The Christmas Dragon: Part 2

Getting to Know a Dragon

“I’ve never heard of a Christmas Dragon, Pa. Where did you get it?”

“Joe, one doesn’t get a Christmas Dragon. One cares for the dragon.”

“So that’s what you do instead of working, Pa, care for the dragon?”

Pa laughed. “Sort of. But now it’s time for me to pass this on to you.” He took my hand and held it to his. The dragon bowed to my grandfather, then stepped onto my hand.

He felt warm and wiggly. I held him up to look closer. The dragon closed his eyes, then reared back and opened his mouth. A small flame shot out.

“Holy cow, Pa, what do I do?” I held my hand away.

“You’ll learn, Joe. You’ll learn together how to care for each other.”

“Learn what? Can’t you teach me?”

“There is only one thing I must tell you,” Pa smiled again, gently stroking the dragon who nuzzled against his touch. “This is our secret. It is between you, me, and the dragon. Promise me you’ll tell no one.”

I blinked at my grandfather, then looked at the dragon.  I raised my hand to pet the dragon. He reared back as if to reshoot fire. “Look, he doesn’t like me, Pa. How can I learn if he doesn’t like me?”

Pa patted my head. “He doesn’t know you yet, Joe. You’ll learn, he’ll learn. You need to be ready when the time comes.”

“Time, what time, Pa?”

“The Christmas Dragon is the keeper of the spirit. He is a guardian. Do you know what that means, Joe?”

“Sort of, like how you and Nana take care of me when Mom and Dad aren’t around.”

“Yes, Joe, like that. Only the Christmas Dragon guards the spirit of Christmas. He protects the North Pole and all who live there.”

I glanced at the tiny dragon in my hand. “Him? How does such a small dragon do that?”

Pa put his fingers to his lips. I heard my grandmother walking in.

“What are you two up to?” she said, arms folded across her chest.

I held my hand behind my back and said: “Nothing, we’re just talking.”

Nana nodded. “It’s never nothing with that grandfather of yours. One of his tricks again I suspect. Your grandfather has too much time on his hands. I have some dishes that need drying, how about you read while I put your grandfather to work and keep him out of trouble.”  She reached over and grabbed Pa by the collar of his shirt. “Come on, troublemaker.”

Pa winked at me then whispered, “remember, tell no one.” He let Nana drag him to the kitchen. I looked in my hand and around the room, but the dragon was gone. Nana was right, it must have been a trick.

I reached for a book.  As I started to read, I felt something on my shoulder. I looked, and the dragon looked back.Dragon eyes

“Start from the beginning. Joe. I love a good story.”

“Dragon’s talk?” I said, too surprised to think of anything else.

“How else will you know what I’m thinking? Now please read.” I felt a slight nudge as the dragon sat on my shoulder, leaning in to see the book.

I shrugged and started to read.

Nana and Pa stood back in the hall watching me. “What did you do?” Nana asked.

“Nothing, dear, just a gift of imagination.”

Nana shook her head and walked away. Pa winked at me and the dragon, then went off to dry dishes…


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The Christmas Dragon: Part 1

(Here’s my 2017 version of a favorite tradition from my childhood. A serialized Christmas story.  I hope you all enjoy it.  May it bring back memories and create new ones)

A Gift of Imagination

When I was five and three-quarters years-old, my grandfather shared a secret with me. While my mother and grandmother worked in the kitchen preparing Christmas Eve dinner, my grandfather smiled and whispered, “I have something for you.”

The lines in his face seemed to vanish as the smile lit up his eyes. He winked, checked to see that no one else was watching, then pointed to his hand.

I looked but saw nothing. I glanced at Pa, then back at his hand. Still nothing.

“There’s nothing there, Pa. Your hand is empty.”

He nodded. “Not if you believe, you’ll see…” He tilted his head, “look again, Joe, look again.”

My grandfather was always playing tricks on me, Nana, and my mother. Once he put a rubber snake in the refrigerator. It fell to the floor when Nana opened the door.

I heard her say some bad words when she dropped the dish she was putting in the fridge. My grandfather blocked my ears, laughed, and then dragged me outside.  It was a good thing because I could still hear those bad words all the way in the backyard.

Another time we decided to make a pile of snowballs and ambush my dad when he came home from work.  It went pretty well until my mother came out to see who was yelling and one of the snowballs hit her. She was mad at first. But then she made a snowball and knocked my grandfather down with it.

I didn’t know girls could throw like that.

Anyway, back to the secret. I stared at my grandfather’s hand. “What am I looking for?”

