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TBR News December 25, 2019

Dec 25 2019

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. December 24, 2019:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for December 25:” Merry Christmas and we will return tomorrow.”

The Table of Contents
It’s Time for an Intervention
• Police Unable to Explain a Band of Mysterious Drones Flying Over Colorado
• Mysterious night drones spotted flying over rural Colorado
• A Clever Radio Trick Can Tell If a Drone Is Watching You
• Six Ways to Disable a Drone
• The Season of Evil

It’s Time for an Intervention
Yale Psychiatrist Recommends Managing the Increasingly Erratic, Dangerous President
December 25th 2019
by Bandy X. Lee
DC Report
If Donald Trump were not president, he would have been held and evaluated long ago. Mental health professionals have deemed this a “no brainer” since early 2017. Dangerousness is more about the situation than the person, and we ask questions such as whether the environment, including others, can constrain the person and whether one has access to weapons.
The concerns expressed at an ethics conference at Yale and in the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, unfolded over the past two years with exactitude: incitements to violence, cruel policies against children that lay the groundwork for future violence, and the fostering of a culture of violence both domestically and abroad.
With the impeachment hearings, Trump’s behavior has grown even more erratic … his psychological structure makes him especially prone to violent revenge in the face of humiliation.
With the announcement of an impeachment inquiry, we warned of our entering “a very dangerous state” and the need to handle the situation adeptly from a psychological point of view. We wrote an urgent letter to Congress members gathering 250 signatures. Three days later, without informing his advisors, the president unleashed Turkish forces on our allies and handed over advantage to our enemies. These are predictable and therefore preventable events.
Disconnected from Reality
With the impeachment hearings, the president’s behavior has grown even more erratic with frantic tweeting, rallies that are increasingly disconnected from reality, and a very disturbing letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Because of his apparent cowardice and his predatory keenness in sensing the public’s desire for peace, it may be difficult to picture him as a violent man, but his psychological structure makes him especially prone to violent revenge in the face of humiliation.
Warning against danger and alerting about the need for an evaluation, to protect public health, is not diagnosing, and hence keeping with ethical guidelines, and thousands of mental health professionals agree. We recently submitted a petition signed by more than 800 mental health professionals for the House Judiciary Committee to consider psychological aspects. But in case Congress continues to find it difficult to consult with us, I outline a few recommendations here.
Sociopathic Behavior
When an individual is dangerous with signs of sociopathic pathology, containment is the first step of correct management. Postponing accountability and allowing the president to swell in his sense of power, before proceeding with impeachment, creates one of the most dangerous periods in his presidency. Impeachment finally begins containment, but it should only be the first step.
The House speaker has done well to call out an invalid Senate trial and to delay until it is fair. In psychological terms, it is a technique called “limit setting.” When there are no other means of logistically limiting harmful actions, statements and deeds need to call out inappropriate behavior in ways that are commensurate with overall facts. Investigations should be ongoing, and the reasons for bringing only two articles of impeachment laid out: a colluding Senate rather than a lack of high crimes. While the president is likely to grow more dangerous whether he is acquitted or not (through grandiose belief in impunity or vengeful rage reaction), psychological limit setting is more effective than political strategy alone, since politics require grounding in reality to work.
Removal from His Position
When “shared psychosis” (contagion of delusions or other symptoms onto individuals who are not impaired) occurs, removal of the mentally compromised individual from close contact permits dramatic improvement. In clinical situations, the affected individuals return to normal sometimes within days. If Donald Trump’s direct exposure to audiences through Twitter, his rallies, or his recent public letter cannot be curtailed, it needs to be properly inoculated (I demonstrate a method by analytically “translating” his letter). Most effective, of course, would be removal from his position of influence.
Similarly for war-making powers, psychological containment is paramount if actual limitation of his access were impossible. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is said to have assembled a panel of mental health experts before he intervened between Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, dramatically reversing a spiraling course of verbal sparring into a dialogue for an extended period. Our own CIA employs psychiatrists to perform psychological profiles on foreign leaders. It would likewise be helpful to understand with greater nuance our own leader, especially when our safety depends on correct interpretation and management.
I and hundreds of mental health professionals are available and eager to assist with any or all these efforts. When it comes to public safety, our interests as health professionals and the interests of politicians in charge of protecting the nation coincide.
Dr. Bandy X. Lee is a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine, president of the World Mental Health Coalition, and editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

