The war was not going well. It had never gone well. Maud Hawkinge, nanny to Charles Henry Michael David Winthrop the Prince Royal, was not amused. This should have been a plum assignment, an opportunity for a sinecure in the Palace that would afford her a platform for other assignments and ultimately a comfortable retirement. Instead, she was routinely and regularly thwarted and prevented from demonstrating her excellence.
Right from the very beginning things had never fallen into place as they should have. As the Queen neared delivery time, Maud had contacted friends and had been busy lining-up possible wet nurses that would appreciate Maud’s efforts and would be useful allies in the nursery establishment. And what came of that? The Queen read this book she found and decided to breast feed herself. Whoever heard of such a thing!
Then she had attempted to demonstrate her command of the nursery to the King’s Footmen who regularly took the Prince Royal out and about for a daily adventure and, frequently, a visit with the King, himself. To add insult to injury, they had started visiting the Queen also. Everyone knew that it ought to be her that was presenting the Prince Royal to the King and Queen, and not these lesser servants. Everyone knew that it ought to be her that was parading the Prince Royal in his perambulator. She had once sought to demonstrate her command of the nursery by preventing the Prince Royal from leaving on the grounds that he wasn’t feeling well. She had been overruled by a pompous young ass of a footman who had taken the Prince Royal anyway.
When he returned, the lovely alpaca sweater that he had left in was a muddy ruin. Maud had reported this depravity to the Queen.
“Ought he even be wearing alpaca,” wondered the Queen, casually dismissing the crime.
The insufferable young footmen continued to take the Prince Royal on an almost daily basis. If the weather was unkind, they would play with him in the nursery and then take him off to see the King, or the Queen, or both. How could the King and Queen know how well she was handling her immense responsibilities when she wasn’t permitted to present the Prince?
Once, when they had left on a lovely summer day, she had followed them and observed them playing in the palace pool. All three of them were naked. There was a donkey and an elephant there too, and the elephant was showering everyone with water sprayed from his trunk. Everyone was wet and nude and gleaming and sublimely happy. It was shocking!
Reporting this conduct to the Queen, the queen merely observed that she thought that all boys liked to go, “skinny dipping, I think they call it.”
Then there was the matter of the donkey. The donkey was a familiar, of course, but there was no reason for the familiar to appear in the nursery in that form. As a demonstration of her determination to be in that form, she would wear felt booties to protect the carpets and floors from her hooves. Surely she could use a less obtrusive form when visiting the nursery. It was ridiculous. She was basically just a servant who was showing no respect to Maud who was, after all: the Nanny!
Maud moped musing on all of her genuine grievances. On the floor, the Prince Royal was playing with a vast store of blocks, Lincoln Logs, and Legos; there were toy trains, toy cavalrymen, horse drawn coaches and wagons, even several little sailboats and a zeppelin; the Prince Royal was constructing a capital city for a kingdom of his enthusiastic imaginings.
One of the maids, who Maud had cultivated as an ally, stuck her head in the door. “There’s a to-do a comin’, dear,” she reported somewhat breathlessly before moving quickly on. Moments later, the door opened briskly and a formality of footmen came striding in. The first footman through the door was carrying a huge plush giraffe that had to be every bit of five feet tall. The footman’s waistcoat was the burgundy of the de St Marcouf family: the Queen’s family. The next footman carried a huge Teddy bear. The third had several boxes teetering in his arms. Then there was himself, the Lord St Alban, the Earl de St Marcouf, the Baron Winchelsee, the arch enemy — the grandfather.
“Winnie!” His lordship called happily opening his arms and bending down.
“Up!” The Prince Royal responded eagerly reaching for his grandfather.
A very happy grandfather gathered his grandson into his arms and they chortled together for a few moments during which his lordships boutonniere was mangled. One of the footmen assisted as the Prince Royal was placed astride his grandfather’s shoulders and they departed with the Prince Royal waving happily and calling, “Up. Up. Up.” A footman followed them holding his lordships hat, walking stick, and gloves.
Grandfather said not one word to Maud. Poor man, he did not even know that he was someone’s arch enemy; if someone had told him he had an arch enemy, he wouldn’t have believed it.
The remaining two footmen carefully arranged the giraffe, the teddy bear, and the toy boxes in a corner.
