Best Show You Don't Know About

Best Show You Don't Know About
Leverage

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top 13 of 2012

Yes I know that I already listed #13 in my last post, but I split #12. It's my list nd I can do with it as I want! :)


Top Ranked- these are the films which I enjoyed the most this year-


12 & 12 1/2- 21 Jump Street & The Raid Redemption- While trying to decide between these 2 films, I decided to just split the difference. Both of these films are examples of the films being much more fun and better than they have any right to be. The Raid is the most action packed, intense big dumb action movie of the year with amazing stunts and martial arts action to match any film you can think of while 21 Jump Street is a big dumb comedy that just makes you laugh- hard. Very enjoyable in their own ways.

11- Hunger Games- I have not read the books but was very impressed by this film. As great and as tight as it was, it was Jennifer Lawrence who grounded this film and made it interesting and fascinating to watch. Without her, I think the great performances by Sutherland, Harrelson, Kravitz, Tucci, and others would have been lost in a mess of a film. Looking forward to the next one.

10- End of Watch- One of the hardest films that I have ever watched. My father started his life as a policeman as an Ogden City Policeman. While the events in the film were not exact to events he was involved with, the feeling was exactly spot-on from the stories he told me. The relationship with the partners is something that I saw and rang very true. While the “self filmed” style didn’t work a time or two, it was more than compensated for, in what I brought to the theater, the relationship between Gyllenhaal and Pena and their families and the situations in which they found themselves.

9- Pitch Perfect- I have written a full review elsewhere on my blog about this, but, to quickly review: Kendrick, laughs, great music, different types of humor and I had a great time each of the 3 times that I saw it.

8- Paranorman- I am a huge fan of stop motion animation. This film roped me in with its amazing animation, quirky sense of humor, great characterizations, and a plot that touched me. I loved it every step of the way.

7- Dark Knight Rises- I am just as shocked as anyone that this is as low on the list as it is. A great ending to a fabulous trilogy with amazing acting turns by everyone from Bale to Hathaway to Hardy to Oldman to Caine to Leavitt to Freeman. As with Paranorman, I was with it every step of the way and entranced by the sights of Gotham City destroying itself.

6- Cabin in the Woods- While I enjoy horror films, generally they do not show up in my favorites of all time lists. This one is different because it is every bit the cliché while stepping outside of its clichés to bring a fresh view of horror movies to its audience. It was written by Joss Whedon who subverts the clichés at every turn. If you have ever liked a horror film, trust me and see this one. I will not describe it any further to keep the surprises and twists for those who have yet to see it. Am I still on speaker phone????

5- Bernie- My mouth was agape during most of the runtime of this film, not quite believing what I was watching. It is filmed in documentary style with some of the real life people who lived in the town where the true events occurred discussing their feelings of the events and people involved. Add in actors portraying some of the townsfolk (such as Matthew Mccaugnahey as the attorney prosecuting the case) and Jack Black and Shirley McLaine portraying the two main characters in reenactments of the events. Then, mix in one of the strangest true-life crimes and you come up with this winning film experience unlike any other this year. I saw it twice in the theaters and twice on video so far and it will be going into my constant rotation of films to watch.

4- Looper- A time travel, sci-fi mobster movie that stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Leavitt, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt directed by Rian Johnson (director of ‘Brick’ and ‘Brothers Bloom’, both of which almost worked). This one knocks it out of the park. Leavitt plays a ‘Looper’ who kills people who are sent back in time by the mob of the future so that the bodies can be destroyed before they are even born. When Leavitt does not kill a potential victim (once he realizes that it is himself 30 years older), he goes after himself. There is much more to the storyline, but again, the surprise is watching it unfold. Blunt plays a very important character as well. The only small issue that I had was a small twist involving a character played by Piper Perabo, which could have been a major twist but downplayed. A very happy surprise of the year!

3- Avengers- Joss Whedon did what many naysayers said he could not do- create a multi-character superhero film out of disparate elements from 5 previous films to create something stronger than the sum of its parts. And it worked! Equal parts action, drama, comedy, with surprising turns by most of the cast kept this one plowing through the summer box office from its release on May 3rd all the way until Labor Day. A winner in all areas- this is what a summer blockbuster can be!

2- Skyfall- An excellent film in its own right, let alone, the fact that it is a James Bond film! Like The Avengers, it takes the best parts of the previous Bond films, adds an amazing cast led by Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M, blends it with the snazzy cinematography of Roger Deakins and the assured direction of Sam Mendes, and creates a film to rival Casino Royale from several years ago and starts the Bond franchise again in style after a 4 year hiatus due to MGM’s bankruptcy. Welcome back, 007!

1-Argo- a film which takes a stranger than fiction true story, great acting and directing from ben Affleck, a mix of drama, politics, comedy, suspense and action and turns it into a white knuckle thrill ride. While any of the top 7 films could have occupied this spot, this is the one which truly knocked my socks off this year. While I was expecting great things from Whedon, and Nolan, and hoping Johnson could finally take a film of his to the finish line, and loving Bond since I was a kid especially now with Craig, Argo was the one film that I was excited to see but not sure if it would work at all and was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

Top Movies of 2012- #58-13

Watch for my top 13 list later tonight.

This is a list of the ranking of the films that I saw this year which were released in theaters in 2012. While I saw many other films this year, some of them were much older films that I was catching up on (Rocket Science, Junior Bonner, Cincinatti Kid, Poseidon Adventure), they were officially released in 2011 and I did not see them until this year (Footloose, Immortals, for example) or they were 2011 releases that I caught up on for Oscar purposes (Artist, Tree of Life, My Week with Marilyn, Jane Eyre, et al).

While there are some that I will be seeing in the next couple of weeks that I have not yet seen (Les Mis, Django Unchained, Hobbit, Life of Pi, Jack Reacher) and others that I do want to catch up with on video (The Grey, Big Miracle, The Vow, This Means War, Gone, Lucky One, Chimpanzee, Moonrise Kingdom, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,Part of Me, The Words, Hit & Run, Lawless, The Master, Dredd, Trouble with the Curve, Sinister, Seven Psychopaths, Silent Hill revelation, Chasing mavericks, Man with the Iron Fists, Wreck It Ralph, Killing Them Softly), this is where it stands at this time.

It is very interesting to me that as I went through the different areas of the list, as I subtracted titles, my top 13 favorites really did end up being at the top even though I did not specifically select from the top down.
Without further ado, here is the list, starting at the bottom:

Bottom of the barrel-

58- Chernobyl Diaries- I only saw this because I had to wait an hour and a half to see Men in Black 3 on opening weekend and the times worked out. I wish they hadn’t. I went in expecting a few creepy moments and didn’t even get that. While the concept was cool, the acting, script, production values, everything was totally botched. Other than the general idea, there was absolutely nothing good in this film.

57- Alex Cross- Tyler Perry taking over the Alex Cross character from Morgan Freeman. Really? This is the best we can do? While a couple of the ideas are interesting (sniper from a moving train) and some of the supporting actors are great in ultra-brief roles (John C Mcginley and Rachel Nichols, to name just 2) the rest of the film is a waste. The villain is violent but uninteresting, the mystery makes no sense, the emotional moments beat you over the head, and Tyler Perry looks like he is lost without a dress.

56- Wrath of the Titans- While I found the 2010 ‘Clash of the Titans’ to be a piece of crap, at least it was fun and had Gemma Arterton. This one had neither of those factors. When an action film is boring, you know you’re in trouble. While not as completely botched as Alex Cross or Chernobyl Diaries, there was not really anything to recommend it at all


Some good moments or a good cast, but even this, unfortunately, does not take the next batch out of the huge disappointment group.

55- Wanderlust- an amazing comedic cast (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Alda, Malin Akerman, Justin Theroux, Joe LoTroglia, Lauren Ambrose, even Linda Lavin and many more) is left to fumble their way through a largely improvised script about a couple who finds themselves on a hippie type free love and live off the land community. A few huge laughs don’t make up for the long stretches of unfunniness.

54- American Reunion- The film again centers around Jason Biggs which is a huge mistake. Even though the cast is coming back for their 12th high school reunion, most of it seems as though they haven’t changed at all in the intervening years. Alyson hannigan and Eugene Levy get the film’s best moments and biggest laughs, and Seann William Scott has a nice character moment near the end, but the rest of the film seems as though they are attempting to force these characters to have more onscreen adventures just for the sole purpose of money. It doesn’t work.

53- Raven- John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe trying to help the police solve murders which are done in the style of his books. While this is just the same basic plot as the pilot for the TV show ‘Castle’, there is nothing really interesting done with it. The cast flounders and the film sputters and has some good moments, but all in all, it is very blah.

52- Snow White & the Huntsman- The first 30 minutes is very good, but then it slowly goes downhill with much more style than substance. As the friend I saw it with mentioned to me after it was over, “If they could have just turned the volume off after the first 30 minutes or so, it would have been a fabulous film.” It looked good, and Chris Hemsworth came out showing that he has real star power (Charlize Theron even did a great job, but her character just had one attribute after the ebeginning-evil), the rest of it just sat on the screen looking like a ditzy gorgeous blond- looks good but has nothing in her head.

51- Dark Shadows- Some great elements (Eva Green’s sexy witch, Elfman’s great score, Chloe Grace Moretz looking amazingly like she could actually be Michelle Pfeiffer’s rel life daughter, bits of the actual TV show’s plotlines) just couldn’t come together for a cohesive whole.


Good for what they were-pure entertainment- not really ranked, just in chronological order of release

50-Underworld- Awakening- More with Kate Beckinsale as a vampire in tight leather- nothing wrong with this at all.

49-Man on a Ledge- silly, but fun suspense thriller with a great side performance by Genesis Rodriguez.

48- Safe House- Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington in a throw-away action movie. Fun action scenes but very forgettable.

47- Ghost Rider 2- A flaming skull riding a motorcycle doing the devil’s bidding. Very cool, but another forgettable action movie. With Anthony Stewart Head in a throw away 30-second role.

46- Lockout- More Luc Besson good guys vs bad guys in space prison. You get what you expect Maggie Grace and Guy Pirece acquit themselves well.

45- Abraham Lincoln- Vampire Hunter- some fun ideas that are poorly executed more often than not.

44- Expendables 2- the 80’s action bad boys are back. Again, you get exactly what you expect. One heck of a 10 minute opening sequence, though.

43- Premium Rush- Joseph Gordon Leavitt does what he can to elevate this almost-shot-in-real-time chase movie . It’s fun, but, again, forgettable.

42- Taken 2- Nowhere near as good as the first one. The action is not shot as well and the script is much more silly (how many times can we leave Famke Janssen alone just so she can get kidnapped again IN THE SAME FILM???), but Maggie Grace uses her action chops she got from Lockout and gets into it more this time around. Neeson is awesome as always, but just a fu action flick, nothing more.

41- Paranormal Activity 4- While the Wii moments and the final 10 minutes are standouts, a lot of this film is waiting for something to happen, and not much does. Good to see Kathryn Newton getting back into acting after Gary Unmarried, and much more Katie Featherston in this one to move the mythology along- I just wish they could have done more with it.

40- Red Dawn- A fun update of the 1985 original. Nothing spectacular, but again, easy to see that hemsworth is a star.


Good for what they were, but had a lot to live up to and did not quite make it

39- Prometheus- When 2 of the most intense sequences of the year are from this film and yet they make no real sense to the continuity of the film, there is something wrong. Great ideas and great stand alone sequences do not add up to a cohesive whole, unfortunately.

38- Rock of Ages- With the cast it has( Tom Cruise, Julianne Hugh, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, HeyMan, and many more), it should have been better. As it is, it is an awful lot of fun, but for every good thing it has, there is at least 1 bad thing in it. The overall experience is fun, but the mai story does not work.