Police Unable to Explain a Band of Mysterious Drones Flying Over Colorado
December 24, 2019
by Aila Slisco
Newsweek
Authorities are offering no explanation for a mysterious fleet of drones that has been spotted searching the night skies over Colorado.
Local media reported Monday that at least 17 drones with an estimated wingspan of six feet have been seen hovering 200 to 300 feet over the skies of Yuma and Phillips counties. Local police don’t know the origin of the aircraft, but do not believe they pose a threat.
“They do not seem to be malicious. They don’t seem to be doing anything that would indicate criminal activity,” said Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliott to The Denver Post. “They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern. They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
Authorities suspect the drones may have been deployed by an unknown private company. Mapping the area is one possible explanation for the activity. The number of drones and their size make it unlikely they are being flown by hobbyists.
The drones are said to operate between the hours of 7 and 10 p.m., having first been spotted around a week ago. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Air Force both reportedly told police they could not account for the aircraft.
Although the presence of unidentified drones may be unsettling for some, there is no reason to assume they are breaking any laws or regulations. The FAA does not require drones to file flight plans unless they are traveling in restricted airspace and waivers can easily nullify other regulations that may govern the craft. At the state level, there appears to be no law they would be violating, according to the article.
“The way Colorado law is written, none of the statutes fit for harassment or trespassing,” Undersheriff William Myers told the outlet. “Colorado hasn’t gotten on board with identifying the airspace around your property as the actual premises, so we don’t have anything we could charge.”
Although a criminal motive is not suspected to be behind the Colorado craft, drones have frequently been used to facilitate illegal activities in recent times. In November, a Georgia man was sentenced to four years for attempting to smuggle drugs into a prison using a drone.
Decreasing prices and increased availability of drones have made them an inexpensive and low-risk tool for prospective smugglers. Affordable units capable of carrying payloads are easily available to consumers.
Drones traveling near airports have also become a safety threat, interfering with air traffic control and in some cases shutting down entire facilities. In December 2018, drones flying near Gatwick Airport in London, England left thousands of international travelers stranded while flights were forced to be grounded and diverted.
Police hope that members of the public will help them figure out where the Colorado drones are coming from. They say they have already received plenty of reports informing them that the drones are in the air.
“We just want to know if one lands, if we can get our hands on it, or if they see someone operating them, that’s what we’re looking for now,” Elliott told the paper. “We know they exist.”

Mysterious night drones spotted flying over rural Colorado
Decenber 24, 2019
by Spencer McKee
gazette.com

A number of mysterious drones have been spotted flying patterns over Phillips and Yuma counties in northeast Colorado and the local law enforcement is stumped.
According to the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office, more than 16 drones have been tracked since late last week, flying at about 200 feet above the ground. When online commenters asked if they could shoot the drones down, the sheriff’s office advised against this, saying that doing so would likely be considered a federal crime because drones are considered aircraft under federal law.
Title 18 of United States Code 32 covers unmanned aircraft, meaning sabotage of a drone could carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The Communications Act of 1934 also outlaws any sort of signal jamming that may cripple the drone.
Though odd, the sheriff’s office does not believe that the drones are conducting any sort of behavior that would be malicious in nature.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Air Force have informed the sheriff’s office that the drones aren’t theirs.
The Phillips County Sheriff’s Office has requested that local residents contact their communications center immediately if a drone is spotted on an individual’s property or appears to be looking into a window. This will allow a deputy to respond to their location.
The Sheriff’s Office has also requested that if anyone obtains one of these drones that they call the Sheriff’s Office so that they may conduct a forensic analysis and potentially identify the owner.
Phillips and Yuma counties are located in the northeast corner of Colorado, including Holyoke and Wray, respectively.