Pa’s eyes turned all sorts of colors, like the flashing lights on the tree. His smile took over his whole face.

“There is something my grandfather gave to me, and now it’s time for me to pass it on to you.” He waved one hand over the other, touched me on the shoulder, and said, “Now what do you see?”

I looked at the hand and shimmering snowflakes, swirling and sparkling, rose from his hand. For a moment, the white ebb and flow hid his hand.

This was cool magic.

And then I saw it, emerging from the misty eddies, a small, rainbow sparkling miniature dragon looked up and blinked his eyes at me.

“Is that a…”

“Yes, it is. A Christmas Dragon.”Tiny dragon


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My Weekend as a Dog

(A guest post by Seamus)

Contrary to what a cursory look at my physical appearance would suggest, I am not a dog.  I am a fully articulate sentient lifeform with deep emotional needs and expectations from my staff.


His Royal Majesty, Seamus Angus McTavish

Just my name alone, Seamus Angus McTavish Broadmeadow-Walkup, invokes visions of royalty and noble bearing.

Despite my humble beginnings under a porch in the south, my intelligence and charm led me to the Kingdom of Cranston, where I established my court.

For some inexplicable reason, my regular staff, consisting of a pleasant-smelling female and a, shall we say, inconsistently aromatic male, occasionally disappear for days at a time and are replaced with two inferior beings who insist on me and my associate, Sir Ralph, being treated like dogs.

We have just survived such an episode.

I find this insulting.


Sir Ralph

I know I speak for my associate, whom they address as Ralph instead of the more correct Your Royal Highness, that he is insulted as well. My daily identification of him, through my refined sense of smell, by examining both ends and the appendage underneath, marks him “smells like Alpo mixed with carpet and a hint of sweat” and attests to his royal lineage.

Therefore, Sir Ralph and I wish to list our grievances at the hands of these ruffians and charlatans who are of apparently inferior upbringing.

They, contrary to our routine practice, do not allow us to sleep on the bed. We are forced like common farm animals to sleep on the floor. Their one concession is a small insufficiently luxurious dog pillow (oh the shame) that would barely suit a barnyard animal such as a pig or a cat.

They do not allow us to occupy our usual position on the couch to watch our TV shows. I particularly enjoy National Geographic when I can growl at the beasts.

They do not immediately respond to my requests to be let outside. My responsibilities demand I examine my kingdom on a regular basis, sometimes ten or fifteen times an hour. I am forced to wait at the door, sometimes for as long as 10 seconds, before they even bother to notice me.

And yet they often ignore me, making unintelligent sounds that are some inferior form of communication.

And while I am on that subject, would it be too much to ask that the replacement staff understand our language? It is quite simple. There are four forms of our sophisticated language that even these creatures should be able to understand.

Happy, Angry, Hungry, and Need to find an inanimate object to mark my territory.

Even this basic communication understanding eludes our jailers.

But, there is hope. The trained staff has returned from the mysterious portal that swallows them, and all is back to normal. Sir Ralph and I live in the hope that we will not be forced to endure another term of imprisonment with these inferior beings, but we know it is inevitable.

We hoped, over time, they would learn to be more appropriately attentive to our needs. But, I fear they are untrainable.

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Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore: Seeking a Return to the Dark Ages

I wrote this last year about “Judge” Roy ‘get ’em while they’re young” Moore.  If a Supreme Court Justice can’t follow federal law, how can he represent Alabama in the Senate?

This is just one aspect of a troubled, character-flawed, hypocrite. Mix in unlawful sexual proclivities, and it is frightening. Come on, Alabama, this is not the America you are part of.


In case you have never heard of Justice Roy Moore, he is the current Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He’s held the job twice and lost it once.

So far.

In 2003, he was removed from office when he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the rotunda of the court.

So, of course, the progressive segment of Alabama voters re-elected him in 2012.

Now his battle is same-sex marriage. He is suspended from office for sending an administrative order to Alabama probate judges telling them Alabama Law banning Same Sex Marriages was in full force and effect.

He lied. It was not.

In 2015 the US Supreme Court, in Obergefell V. Hodges, legalized gay marriage thus trumping (I love that word) any State prohibitions. Keep in mind, the US Supreme Court still had the full complement of Judges. Scalia, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, still sat on the court.

Even he couldn’t persuade the court to uphold the ban; law and rationality prevailed.

Moore sent the letter six months after the Supreme Court decision. He either knew the letter was not based on established law or didn’t care.