37- Savages- Oliver Stone getting back to his Natural Born Killers vibe. The actors do a fine job, but the characters are just not really interesting or intriguing and when your “heroes” are not even really interesting anti-heroes, it just falls flat more often than not. This is an issue with the main story, not the acting or directing. Although the 2 endings is a little weird and takes the wind out of the film as a whole.

36- Bourne Legacy- With a couple of great action scenes, particularly the ending motorcycle chase, an intriguing story, and good acting (Renner, Weisz, Allen, Norton, and others), it is nowhere near a waste, but the ending does not end. While the endings of the previous Bourne films always left a thread hanging to send a sequel to latch onto, this one is nothing but a non-ending. Not bad, just doesn’t live up as a whole to the others.


Good for what they were, and surprisingly better than I expected

35- Act of Valor- Yes, the acting is horrible, but the scenes of the actual Navy SEALs doing their jobs and the emotion behind it as whole, this film still works, even though it is about as bad in spots as filmmaking can get.

34- Safe- A Jason Statham action film with some actual character moments and believable emotions. Who would have thought it was possible?

33- Ted- While it hits ever so slightly more than it misses, this is still a very hit-or-miss comedy. But the bits that work are so amazingly funny, with fabulous acting from Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis in this silly comedy, that it actually works as a whole.

32- Chronicle- A mix of superhero and found footage film, this posits the question of ‘What if a normal teenager got superpowers but did not necessarily use them for good?” A much more satisfying film than I was expecting.

31- One for the Money- Yes, this is a completely breezy adaptation of the first boo in the Stephanie Plum series and yes, it stars Katherine Heigl (an actress I only like on rare occasions) but this is just a fun entertaining time at the movies that I liked much more than I was expecting. I would totally be up for another cinematic adventure with Stephanie Plum.

30- Contraband- A heist movie with some very dark moments. Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale are great in this with a nice ever so slight twist and a plot that doesn’t quite go where expected. Not amazing, but fun.

29- Battleship- After a completely awful opening 30-40 minutes, this movie settles in and is a great blockbuster action movie. Trim that opening down to 10-15 minutes and it would have been a much bigger hit. I think this is better than all 3 Transformers films combined. A big, dumb action spectacle. And there is nothing wrong with that.

28- Amazing Spider Man- while there was no need for a complete reboot and retelling of the origin story, the cast more than makes up for it. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are spectacular together onscreen with Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Saly Field also having fun in the Spider Man sandbox. I will admit that I am much more excited to see the sequel than I am to watch this film again, but it was much better than it had any right to be. Add Shailene Woodley in as Mary Jane in the sequel and the cast alone will make it worth it. Extra points go to this film for the scene where Flash tries to give his condolences to Peter. Very nice character moment on both sides.

27- Five Year Engagement- Great cast and some big laughs which are sidetracked by a film that runs a touch under 2 hours and 10 minutes. A lot of subplots that don’t really add to the film, but Jason Segal and Emily Blunt are great together!

26- Haywire- While Gina Carano is not a great actress, this film is all about the action scenes of her beating up Hollywood men in one-on-one fashion. A fun Saturday night film!

25- What to Expect When You’re Expecting- While not a fan of some of the cast (Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez), they even do good work among the many other actors and actresses in this film. There are some great laughs and some great emotional moments as well. While a definite chick flick, one that works as well. My only major complaint: the strongest acting and character (Anna Kendrick) gets sidelined for the second half of the film since, apparently her story is not as interesting….. Great moments also by Dennis Quaid and Ben Falcone (Air ashal John from last year’s Bridesmaids).

24- Total Recall- A new re-imagining of the Phillip K Dick story with a much more dark take on the material and no Mars scenes. Bokeem Woodbine is the standout actor, while Colin Ferrell and Jessica Biel have great battles with an amazingly evil-and-enjoying-it Kate Beckinsale.

23- John Carter- I do not understand why this film got as maligned as it did. I thought it was a fun version of the story and while, yes, some of the scenes felt like we had been there done that, the scenes originally came from John Carter books and it shouldn’t be penalized for that. The film oooked great and had some thrilling sequences. While a touch too padded, it was a fun ride and Lynn Collins stood tot to toe with Taylor Kitsch every step of the way.

22- Men in Black 3- Some amazing work by Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones (Brolin did all of the vocal work himself), a fabulous new character (the seeing all futures at once Michael Stuhlberg), and a great new villain along with the expected fun acting of Will Smith, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, and an unexpectedly touching ending made this a very worthy sequel to the original.



Great films, but missing that extra little “thing”

21- Pirates- Band of Misfits- Great stop motion by Aardman Animation (of Wallace & Gromit fame) and some very inventive sequences do not quite make up for a slightly plodding plot. I had a great time with this but a bit more of a tighter edit could have helped this one jump up in the ranks. Very fun for all members of the family, though and a much better kids film than most of them out there. Why did this only make 20% of what The Lorax made?

20- Brave- This is a problem with the high expectations that Pixar has created for itself.While a fabulous film n its own right, it is just a 10 out of 10 and not the 14 out of 10 that we have come to expect from Pixar. The animation and voice work is incredible (look at the individual strands of her red hair! Along with the pantomime by the “bear”) , but it is just missing that extra Pixar spark.

19- Cirque de Soleil- Worlds Away- If you have seen anything done by Cirque de Soleil, you will know what to expect. This does not hold together at all as a film, but it is a very cool experience. It is basically a ‘best of’ package from 7 of their different shows in Vegas at this time. Highly recommended for Cirque fans. Not sure if it is a good intro for Cirque newbies, though.

18- Frankenweenie- Great stop motion animation with quirky character designs and a lot of love for the old classic Universal monster movies. The more of those classic films that you have seen, the more you will enjoy this. While a great film in its own right, not as good or entertaining as the other animated film higher on my list.

17- Magic Mike- Some great character moments, an engaging character played by Channing tatum, a sleazeball played by Matthew McConaghey, and a very realistic sense of place made this much more than the “male stripper movie”. While my least favorite movie going experience in a very long time (it was marred by a really creepy audience and several strange things directed to me personally by that audience), it was a much deeper and darker portrayal of the male stripper lifestyle. While I think it will go down in many people’s memories as a film like ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (where people only remember the dancing), it also has the much darker tones and character shading that ‘Fever’ had as well.

16- Flight- Absolutely stunning performances( by Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood) and an amazingly intense plane crash sequence still cannot quite overcome the Hallmark Movie of the Week melodramatic script about an addict overcoming his addiction. I would have no problem if anyone from this cast gets awarded for their performances, though.

15- Lincoln- The script is my major issue with this film. While fabulous acting and filmmaking is all over this film, the script seems ever so slightly boring. Not the events or anything like that, it just doesn’t have the extra punch. While critics and audiences are falling all over themselves praising this film (all of it rightfully deserved), I cant help but wonder what might have been if Aaron Sorkin would have written the script instead of Tony Kushner (whose script also ever so slightly marred Munich, in my opinion).

14- Silver Linings Playbook- Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert Deniro all bounce off of one another in a big way in this romantic comedy/drama dealing with mental illness in many different forms. Everyone is at the top of their game, but it just doesn’t quite come together at the end. Elfman’s score is very different for him and a great sound!

13- Best Exotic Marigold Hotel- To see the best older British actors working in film today, see this film! Fabulous acting and some touching stories almost make up for one or two boring or predictable moments in this film. Missed out on the top tier of films by a smidge, but still very much worth your time!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Love & Death & Christmas

In May of 2010, Aleisha's grandma died. Then, June 12, 2010, my dad died. The day before Thanksgiving of 2010, my cousin was killed in a plane accident. Needless to say, we did not feel festive that year and put up no Christmas decorations. As the holidays came around in 2011, we got out a few minor decorations (my Grinch sled, Max the dog, and a few mangers, but no lights were put up as we still did not feel festive. As the holidays of 2012 approached, I felt like I wanted to celebrate again. I started listening to Christmas music on November 1st and started getting excited. Then, on November 12th, one of our cats, Forti, was discovered run over in the parking lot and I saw his back crushed and his eyes bugged out. I felt sad and it dampened the mood a touch, but I was still looking forward to the holiday season. Thanksgiving came and went and I had a blast with 2 full Thanksgiving dinners. The day before Thanksgiving, we visited my uncle Dennis in the hospital (who had been in and out of the hospital since September 15th) and had a good time visiting with him. We decided to go to my mom's in Hurricane and celebrate Christmas with her on the weekend of December 9th. As we were heading out the door, we noticed that our 12 year old cat, Harry, was looking very sick. His nose was dry and crusty and Aleisha alerted me to the fact that he had urinated on himself earlier that day while I was at work. With the car already packed for the trip, we took Harry to the vet. And found out he was dying of liver failure and only had a few days left to live. So, we decided to put him to sleep. We held him one more time and I went to finish trip packing while Aleisha was with him as he was put to sleep (I could not be there to watch it). Then, we went on the vacation and cried most of the way down. Worst. Beginning. to a vacation. ever. The weekend celebration was muted somewhat. But, I still was excited to put up decorations, but, with the 2 jobs I have, it was tough to find the time. On Friday, December 14th, my Uncle had emergency surgery and it was discovered that the cancer he had that they thought could be cured, was still growing, ripping apart his internal organs, his kidney was dead, his vascular system was shutting down, his lungs were filling up with fluid and, it was discovered on Thursday December 20th, that he was terminal with no way to save him. On Saturday, December 22nd, Uncle Denis decided that he was going to stop fighting and he decided to be taken off of everything and spend the holiday with his family surrounding him and enjoy his last few days. On Sunday, December 23rd, he was transferred to his daughter's house where he will spend the end of his life and we are now pretty much awaiting word that he has died. Amazingly enough, I found time to put up the lights and more decorations than we have had in the past 3 years. While not totally decked out, our house pleases me with the decorations that we do have and I am really feeling the spirit of Christmas this year. Why? This is the question which has been in the back of my head for the last few days. and I think that I finally have an answer. Christmas is the celebration of the birtn of Christ who came to Earth to be our Savior so that we could live again- truly live again. While I still have the separation anxiety of death and not being able to see my loved ones again for a long time, I do know that I will see them again. Of that I have no doubt. And this was brought to pass by the Birth of our Savior who lived a perfect life and died for us and took his life again in resurrection. This is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we celebrate the season and the giving of gifts ad the lights and the trees and the decorations. But it is all about Christ and the love that He brought to this earth so that death is only a temporary thing nd we may be able to live and love our family and friends again after this life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Reviews

I finished a bunch of movies over the weekend- Here are the quick reviews- Triangle- this is the first time we had seen this one- Very cool sci-fi horror. A single mother of an autistic child goes on a weekend boat trip with a man she just met and 4 of his friends. They get stuck ina storm and their boat overturns. They are rescued by a large ship passing by, but, once onboard, they cannot find anyone else on board and they finally see a masked person (but not in a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees way) trying to kill them. The single mother slowly figures out the mystery and has to figure out how to stop it. It just keeps building and building and building and gets much more twisty than originally suspected.While rated R, if you have cable, watch for it to come around on a commercial station- I doubt that it would be hard at all to do a TV edit. Film-7 Movie- 7 Marc Pease Experience- Although only 84 minutes long being written and directed by Todd Louiso (the one who is NOT Jack Black who works with Cuscak at the store in 'High Fidelity') and starring Jason Schwartzman, ben Stiller, and Anna Kendrick, this is one of the most botched films I have ever seen. It has plotlines that go nowhere, non- resolutions to the main conflicts in the story (even though the film seems to think it resolves everything and goes for a happy ending, a botched sense of comedic timing, an epilogue that, again, serves no place in the story- just really disappointing and sad, even though there were a few moments here and there (since it deals with the insanity of putting on a high school musical version of 'The Wiz' and many quirks from my drama days can be seen. Film-1 Movie- 1 Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist- This is trying to show a wild crazy night of unpredictability (a la Adventures in babysitting), love of music (High fidleity) and finding one's true love (Pretty in Pink, et al), again, it works on almost no level. Although Michael Cera and Kat Dennings try very hard, I just didn't like either of them enough to care if they got together or not, the love of music is discussed but doesnt really show in the characters and the way they talk and behave and obsess (which High Fidelity did so well), and the wacky hijinks in order to find a drunk friend who disappeared and trying to find a favorite band's secret show don't really work as being very wacky (except for the travel of one character's wad of chewing gum throughout the night). Cera and Dennings do all they can, but all told, not very good. Although it was a HUGE step up from Marc Pease. Film- 4 Movie- 5 Cincinnatti Kid- 1965 Steve Mcqueen film which also stars Karl Malden Edward G Robinson, cab Calloway, a very young and thin Rip Torn, Ann Margaret, Tuesday Weld, Jack Warden, Joan Blondell... McQueen is a young, hotshot stud poker player in 1930's New Orleans who is going to go up against living poker legend played by Robinson, in a several days long poker event. This is about Poker in the way that Charlie's Angels was about law enforcement. A great character study where there is no real good or bad guy (following the lead of 'The Hustler'). While you root for McQueen because he's McQueen, he's not really a good, or nice, guy. But he is always cool. I am very surprised that my dad never showed me this one the way he did Great Escape or Bullitt, as I would put it right up near the top of my list of McQueen movies, just under Escape, Bullitt, and Papillon. Film- 9 Movie- 8