A Clever Radio Trick Can Tell If a Drone Is Watching You
A quirk of video compression lets spy targets see what the drone watching them sees.
December 1, 2019
by Andy Greenberg
Wired
As flying, camera-wielding machines get ever cheaper and more ubiquitous, inventors of anti-drone technologies are marketing every possible idea for protection from hovering eyes in the sky: Drone-spotting radar. Drone-snagging shotgun shells. Anti-drone lasers, falcons, even drone-downing drones. Now one group of Israeli researchers has developed a new technique for that drone-control arsenal—one that can not only detect that a drone is nearby, but determine with surprising precision if it’s spying on you, your home, or your high-security facility.
Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel have built a proof-of-concept system for counter-surveillance against spy drones that demonstrates a clever, if not exactly simple, way to determine whether a certain person or object is under aerial surveillance. They first generate a recognizable pattern on whatever subject—a window, say—someone might want to guard from potential surveillance. Then they remotely intercept a drone’s radio signals to look for that pattern in the streaming video the drone sends back to its operator. If they spot it, they can determine that the drone is looking at their subject.
In other words, they can see what the drone sees, pulling out their recognizable pattern from the radio signal, even without breaking the drone’s encrypted video.
“This is the first method to tell what is being captured in a drone’s [first-person-view] channel” despite that encryption, says Ben Nassi, one of the Ben Gurion researchers who wrote a paper on the technique, along with a group that includes legendary cryptographer and co-inventor of the RSA encryption algorithm Adi Shamir. “You can observe without any doubt that someone is watching. If you can control the stimulus and intercept the traffic as well, you can fully understand whether a specific object is being streamed.”
The researchers’ technique takes advantage of an efficiency feature streaming video has used for years, known as “delta frames.” Instead of encoding video as a series of raw images, it’s compressed into a series of changes from the previous image in the video. That means when a streaming video shows a still object, it transmits fewer bytes of data than when it shows one that moves or changes color.That compression feature can reveal key information about the content of the video to someone who’s intercepting the streaming data, security researchers have shown in recent research, even when the data is encrypted. Researchers at West Point, Cornell Tech, and Tel Aviv University, for instance, used that feature as part of a technique to figure out what movie someone was watching on Netflix, despite Netflix’s use of HTTPS encryption.
The encrypted video streamed by a drone back to its operator is vulnerable to the same kind of analysis, the Ben Gurion researchers say. In their tests, they used a “smart film” to toggle the opacity of several panes of a house’s windows while a DJI Mavic quadcopter watched it from the sky, changing the panes from opaque to transparent and back again in an on-off pattern. Then they showed that with just a parabolic antenna and a laptop, they could intercept the drone’s radio signals to its operator and find that same pattern in the drone’s encrypted data stream to show that the drone must have been looking at the house.
That compression feature can reveal key information about the content of the video to someone who’s intercepting the streaming data, security researchers have shown in recent research, even when the data is encrypted. Researchers at West Point, Cornell Tech, and Tel Aviv University, for instance, used that feature as part of a technique to figure out what movie someone was watching on Netflix, despite Netflix’s use of HTTPS encryption.
The encrypted video streamed by a drone back to its operator is vulnerable to the same kind of analysis, the Ben Gurion researchers say. In their tests, they used a “smart film” to toggle the opacity of several panes of a house’s windows while a DJI Mavic quadcopter watched it from the sky, changing the panes from opaque to transparent and back again in an on-off pattern. Then they showed that with just a parabolic antenna and a laptop, they could intercept the drone’s radio signals to its operator and find that same pattern in the drone’s encrypted data stream to show that the drone must have been looking at the house.
Rigging your house—or body—with blinking LEDs or smart film panels would ask a lot of the average drone-wary civilian, notes Peter Singer, an author and fellow at the New America Foundation who focuses on military and security technology. But Singer suggests the technique could benefit high-security facilities trying to hide themselves from flying snoops. “It might have less implications for personal privacy than for corporate or government security,” Singer says.
DJI didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment. Nor did Parrot, whose drones Nassi says would also be susceptible to their technique.
If the Ben Gurion researchers’ technique were widely adopted, determined drone spies would no doubt find ways to circumvent the trick. The researchers note themselves that drone-piloting spies could potentially defeat their technique by, for instance, using two cameras: one for navigation with first-person streaming, and one for surveillance that stores its video locally. But Nassi argues that countermeasure, or others that “pad” video stream data to better disguise it, would come at a cost of real-time visibility or resolution for the drone operator.
The spy-versus spy game of aerial drone surveillance is no doubt just getting started. But for the moment, at least, the Israeli researchers’ work could give spying targets an unexpected new way to watch the watchers—through their own airborne eyes.

Comment: An anti-drone device is now being manufactured, and sold commercially, by a Finnish firm. If installed on private property and activated, it will cause any and all drones flying within its range, regardless of control systems or size, to immediately go out of control and crash. The Canadian firm that handles this product can be contacted at: dronekill@gmail.com