But, to Justice Moore, it makes no difference. He has God on his side. Just ask him, he’ll tell you he does. He’ll tell you that his faith is the one true interpretation. The one true path. The basis for the entire government of the United States.

He’ll tell you that the diversity of this country, the willingness to accept people as they are not as we think they should be, will be its demise.

The law be damned.

Justice Moore is the poster child of our sordid and bigoted history. Those in a position of power imposing their faith, their beliefs, their views on those with no power. The fact that someone holding such archaic and prejudicial beliefs can rise to such a position speaks volumes about the lack of progress toward true universal tolerance in this country.

It is because of people like him that we need a strong and intellectually honest judiciary. One that looks at the law and ensures its fair application. One that also abides by their decisions.

There is no better evidence for the gravity of the upcoming Presidential election than someone like Justice Moore.

Bigots embrace this man’s philosophy and seek to impose it on all by seizing power in government.

A true nightmare would be a US Supreme Court comprised of people like Justice Moore. A man who seeks to justify his own ignorance, intolerance, and lack of empathy for his fellow man by cloaking himself in a judicial robe.

I don’t know where Justice Moore went to Law School, but he should seek a refund. To the people who elected him and re-elected him, do the country a favor and skip the election in November.

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California Verdict is Proof of American Rule of Law

The recent case of an illegal alien from Mexico found not guilty in the killing of a woman created a whirlwind of outrage. President Trump called the verdict “disgraceful.”  Pundits screamed that illegals are ruining the country.


Once again, the President and those outraged by the verdict miss the point. 

This case was not about immigration status, it was not a forum for immigration policy, nor was it a platform to visit anger on illegal aliens because we are frustrated with the problem.

It was a criminal case, tried under criminal procedure, with a jury rendering a verdict.

Was the verdict just? If one has faith in the jury process, then of course it was.  It is in this very jury system in which we should take great pride.

Under our laws, only a jury may judge a defendant guilty. There are exceptions should a defendant choose to allow the judge to render the verdict, but even that choice lies with the defendant not the government. 

No one in government can decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant.

Not a prosecutor.

Not public opinion.

Not even the President of the United States. 

We do empower the President with the authority to pardon criminals, the intent being to right historical wrongs or situations in the best interest of the country. We may soon see such authority in action depending on what Mueller does next, but that is beside the point.

The power to judge a person guilty or innocent lies with a jury. It is the foundation of American jurisprudence and one we should zealously embrace and protect.

The founding fathers and the ensuing history of the courts have always leaned towards the importance of insuring the rights of the defendant over the demands of society.  History is full of examples where those in power perverted the process for political or social reasons and ultimately the courts reversed these verdicts.

We so enshrined the jury verdict that the rule of double jeopardy attaches to a not guilty verdict. Once a jury finds a defendant not guilty they cannot be tried again for the same crime. This shields the defendants from the power of government seeking to try and retry until they achieve their desired purpose.

Now, this case should bring outrage among Americans and those who have come to this country legally.  The outrage about our failed immigration system and inadequate protections should foster demands  for change. Those changes need more than a wall.

One could argue our outrage should be directed against the prosecutor or investigators who decided to over-charge in the case. Since our only look at the evidence presented at trial is tainted by the filter of reporters interpretations of testimony, we haven’t a reliable way to judge.

But this is not a matter about illegal aliens. We should take pride in the fact that our justice system strives to fairness. It seeks to focus on the evidence and elements of the crime charged, not the politics of the day.

Mr. Trump can tweet all day long, but our system rightfully prevents him from having any authority to determine guilt or innocence. No one knows what the future holds. But I would venture to say, in the event a member of Mr. Trump’s administration went to trial and the jury returned a not guilty verdict, the President would embrace the wisdom of that jury.

Of course, so far, those charged have opted out of facing a jury and went straight to “If you think I’m bad, let me tell you about…”

As a rather amusing talking head former prosecutor said, “when one a your homeboys starts talking, somebody goin’ to jail.” 

Now there’s something to wonder about.

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The Tradition of St. Nick: Thoughts on a Christmas Eve

(Through the wonders of technology, on this first day of December 2017, I repost this blog from last year, all while absorbing the sun on an Aruban Beach.  Thoughts of Christmas to warm your hearts, if not your other parts)


On September 21, 1897, the editor of New York’s Sun captured the spirit of Christmas with these words,

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

Seven words with an unanticipated longevity to the truth they proclaimed. The answer to a question from an 8-year-old girl.

