification is then wound up with this rather remarkable pronunciation:

People are not “unfriending” their “friends” because of an election. They are separating themselves from people who have exposed themselves to lack the benevolence, intelligence, sophistication and good-will-of-heart to participate in the advanced citizenship known as “America”.

I realize that some of the people who cry loudest about “tolerance” and “diversity” are least capable of living in a society that values it, or can benefit from it.  Henry Ford once famously quipped at an early point in his company’s life “You can have one of my cars in any color you like, as long as it’s black.”  That kind of restriction doesn’t live up to the ideal presented in either word, nor does it make for a healthy society.

My unfriending friend also made a point often made by various members and followers of the Left over the last decade or so…his own variation on the slightly humorous assertion that he and others who share his view are the “adults” in the room:

We can relate to children because we were all children once upon a time. However, as we grow older and wiser and more sophisticated, we do not socialize with children. They are not part of our peer group. We do not pass notes that say “yes, no or maybe” when we are 30 or 40.

That is, of course, his view.  For myself, once I moved away from the community we both grew up in, and went to law school, where I started to ask questions which made some of my professors uncomfortable, and started reading the treatises that used to be used to train lawyers, but have been long since abandoned in favor of the case method, I grew to form more conservative views than those I have been exposed to (less diplomatic people might be inclined to say “indoctrinated in”) when I was younger.  The irony is that the more I read, and the more I observed, and the more my body of knowledge grew as I continued my education, the more I developed these views.  The key to this is the “I”.  I didn’t come to these conclusions because they were what I was being taught.  I didn’t come to these conclusions because it was what my professors were telling me.  I did that, as my knowledge and experience grew and developed.  These weren’t conditions that lend themselves to “regression” to some troglodyte lens through which the world is viewed, and while I’m not hurt by the endless broad brush assertions to the contrary, I have grown impatient with apparent apprehension that is excuses people who state this from having to take me seriously, and instead somehow get a free pass to insult me and my friends, and casually ascribe all manner of ill or evil intent to our views.  If you’re a friend of mine, and you’re doing this, the question I challenge you to answer is this:

“Are you really that unwilling to focus your wit and intellect on persuading me to see the reason in your position, or are you simply incapable of successfully doing so, and your actions are instead some kind of coping mechanism?”

I submit that the question is one that you should answer honestly as much for yourself and your own well-being as it is for mine.

Will any of this cause my unfriending friend to engage in any serious introspection, or will he simply continue his social media crusade and unfriend me too?  I hope that it is the former and not the latter, not just between us, but between all of the people in this country right now, because it is one thing to call me an enemy, but still engage in a dialogue for the sake of our shared experiences and amity (Hell, if Jefferson and Adams could do it, there is no reason for us to want or believe otherwise).  It is quite another to call me an enemy, then set out to treat me as one…and if this happens often enough, to enough people, then that is exactly what we will have, and nothing about that is “American”.

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I gave up trying to predict the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election.  If I spoke out about the very real reasons why Hillary Clinton, a/k/a Felonia von Pantsuit, could not be allowed to win the election, I was usually greeted with responses asking how Trump could possibly be more acceptable.  While I loathed the idea of President Trump, the idea of a person who clearly flouted public records laws in order to conceal a pay-to-play scandal that monetized a government sinecure and put US policy up for bids by interested parties.

Having said that, I wasn’t sure that Trump could actually take down the great Clinton criminal enterprise.  I decided that I wasn’t even going to watch the election results, but at about 8:30 pm, my curiosity got the best of me, and I turned to the CBS coverage, and discovered that it was actually a fight.  I ended up staying with it, rotating around to the various networks and ended up really enjoying watching the various talking heads struggling to contain their disappointment.  But what has been simultaneously disappointing and amusing has been the post-mortem the legacy media has engaged in after their humiliation Tuesday, and how so many of them fail to grasp the real cause of the Trump victory.

No, this wasn’t a “whitelash”.  No, this wasn’t misogyny.