Six Ways to Disable a Drone
Brookings Institute
Civilian drone activity has increased exponentially as drones become more easily accessible and affordable. With more drones in the sky every day, there have been some creative and sometimes dangerous attempts to disable drones. The reasons for disabling a drone can vary from boredom and curiosity to privacy and safety concerns. To be clear, the Center for Technology Innovation does not condone or promote the act of harming drones.
1. Guns
Shooting a drone out of the sky may be effective, but it’s also extremely dangerous. The consequences for shooting down a drone vary by state, but perpetrators could face reckless endangerment charges or be prosecuted under laws relating to the discharge of firearms. Additionally, the offender could be liable for civil damages paid to the destroyed drone’s owner.
2. Nets
Nets are a much safer alternative to capturing drones than shooting them with guns. Tokyo police are working to implement net-carrying drones that can intercept suspicious smaller drones. The Human-Interactive Robotics Lab at Michigan Tech is working a drone catcher system for removing intruding drones by developing a drone-mounted net cannon that can capture another drone in flight from a distance of up to 40 feet. Lastly, there’s anti-drone technology that can be assembled from hardware store items. The drone net gun is a plastic slingshot that releases a net from the user on the ground to capture a drone in-flight
3. Radio waves
Battelle’s DroneDefender is a device that emits an electromagnetic field meant to disrupt the most popular GPS and ISM radio frequencies, which keep drones in the air. The DroneDefender can then take control and guide the drone safely down to the ground. It is not yet available for consumer use and is awaiting authorization from the Federal Communications Commission.
4. Hacking
As drones are functionally flying computers, it’s been proven possible to hack into their software by using Wi-Fi to connect to an unsecured network port on the device. Conversely, at the DEFCON hacker conference in Las Vegas, David Jordan of Aerial Assault demonstrated a drone that can break into computer networks by scanning for unsecured networks, recording their locations using GPS, and relaying the information to the pilot.
5. Eagles
The Dutch National Police are creatively working with Guard From Above, a raptor training company, to determine whether eagles could be used as anti-drone weapon systems. For those worried about the potential dangers to the birds, Guard From Above responded, “In nature, birds of prey often overpower large and dangerous prey. Their talons have scales, which protect them, naturally, from their victims’ bites. Of course, we are continuously investigating any extra possible protective measures we can take in order to protect our birds. The Dutch National Police has asked the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) to research the possible impact on the birds’ claws. The results are not yet known. We are working closely with the Dutch National Police on the development of our services.”
6. Jet Skis
Jet Skis don’t seem to be the most practical way of disabling drones, but one jet skier at the 2016 Yamaha New Zealand Festival of Freeride 4 showed how effectively it could be done.

Comment: Although it somehow never got public coverage, a man in Chicago, using the Finnish system, brought down a large drone. However, it slammed into a neighbor’s house, killing his wife and seriously injuring a child. Since there was no way to ascertain just how the drone was brought down, a forensic examination located the drone’s operator and they were successfully sued by the family. As the court documents were redacted by governmental order, it is impossible to ascertain which federal agency was operating the spy drone.