This 8-year-old girl, facing life’s reality, sort reassurance from the authority of a newspaper. Imagine the quandary facing that editor, tell the truth or chip away at innocence?

He demonstrated great wisdom. He told the truth. A truth that holds to this day.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

This is a spirit different than religious traditions. It is a non-denominational phenomenon crossing cultural boundaries and containing a powerful message.

It is easy to lose hope in this world. One begins to wonder if evolution has slowed when it comes to the humanness of humankind.

Or given up on us entirely.

Despite this I say, now more than ever, yes there is a Santa Claus. Even among those who hold no such traditions. The spirit lives in the commonality of our being human.

All we need is a willingness to give for the sake of giving. To seek our happiness by making others happy.

We can share the experience of watching the wonder in the eyes of a small child. See the spark of the spirit come alive and grow within them. Embrace the comfort of old friendships, the warmth of family, or just the companionship of a good dog (but never a cat.)

We all yearn to make others happy and feel the satisfaction of bringing joy to those we love. Or those we are yet to meet.

We can find solace in those same words; Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

It is within us all. All we need do is open our minds.

So, no matter where your tradition comes from. Be it a generous caring man of a different era, proclaimed a Saint, and turned into the legend of Santa Claus. Or a celebration of another tradition with equal import to your memories. Whatever you celebrate, in this Christmas season and from here on, I wish for you;

To have no regrets except for things you didn’t do.

To never to be afraid of failing at anything, except failing to try.

To remember the past, but waste no time on it.

To look forward to the future, but understand you cannot control it.

To hold onto hope, no matter what.

To embrace your moments in this life, once past they can never be reclaimed.

To find what fills your heart with smiles and have it grow, like the Grinch’s, three sizes this day.

To find that childlike spirit long buried by the cares of the real world.

To let the shackles of growing up fall away.

To dance like Snoopy to the music of Schroeder.

To understand, like Linus, it is the spirit that matters.

To know there is always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Even on your last day on this earth, the dreams of those we leave behind live on.

To work for a future of a world filled with laughter.

To understand it is through our differences we share the commonality of being human.

To be a child again, if but for one moment. To hear the far-off sounds of jingling bells. To see a faint red light of a magical reindeer approaching in the cold winter sky. To feel the excitement at the footsteps of a jolly old man on the roof of your memories.

The best part of the Spirit of Christmas is it is within our power to keep it well all the rest of our days.

886707_10151795370048031_640391184_oHappy Christmas to all and to all a lifetime of good nights.


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Excerpt from “A Change of Hate”

Chapter 1 

MONDAY, 8:30 A.M.

MARCH 7, 2016


HARRISON ‘HAWK’ BENNETT ENDURED fifty years tormented by nightmares of Vietnam. Until a moment ago, killing the man now standing before him was one of those blood-soaked memories.

Recognition, denial, and rage ricocheted through his brain. He leaned against the edge of the desk, steadying himself.

Before him stood the incarnation of his darkest nightmare. A man he’d spent months tracking in Vietnam. An enemy he thought obliterated until a moment ago. A specter, risen from the dead, stared back at him.

How could this be?

The saffron-robed Buddhist Monk smiled. “It has been a long time, Lieutenant Bennett, since our time in Dalat.”

“Why are you here, Colonel?” Hawk said, stepping toward the monk. “Or better yet, how is it you’re still alive? Whatever the reason, I want no part of it. Get out, or I will kill you. This time.”

Hawk spun around, saw the disappointment on his paralegal Kendall Hahn’s face, then stormed into his office. Kendall jumped at the sound of the slamming door. A picture frame fell to the floor.

Nothing in her experience working for Hawk prepared her for this.

The monk stayed in place. Uncertainty and sadness painted his face. After a moment, he walked over and rehung the picture.

Kendall came around the desk. “I’m sorry, Thuan. I’ve never seen Mr. Bennett behave this way.” 

“No need, Ms. Hahn. I had no right to expect his help.” He walked to the window, touching the leaves of an orchid. 

Kendall moved to stand next to him. “It won’t bloom for me.”

Thuan smiled, touching her shoulder. 

“An orchid reminds us of the beauty of the universe. Beauty, like all things, exists when someone sees it.” He lifted the plant, turning it in his hands, then placed it back on the sill. “I believe it is waiting for you.”

“I look every day.”

“Looking is not seeing, my child.”

She hesitated a moment. “I’m sorry, Thuan. I don’t know what else to do for you.”

“No matter. Life will decide.” Thuan started toward the door.