This was about the average American deciding that they are fed up with constantly being lectured to, with serious looks, smug condescension, and wagging fingers about how they are everything wrong with this country, and how the way they have lived, and want to continue to live, is a crime against humanity, and that even considering that they are being fed nonsense is somehow a thought crime for which they should feel utterly and completely ashamed for not abjectly debasing themselves and groveling for the pardon of their fellow citizens who fancy themselves to be the intellectual, cultural, and yes, even moral betters of the people they deign to look down upon.  I’m not the first person to make this observation, or to be disappointed that instead, the introspection of these “experts” too often leads to the conclusion that it is someone else’s fault.  The pollsters.  The voters who could have only voted for Trump because of evil motives and dark hearts.  But this is only part of the story.

The other factor is the incestuous relationship between the Left and the Media, and what they have done to Republican Party for decades.

While Trump was not my first choice, nor my twelfth choice, I did previously note, with not a small degree of amusement, Trump’s ability to take everything the Democrats and the media could throw at him, shrug it of, and essentially say “AND???”  Even the Republican Party failed to understand how he was able to do this, but the answer lies in the votes of the people who made him the President-Elect:  Double-standards and political correctness are not embraced by average people.   For decades, Democrats have catered to excess.  They have constantly advocated the use of liberty as cloak for vice.  Republicans, as a general rule, have aimed for a different demographic, hence the generalization about “family values”.  This has provided a powerful tool for Democrats and the Press, because while everyone is human, human failings have only been suitable for pointing out as it applies to Republican candidates.  At the same time, we have had a creeping transformation of expectations focused around the dubious notion that we each have a “right” to not be offended.  As this cancerous idea grew, and metastasized, victimhood has become both a sword and shield as everything has become offensive to someone.   The result is that Democrats could condemn their opponents for weaknesses that they themselves would never had to defend in their own lives, and over decades, Republicans became conditioned to being cowed, to pulling punches, to not uttering obvious truths aloud, and to slinking away in the face of opponents who could be caught red-handed in all manner of morally questionable deeds, criminal acts, blatant lies, or influence peddling, and never ever display a shred of shame, and under no circumstances ever, ever,ever back down.

And into this scenario, where the average person is fed up with being told they’re the problem with America, that there is the law for the average person, and the law for the rich and powerful, and that subsets of government can pick and choose which laws they want to follow, walks a man who could never be elected.  A man who has said crude things.  A man who has been married multiple times.  A man who has been bankrupt more than once.  A man with an outsized ego (a trait he shares with many politicians, but in his case, this was “unacceptable” to our betters because he wasn’t a member of the political class.)

And when the accusations were flying like mud, he didn’t cower.  He didn’t slink away.  He pushed back.  He’d say stupid, feisty things, rather than getting quiet.  And he would say the things that average people were thinking, whether or not they were politically correct.  As I look back, I am reminded of the Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.”

He has an opportunity that hasn’t come in a very long time.  We have one party in the White House, the House of Representatives, and Senate.  If he chooses smart people to advise him and to be in his cabinet…if he chooses to approach Congressional leaders with an intent to actually work with them, and he pursues an agenda of shrinking government, of cutting regulations and reversing the administrative state, and enacts tax cuts and tax reforms, then we could see a real economic improvement the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country since I was I child.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we could have some real change, and I find myself praying, yes truly praying, that he is visited with divine wisdom, and that he appoints and listens to people who can destroy “business as usual” which has spawned a complacency which has converted public service into a sinecure that creates previously undreamt of wealth for the arduous task of creating nothing but laws and regulations formed by experts with no practical experience or skill.

And I hope he doesn’t blow it.

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“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?”

“Hardly.”

“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.

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Cooper strained to open his eyes.  Around him, he could  hear gunfire, and shouting.  He could see three men dressed from head to toe in black running through the hole in the wall.  Two quickly moved toward Teresa, but the third approached him, and drew a .45, pointing it at Cooper.  “I’m gonna be famous.  I’ll probably get the Medal of Honor.” the man said.  Behind him, his two companions lifted Teresa off the floor.  One of them rasped “Forget him!  Help us with the General’s wife!”, but before he could respond, he jerked backward once, then twice, then a third time, and fell to the floor.  Cooper turned his head to see Agent Roy, crouching in the doorway, his gun smoking.  Agent Roy held his hand to his ear, and was clearly trying to get back up, but the sounds of the firefight outside intensified.  And after what seemed like an eternity, he slowly made his way across the two feet from the doorway to where Cooper was laying, watching the remaining intruders dragging Teresa out through the hole in the wall, to some unknown rendezvous.  He couldn’t determine the condition of her limp form, and wondered if she was alive or dead.  Agent Roy crouched over Cooper, assessing his condition, when he also jerked, once, and a growing bloom of crimson began expanding on the white shirt he wore under the black jacket.  Cooper said “Agent Roy, you’ve been hit.”