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

Preface
This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 38

The air was still very cold, too cold to allow the snow to melt, but the sunlight had a pleasant effect after the darkness of the last day’s storm.
The stuttering of the snowmobile drew a harsh response from a murder of crows who were sitting in a tall pine tree, preening in the sun. In several places, they had to swing around recently toppled trees and were very careful not to drive into what looked like gentle hummocks of snow but which could well be rocks or hidden windfalls.
They drove about two miles to the west and stopped at the end of the ridge.
For as far as they could see, snow blanketed the ground and weighted down the branches of the dark trees. The storm had wreaked terrible havoc on northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. The major highways were still impassable, local roads buried and many hundreds of roofs had collapsed under the weight of wet snow.
Several hundred people had frozen to death or been asphyxiated in their cars, cattle caught in the open were frozen solid and the power grid was seriously disrupted throughout the area. Wires were still down over a thousand square miles and most areas were without any kind of electricity.
The storm had slammed into Lake Superior, sinking one large ore boat without a trace and driving two others onto the rocks of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Very heavy snow had fallen as far south as Chicago and a large stretch of the Mississippi River was frozen over to a depth that had never been seen before.
The pleasant news was that another, even larger, storm was headed along the same track as the first. Since almost no one had either television or radio, people beginning to dig out were about to be rudely surprised by another manifestation of Global Warming.
Chuck stopped a few hundred yards from the house and looked at the buildings.
There was almost no snow sticking to the roofs, a considerable quantity piled up on the balconies and the northern part of the guest wing had snow up to its eaves.
Just before he started down to the driveway, Lars poked him in the back.
He was not being amorous but curious.
“Look, Chuck! There’s a hand sticking out of the ground!”
And so there was.
From the side of a high, rounded mound of snow, a human hand and arm protruded, moving back and forth as if someone were waving at them.
Chuck arrived first with Lars right behind him. The gloveless hand was long, bony and pale and the sleeve was dark blue with a knitted cuff. Chuck touched the hand which promptly clutched frantically at him. Avoiding it, he began to dig around the arm where it emerged from the snow and, with Lars working on the other side, soon dug down until the whole arm and a shoulder appeared.
The snow suddenly collapsed inwards, revealing a long, pale face with lank hair and dark eyes. The recent growth of beard put Chuck in mind of a Byzantine painting of Christ and a sudden rush of very foul air made him recoil.
“It smells like shit in there,” Lars said pleasantly
Home was the hunter, home from the hills.
They had to dig enough snow away from the opening to permit them to pull the man out and all during the process, he stared vacuously at them, his mouth with its badly chapped lips hanging open and slack.
Finally, Lars had a grip on one side and Chuck the other and they pulled him up and bodily out of his den.
The man squinted in the blinding light and could barely walk so they had to half-carry him to the snowmobile. He smelt badly but they wedged him behind the front seat and Lars sat behind, propping the man up against Chuck’s back.
The trip to the house was short but their passenger kept lurching from side to side and Lars could feel him shaking, even over the vibrations of the machine.
They had to carry him, like the lanky body of the dying Lincoln being borne from Ford’s Theater across the street, into the house and they shuffled along the corridor to the guest wing with him, arms dangling and head lolling.
The room set aside for Lars’ manic mother was still waiting for an occupant and their new guest was set down on the edge of the bed.
“We have to strip him down, Lars, and get him into a hot shower. He’s suffering from hypothermia and he’s probably dehydrated. You take the shoes and I’ll get off the jacket.”
Between them, they managed to undress the man completely. While Chuck was setting a plastic lawn chair in the shower, Gwen came in.
“My God, what’s all this about?”
“We found him out in the snow, Gwen. Chuck’s is going to put him in a hot shower to warm him up.”
The man was sitting up, leaning forward and Lars was holding him up by the shoulders.
Chuck came back from the bathroom and the sound of the shower could be heard splashing behind him.
“Gwen, turn up the heat under the soup and when it’s hot, get me a big bowl of it. Pronto.”
And off she went in the direction of the kitchen.
A half an hour later, the visitor had been thoroughly warmed in a hot shower, wrapped in a bathrobe that was too small for him and bedded down where Mrs. Cobb would have been. He was still shaking but the spasms were lessening and an electric blanket pulled over him was turned up to its full pitch.
Propped up on pillows, he was permitting Gwen to spoon hot oxtail soup into his mouth. A good deal of it ran out the corner of his mouth and splattered down onto a towel but enough got inside him to continue the warming process. He had eaten only three candy bars in as many days and was ravenous but so debilitated that swallowing the soup was a major effort.
For perhaps an hour, they ministered to him and Chuck, seeing him rapidly warming, decided to return to where they found him and see if he had any personal possessions still in his snow cave.