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chapters 29-31- The end of TIMEOUT

It took a lot longer than I was expecting, but here it is, the end of Time Out! I hope you enjoy it and that it has been worth it. After a couple of days off, I will be starting on the sequel... CHAPTER 29 Jon picked up the paper from the floor. It was card stock, but slightly thinner than a concert ticket. The back of it had a lot of small writing which Jon couldn’t make out, due to his pounding head, but he flipped the ticket over. There was a tic-tac-toe board on the other side, which had many small scratches on it. “What the hell-?” Jon thought. He squeezed his eyes tightly together and looked at the explosions of color that shone before him as he brought the paper closer and re-opened his eyes. Looking at it this close, it was obvious that the 9 sections of the tic tac toe board had been scratched off with a coin. The middle vertical column showed a winning row of $1500. Above the board, it read “Massachussetts Lottery Commission”. Jon scanned the rest of the front of the ticket and in the lower left corner, he spotted it- Copyright by Dutton printing. “Oh, shit.” He stood up and made his way to the locker room door and the basketball court. Aleisha leaned in closer to Greg as he flipped through different files. “These files have all sorts of information in them, but the most basic information was passed over by everybody! You have Ford’s file, correct?” “Yes.” Aleisha searched and found it. “When was he born?” Aleisha scanned the file. “April 26th, 1072.” “And Dutton?” Aleisha found his file. “April 26th, 19… 72.” “And Adams?” “April twenty-six- how is that possible?” “It’s not. That is also, Hobb’s birthday, Bernard’s birthday, Clark’s, Dutton’s….” “What does it mean?” “In reading the police reports of everybody’s, I just started noticing that the ages mentioned in the police records didn’t match up to what their year of birth would have been, and, when comparing everyone’s birthdates…. I have a strong suspicion that Stan and Jon may be the only 17 year olds on the team.” They looked at each other. “Oh, shit.” Jon came out of the locker room and made a beeline for Greg and Aleisha. He was holding his side and shaking his head slightly while closing his eyes tightly every few steps. Jon noticed that Greg and Aleisha were frantically flipping through files and did not see him as he made his way up to them. “Hey! I got it!” His voice made Greg and Aleisha jump. “So do we!” Greg blurted. “Dutton’s family printing business printed a bunch of fraudulent lottery tickets in Massachusetts.” Aleisha stopped Jon. “Wait! What? Did you say lottery tickets?” “Yes!” Jon yelled, “Lottery tickets!” Aleisha flipped through Adams’ and Clark’s files. “Adams shoplifted lottery tickets and Clark worked at convenience stores which sold lottery tickets!” Jon’s mind was going a million miles an hour. “So, how does this work? It is illegal to bet on high school sports!” “We haven’t had time to do the math, but I think you and Stan are the only people on the team who are actual high school students! All of the other players’ files have been altered- unless we have the statistical anomaly of having all of the players on the team have their birthday on April 26th of 1972.” “23!” Jon shouted. “What’s 23?” Greg asked. “That was what Nick said to me as his dying words- he kept repeating 23. He was 23! That’s what he meant! Ages! The information was all in the files! We just didn’t put 2 and 2 together.” Jon noticed that Aleisha was looking at the gym door. He looked back and saw nothing. “What’s going on, Aleisha?” “And Mandy is a cheerleader and dating Clark. She’s handling the book for the school!” Aleisha deduced. Jon started piecing it all together. “If the Warriors win, they would be able to get a lot of money, but if they lose, could they make even more money? With a nationwide audience, I would bet there are a thousand and one bookies taking bets on this game with Grissom Junior- that is why this team has been so skewed. I’ll bet that Coach has a lot of money riding through an illegal bookie, maybe even Mandy, and it is all going to be based on some point spread.” He turned back to Greg and Aleisha. “Keep looking! Nail down the numbers! I’m going to put a stop to this!” “You got it!” Greg assured him. Jon made his way back to the court. He came up from behind Coach Malone, who was yelling to Hobbs on the court. “What’s the spread for the game?” Jon shouted in his ear. Coach stopped yelling and froze. “What’s the spread for the game?” Jon asked again. Coach turned to face him. “How did you-?” “It doesn’t matter. It’s over, Coach.” “But, we still have the game-!” Mackay put another 2 points on the board. “I will make sure that the game is stopped. It’s over, Coach.” Coach Malone looked at Jon and then into the stands and nodded. Pat Hreinson (Mustache) stood up and walked toward the far wall of the gym, unseen by Jon. “Coach, you have the right to remain silent…” Coach Malone wandered back to the water table and leaned onto the table, putting his weight on it, lowering his head. Jon looked around for Kate. Not finding her, he yelled to Greg. “Greg! Where is Kate?” Greg put his hand up to his ear. “Huh?” Stan got the ball and went to pass it in. Jon cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled even louder. “Where is Kate?” Greg shrugged his shoulders as the fire alarm started echoing through the gym. The gym erupted with motion. Immediately, the front rows of spectators headed for the doors Coach reached under the table and came out with a gun. He turned to his left. Jon saw the gun and rushed toward Coach to stop the shot, but was too late. Malone pulled the trigger and hit Natalie’s camera dead center, showering the news anchor with sparks. Jon ended up slamming into Malone’s side. The two of them pushed the water table several feet before it eventually toppled over, sending liquid all over the Warrior’s side of the gym. Escaping individuals slipped in the water and fell down, causing the people behind them to fall as well, creating a literal traffic jam of people. Jon’s hit sent Malone’s gun to the floor. Malone grabbed Jon by the shirt and walloped him in the chest, sending a new set of lightning shots of pain into Jon’s chest. Malone scrambled and found the gun on the floor. The table was creating a barricade around Jon and Malone, so there was an amazing amount of free space around them. Coach stood and found Junior Grissom on the court. He raised the gun. Stan had seen the tussle between Jon and Coach and was running to get closer to them, although he was running against the tide of people. Seeing Coach raise the gun toward the basketball court, Stan took the basketball and flung it as hard as he could- -hitting Coach Malone in the face, breaking his nose. Malone’s gun fired and the bullet went through Grissom’s leg. Grissom was running to get out of the gym, but the bullet took him down. Grissom Junior fell to the court and ended up in a sitting position. Jon struggled to stand up and made his way to his gym bag. He fumbled through the mass of supplies and ended up just starting to dump his bag onto the gym floor. Greg and Aleisha were piling the reports into bookbags to keep them all together. Jon found his pair of handcuffs and went to Coach Malone and handcuffed him to the table. “…anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Kate found a door leading to the gym from the upper hallway. It led to one row of seats in a “balcony” type position. While wondering why they weren’t being used, Kate noticed that while the seat shells were there, with the backs and the arms, no actual seats were there. Her gun was drawn. As she looked down below, she saw that Coach Malone was handcuffed to the table and Stan was holding a gun on him, Grissom Junior was seated in the middle of the court holding his leg while bleeding, Jon was walking to a pile of supplies on the floor, several groups of people were extracting themselves from piles on the floor, Greg and Aleisha were headed to the opposite door from the one that would lead into the school each with a bookbag in hand and scouring the gym, looking for someone else to help, and several stray people were finding a door to go out of while holding their ears as the fire alarm rang out. Even with the fire alarm, kate could hear the fire engines already approaching. She smiled to herself. It may have been messy, but it looks like Jon had it handled. Then, she saw a man with a large mustache reach and grab Aleisha as she was only a few steps behind Greg who had already made it to the door and exited. Aleisha screamed and Jon, Stan, Junior Griisom, Coach, and all other people still in the gym turned automatically and watched as Pat Hreinson put a gun to Aleisha’s head. Jon grabbed his towel with his gun wrapped in it and whipped the free end of the towel. The gun came spinning out of the towel and Jon grabbed it as it did so, cocking the gun and drawing a bead on Pat. “Let her go!” Kate knelt from her spot high above, rested her arm on the railing of the balcony and also got Hreinson in her sights. “You son of a bitch!” Pat yelled. “All we wanted to do was finish the game! The Warriors were going to lose, no matter what! We just needed to beat the spread of 16 points, which we were, by the way! Even though you weren’t part of the plan, we were still going to give you $25,000 just so you would shut up about everything! But you just wouldn’t play ball!” “Don’t bullshit me!” Jon called. “You and Coach tried to find me and kill me yesterday, just after you killed Nicholas, but, since you weren’t sure who else might’ve been there, you decided to just get out of there! You never wanted to share the money! Hell, I’d be surprised if even half of the players got their supposed “share” before they turned up dead!” “Jon!” Aleisha cried. “I got him, honey, just be calm,” Jon’s voice had no emotion to it, as he talked to her. “No, Mr. Page, I have your girlfriend. You are going to let me walk out of here, unharmed, and let me disappear. I will take her with me and then I will call you in an hour and let you know where you can pick her up.” “I’m not going to do tha, sir, because you are not taking her out of this gymnasium.” Hreinson was slowly moving toward the exit. As he did so, he crouched a little further behind Aleisha. “I will take her and you will let me go, otherwise, she dies.” Aleisha’s breathing changed as she tried to control her emotion. “Aleisha,” Jon’s voice was mostly flat, but his voice cracked, betraying his emotion as he said her name. “I just need you to do me a favor and don’t let him take you. Don’t fight, but don’t let him take you out either. You hear me?” Jon was steadying his hand while he talked to her. Aleisha nodded. Jon smiled. “Good. We’re not going to let him take you, you know that, right?” She nodded again. “Good.” Jon could hear her feet start to drag as Pat tried to pull her closer to the doorway. Jon swallowed and steadied his breathing, ignoring the white hot pain in his chest. “Stan? How you doing back there?” “No one is going anywhere, Jon.” Stan replied. Kate estimated that Pat only had about 3 steps left before he would be in a position to make a break for it, which could include killing Aleisha. She took a long, slow, deep breath and got a lock on Hreinson. “Listen to me, Aleisha. I just need you to do me one more favor, okay? Remember the song that Kate & I played at the talent show finals?” “Mmm-hmm,” came Aleisha’s reply. “As soon as you have a chance, I need you to become one. Okay?” Jon asked. Pat looked at his escape route and knew he was just about able to take it. “Mr. Page?” Hreinson called. “I’m right here, asshole! What do you want?” “She won’t have the chance because she will-“ Greg opened the outside door directly behind Pat and Aleisha. “Aleisha!” he called. “You okay?” That moment was all that was needed. Aleisha ducked immediately to become a ‘small person’ and Hreinson made his break. Jon immediately fired as soon as Aleisha got out of the way. “Greg! Move!” Stan yelled. He saw Pat raising his gun. Stan & Kate fired simultaneously. Jon was still shooting. Greg slammed the door and put all of his weight against it as he slid down to the ground, giving Pat no place to go. Jon’s first shot caught Hreinson as he turned. It went straight through Hreinson’s temple, killing him instantly. Stan’s shot tore through Hreinson’s knee, which would have stopped him from running, and Kate’s shot went straight into Hreinson’s chest. Jon kept firing until he had no more bullets left. Only one of Jon’s bullets missed Pat and it went through the door. Hreinson’s body was left as a large dead weight against the door. The few civilians who were left in the gym were glued to their positions. No one dared move until the gun shots stopped reverberating through the gym. “Aleisha!” Jon called, “Are you hurt?” Aleisha had flattened herself against the wall and ducked down. She raised her head. “I’m not shot, if that’s what you mean!” Stan stood up and kicked Malone. “Son of a bitch!” “Grissom!” Jon yelled. “How are you?” “Better than the guy by the door!” Kate stood up. Jon turned at the movement and leveled his gun at her, but lowered it as soon as he saw who it was. “Nice shooting, Tex!” she called. “Good job!” Jon stood and dropped his gun on the court. He didn’t answer. He listened to the hollow echo it made. He walked over and helped Aleisha stand. Greg finally opened the door again. “Holy shit! What just happened?” “I’ll let you read the report,” Jon said as he walked Aleisha outside. Walter Bender and Chad Peterson entered the gym. Chad went straight for Coach Malone and uncuffed him from the table. Walter yelled up to Kate. “You okay, Thompson?” “Yea.” Kate spoke no more above a normal voice tone. The fire alarm continued sounding as the first emergency personnel entered the gym from the door Jon and Aleisha had just used to exit. Ninety minutes later, Aleisha was sitting in an ambulance, silent, staring at the floor. “I’ll be by the hospital and see you as soon as this mess is cleaned up.” She didn’t respond. Jon watched as the paramedic closed the doors and pounded on the back to let the driver know to take off. Jon walked over to Greg and Stan. Greg had been sitting on a stretcher, but the paramedics were just laying him down to get ready to transport him. “You sure that he’s going to be fine?” Jon asked. The paramedic nodded. “For the fourth time, yes. A bullet just grazed his shoulder. He’ll be fine. We’re taking him over to Cottonwood. You can visit him there.” “Hold on a second,” Jon told the paramedic. Jon knelt by the stretcher. He grabbed Greg’s left forearm. “Thank you.” Greg nodded. “You shot me, you know.” Jon laughed. “Grazed you. I do seem to have a bad habit of shooting the good guys.”’ Greg returned the laugh. “You’re welcome. Always.” They looked at each other. Jon then stood up and patted the stretcher the same way the paramedic did to the back of Aleisha’s ambulance. Jon then went to the curb where Stan was sitting and sat next to him. “Thank you,” he told his friend. “I have no idea what would’ve happened in there if you hadn’t stopped Malone.” “Don’t mention it.” “You okay?” “I was fine as soon as I kicked the dick. That’s all I needed.” “You ever need anything, I owe you big time!” “You can say that again!” They sat in silence and watched as Greg was put into the ambulance. “Aleisha going to be okay?” Stan asked. “Should be. I’m going to do whatever it is I need to do here and then I’ll head over to the hospital and get myself checked out and look in on Greg and Aleisha. You headed over?” “I’m going now, yup.” Stan stood up and offered his hand to Jon. “I’ll just hang out until everyone gets the all clear.” “Thanks again.” “Anytime.” They shook hands and Stan turned to get his car. Jon looked around at the mess of ambulances, fire engines, police cars, Earl Stanley and his crew, the TSC news van which had Natalie reporting live, just as she had been since she got out of the gym, the crowds of people… …and Kate. He watched her as she walked over to him. “Hey,” she said. “Hey back.” Jon replied. They stood in silence looking over everything. “My car is still at the church from the funeral yesterday. Come with me in the Agency car to pick it up?” Jon watched as Natalie broke for a commercial. “Sure,” he answered. Walter Bender watched as they climbed into Kate’s Agency car. Chad Peterson walked over to Bender as Jon & Kate drove away. “Do we know who was up on the balcony when I was talking to Kate?” “No clue. I think we got all the bad guys we know about, but your covers are blown. You’ll both have to be transferred out of the area almost immediately.” “Does she know that?” “Know? I don’t think so, but I’m sure she has a strong hunch.” They were about halfway to the church before Jon said anything. “Thank you for having my back.” “You knew I would.” “I did, but it was crazy there at the end. Thank you.” Kate turned a corner. “You’re very welcome.” She drove down the street and turned right, into the neighborhood where the church was located. “You did a good job, you know that?” “It doesn’t feel anything like I thought it would. It feels good, but, at the same time, I feel empty and confused, and lost..” he trailed off. “You’ve had a hell of a week, Mills. No doubt about it. What you are feeling is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After I get my car, we’ll head over to the hospital, get you looked over and we will also have a therapist come in and talk to you about the hell you have just been through.” “I don’t need a therapist!” Jon protested. “Yes, you do! No ifs ands or buts, you definitely do!” She waited for any other protestations. “You never answered my question, you know.” “Which one?” “Do you know that you did a good job?” Again, Jon didn’t respond. “You are just proving my point about needing the therapist. You can’t even acknowledge that you did a good job.” “What did I do, huh?” Jon asked. “I got an innocent player hurt. Grissom didn’t do anything!” “We don’t know that yet, Jon. We still have a lot of people to interview and information to uncover…” “I am putting a teacher from my school behind bars and I killed another person today!” “I know, Jon! You did what you were supposed to do and you helped your friend, you helped Grissom, you found the murderer of Nicholas and, probably Spencer! What did you think this was going to be? A cakewalk? Why did you even agree to do this in the first place, huh? It has been a week of up and down emotions for you! You have either been happy and overjoyed at doing this, or you have been sullen and angsty all week! I am tired of either training you or yelling at you! What did you think this job was? Why did you take it-“ “You, okay!? I took it for you!” Now it was Kate’s turn to be speechless as she turned into the church parking lot. “Me?” she pulled into a parking space about 10 feet away from her car. “Yes, you! Are you blind? Until this week, I was too scared to speak to Aleisha Madsen! Then, you waltz into my life and you are interested in me and you like me for who I am! You know who I am more than I do because you have been watching me for a while! You picked me for this job! And, by the way, have you looked at yourself recently? You are amazingly hot and sexy and what 17 year old boy would not do whatever you asked him to? It’s a good thing that you don’t use your feminine wiles for evil, I can assure you!” He paused. “I took it for you.” Kate felt ashamed. “I’ll be honest- the thought never crossed my mind.” A tear dripped from her eye. She dropped her gaze and did not look at Jon as she got out of the car. “Switch!” Jon got out and went around the front of the car, as did Kate on her way to her car. She stopped him. “You are an amazing person, Jonathan Mills. But, I am just your trainer.” Jon couldn’t believe his ears. “What about the other night? When you told me about your past?” She smiled. “I’m seeing a therapist for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well, Jon. I’m way more screwed up than you are at the moment. I screwed up. I let my emotions go this week and I led you on and I apologize.” “You apologize?” “I apologize for leading you on. I didn’t mean to. This has been a crazy week and we all let it get away from us. You are fantastic! You are an absolutely amazing person, Jon! Aleisha is lucky to have you!” “She hasn’t said a word to me since I killed that guy. Not a word. I don’t “have her” anymore.” Kate touched Jon’s shoulder. “You still have a chance. And, if she won’t ever talk to you again, then there are many others out there, I am sure. You will find somebody, Jon. I guess, if nothing else, I have broken your heart a little bit and made it ready for the next girl to come along, huh?” She took her right index finger and lifted his head up so that he looked at her. “I’m sorry for even giving you that impression. And I do love you, but not like that. You are the best Agent I have ever trained, and you will grow exponentially. I’ll bet you will become one of the Agency’s best men. There will be no stopping you.” Kate leaned in and kissed Jon on the cheek. “You’re a good man, Jonathan Mills,” she said in his ear. Jon impulsively reached and gave her a hug. “Thank you, Miss Thompson.” He said in her ear as they hugged. Kate was surprised by the amount of force Jon was putting into his hug, until she heard him start sobbing. Twenty minutes later, not another word had been spoken between the two of them. Kate had led Jon to the driver’s side of the Agency car, sat him down, and knelt by him as he let it out. All of it. All of the emotion- the happiness, the sadness, the terror, the guilt, the stress, the exhaustion, Jon let it all go. Kate had handed him a tissue from the car’s console. Jon’s eyes were red, hot, and burning from the crying and he was spent. His deep, gasping breaths were much calmer now, and she could hear his raspy breathing as his torn apart throat calmed down again. Jon could feel his lungs and chest again, they had almost been numb after the shooting, but now they had fired up the pain again. He looked at Kate with his red eyes. “I’m sorry.” He smiled at her. She smiled back. “Maybe you are more screwed up than me.” She patted his knee. “It’s okay. It actually makes you more human.” She stood up. “Wanna follow me to the hospital?” “Sure thing, just give me a second? I need to stretch. My muscles are revolting on me.” “Not a problem.” She walked to her car. Kate unlocked the door, got in, and shut the door behind her. Jon slowly lifted his hands above his head and stretched his legs starting from his toes upward through his legs. Kate tried a couple of keys in the ignition before finding the right one. Jon saw the fireball start in the front of the engine and quickly overtake the car. The explosion shot the car into the air. The shock wave blew Jon off of his toes and onto the ground. Flames licked at the car from both the interior and the exterior. Jon saw Kate’s body engulfed in flame at the wheel as he sat up. Now, it actually did feel as if his lungs were on fire. The heat of the explosion was all Jon could feel and taste and smell, but it only lasted a moment as he passed out. Earl Stanley was the first to get the call. He had just left the school parking lot. He flipped a Uturn and rushed over to the church parking lot and was there before even the fire trucks. Seeing Jon on the ground, he pulled up next to him, unlocked his back door, got out, tossed Jon’s lifeless body in his backseat and headed toward Cottonwood Hospital. As Sergeant Stanley left the neighborhood, the fire trucks were just pulling in. CHAPTER 30 It was late Sunday afternoon when Jon opened his eyes again. He was in a hospital bed. Dr. Bell was talking to Stan near the door across the room. Greg was seated next to Jon’s bed on the right and Aleisha was next to his bed on the left. “Greg!” Aleisha whispered. Greg saw Jon moving and his eyes fluttering. “Doctor!” he called. “Our patient is moving!” Dr. Bell came over to Jon’s bedside and looked into Jon’s eyes with the bright penlight. “Ow!” Jon protested as he brought his arm up and poked himself in the head with the IV tubes. “Ow, again!” Greg and Stan smiled. Dr. Bell turned off the light and Jon closed his eyes tightly and then opened and shut them several times in a row to get his vision back. “Mr. Page, you have a slight concussion and you fractured your elbow. Your ribs are all bruised, but not broken. You got beaten up pretty nicely, but you’ll be okay. We are going to keep you in the hospital until Tuesday for observation and, as long as there are no warning signs, we’ll let you go that afternoon.” Without another word, Dr. Bell left the room. Aleisha stood up and kissed him on the forehead. “Thanks for saving me. I’m glad you’re alright.” She then turned and picked up her purse. “Stan, Greg,” she acknowledged them as she walked out the door. “Aleisha!” Jon called out after her. “Let her go!” Greg said. “Lay back down.” Stan pushed his friend back into a horizontal position. Jon closed his eyes and squeezed them tightly. Opening them, he asked, “What happened?” Stan and Greg looked at each other. “Kate?” Jon asked, searching their faces. They shook their heads. “Goddammit!” Jon yelled. “Bender said that he would debrief you later, but he wanted us to keep an eye on you while you were here and he finished up the investigation, just in case,” Stan explained. Jon was lying down and had his eyes closed again. “Can you both please leave?” Jon asked, very quietly. Greg and Stan looked at each other. “Now, please!” While still very quiet, Jon’s voice was forceful. Stan & Greg rose without saying a word and left the room, going to the waiting room down the hall. Jon did not open his eyes, but he cried silently, alone in the room. When Stan & Greg knocked on the door two hours later, they found Jon asleep, snoring, and curled into a tight ball. Tuesday afternoon was Halloween. The fall air was cold and crisp as Stan pulled Jon out of the car. The first trick or treaters were starting their yearly parade. Greg handed Jon the wooden cane they had purchased at the hospital gift shop. Jon took a tender step forward and winced in pain. “You going to be okay?” Greg asked. “I will be fine,” Jon reassured his friends. “Thanks again. Sorry I was an ass the other day.” Stan smiled. “That’s okay. If anyone deserves a dick day, it’s you. You kicked ass, my friend.” “Thank you.” Jon smiled. “I’m going to have to do this myself, so stay here while I walk to the door, but once I’m in side, I can easily make it.” Greg nodded. “You got it.” They watched as Jon slowly used the cane to get to his door. Fumbling for his keys, he eventually pulled them out and maneuvered them into the lock. He turned it (and watched as the fireball overook the car) And let himself in. he waved at his friends and turned around and shut the door. Greg and Stan pulled away and turned left, to leave the neighborhood. The house had a freshly scrubbed clean smell. There was a card on the steps leading up to the kitchen. Jon positioned himself and sat on the stairs next to the card. He picked it up and read it. “Jon,” it read, “welcome home. The Agency, as well as Sergeant Stanley (he may be an ass many times, but he does have a heart somewhere) have cleaned the house and brought it back to the cleanliness it should be at this time. We did have to get new plants, though. I know your parents are supposed to be back already, but you wouldn’t say no to winning a free 10 day all expenses paid trip to Hawaii, would you? Neither could they. This will give you the time necessary to rest and heal. Your teachers have been alerted that you will not return until next Monday. Please use that time to get caught up and feeling better. I will contact you next Tuesday and we can do our debriefing then. I have a lot to tell you. Agents will come in daily, bring you food, make sure the house stays in tact, and they will make sure that you are okay. It’s the least we can do. Take care.” Walter had signed it. As Jon went to put it down he saw two PS’s on the back. “PS. Stan & Greg will keep watch over you the next week. PPS- There was nothing you could have done. None of us saw that coming.” Jon kept the card in his hand and stood up, with some difficulty, using the cane. He balanced himself and slipped the card in his pocket. Jon then started the long process of going up the stairs. Stan’s car pulled up across the street from Jon’s house and he turned off the engine. Greg got out and ran to the front door, holding a handmade sign and a piece of tape. He taped the sign to the door and ran back to the car, where he settled in for an all night stakeout session. The sign on the door read- “No candy at this house due to the plague.” Although in a drug induced stupor, Jon slept soundly throughout the night. Not one child dared to ring the doorbell. It was Thursday morning, November 2nd, when Ms. Katsilias saw Jon enter her room. He was walking tenderly and slowly, his eyes were red, and he still looked tired, but she was glad to see him. “Mr. Mills! It is a pleasure! How are you?” “I’m okay. Sorry to miss so much class. What homework do I have?” As he left the classroom with a backpack full of books, Jon saw Aleisha walk by. “Aleisha!” He called out to her. She kept walking. Friday, November 3rd, Chad Peterson was just finishing packing up his desk when Walter came and sat down at Chad’s desk, blocking his way. “What’s up, Bender?” Without saying a word, Walter tossed a letter onto Chad’s desk. “This was in my pocket when we got back from Kate’s funeral. I didn’t see him there, but I didn’t see Stan or Greg, either, so I’ll bet it was him.” “And?” Chad asked. “I’m assuming that you have already read it?” “I have and that is your copy of it. I thought you might be interested.” “In a nutshell?” “He’s quitting.” “I’m sorry.” “Not like I didn’t see it coming. He was good-“ “Other than shooting me, though” “Other than shooting you,” Walter agreed. “He was one of the best. I’ll bet we could’ve kept him if it hadn’t been for the nasty surprise in Kate’s car…” his voice trailed off. “None of us saw that one coming, boss. It wasn’t your fault, either.” “I know.” Chad pushed Bender’s knee out of the way and filled up the final box with his personal items. He placed his copy of Jon’s letter on top. “She’s in a better place, you know?” “That’s what I hear.” Walter stood up. “Good luck.” Chad read Jon’s note after he brought his first load of belongings into his new apartment in Albuquerque. The load was in a metal wastebasket. Chad dumped the load on to floor and put the wastebasket down. He pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit Jon’s note on fire and dropped it into the metal receptacle. “Good luck, Jon.” Jon was already caught up on his schoolwork when his parents came home. The house looked better than they imagined it would look. Jon winced ever so slightly when his parents walked in the door and hugged him tightly. Neither of them noticed. CHAPTER 31 MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 1989 “Walter,” Jon acknowledged his former boss. “Good to see you, Mills.” “You too,” was Jon’s reply, even though he had not yet looked around or even taken his eyes off of Kate’s tombstone. The graveyard was covered in freshly fallen snow. Jon had been standing in front of Kate’s grave for ten minutes before Bender approached. “I knew you would stop by at some time today, it was just a matter of when.” “My dad sent me to pick up my grandma for Christmas dinner while they finished up the turkey.” “How you been?” Jon scoffed. “I’m fine. I’m fine. I know it’s hard to think of anything to say to me, but I’m fine. I really am fine.” “You haven’t called the therapist yet.” “I’ll get to it.” Jon still hadn’t looked at Walter. “Greg & Stan?” “Doing well. Stan is getting next year’s team together. We had to forfeit all of our games this year since we didn’t have a basketball coach or any players other than Stan. He is doing all of the recruiting and training, but he will be at the University of Utah next year at this time, so he won’t even be able to play with them. Greg has been doing well in the drama competitions and has a scholarship to SUU in drama.” “Congrats on your scholarship to Utah State.” “Thanks, but I haven’t decided if I’m going yet.” “Why wouldn’t you go, Jon?” “What’s the point? I may not even live through today.” Walter put his hand on Jon’s shoulder. “We have kept an eye on your high school and there is nothing to indicate that there are any other problems at Taylorsville High.” “There was nothing to indicate a bomb in Kate’s car, though, was there?” Walter didn’t respond. “Was there?” Jon asked again. “No one will come after you.” “Is that a guarantee?” “Jon, you know I can’t guarantee-“ “Then what good are you? Why are you even here?” “To check up on you.” “Then tell your conscience that I am okay and I will be fine.” Walter didn’t acknowledge Jon’s snarkiness. “She was proud of you.” He waited for any comeback from Jon. He continued when there was none. “She was so proud of you for the way you handled yourself that night. Your bullet hit Hreinson first. Even if she hadn’t have been there, you would’ve taken him down.” “But Stan and Greg and Aleisha all helped.” “Yes, they did, but you were the one who had the decision to make to pull the trigger first, and you did. And you kept pulling. You saved a lot of lives and she was very proud of you.” “Thank you.” Snow started falling again. Jon rubbed his hands together to warm them up. “I had probably better get going. My grandma will be wondering where I am.” “Have a Merry Christmas, Jon.” “You, too, Walter. You too.” They hugged. “Have a good life, Walter.” “That seems so final.” Jon nodded. “It is. I don’t want to see you again. Ever. Do I make myself clear?” Now it was Walter’s turn to nod. “Yes, you do.” “Have a good life, Walter.” Jon turned and walked to his car. Walter watched as Jon walked away, becoming more and more obscured by the falling precipitation. “See you later, Jon.” Walter said as Jon disappeared into the worsening Christmas snowfall.