Agent Roy was gritting his teeth, and said “That’s not important right now.  We have to get you to a doctor.”

Cooper looked around for some help, and saw that Rick was back in the doorway.  Rick made his way over to Cooper and Agent Roy, and Cooper said “Get Roy out of here!  He’s been shot!”  Rick shook his head, and said “No  can do, buddy.  You’re the priority here.  And your fiancée’ would kill me if I didn’t get you to safety.”  Rick looked at Roy, who said “Get him out of here.  I’ll cover you.”

Rick started to drag Cooper to the back of the house as Agent Roy stood near the opening in the wall, and looked before firing a few shots out toward the fleeing invaders.  The sound of gunfire was tapering off, and Cooper watched as Rick dragged him down the hall, succumbing for a second time as a black hole opened beneath and swallowed him up.  The last thing he saw before darkness overtook him was a bullet tearing through Agent Roy, and the Mountie falling to the debris strewn floor.  All he could think was “NOOOOOOO!  Not for me!”

——————————————————————————————————————-

Cooper came to, with a medic checking his vitals, and Lise checking him out.  “Jake?” he whispered.

She stopped, took his hand and smiled.  “He’s safe.”

“Hell, he isn’t just safe.  He’s probably safer than he’s ever been.”  Rick said, with a grin.

“You’re friend hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for exaggeration,” said Lise “I did nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Don’t let her fool ya, buddy.  When one of the teams came in through the front door, she dispatched them all without batting an eye.  I don’t think they even had time to clap eyes on Jake.”

Cooper looked at Lise, uncertain if the tears he felt welling up were from what he’d just heard, or the goose egg on his head that was growing by the minute.  Still holding his hand, she brought it to her cheek,  tilted her head, and said “I wouldn’t…I couldn’t let them hurt Jake.  I couldn’t bear what that would do to you.”

Cooper turned his hand to stroke her cheek, more aware with each passing second of the screaming headache that radiated from the rising welt on his head.  “Where is he?”

“Safe.” she said quietly.  The visitors have gone, and no less than three teams are with him in the reinforced part of  the house.  “And Teresa?”  Lise’s smile faded.  Before she could respond, Rick said “She fell the same time you did, but she was closer to the blast.  I didn’t see a lot of blood when they took her away, but I couldn’t tell how badly  she was hurt…”

“Or if she was dead.”  Lise said flatly.

“Regardless, ” said Rick “I don’t think her visit was sanctioned.  The troops seemed more interested in getting her than they did you.”

“And Agent Roy?”

“He’s down, but the docs think he’ll make it.  I think those Newfoundlanders are almost as hard to kill as Texans.  He’ll be back.” Rick said with a smile.

“I want to know when he can have visitors.” Cooper said.

“Probably before you can, if this delays our wedding.” Lise said with a smile, but Cooper could tell that the smile was covering something, but he couldn’t really suss it out through the flashes of pain in his head.

“We’re right behind you.” Lise said as the ambulance doors shut, and it sped away from the safe house under heavy escort.

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Rick and Lise were discussing the previous evening when they  walked into the kitchen.  As they entered, Rick’s  teasing of Lise stopped in mid-sentence, as he saw the Mountie on the floor, and a woman he thought long dead standing next to the stove looking at her husband and her remaining son.  At the same time, both Rick and Cooper uttered the same question.  “Teresa?”

Teresa shifted her gaze, and responded “Rick.  And the lovely Major Phillips.  You have no idea how much I tried to get Cooper to sit down with a psychiatrist.  I guess I should have just hired a pretty one to seduce him.”  And with that barb, Teresa shifted her gaze back to Cooper and asked “What? No kiss for your long-lost wife? Or is the shock too great for you?”