The stench was strong and there was a small pile of feces half-covered with snow in one corner of the mini-cave. An empty, small bag was left behind but the metal case was discovered, shoved up under the edge of the fallen tree. As it was locked, Chuck decided to take it back with him as it was and perhaps open it when he could get to his picks. It did not appear to be a standard piece of personal luggage and he was becoming very curious as to why someone would be up in the woods in such a bad storm and without suitable winter clothing.
When Chuck came back into the house with the case under his arm, Gwen was coming out of the kitchen with another bowl of soup.
“How’s he doing?”
“I got most of the soup into him and he seems to be holding it down. I’ll try one more bowl. He looks terrible. Are you sure he’s OK?”
“Pulse was normal and he’s warming up quite a bit. I’ll turn off the blanket and put a down comforter over him. I don’t like electric blankets and in his case, he might get burnt by it.”
They walked down the hall together but before they went into the room, Chuck set the case down in the hall.
“What’s in that?”
“Probably clothes or something. We need to wash his stuff. You feed him and I’ll put the clothes into the washing machine. And Gwen, don’t mention the case, OK?”
“Sure. Explain later?”
“Later.”
And later, Chuck got into the case and studied its contents. At first none of the tubes made any sense but then he realized that it was a gun, disassembled. He put it together and admired its craftsmanship. In a small pocket in the top of the inside of the case were a number of .223 bullets with curious file marks on the pointed tips. Chuck looked at the shells very closely and then put them into his pocket. The rifle was semi-automatic with a small magazine that held only two shells. He took these out, checked the chamber and began to dissemble the weapon and return it to its fitted case.
It was obviously an assassination weapon and the man they rescued was equally obviously an assassin, apparently caught out by the sudden onset of the storm. Another day trapped in his shooting blind and he would have frozen to death.
Now his putative murderer was recovering from his ordeal and Chuck decided he had a good deal to discuss with the new guest. If the results of this discussion were satisfactory, the man might well live to a nice old age but if not, there were many places on the hundred acres where he could be planted come spring. The gun was a work of art and would remain safe up in the attic or under his bed. The shells he recognized as having had small holes drilled into them and a small amount of mercury put into the cavity, a drop of solder placed on the top of the hole and reshaped. When one of these was fired into a human being, the mercury would rush forward as the bullet entered the body and causing the doctored projectile to literally explode. This was the same sort of a weapon and the same type of shells that had been used to assassinate John Kennedy and Chuck remembered watching a copy of the famous Zapruder film, a home movie taken by a local businessman in Dallas that had depicted the instant when one of a mercury-loaded shell had blown off a good portion of the President’s skull.
Although the storm had been a serious nuisance, it had saved his life.
They held a council in the living room after Chuck had hidden the rifle up in the very cold attic.
Lars was merely astonished but Gwen was of the immediate and very firm opinion that the recovering murderer should be taken out somewhere and immediately shot. She even volunteered to do it herself and, she said, there was no time like the present. Gwen felt she owed Chuck for removing her aunt and the famous author from her unpleasant and depressing life and eliminating a threat to her benefactor, occasional lover and general good friend was a cheap price to pay for what she viewed as her present comfort and security.
“No, dear, we will not kill him and I would never let you pop a cap on him, That’s something I can do without any help at all.”
“Well, that’s pretty uppity of you, Chuck. I’m trying to do you a favor and you make me look like a dork.”
“I’m sure you’d do a good job on him, love, but first I need to find out a few things and I can’t do that if you take him out onto the driveway, which is the only place you could go now, and blow his brains out. Let me do things my way and if I need your help, I’ll ask you for it.”
It was still early in the afternoon but the light was quickly fading inside the house as a new storm moved in. This one came from the south so they left the recovering assassin alone while the windows on the south side were shuttered. This time, the high winds were absent but the snow was much heavier than the last time.
The windows on the sides away from the storm were unshuttered, letting more light into the main rooms on the first floor and the bedrooms on the second.
When Chuck went into the guest bedrooms and closed the shutters, he stopped in to visit with the thawed gunman.
He sat down in an armchair and watched the snow through the window, the only one on that side of the building he had not covered.
The generator was still purring in the garage and he had added more diesel fuel to the tank. Power had now been out for nearly three days and with the advent of the new storm, could well be out for weeks. As there was enough fuel in drums to last for six months, he was not concerned about freezing inside the house.
A few fresh oak logs on the guest bedroom fireplace lent warmth and light to the room and the light played across the mournful face of the pale man in the bed.
“Warmed up, are you?”
“Oh yes, much better.”
The man’s voice was very soft and almost tentative in tone.
“Well, you’ll be up and around in a few days. Out taking a little nature walk, were you? Got caught in the nasty old storm. Didn’t you see it coming?”