Pitch Perfect

I just wrote an emotionally draining post and I am within a day or two of finishing my book, so it is time for just a fun movie review. I will admit that I originally saw the poster for this film and just thought- "There is no way that I will see that." I have now seen it twice, and hope to catch it once more in the theaters. What changed my mind between not wanting to see it and being extremely excited for it? I will admit- it was Anna Kendrick. The first time I noticed Anna Kendrick is when she more than held her own against George Clooney and Vera Farmiga and Jason bateman in 'Up in the Air'. She was nominated for an Oscar and I felt she should've won. She took a very boring type of role and infused it with energy, much in the same way that Michael J Fox turned Alex P Keaton into a loveable, obnoxious jerk (and that is meant as a compliment on both of their parts). Then, I noticed that Anna Kendrick played Bella Swann's best friend Jessica in the Twilight films. To this day, I feel that Anna and Billy Burke have been the 2 best things in those films. She has also had roles in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (I was sad that she wasn't in it more), the main reason that I saw 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' was for her, and she was the voice or Norman's sister in 'Paranorman'. Anna was also a large and important role in '50/50', a film which was my favorite film of 2011. Even though the subject matter hit very close to home and I was a sobbing fool in the theater for the last 15 minutes or so, her role as a therapist is one that I was able to watch from a different perspective (I am still seeing the therapist that I found when my dad died), and the entire film just really hit home for me. After watching 50/50, I wanted to know where she had come from and discovered that she actually was nominated for a Tony Award on Brooadway when she was 13. So, Anna sings as well (there is a certain level of amazement that goes into how talented some people are- Anna, Jack Black, Christopher Guest, harry Shaerrer- who are great actors on one hand and are amazingly musically talented as well). So, knowing that she had a singing background, now made me really want to see 'Pitch Perfect' to see that part of her talent. I also found out that the rest of the cast is just as incredible- Rebel Wilson who was also in Bridesmaids and What to Expect, Elizabeth banks, another great actress with a wide and varied resume from Seabiscuit to Zack & Miri to man on a Ledge and many more, along with several others really intrigued me. While I cannot say that 'Pitch Perfect is a totally original film or even, really a 'good' film (I doubt it will have any award nominations in a few months), I do think that it will be an audience favorite and will be remembered for a very long time. The basic storyline is like something out of 'Bring It On', only in the world of collegiate a ca pella groups- a female group has to recruit a motley assortment of members after an issue at the championships the previous year have made them the laughingstock of the groups. So, they recruit Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, who has the most crack comic timing of the year) Stacie (the sexpot), Cynthia Rose (the tough black girl witha soulful voice), Lily(the girl with a soft voice who has many dark, hysterical secrets that she reveals throughout the film), and Beca (Anna Kendrick) the rebellious girl who is only joining so that her dad will help her move to LA for her DJing at the end of the year. The leaders of the group, Aubrey, a control freak, and Chloe (Brittany Snow)a co-leader who gets no say, try to get the group into performance ready shape. Personalities clash, and nothing new or surprising really happens with the group. However, the film plays things quite differently in several aspects. Beca's character has a reason for being so stand-off-ish, certain characters have little edges that are not quite the norm, and the boy from one of the other a ca pella groups on campus has an interesting effect on Beca. The plot, though, is not the reason to see this film. It comes down to the music, pure and simple. It starts with an a ca pella version of the Universal Pictures theme and continues through the finals with 2 fabulous mash-ups that I have not stopped singing since I left the theater. Anna Kendrick does have a strong voice and, in a very impressive display of coordination, even has a fabulous little song for her audition piece for the group. The Riff-Off scene is fabulous, the scene in the empty pool where the girls learn to be a team is great and toe-tapping. For all of the cliches this film has, it subverts them just enough (the old 'audition montage' which has almost been done to death is a show stopper for moments of both hilarity and singing talent, all done to Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone) and has great singing and laughs that hit the wide range of humor along with just enough character development, that it surprised me. One caveat for those who can be sensitive to the MPAA ratings, while this does not cross any of the boundaries of PG-13, there are a few sexual jokes and innuendoes that do put it at a PG-13 level. One of my times seeing this was at a sneak preview and there was a family with 4 kids, all under 10 or 11, and the mom kept huffing and puffing wondering why a studio would release such a dirty film as a family movie. They didn't. It is PG-13 for a reason, but again, does not push any of those boundaries. While this is not necessarily at the top of Anna Kendrick's impressive resume, you can't fault her at all for going back to her singing roots and being at the center of such an entertaining ensemble piece. Film score- 5 Movie score- 8