“Are you already for the trip to St Albans?” One of the footmen inquired. “They’ll be going down there next week, I’m told.
“They’ll be back in an hour or so I imagine, mebbe longer, prolly longer as I think on it.” The footmen departed.
Maud was not ready for a trip; no one had told Maud anything.
“They want space artillery,” muttered Major Glenn Yelland, OM, of the Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists and etc. “How the hell are we gonna do that and why am I even here? All I did was design an air rifle.”
“Well,” Sergeant Major Brownlees OGD, of the same Regiment commented. “We’re no to use powder, so we’re gonna have to find a way to sling the shot, is what. I’m thinkin’ that’s why you’re here. I’m thinkin’ we should ask the professor. He’s been workin’ on all that gravity bum fodder. He’s down to the lab.
“And don’t forget, sir, we gotta be able to aim this thing, too.”
Glenn looked at him. “What does that mean? Of course we need to be able to aim it.”
“Well sir, this ain’t like shootin’ birds. We won’t be standin’ still adjustin’ only for the bird’s flyin’. We’ll be movin’ too, see, an so will the target. You see, sir, this is more like ships at sea than the usual shootin’ on land. Everything is movin’, see.”
“I never shot anything in my life, Sergeant Major. I had an air gun that I was allowed to shoot at targets with. But I never shot anything alive or even moving.”
If Sergeant Major Brownlees thought this was an astounding admission for a field grade officer of HM Army to make, not a trace of this thought appeared on his countenance. In order to prevent any further unfortunate admissions, he rushed on. “Think about bein’ on a boat, sir. You’re sittin’ in the boat, all cozy like, and it’s rockin’ a bit under you. So you want to take a shot at something, when you aim you gotta allow for the boat movin’ under you. Plus, whatever you’re shootin’ at is probably movin’ too. Tricky.
“Way trickier than the cavalry bangin’ away at the gallop. They don’t expect to hit anything. An they never do. Them just cappin’ rounds for the glory of it all. We’re gonna want to hit what we’re shootin’ at I’m thinkin’.”
Glenn peered into the distance for several long moments. He had reverted to problem solving mode and was not thinking of himself as a soldier. “Right,” he returned. “Let’s go see your professor then we need to get the Navy involved. See if they have any experience that can help us with the aiming.”
They found Professor Doormann in his laboratory in the basement. He had a small bank of instruments in front of him and there was a soccer ball hovering about two feet above a glowing plate on the bench. “Wait one!” He ordered peremptorily as they entered the lab. He concentrated on his control panel, making small adjustments. The ball slowly descended as the plate dimmed. After several moments the ball was resting on the plate that no longer glowed.
“Gwyn, how nice to see you,” he greeted them affably as he turned away from his controls. He was the first person Glenn had encountered who actually appeared to be rather old. He had silvery hair and some folds and wrinkles that hinted at age, but his eyes were sparkly and he was smiling cheerily. He was wearing a yellow lab coat over what appeared to be a red t-shirt and Levis. “Who’s this?” He stepped toward Glenn extending his hand to shake.
“This is Major Yelland, Prof, he was posted here recently,” Sergeant Major Brownlees introduced them.
“You’re from Earth, aren’t you. That’s how I knew to shake hands. That’s a nice custom I think, very cordial. Naturally, the stuffed shirts at the Wizard’s Academy won’t have anything to do with it.
“You’re the lad that came-up with the space rifle, right? That was a nice piece of work I’m thinking. I mean, the high pressure air and the metering of it for individual shots was very elegant. Of course you actually can use most explosives in space, they do contain an oxygenator. They should function in a vacuum unless there is some other factor we don’t know about yet. Still I think your idea is better. No storage of dangerous explosives to worry about. Magazine explosions were frequent on Earth.
“Will you have some lemonade? You know lemonade, being from Earth and all. I’m rather fond of it. All the stuffed shirts around here want is tea. Which is okay, of course, fond of it I am. But variety is the world’s spice. That’s what they say on Earth, I’m thinking. And true enough it is.” He pushed a button on his bench which, presumably, summoned a footman.
But Glenn was interested in the soccer ball. “Please, my name is Glenn, I’m not really much of a soldier. What was that with the soccer ball. It didn’t look like any kind of air cushion.”