“I did but it didn’t look bad to me.”
“It was. I’ll leave your shutters open so you can watch the snow if you’d like. It has a pleasant effect, friend, to lie here in bed with a nice fire and know you aren’t going to freeze to death outside. I don’t mean to bring up an unpleasant topic but I went back to your roost and I found your very interesting gun.”
The man stared at him.
“Oh yes and a fine piece of work it is. You made it all by yourself?”
“Yes. You see…”
“Oh, I do indeed. I take it I was your target?”
There was a long silence followed by a sigh. This man had saved his life but now would probably kill him. At least he was warm and comfortable instead of freezing slowly in that filthy hole in the ground.
“Yes. It’s nothing personal, buddy, nothing personal at all.”
“Professional?”
“You might say that.”
“And I do.”
“Are you going to off me? I guess you will.”
“Depends on you.”
There was now a glint of hope among the cold ashes.
“On me. How’s that?”
“Tell me a nice story and if I like it, we can negotiate. Anyone who can build a gun like that one ought not to be snuffed unless absolutely necessary. Please go on, friend, and keep me from getting bored. The TV is out and I miss its mind-numbing presence. Numb my mind instead of blowing it all over my front door.”
The man laughed, tentatively, not being entirely sure if his host was toying with him the way a cat will do with a mouse before crunching its spine.
There was a soft double knock at the door.
“What?”
Gwen opened the door several feet.
“Can I come in?”
Chuck grunted.
“I suppose if you want to. Is there a problem?”
“My room is so cold. The fire has gone out and I don’t think the heater is doing a very good job.”
“It must be forty degrees below outside. It’s working OK but it’s hard to keep up with the cold.”
In the flickering orange light from the fireplace, he saw that she was wearing a new suit of thermal underwear that made her look much younger. It was obvious to him that she was indeed developing her charms. Late bloomers had it all over the Mediterranean types that blossomed at thirteen and sagged at eighteen.
She got into the bed and pulled up the covers to her chin.
“It’s nice and warm in here.”
She put her cold feet against his bare leg.
“Jesus, don’t do that! You’re feet are like ice, Gwen.”
There was silence as she shifted around on her side of the bed.
“How long will this storm last?”
“It’s weakening a little. Three or four hours probably. Look, I am really tired, dear, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to get to sleep.”
“I guess we have to get up in the morning and milk the cows.”
“That’s Lars’ dream, not mine.”
He resumed his long, pleasant slide into sleep again.
Just at the point where he was about to plunge into oblivion, a sudden voice cut across his consciousness.
“I guess you’re all busy, right?”
“Lars, go to bed,” Chuck said thickly.
“That’s what I want to do, Chuck. My room is really cold and I can’t sleep.”
He, too, was wearing thermal underwear and like Gwen, he climbed into the bed.
“Lars, if you put your fucking feet on me, I’ll punch you out.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I just want to get warm. It’s not any quieter in here, is it?”
“Lars, I want to go to sleep. No, it is not quiet but I prefer the sound of the wind to the both of you jacking your jaws. Good night, all!”
There was a little silence, the sound of the burning logs only faintly audible over the storm sounds, and then a loud crash from somewhere outside.
Gwen sat up, raising the covers and letting in cold air.
“What’s that?”
Chuck grabbed at the comforter.
“God damn it, you’re freezing me! Look, some tree fell down. There must be a dozen down so far. Just go to sleep, OK?”
“Chuckie’s in a bad mood, Lars. Don’t make any more noise.”
“Can I fart?”
“NO!” Chuck roared.
“Oh Chuck, let him have just a little fart. Maybe I’ll join you. That was an awfully rich dinner.”
Lars started to snicker.
“Be careful you don’t take a dump at the same time, Gwen. You’ll have to live with it all night and it won’t smell nice at all.”
Chuck took a pillow and pulled it over his head. His voice was muffled but he could be understood without any problem.
“Will you two assholes please let me go to sleep? If you want to be funny, go get into someone else’s bed, OK?”
Gwen responded by running a knuckle up and down Chuck’s ribs. He tried to grab her hand and she began to laugh.
“See, Lars, he’s not sleeping at all.”
“Jesus, stop that!” and in spite of himself, he started to laugh.
Then it was Lars’ turn to poke Chuck in the ribs on the other side.
Still laughing, Chuck rolled over to punch Lars. When he did so, Gwen ran her finger up and down his bare back.
“Oh Lars, Chuck is buck naked!”
Lars was being pummeled and was laughing in spite of it.
“How do you know?”
“I’ve got my hand on his bare ass, that’s how I know.”
Suddenly, Chuck stopped laughing.
“Hey, hey, cut that out, Gwen. That’s not my ass and you know it.”
Chuck grabbed her questing hand and then rolled over on his stomach to protect his manhood. This proved to be a mistake because someone grabbed the upper part of his leg and began to knead it.
“Hey, Gwen, let go of my leg! I mean it!”
Gwen put both of her hands on his arm.
“It’s not me, honey. See?”
“Lars! You goddam pervert, let go of my leg!”
Lars let go.
“You get so rude sometimes, Chuck.”
“Rude? I’ll rude you. First one of you gropes me and then the other grabs my leg. What are you guys trying to do?”
Gwen kissed him on the ear, her tongue moving around its convolutions.
“We’re going to rape you, sweetie. Just lie still and enjoy it.”
They did not rape him but the balance of the evening’s entertainment was of a strenuous and eventually exhausting nature.
All of them were asleep by two and the storm was beginning to wind down, the wind blowing intermittently.