My Last Promise to my dad and Uncle Gary

So, it has been almost 28 months since my dad died. His brother, Gary, died about 4 years before him. Gary was not a member of the LDS Church and so, only about 5 hours before my dad died, he asked me a question. He asked me the question and then he went to sleep for about half an hour. I had a feeling that my dad was fighting to stay alive a bit longer and I had an inkling that if I answered the question, then he would probably die. The question? When I die, will Gary be able to meet me since he is not a member? My dad was not so concerned about his actual death, it didn't seem like, he was more concerned about seeing his brother who had died a few years previous. When my dad woke up, I talked to him about it. By this time, he didn't really have the strength to hold his head upright a lot, and so he mostly looked down and would either nod or shake his head. I told him that when he died, Gary would be able to be there to meet him and that he would have the opportunity to teach gary The Gospel. I explained that he would be able to be by Gary and be a family again with his mom and dad and Georgie, a brother who had died at a very young age. My dad nodded the entire time, so I knew he understood me. After I got done explaining it, he looked at me, thanked me, told me he loved me and squeezed my hand very softly. He then asked me if I could make sure that Gary got his temple work done. I gave him my word that I would. That was the last actual conversation I had with him. I kissed him goodnight and got him more ice, but that was the last meaningful conversation we had. My father-in-law is a geneologist and I told this to him, and, at my dad's funeral, he gave me my Uncle Gary's "temple card" so that I could go and get the ordinances done for him. A lot happened in the next month and somewhere along the way, I lost the card. In July of 2011, I asked him to reprint the card, and he did. In May of 2012, Aleisha went and watched as I got baptized for my Uncle Gary. I felt an amazing peace as I did so. After, while I was getting dressed, I couldn't help but cry at the amazing feeling I had. In August of 2012, I had a goal to finish my book and get gary's ordinances done by my 40th birthday on September 6th. An illness, a pre-planned trip and a very major work project kept me from doing it, so I pushed those 2 major goals off to September 30th. On September 22nd, I had a lot of things on my list of stuff to do for the day (shopping, writing, housework)- none of it was a "bad" choice, but I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. I then had a distinct impression to "go to the Oquirrh Hills temple and do the initiatory and endowment for Gary. So, I got dressed and went. The timing was perfect. I was rushed a bit once I got there to make it in time for the sessions, but I made it with no extra time and I got home almost exactly 3 hours after I had left and I didn't have one moment of downtime in that 3 hours. I was kept moving, but I was able to do it. During the initiatory, I started crying the second that I was ordained a member of the Priesthood for my uncle and said his name during the blessing. I didnt hear one other word during the initiatory, to be honest. I felt that he was there with me and knew that he knew what I was doing. Friday, September 28th, I got home from work and was writing while Aleisha slept. When she woke up, I knew that we had a chance to do the sealing of Gary to his parents and complete Gary's ordinances. Even though I wanted to keep writing, I knew that this was more impportant, so I asked Aleisha to go with me and she said yes. We got there and took a bunch of other names for sealing. Again, we got right in and, as it came time to do Gary, I wanted to stand in for him. Aleisha was asked if she wanted to be proxy for my Grandmother. Aleisha asked me if she wanted to, and I said, "Sure, why not?" Another girl in the session stated that she would want to and Aleisha turned and said, "Well, she was a little crazy so we are hoping this helps." Aleisha ended up being proxy for my Grandma and I was proxy for Gary. Again, I could feel many others in the room with us, specifically gary and my dad. Now, the parents are sealed to 3 of their children. The other 2 are still alive and not members, either at this time. It took a while, but my last promise to my dad has been completed and now, there is nothing stopping the 2 brothers from being together again. Now, it is up to Uncle Gary. I love you, Daddy and Uncle Gary.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chapter 28

