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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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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.

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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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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.

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Lise was tense.  The elevator ride seemed to be taking longer than usual, and she hated hospitals.  The artificial light, the antiseptic smell, and the worry.  It had been almost a month, and Cooper remained in a coma.  Lise was tired, and had come back to the hospital despite having left only a few hours earlier, because worry prevented her from sleeping.  When she walked past the detail outside the room, and saw Cooper laying there, with his friend Rick talking to him about a party they had both attended many years before in Texas.  Rick looked up at Lise, and asked “What are you doing here?  You need to get some rest.”

Lise smiled, and “I couldn’t sleep.  Besides, I like to hear some of these stories about the two of you when you were both younger.”

Rick shifted slightly in his chair and said “It was a long time ago, with friends, most of whom are long dead. Just an old guy reminiscing with a friend.  But I swear, when I talked about how Fred was giving me the eye, and how Cooper told him that there was nothing to worry about as long as you could hear me talking, but it was time to worry when I got silent, I swear he smiled just a little bit.”

Lise paused, silently thankful for the friendship this man had with Cooper.  Rick couldn’t ignore the concern she  was concealing with her smile and said “Seriously, Lise.  You look dead on your feet, and this is no place to get any rest, now is it, Agent Roy?”  The agent, sitting quietly in a chair in the other corner nodded slightly and said, “No Colonel, it is not.”  Although Roy was still recovering from his wounds, and not yet cleared to return to duty, he insisted on spending as much time in Cooper’s room as possible as soon as he was able to walk.

Knowing that he was right, and not wanting to give him the satisfaction of letting him know, Lise debated with herself before saying “Ok, Rick.  I guess you’re right.”

Rick got up out of his chair, ad said “I’ll walk you to the elevator.”

The two walked out of the room, and when out earshot of the detail, Rick asked in a hushed tone “How’s Jake?”

Lise frowned, and replied “Better.  It was a big shock for him, and he is still trying to process it.  Having Cooper unable to communicate with him isn’t helping.”

Rick nodded.  “For what its worth, Jake trusts you, and I think he loves you too.  That has to help when you talk with him.”

Lise said “Only so much.  Deep traumas in both these men, and they both lead right back to her.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning.  Make Roy go to bed in an hour.”

The elevator door shut, leaving Lise alone with the hum of the elevator and the sound of her own thoughts.  When the elevator reached the ground floor, it didn’t stop, continuing to the sub-basement, where it chimed, and the door opened to a dark view punctuated by clutter and a silhouette.  Teresa’s voice said “Major.  Do come in.  It’s time you and I had a long talk about my men.”

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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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