When Gwen woke up about seven, she looked around at the shambles of the bed. Bedding, pillows, comforter and occupants were so entangled that it looked like the scene of a tornado’s passage. She had a bare leg, probably belonging to Chuck, draped over her mid-section and there was resonant snoring coming from underneath a pillow that had been stripped of its case and was now bobbing gently up and down.
Picking up her thermal suiting, Gwen retreated to her room and took a very long shower before climbing into her own bed.
The others did not wake up until noon and Chuck was the first to greet the mid-section of the new day.
His eyes were gummed partially shut and for a moment, he had no idea where he was or why he was lying in such chaos. Lars had stopped snoring but Chuck decided that the muscular leg lying across his outstretched arm did not belong to Gwen. Then he remembered fragments of the night’s activities and sat up quickly, trying to wrap something around his nakedness.
Modesty had returned with the new day.
Chuck’s movements had wakened Lars who made snorting noises as he pulled the pillow away from his face.
“Oh, I am really sore this morning. Is anybody around here?”
He saw Chuck sitting up at the head of the bed, a pair of thermal underwear pants wrapped around his shoulders.
“Hey, Chuck, how are you?”
He struggled to sit up and they sat facing each other, a pile of bedding between them.
“Lars, you are a thoroughly evil and perverted person. I never got any sleep last night and I have to tell you right now that I do not appreciate your sticking your tongue down my throat.”
“I was horny, Chuck. Sorry. Are you mad at me?”
“At this point, who cares? Little girls are bad enough but I had no idea you were gay.”
“I am not gay, Chuck. I just like you a lot, that’s all. I mean when we worked at the store, you were always sticking up for me and we had a lot of fun trashing old Art’s house.”
He scratched his head absently.
“Yes, I used to stick up for you because you let people pick on you. Now that I have had the repeated opportunity of seeing you naked, I don’t understand why you didn’t take Marvin out into the parking lot and beat the shit out of him. You always looked puny in your clothes.”
“I don’t like to hit people, Chuck. I used to box in high school and once I hit a guy so hard I broke his nose and shoved part of it up into his head. It killed him and ever since then, I don’t like to hit people. My coach told me I was the best guy he ever had and I believed him. He told me a lot of other things too but I found out later he was lying.”
This was the coach that had seduced him when he was fifteen.
“Never mind the coach. I never had even the slightest idea you were bent. How long have you been lusting after my body?”
“Ever since I saw you in the motel in Santa Cruz.”
“Christ. Well, I tell you what, buddy, sex with women is trying enough but I don’t want to get involved with men, especially with someone who is a friend.”
“Gwen told me you were really good in the sack and you know, she was right.”
“That’s mechanical. As of right now, we can either screw Gwen or make love to our hands but please, not each other. OK?”
Lars shrugged.
“I guess not. But we all did have fun last night, didn’t we?”
“I hate to admit it but it was fun. And I am going to talk to Gwen about that because it was her idea.”
“No it wasn’t. It was mine.”
“You’re so gallant, Lars, taking the blame for her.”
“Hey, come on over here and I’ll show you what I mean.”
“No, I am not coming over there or over here either. Look, leave it alone.”
“Sure, Chuck, I will. No hard feelings?”
“No, no hard feelings. Just, we all live together and there is really nothing worse than sexual triangles. I know, I was involved in one once but with two women, no men. In a way, that’s worse. Do you know what the Chinese ideogram for trouble is, Lars?”
“Nope.”
“Two women under one roof. Now, let’s get cleaned up, do something about this bed here and get some food. I am really hungry.”
“And you don’t smell too good, either, Chuck”
He got up and began a search for something to wear.
The fire had gone out but at least the wind had stopped and glints of sunlight crept into the room through the shutters.
After taking showers and putting on clean clothes, they took the dirty linen down to the laundry room in two great heaps and then there was a very late breakfast combined with an early lunch.
Gwen was sitting in the kitchen, reading a book on Queen Victoria when the pair returned from the laundry room.
“Hello, boys. Did you all get a good night’s sleep?”
“No,” Chuck said, looking into the stock pot, “I did not. Lars and I are getting married just as soon as the snow melts. Thank you so much for bringing us together.”
She put down her book.
“My God, are you kidding?”
“I hope so. And that’s the last time we ever do something like that. The next time you suggest strip poker, I will personally immerse your inflamed pudenda in a tub full of ice water and torpid eels. How about quiche for lunch, children? I have the ingredients in the refrigerator.”
After lunch, it was decided that since the storm had blown over, there would be adventures on the snowmobile. Gwen had no interest in the subject so Chuck and Lars went into the garage and opened the door.
The brilliant sunlight reflecting off the enormous mass of snow that surrounded the house momentarily blinded them and Chuck had to go back inside for dark glasses.
There was room on the back of the machine for another rider and after some experimentation, they drove off along the ridge to the west of the house.
It took some time to get used to the nature of the machine but eventually, they sailed over banks of snow, threaded among the trees and in general had an exhilarating voyage of discovery in the new landscape.

(Continued)

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