I fiddled with this chapter for a long time, so it took much longer to post than I was expecting. I will not quite finish by tomorrow, but it will be this week. CHAPTER 28 The starting lineup for the Warriors consisted of Mills (Page), Bernard, Hobbs, Stan, and Ford. Kate watched as Stan tipped the ball over to Hobbs and the game began. Hobbs dribbled quickly down the court and passed it Bernard. Bernard passed it back to Hobbs and Hobbs popped it immediately back to Bernard who turned toward the basket and shot the ball for an easy 2 points. Number 16 got the ball and passed it in from the sidelines to Jersey Number 27. 27 stopped at half court and waited for his team to get on their side of the court. He then slowly started his approach. He took 4 steps and then handed the ball to his teammate, number 16 again (Kate could now see that his name Mackay), who took the ball and ran to the corner of the court and jumped up for a 3 point shot. The shot bounced off of the rim and Stan got the rebound. He threw it straight down the court to where Bernard was waiting who casually tossed up another 2 points. The game was now into its second minute but the ball had not even gotten close to Jon or Junior. Kate was watching carefully and the two of them were running around the court and keeping their eyes on the ball, but the ball handlers never even looked their way. However, Junior was now at half court while none of the other players were even near, so Junior and Mills trotted down so that Junior could throw in the ball. Even though Junior was close to 2 inches taller than him, Jon stayed in Junior’s face as he tried to pass the ball in. Junior opted to go above Jon and this time it was Biglane who, as his name suggested, was even taller than Junior. Biglane snatched the ball from the air and started driving hard toward the basket. He pulled up quickly at the foul line and tossed it over to Gonzalez, who then passed it right back to Mackay who went in for a layup and got the first two points on the board for Cottonwood. Ford got to in bound the ball this time and he finally passed it to Jon. Jon could feel Jason directly behind him so he started dribbling and slowly kept backing up. Stan rushed by. “Here!” he whisper-shouted at Jon who passed the ball off. Both Jon and Kate gave a huge sigh of relief- Jon had made it through his first possession of the ball with no issues. Granted, he had only had it for a total of 4 seconds, but that was saying something at least. Stan took the ball down the court to the half court mark, passed it to Bernard, who sent it to Ford who came up from behind him, who then passed it to Hobbs, who sent it back to Bernard who drilled through the middle for another layup and two more points, making the score now 6-2. Mackay passed the ball in to Gonzalez who drove all the way to the basket and made another 2 points. Stan passed the ball in to Jon who looked like a deer in headlights. Stan nodded at Jon who passed it back to him. As Stan passed by Jon, he said, “You’re okay. Take it easy. Breathe. You did fine.” With that, he dribbled past Jon. “What did he mean, you did fine?” Jason asked. “He’s a good friend of mine and he trained me to take over for one of the teammates who got killed earlier this week.” “I heard about that. Sorry, man. Did you know him?” “A bit.” Hobbs put another 2 points on the board. “Well, you did a good job as I was trying to pass the ball in.” “Coming from you, I take that as a compliment,” Jon nodded as the ball was passed back in and he and Jason turned their attention back to the game. “Aleisha!” a voice called from the stands. She jumped as she was in her own world in the files. Aleisha quickly closed Ford’s file. Mandy Jensen was standing next to her. “Mandy, how are you?” “Doing very well! Why are you here? I didn’t think you liked sports much.” “I’m here to support friends and, besides, you can’t miss the event of the season.” “How true! Are you going to support the cheerleading squad by buying pizza at the tables outside?” “Hadn’t thought much about it, actually.” “I will be working the tables until halftime. Make sure you come out and see me! Toodles!” Mandy blew a kiss toward Aleisha. Aleisha turned to Greg. “What an airheaded bitch!” Mackay passed the ball in but Hobbs intercepted the pass and went up for another quick two points, the layup was missed, which was met by a loud ‘Awww’ from the crowd, Mackay got the rebound and was finally able to get it passed to his player who took it past Jon. As Hobbs trotted past Jon, Mills spoke up. “What was that?” Jon asked. “What was what?” Hobbs asked in return. “The missed shot? You had that! How could you miss it?” Bernard yelled at the dueling duo, “Hey! We’re playing here!” Jon backed off. “Sorry!” Kate watched as Hobbs missed the basket. “Did you see that?” she asked to her two companions. “See what?” Both Aleisha and Greg looked up from their files and asked the same question at the same time. “I think Hobbs is throwing the game.” Greg looked at Kate with his head tilted slightly. “What makes you think that?” “He just missed that layup.” Greg blinked twice. “He missed a shot and you think he’s throwing the game?” “Yes.” Kate noticed Jon and Bernard talking on the court and her attention diverted. “So, if Jon misses a shot, is he part of the enemy as well?” Aleisha asked. “No,” Kate’s attention came back to the conversation. “ I mean-“ “Kate, “Greg started, “I have played many, many games of basketball just screwing around with Stan. Even when you “know” the shot will go in, sometimes the slightest bits of physics make it so that the shot rolls out, or bounces off. Sports are never something where you know that one outcome will always occur if the same thing is done each time- that’s where the competitiveness comes in.” Kate was silent and watched a play where Cottonwood got a basket of their own before Ford threw the ball into the Warriors. She shook her head. “I guess you’re right. That’s how games open up, isn’t it? One team gets several points in a row and the other team doesn’t.” “Exactly!” Aleisha agreed. Kate thought and bit her lip. “Maybe Cottonwood is throwing the game…” At the end of the first quarter, the score sat at Taylorsville 26, Cottonwood 20. “It has been a rather disappointing first half, Dan, “ Natalie spoke into the camera. “Junior Grissom has only had the ball a few times and his guard, Neal Page, has also done very little so far. At times, it almost seems like there are only 4 players on the court.” Kate could tell, a little camaraderie was developing in their quick bursts of dialogue whenever one of them did get to touch the ball. Kate stood up from her seat. “Nothing yet?” she asked. Greg and Aleisha both shook their heads, but at differing speeds. “Not yet, Kate,” Greg admitted. “If it’s here, we’re not seeing it.” “Keep looking- I’m going to connect up with the rest of the team.” Kate inched her way through the mass of people crowding every available open space and made it to the gym door, leading to the hallway in the school. Greg heaved a huge sigh and dug back into the files. “If it is there in Tanis, then it was something that man was not meant to disturb,” he muttered. “What?” Aleisha asked, puzzled. “Sorry. It’s a quote. Raiders of the Lost Ark? Sallah?” Greg’s voice deepened into a horrible impression of John Rhys Davies, “Indy, there is something that troubles me. If the Ark is there at Tanis, then it is something that man was not meant to disturb.” He shook his head at Aleisha’s blank stare. “No? Really? Wow! We have to get you to see that!” Kate walked into the mass of people which was, rumor had it, one time a hallway in the school. She searched for Bender’s graying hairstyle in the mass of exodus to the restrooms or the snack counters that had been set up on the sides of the hallways which corralled the large group into an even more confined space when she ran into the man in front of her, swinging her elbow into his as she craned around, searching. “Ow!” he yelled. “What in the name of- “ the man turned around, “Kate!” She was surprised to see Chad Peterson turn around. “Sorry! I was looking for Bender. I thought that you were not going to be inside the school.” “Since we’re all kind’ve flying blind, they have requested all hands on deck.” “Come here,” Kate grabbed Chad by the other elbow and ever so slowly maneuvered him to the doorways which led to the main hallway of the school. Reaching the doors, they were, not too surprisingly locked, but Kate slipped a long, thin metal tool out of her jacket and smoothly jimmied the door open. She slipped the tool back into her jacket and she and Chad slipped through a small opening that she made and then quickly shut it behind them so they were alone in the hall. “You guys don’t have anything yet?” Kate asked Chad. “Nothing.” “I had a thought from a shot early on in the game where Hobbs missed a shot and it almost looked deliberate. Is it possible that either team is throwing the game?” “Why would they? It wouldn’t make any sense. There would be nothing in it for anyone. This is a high school game so no money changes hands in Vegas, it is the first time for national TV exposure for either team, so not winning will not look good for either of them, throwing the game is a lose-lose. Did you ever think that it was just the way the ball bounced, literally?” Kate smiled. “I got schooled in the ways of basketball already by Greg. If it’s not about throwing the game, that takes out gambling. Junior hasn’t had the ball much yet, so my guess is that he’s not as good as he’s made out to be-“ “Or he’s better,” Chad interrupted. “Or he’s better,” Kate agreed. “But at this time, we can’t assume that, so that takes out anything against Junior.” They looked at each other while Kate bit her lip again. “Chad, what the hell is going on here?” Coach Malone was in the middle of a profanity laced tirade against his players. “We should be up by a hell of a lot more than those 6 points! We need to really show the world what we have, dammit! This team should be the best of the best, but we are only up by a measly 6 points! What do you have to say for yourselves?” The team was silent. Except for Jon. “So, what you’re saying is that we are a huge disappointment even though we are winning?” “Don’t even start with me, Mr. Mills…” Jon held up his index finger. “Page. Remember?” he thought he saw Coach’s eye twitch. The buzzer sounded and the team returned to the court. Coach grabbed Hobbs by the shoulder. Mustache walked into the gym from behind the curtains of the TSC Sports team. He maneuvered his way around the court. He stood by the Taylorsville team’s water table as Coach Malone gave his rousing speech.. He took a cup of water from the table, drank it, and as he went to set the empty cup down on the table, slipped a piece of paper into it. He then went and found an empty seat in the bleachers. Bender whistled at Peterson from the balcony hallway overlooking the madness of the gym hallway. Chad looked up. Walter pointed to a stairway at the end of a hallway behind the snack tables. Peterson moved to the edge of the snack tables and waited for the cheerleader employees of the snack bar to have their backs turned and he slid his way through the space between the edge of the table and the end of a wall and went up the stairwell. He found Walter waiting for him. “Anything yet?” “Nada, “ Chad confirmed. “Come on, Jon & Kate, it’s got to be there.” Grissom came back out to the court and met Jon in the middle. “Another slow quarter for us?” Junior Grissom asked. “I’m actually hoping to see a bit of excitement, “Jon countered. The ball was thrown in and Stan tossed it Jon’s way. Grissom went to reach for it and deflected the ball, but Jon took a step to his left, stretched and reached and got control of the ball. “There you go!” Grissom grinned. Jon faked going to the left. Grissom countered. Jon stepped to the right and Grissom went to get ahead of him while Jon ended up feigning the move to the right and actually ended up going left. He was able to get two steps on Grissom. Stan had gotten ahead of Jon so Jon passed the ball back to him. Stan nodded. “Ready?” Jon looked at his surroundings and nodded. Stan passed the ball back to Jon, who stopped in his tracks, squared up to the basket and made a shot. The ball hit the front of the rim, spun slightly off to the right, circled the hoop, touched the backboard as it circled around and, wobbling, dropped through the hoop. Stan pumped his fist. “Yeah!” Jon whooped. Natalie clapped her approval. Kate was just walking back into the gym and missed everything except the actual shot. She beamed her approval and started clapping. “Way to go!” she yelled. Aleisha had noticed when Stan passed in the ball to Jon and had made sure that Greg was watching. They both looked up from their files and watched Jon make his basket. They stomped their feet, clapped and hollered their approval as well. Jon’s eyes watched as his two points got added to the board and a sly grin crept onto his face. Everyone’s eyes were on Jon. Nobody saw Hobbs. The grin was only on Jon’s face for a moment before Jason Hobbs collided with Jon, sending Mills sprawling to the floor. Hobbs had been watching the ball being rebounded and ran full speed into Jon as he was backing up. Again, Jon’s lungs exploded as the wind was knocked out of him. His vision dimmed as he tried to get air into his lungs. In what seemed like another world, he could hear whistles blowing in the gym as the referees stopped the game. His body pulled into a fetal position. Kate stopped where she was on the sidelines. “That was a cheap shot, ref!” Aleisha and Greg stopped their clapping and winced as they watched Jon hit the floor. The sly grin moved from Jon’s face to Coach Malone’s and Mustache’s faces. Stan knelt by Jon. “Can you hear me?” Although he was facing the opposite way, Jon nodded slowly as he attempted to straighten out his body. “I’m going to get you to the bench. Let me know when you’re ready.” Jon nodded again. Jason Grissom Junior came and knelt by Stan as well. “I’ll help you out.” Jon’s head was still ringing as he finally fully straightened out. He gave a big stretch to his muscles, turned over, and, while his eyes were still closed, gave his hand to Stan. Stan braced him and, with Grissom’s help on the other side, lifted Jon to his feet. “How sweet. Thank you, Mr. Grissom, our team could not have handled that!” Coach Malone called from the sidelines. “What a dick,” Grissom muttered. “You don’t know the half of it,” Stan replied. Jon took slow, long, breaths as he got his wind back. The referee came over and walked alongside the trio. “You okay, son?” “I will be.” Jon acknowledged. Grissom and Stan went to take him to the bench, but Jon waved them off. “Actually, can you take me into the locker room for a minute?” Grissom looked at Stan. “Are we allowed to?” “I don’t see why not.” They started moving him toward the locker room entrance. “Hey!” Malone yelled. “He can’t go in there!” “That’s where he wants to go,” Stan yelled back. “Not him!” Malone was motioning to the trio, ‘him!” It finally dawned on them that they were talking about Grissom. Grissom nodded and let Jon’s left side down. “No worries,” Grissom said. He looked at Jon. “You going to be okay?” “Yeah. I’ll be okay. Just give me a second.” “Get back soon, okay? I want to see you back here before the half.” Grissom backed off and headed back to the court. Jon looked at Stan. “Take me to my locker, please.” A tall, older, white haired man showed up at Stan’s side. “I’m an off duty ref. Can I take him into the locker room?” Stan looked at Coach who was flabbergasted at all of the people wanting to help Jon. “Sure.” Stan handed off Jon’s right side to the man who helped Jon into the locker room while Stan went back to the court. Kate was making her way to the locker room entrance when Coach Malone stepped in front of her. “Not this time, sweetheart. He wants to play, let him play.” Kate glared at him and went back to the hallway to find Chad or Walter. Jon could hear that the game had started again. “You okay, Mr. Page?” the referee asked. Jon felt his ribs tenderly, testing the strength of the touch. He winced at a few points, but he could tell it was just tender and not broken. “Yes. Yes. I’m okay.” The older gentleman placed his hand on Jon’s back. “If you’re okay, I’m going to go back out and watch the game. “ “Please. Yes, it’s okay. I’ll be fine. I just need to get some ibuprofen out of my locker. I’ll take it, wait a few minutes, and be right back out.” The man patted Jon’s back softly. “Hurry back. You’re doing fine out there.” Jon closed his eyes until he could not hear the man’s footsteps anymore. “What the hell am I doing-?” Jon asked the air. It only took a few seconds to dislodge all of Jon’s confidence that he had built up. Jon took some slow, long breaths and slowly let them out. He progressively let the breaths get deeper and deeper until it felt like he was breathing normally again. He reached into his locker and realized that the ibuprofen was actually in his bag. “Shit, what else can happen?” He slumped back onto the bench. Jon noticed that Nick’s locker was actually still not fully closed. He reopened it and saw Nick’s medallion still hanging on the hook. Jon put his hand under the medallion and watched it shimmer in the light. He heard some cheers and some groans in the crowd outside. “I hope you don’t mind, wherever you are.” Jon took the medallion in his hand and raised it up so that it came off of the hook. He then unclasped the back and put it around his neck. “You’re going to finish this with me, Nick.” Jon tucked the medallion under his jersey, stood up and closed the locker. It was then that he noticed the piece of paper on the floor in front of the locker. He was sure it hadn’t been there previously. Had the man dropped it? Had it come loose when he was kicking the locker before the game? Did he dislodge it while he was getting the necklace? He didn’t know, but he knew it hadn’t been there long. He bent to pick it up. His head still throbbed. Greg’s eyes froze when he spotted the discrepancy. “It couldn’t be that easy, could it?” He flipped from Ford’s file to Hobbs’ and then to Bernard’s. Aleisha stopped her scanning. “What did you find?” Kate heard a whistle as she wandered the halls. She spotted Walter as he was coming down the staircase behind the snack tables. Walter saw her and motioned her to follow him. “What’s the latest?” he asked. “Jon made a basket and then clobbered by Hobbs. Stan & Grissom helped him to the locker room, but Coach cut me off.” “No closer on what’s going on?” “Nothing. I have Aleisha and Greg helping look through the files since Nick said it was there, but we have yet to find it.” They reached the upper hallway. “We are on a very limited time table here. Minutes are skipping away.” Kate turned on him. “Don’t you think I know that? I have been turning this over and over in my head, but I can’t find one damn other thing about the case! Unless Junior is going to be killed, but we have no evidence of that. Gambling was a possibility, but there’s no evidence of that. The best we have is that this could make everybody’s stock go up who is involved in this!” They came to the upper hallway which ran parallel to the crowded lower hallway by the gym. Kate walked to the opposite side and leaned against the wall which came up to her upper thighs. “I have nothing else, Bender. We are stuck!” “I know that, Kate, but we can’t find anything on our side, either. We must be missing something!” Kate closed her eyes and bent her neck back, hearing several cracks as she did so. “I know. I know.” Just as she did so, a stream of water hit her in the back of the head. “What the hell?” she turned around and looked down. Three kids, about 12 years old, were running down the hallway below her, which ran perpendicular to the hallway she and Walter were talking on. “Hey!” she yelled. “It’s a very good thing-“ she stopped her sentence sharply. And looked down. “Oh, no.” “By my estimation-“ Walter started. “Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no-“ Kate repeated as she looked down, back to where she and Walter were standing and back below. Walter continued, “- we only have until either halftime or right after the game-“ “no, no, no, no, no-“Kate continued muttering. “ until whatever is going to happen is going to happen.” Walter finished. Kate unholstered her gun. “Or not even that long.” The fire alarm started sounding through the hallways and almost immediately, spectators started pouring out of the gymnasium. “Oh, shit.” Kate started running for the gym.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chapter 27