Cooper’s mouth opened, shut, and then opened again.  He barely asked “How?” when Jake got up from the table and bolted to Lise, burying his head on her shoulder and hugging her for dear life.  Rick, sensing what his friend would ask if he were thinking clearly, stepped in front of Lise and Jake, putting himself between Teresa and the two of them.  Teresa turned to Rick again and said “I caution you against making any sudden moves, Rick.  I’m a great deal more…skilled than the last time you saw me.”

Rick looked to the Mountie on the floor, unable to tell if he was unconscious or dead, and said “Clearly.  What brings you back from the dead, and into our company?” he drawled.

“I had to see if the rumors were true, and my husband was still alive.  I thought he died in the woods years ago, along with you.  I was wrong about both of you.  And I heard his intended was quite attractive, but the stories don’t do you justice, Major.”

“I thought you were dead.” Cooper said to Teresa, in an almost whisper.  Teresa turned to Cooper and said “You were meant to.  It was my lover’s idea.  It allowed me to get away from you.  And then I was trained by some of his best men.  Shortly after I completed that training, word had come that you had been killed at that cabin in the Cascades, and my lover’s wife had an unfortunate…accident.  Tragic, actually, but it allowed the two of us to marry, and he went on to have a very successful career.  He’s a major-general now, and sometimes forgets that he wants me to be resourceful.  When I read the reports on you, I started to feel nostalgic.  I decided that I needed to come see you…and Jake, and try to convince you to come home.  I can make that happen.”

Cooper didn’t say a word.  His face spoke a thousand words about the emotions swirling inside him and competing for dominance over his spirit.  Lise watched, seeing him reveal a vulnerability that she had only previously guessed at, and feeling disappointed that she hadn’t connected with him as deeply as this phantom had, and couldn’t conjure a similar reaction in such a short period of time.

Cooper bowed his head, putting his right hand to his forehead before pushing it back through his hair.  He sighed, and said “Teresa…”, but the sound of thunder and a rain of glass and debris prevented him from finishing the statement.  As the blackness swallowed him, he felt only relief as he saw Rick push Jake and Lise towards the Mounties running down the hall towards the newly destroyed kitchen.

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Cooper walked into the kitchen to find Jake eating cereal at the table, and watching a video on his tablet.  A plainclothes Mountie stood in the corner, hands folded in front of him, standing guard.  Jake looked up and said “Dad!”

Cooper sat down opposite the young man, and asked “So what did you do last night, buddy?”

Jake replied “I had pizza for dinner,  then I watched a video until Agent Roy said it was time for bed.”  His face soured at the last, before he put another spoonful of the cereal in his mouth.  “What did you do, Dad?”

Cooper smiled, and said “Rick, Lise, and I went to Dinner at the King’s residence.  He asked me to tell you he said hello, and he thinks he’ll have a new train to show you soon.”

Jake’s face broke out in a big grin.  “I like the King.” he said.

Cooper leaned forward and asked Jake “What do you remember about Mom, buddy?”

Jake’s face clouded, and he looked back to his tablet.  “She wasn’t around much, and you two used to fight.  A LOT.”

Cooper squirmed at the memory, as he silently wondered just how much the young man really picked up on, and never expressed.

“Jake…how do you feel about Lise?”

Jake’s face lit up again.  “I like her.  She’s nice, and she knows a lot about trains.”

“How would you feel if she was around all the time?”

Jake looked at Cooper for a minute, then asked “What do you mean?”

“I’ve asked her to marry me, and she said “Yes.””

Jake looked at Cooper with an expressionless face, then asked “So she’ll be…my Mom?”

Cooper inhaled slowly, and said “No.  Your Mom was your Mom.  Lise can be like your Mom…if you want her to be.”

Jake looked at his cereal, and appeared to think it over for a minute, before saying “I think I might like that.”

Cooper smiled, and gave his son a hug, which the young man enthusiastically returned.

An icy voice shattered the moment as it said “I don’t know how I feel about that.”

Upon hearing it, Cooper immediately turned toward the voice, and for the second time in six months, saw a ghost standing in the kitchen of the safehouse.

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