“Wait,” she touched his sleeve, “I know someone I can call. She might help you. Please, let me try.”

“Won’t Mr. Bennett be angry with you?”

“Let me worry about him.” She reached for the phone. “Thuan, why did Hawk call you Colonel?”

The monk bowed. “A lifetime ago, during the American War in Vietnam, I commanded a Viet Cong unit. I fought against Lieutenant Bennett and his men.”

Kendall stared for a moment, trying to digest the words. “I’ll see what I can do.”

The monk nodded, returning to his seat. He closed his eyes and waited.



Chapter 2 


CHRIS HAMLIN CHECKED HER phone. Two missed calls and a text from Hawk’s office. 

The man cannot give me five minutes’ peace.

Chris put her leg on the bumper and stretched, massaging the lean, but achy muscle. Her heart rate slowed to a steady resting rate. She made it a habit of staying in shape. Closing in on sixty-five, she still looked in her forties. Not even a hint of gray showed in her short-styled hair. Although, as time marched on, the aches and pains of running took longer to stretch away. 

She sat in her car and played the first voice mail.

Chris, Kendall. Call me ASAP. Thanks. Chris hit delete, then listened to the next one.

Chris, Kendall. Please call me right away. Thanks. The text reinforced the voicemail.

Chris sighed. 

I miss the days when we weren’t so connected. 




“Law Offices.”

“Hi Kendall, Chris. What’s the emergency this time, he out of adult diapers?”

Kendall laughed. “Nope got plenty. I’m the one who called. I need you to come here.”

“You? Where’s Hawk?”

“Please come, Chris. It’s important.” The urgency poured through the phone. A tone Chris never heard from Kendall. 

“I’ll be right there.” She tossed the phone on the seat and headed downtown. 

Always an adventure.




Just before 9:00 a.m., Chris walked in the side door of the Turk’s Head Building. The triangularly shaped landmark pointed like a spear into Providence’s financial district. The namesake turban-wearing, mustachioed facade kept a watchful eye over those on the street.

Chris walked toward the elevator, waving at the security guard. He waved back then tilted his head toward the lobby directory. Two men in suits examined the business list. 

Chris’s problem radar came alive. Cops develop this sixth sense for survival. Most lose it when they retire; she did not. 

Running Aries Investigations and working cases from Hawk Bennett demanded it.

Chris pushed the elevator button several times, willing the door to open. She watched one man tap his finger on the listing for Law Offices Harrison Bennett. 

The elevator chimed. The agents started toward her. She squeezed in as the door opened. Ignoring the shouted pleas for her to wait, she punched the button for the 7th floor. The door slid shut. It took all her willpower not to smile.

Time slowed until the door reopened. She pushed the buttons for every floor then sprinted to Hawk’s office.

Once inside, she slammed the door shut and locked it. 

Kendall’s eyebrows rose as she cocked her head. “Hi, Chris. Thanks for coming, is something wrong?” 

“Two Feds on the way. I’d bet FBI. Not sure wh–.” Her eye caught sight of the monk.

Chris raised an eyebrow at Kendall.

“Meet New… new–”

“Nguyen Duc Thuan,” the monk rescued Kendall. He bowed to Chris. “Pleased to meet you.” 

Chris’s eyes darted between the monk and Kendall. “Are you why the FBI is here?”

“They wish to arrest me.”

“For what?” 

The monk opened his mouth to speak. Chris held up her hand. “Never mind. Where’s Hawk?”

Kendall pointed to the back. “He’s in there. I’ve never seen him so… so… angry.”

“Angry?” Chris checked the door lock. 

“Kendall, stay here. Ignore the agents. I’ll find out what the hell’s going on.” 

She gave the monk a brief smile and dashed to Hawk’s office.




Chris Hamlin knew Hawk Bennett better than any other human. His strengths, his weaknesses, his fears, and his secrets. 

But not all of them.

Hawk sat at his desk, face buried in his hands. An open bottle of scotch sat next to an empty glass. He lifted his head when Chris came in.

The tears frightened her.

“What the hell is going on?”

Hawk filled his glass, offering her the bottle.

“Bit early for me. Should be for you too.”

Hawk ignored her, draining his glass. “Is that son-of-a-bitch still out there?”

“Son-of-a-bitch? He’s a Buddhist Monk.”

Hawk leaned back in the seat, closing his eyes, head resting against a torn and stained Viet Cong flag. A faded US Army Green Beret hung from a hook, partially covering the flag’s yellow star.

Acknowledgements of his time in the war. 