And here is Chapter 27. CHAPTER 27 Natalie was already set for Jon as he came out of the locker room. As she stood up to greet him, she made a rolling motion with her hand. “Mr. Page?” she had a nice smile and offered Jon a solid handshake. “Strong shake for such a little woman.” “When you’ve got three older brothers…” “While I don’t have older brothers, I do have some older male cousins who can be quite the handful. One of them is even the starting center for the Brigham Young University Cougars this year.” “Both football and basketball run in the family, does it?” she asked. “To be honest, I don’t really know what the starting center does other than hikes the ball and then tries to stop the big guy right in front of him from sacking the quarterback.” “That pretty much nails it,” Natalie nodded. “So, Mr. Page, how did you get into basketball?” “Women. Purely women. I mean, I get to talk to you because I’m on the team. Would you be talking to me otherwise?” he smiled at Natalie and the camera as he also glanced over at the stands and caught Aleisha sitting next to Greg. “Believe it or not, Mr. Page, I might. To bring the viewers up to speed, Mr. Page stuck up for me while I was being hounded by a particularly rude individual and he stood up for me. Let me just say that in many ways, personality plays a big part.” Jon could feel his face start to go red. “Seriously, Mr. Pa- actually, what is your first name? Neal? Is that right?” Jon nodded. “Joking aside, really, how did you get into basketball in the first place?” Jon took a deep breath and pursed his lips. “No joke? Friendship. That’s why I am here tonight- friendship. I had several friends on this team-“ “Had?” Natalie interrupted. “Had.” Jon let the word hang in the air. “One of them had an accident earlier this week and had to step down, one was the victim of a robbery at his after school job and his life was cut short, and one had a medical emergency last night and did not make it to the hospital and he died in my arms. I said that I would step in and help and play with the team right after the injury of the first friend and, as players kept falling out of being able to play, I stepped it up. Another one of my friends is still on the team and will be playing his heart out on the floor tonight- Stan Ingle. Have you interviewed him?” Natalie was caught up in listening to Jon and was surprised by his question. “Yes. Yes I did.” “I am willing to bet that he never hinted at the behind the scenes trouble of the week, did he?” Natalie shook her head. “No. No he didn’t.” “He never would. He just plays through it all. Stan needs me to be here and play with him tonight so I am here to show support for the team and for all of our players who cannot be on the court for one reason or another tonight.” “So, Neal, how does that factor into how you are going to play tonight?” “I honestly don’t know. It has been a very tough week for me, personally and emotionally and the best that I can do is to play as I have practiced, give it my all and we’ll see what the scoreboard says at the end.” Natalie, feeling she had her quote machine kept digging. “This is the first time that the Taylorsville Warriors have been in the spotlight. This is going to be a huge game on a national stage, with Jason Grissom Junior playing in his first game, is this your first game on the court ever?” “What makes you say that?” Natalie turned around and played with the camera. Jon saw the red light turn off. When Natalie turned back to him, her attitude had slightly changed. “What are you doing here, Mr. Page? You are not the kind of guy that is normally interviewed at these games, ready to go on the court. There is more to you. Why are you doing this?” “It seemed like the best thing to do?” “Cut the shit, Page. Why are you doing this? Friendship? Really? You might just embarrass yourself nationally just because of friendship?” “It’s what I do, okay? It’s what I do! I help! I am a helper. If I see something that needs to be fixed, I’ll fix it. Stan is a friend. I have other friends who care about this team. Honestly, I don’t. The team is not important for me- it’s the people. The group think is ridiculous to me! The fact that all of this importance is placed on a game is beyond ridiculous to me! People have come home from their jobs and all they want is a little entertainment by a bunch of high school kids and the main reason is because there is a teenage son of a sports star who is more known for his runins with the law than for his foul shot percentage? Let the kid be a kid and just let him enjoy the game and the fact that he is in high school! I want to go out and just play the game for the game’s sake and help my friends accomplish what they need to accomplish. All the other stuff is bullshit and doesn’t matter! Let the game be a game and enjoyable and nothing more beyond that!” Natalie smiled and Jon heard a click. It was only then that he looked down and noticed Natalie holding a handheld recorder. “Thank you, Mr. Mills.” “It’s, um, it’s Page,” Jon stumbled. “It’s Mr. Mills. Jonathan Mills. I’ll keep your name as Page in the news clips, but I know who you are. Thank you for the honesty. That is what I have wanted to say all week, but couldn’t, and I knew you could and would. There’s more to you than the little persona you put on, Mr. Mills, but it would be nice to see it and let that out every once in a while.” Natalie took the tape out of the player and handed it to a gentleman standing near the camera. “Whatever the scoreboard says at the end, you and Stan are winners.” Natalie offered her hand again. Jon took it and shook it tightly and strong. “Yes, ma’am. And how did you know about me?” Without letting go, Natalie looked him straight in the eyes. “You think I’m not going to do some research on the first person I see stand up to asshole Coach Malone? And who defends me on top of that? I’m not kidding, Jonathan, you have a future ahead of you. I can see it already.” She pulled him close and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Give ‘em hell.” “You got it!” The handshake pumped one last time before Natalie let Jon go and join the team. Natalie locked eyes across the gym with Coach Malone, smiled, and raised her eyebrows. Jon passed the player’s bench and slid his duffel bag underneath, walked close to Coach Malone, nudging him with his shoulder as we walked by, and made his way to Greg and Aleisha. “You looked like you were going off over there! I’ll bet you become a star after this!” Aleisha enthused. “I honestly hope not. That’s exactly what I was going off about.” Jon turned to Greg. “Have you seen Kate yet?” “No, I’m keeping my eyes peeled, though.” “When she gets here, I need you 3,” he turned to Aleisha, “3- that includes you,” he smiled and she beamed back, “I need you 3 to go back over the files. There is something there. Moss saw it and he said it was there, but he died before he could tell me.” Aleisha gulped. “Died?” “Yes. I’ll tell you everything later, like I said. It’s okay. Everything is okay. Now you are getting a glimpse at the shithill that has been my week. You will be okay, just please dig through the files and find me what I need.” “You got it.” Greg nodded and touched Aleisha’s leg to bring her back to the conversation.”We’ll do it as soon as Kate gets here.” Jon looked at them both straight. “Thank you.” He leaned over and kissed Aleisha. “And thank you.” Jon walked back to the floor into the team huddle. Coach Malone followed Jon with his eyes as Mills made his way to the huddle. Jon couldn’t tell if Coach was trying to hide his contempt or not. Either way, it was clear that after tonight, Jon was not going to be invited to the strip club anymore. “Give us some good quotes?” Coach asked, sarcasm dripping from every word. “I gave my opinion about the game tonight.” “I can hardly wait to see the replay.” Malone clapped his hands. “Here we go, we are in this for the long haul. Mills, er, uh, Page, how are you feeling? You still going to play?” “You couldn’t stop me with a bulldozer, Coach.” “Don’t know what the hell that means, but okay. We are going man to man defense right off and Mills- you get Junior first go round.” All eyes fell to Jon. He nodded. “Well, someone has to, right?” “With Mr. Mills guarding him,” Coach continued, “we’ll be able to truly see how Junior plays unimpeded. Then, we can change up our defense based on what we’re seeing.” Jon noticed Kate come into the gym, look around, and see him in the huddle. She nodded slightly to him. Jon nodded back. He watched as she went up to sit with Greg and Aleisha. Aleisha stood up, shook Kate’s hand, they exchanged a few pleasantries and they sat down. Jon could hear Malone droning about which players of theirs were being assigned to Cottonwood’s players, but he watched as Kate and Greg talked for a minute in front of Aleisha, and then Kate pulled out the copied papers that Nick gave his life for and split them between herself, Greg, and Aleisha, speaking directly to Aleisha for a moment, and then giving her a stack. Coach made his way to the middle of the team area and Jon came back to courtside. “You ready for this?” Malone asked the team. “Yes, sir!” they all shouted in unison. “We have a national TV audience tonight, as you all know. Keep your heads in the game and let’s play this as we have discussed! Go out there, play well, and let’s show them what we’ve got! Who are we?” “Warriors!” the team yelled. “Who are we?” he asked again. “Warriors!” the yell got louder. “Who are we?” “Warriors!” “Go get ‘em!” Coach yelled and started clapping. Now it was Coach’s turn for his eyes to wander through the crowd. As he found Mustache, there was another exchange of nodding that took place. “And pray to God we do what we need to.” Coach muttered as he watched his players settle into the benches or take the court. Kate was glad to see Jon as she came into the gym. He was in the middle of the player huddle and it looked like he had just been sucker punched- his face was drained of all color and his eyes were darting through the gym, probably looking for her. She nodded and he returned her nod. He is at least responding, Kate thought, I’ll wait to intervene, if necessary. She noticed that Stan was right behind him, so nothing too disastrous could have happened, could it? Kate’s eyes now sorted through the mass of people and she found Greg sitting on the fourth row of the bleachers with Aleisha Madsen right by him. She started briskly walking toward him, holding her side bag containing the player files tightly by her side. How was she supposed to explain the player files to Aleisha? This case has definitely gotten a lot harder than anyone expected. As Kate reached the duo, Aleisha stood up and presented her hand. Kate shook it. “I need to apologize to you, Ms. Thompson. I have acted poorly this week towards you and I have no reason to have done so. You kept trying to apologize and I wouldn’t let you…now it is my turn. I’m sorry.” Kate was almost shocked by the maturity and professionalism. Although she had come to really like Aleisha while listening to her and Jon chat all night on the date, this still came as a bit of a surprise. “That’s quite all right, Ms. Mad- may I call you Aleisha?” “Of course.” “That’s all right, Aleisha. I probably would have done the same thing.” They sat down together. “I couldn’t make out all of what Jon said to Natalie when he was interviewed, but it sure sounded juicy. He raised his voice, they stared each other down, she kissed him, it will definitely be interesting.” Greg informed Kate. “She kissed him?” Kate asked. “Yes, but only in a thank you-friendshippy kind of way. You know? Like the French?” “Got it.” Kate reached into her bag and pulled out all of the player files and placed them on her lap. “Aleisha, do you mind trading seats? I should have thought of it sooner, but Greg and I-“ “Jon asked me to help you two.” Aleisha interjected. Again, Kate was momentarily tongue tied. “Excuse me?” “Jon asked if I could help you. He said that Moss had told him something before he died- I meant Moss, not himself, because Jon sure seems alive still.” Kate leaned over Aleisha to Greg. “Is there anybody that Jon doesn’t tell?” Greg leaned toward Kate so they were both in front of Aleisha. “Don’t worry, Jon just asked for her help in looking through the files. He didn’t mention anything about being an agent.” As soon as those words came out of his mouth, Greg paused and waited for the fallout. Aleisha’s eyes widened as she put the pieces of the puzzle together. “Agent? As in secret agent? If he were a cop or something he would’ve been called Detective or Lieutenant or something, but agent….” Kate’s eyes closed ever so slightly. “Thank you, Greg.” “So then, you are an agent, too? His trainer, right Ms. Thompson?” “Looks like we have our own Scooby gang, “Kate muttered before turning to get closer to Aleisha. “Yes, he is a secret agent, the important word being secret. I am his trainer, that’s why this week has been so strange and he couldn’t tell you anything and why he joined the basketball team. Something very big is going down here and we don’t have any idea what it is. We would greatly appreciate your help, but, please, keep it down and keep it quiet, okay?” Aleisha nodded. “Mum’s the word. What good would a reporter be who gave up her sources?” “Thank you.” Kate started to split up the files. “Nick Moss was with us too, Aleisha, as was Jake Spencer. Jon jumped in to help out. Nick and Jon looked through these files the other night and could not come up with anything while they were together. Nick must have seen something else and he put two and two together but unfortunately got killed before he could tell Jon. Now, we get to find it before whatever it is that is planned to happen here, happens. Nothing is too small. Let’s keep our eyes, ears, and minds open, okay?” She gave approximately a third of the stack to Greg and a third to Aleisha. Greg opened his stack and started perusing the information. Aleisha looked at the stack, then turned and asked Kate, “How much of our date the other night did you spy on?” The team started walking onto the court and Jon watched as Junior took his place on the northeast side of the court. Jon strode up to the young player. “How are you doing tonight?” Jon asked. “Nervous as hell,” Junior answered. “Same here. I’m Neal Page. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Junior.” Jon offered his hand. Junior looked at it for a second, smiled, and shook it. “Pleasure is mine, Mr. Page. I overheard you talking to Natalie over there earlier and I just want to thank you.” “For?” “Treating me like a human.” “Aren’t you? Are you a human or are you some kind of alien or cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller?” Junior laughed. “No, I am human. Although sometimes I wish I was one of those cannibalistic underground thing-a-ma-bobs you talked about. My life would sure be a lot easier sometimes.” He laughed and the two players watched as the team captains spoke to the referee to prepare to start the game. The Warriors had Stan as their captain for the evening “Neal, can I ask you for three favors tonight?” Jon was taken aback at how normal Junior seemed. “As long as none of the requests are illegal, sure.” “Play as well as you can, and as hard as you can against me.” “And the third?” Jon asked as he saw Stan look around and find Jon on the court as Stan took the ball in his hands and handed it back to the referee. “Please don’t call me Junior. It’s Jason” Jon grinned. “I understand. I am sorry for calling you that earlier. I just assumed-“ “Most people do,” Grissom answered. “Then, let’s play ball!” Jon said, as the referee threw the ball in the air to begin the game.