Hawk swung his feet onto the desk, catching the bottle with his foot. Chris grabbed it before it spilled.

“Hawk, what the hell is wrong with you?” 

Hawk opened his eyes and pointed. “Go make sure the gook prick leaves.”

Chris stared at a familiar face in an unfamiliar condition. 

“What the hell, Hawk? A monk comes looking for help, and you crawl into a bottle? The FBI is heading here, and you’re crying like a goddamn baby. Since when do you fear the Feds? Or anyone?”

The glass flew past her head, shattering on the wall, forcing Chris to backpedal to the door. Hawk sprang up, knocking over his chair. He slammed his hands on the desk.

“That monk is a fraud. His name is Nguyen Duc Thuan. He’s a—.”

“Hawk, stop acting like a two-year-old. What’s the problem?”

“I’ll tell you the problem. That man is a former Viet Cong Colonel. I spent the better part of a year tracking him in ‘Nam. Until five minutes ago, I thought I killed the son-of-a-bitch. Now, he’s asking me for help. Says he killed someone.”


“No idea, nor do I care.” He yanked open the drawer and laid the Glock on the desk. 

“Get rid of him or–.”

“Put the damn gun away. You’re not shooting anybody. Aren’t you the least bit curious why Thuan came here?” 

“No.” He tossed the gun back in the drawer. “Leave me out of it.”

Chris snatched the bottle off the desk.

She closed the door to Hawk’s office and hurried back to Kendall.

“Go in there and keep him calm. Don’t let him drink anymore.”

Kendall nodded, but her eyes gave away her uncertainty.

“Go, don’t worry. I got this.” She turned back to Thuan. “Hawk told me a story about you being VC. There’s—”

“I was VC,” his gaze shifted to the floor, “and I fought against Lieutenant Bennett’s unit.”

Chris let his words to filter through, trying to make sense out of chaos. 

“Okay, no time for war stories. Who does the FBI think you killed?”

 “The man’s name is Samson Armstrong. He was—”

For the second time in five minutes, Chris was stunned. 

“Christ, Samson Armstrong is a goddamn hero. Why do they think you killed him?”

“We have a history. A friend told me the FBI was looking for me. He sent me here to speak to Mr. Bennett.” Thuan’s head drooped again. “I hoped he could tell me what to do.”

“Did you think he’d welcome you?”

“No, but I thought he’d want to hear the truth about Samson Armstrong and what happened in Vietnam.” His chin touched his chest. 

“And I did not kill him.”

“Whether you killed him or not is the least of our concerns.” She glanced back at the door. “Let me talk to Hawk. Stay here and be quiet.”

She paused before the door, gathering her thoughts. How the hell am I gonna get him to listen? Do I even want to?

A loud knock startled her. The FBI was here, blurred shapes moving outside the door. A distorted face appeared against the translucent glass.

Decision time.

Kendall leaned on Hawk’s desk. He looked around Kendall at Chris. 

“Is he gone?”

“Not yet. There’s something you need to hear.”

“Look, seeing him knocked me silly. The memories overwhelmed me. I’m okay now. Just send him to another lawyer. I’ve no interest in this case.”

“Not even if it involves Samson Armstrong?”

Hawk stood, his face betraying his confusion. “Armstrong? What’s he got to do with this?”

“Armstrong is the homicide victim.”

“Nguyen killed Armstrong?”

“He says not, but who knows? We need time to sort this out. That banging you hear is the FBI. What do you wanna do?”

Hawk rubbed the back of his neck. “What did he say about Vietnam?”

Chris shook her head. Odd he didn’t ask about Armstrong, just Vietnam.

“No time. Either we let the FBI take him, or you buy us time to find out.”

Hawk stared at the ceiling. “What do you think?”

“Vietnam was a long time ago, Hawk. I don’t know enough to decide. But there’s something… hard to explain.”

“I think you should talk to him,” Kendall said. “I don’t care what he was before, he strikes me as a kind old man now. What if he didn’t kill Armstrong? You always told me not to let people’s past affect finding the truth.”

“From the mouth of babes…” Hawk shook his head. “Okay, I’ll handle the Feds. Chris, bring Nguyen in here and wait for me. Kendall, go sit at your desk like nothing’s wrong. Can you do that?”

Kendall nodded. “It’s what I do every day.”

“Okay, let’s do this.”

Chris let out a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Hawk said.

“Gary Gilmore said those same words, right before the firing squad shot him.”


Hawk grinned. “Let’s hope they’re not prophetic.”


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