“Well you’re right. It wasn’t. I’m working on gravity, see. We’d like to get artificial gravity into the space ships. Good for the crew you see. Our bodies are meant to function with gravity so null gravity just isn’t good. Gravity helps us poop for example, did you know? Think about it.” He snickered as if he were a schoolboy enjoying some delicious bathroom humor. “So far what I’ve got going here is a sort of gravity field. I can do repelling, but I can’t seem to get the attracting part down, and that’s what we need for the ships, do you see? Some kind of artificial gravity. For living. But I’ll get there. I’ve got it half way done which is better than where I was a month ago.” He smiled engagingly.
The door opened and an older footman entered the room and regarded the Wizard with an inquiring eye.
“Can we have lemonade for three, Robert?” The footman smiled in acknowledgement and disappeared whence he had come.
“Our problem, Prof,” Glenn began, “Is now that we have a suitable space rifle. We need suitable artillery. Artillery’s probably not the right term. We need guns for battleships. So we thought we’d start with you. Any thoughts on the subject. Seems to me that we can’t use air pressure, the tankage and the compression equipment would be huge. But I read about particle acceleration and wondered if maybe we can use the force of gravity to do that.”
The Professor looked into the further distance. He was interrupted by the return of Robert with a tray, ice bucket and glasses.
“No lemonade. But I got this excellent San Pellegrino limone e menta. Very nice and thoroughly refreshing.” He placed the tray on the table and began to pour glasses for each of them.
“But Robert,” the Professor objected. “I thought they might like a glass of good old fashioned lemonade. Ice tinkling in the glass, maybe a slice of lemon, sparkling condensation, all that ambience sort of thing, you know?”
“Well that’s not happening. You enjoyed four slices of toast slathered with cherry preserves with your breakfast. You were very liberal with your application of the preserves. That’s more than enough excess sugar for you today. This has nothing like the sugar the lemonade you like has. So you’ll have to be happy with it. Think how the doctor will be pleased with your manly restraint and dignity. And besides, this comes from Earth, too.
“Look! See, there’s ice to tinkle in the glass, a small wedge of lemon, sparkling condensation. Fairish ambience I’m thinkin’ and way less sugar.”
The Professor tasted his drink and smiled. “You know, I’ve an idea about your guns.” He took a deeper taste of the San Pellegrino, fairish ambience forgotten with this new challenge.
They were assembled around a conference table in the King’s House in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Hyacinth des Rivières, OGD, newly promoted to Permanent Under Secretary of State for North American Affairs presided. Colonel DeLucca, KT, KGD, officer commanding the North American Station was present as were Lieutenant Colonel Lewys, ST, commander of the Commando Regiment and Sergeant Owens of the same regiment.
“Sirs,” began Colonel Lewys. “This is Sergeant Owens who has commanded a number of our operations. He came to me with several options for a rescue that is necessary as crimes against humanity are involved. But there will almost certainly be some sort of local splash. He thought it proper to bring the plan to me and I think you should be fully informed. This will at least be as visible as the Golden Menorah, or the San Diego operation, but it will not be as easy to cover. No mysterious do-gooders returning war loot. No hint of gang rivalries and organized crime. A lot of people will be impacted by this operation. Sergeant Owens, please give us a briefing.”
“Sir. On Earth there is a problem called ‘conversion therapy’. This is designed to convert ‘gay’ kids into ‘straight’ kids. The reason they try to do this is religious so of course it makes no sense whatever.
“More boys are involved than girls, but only ‘cause their religious tracts are more concerned with boys than with girls.
“This would be total nonsense, save that it harms the kids involved. It’s hard on them when it’s informal, with just therapy sessions and the like. But they also got these camps where some of the kids get sent, and these can be bloody deadly.
“Ten days ago, we tagged this kid for rescue. His father started beating him and it was gonna get worse. When we went to get him, he wasn’t at home. But we’d tagged him, so we traced him to this camp. They calls it a camp, but it’s really a prison. They threaten and beat and starve these kids into submission. There’s always a couple kids that resist, and there’s two boys and one girl in this camp that are near death from starvation and torture. All the three of them have been raped by several of the staff. Others have been victims of sex crimes in the past. This is supposed to be a cure, don’t you see?
“The current status is this:
“ — We have a commando team on-scene ready to go;
“ — Simon, the familiar on-scene has been preventing any further abuse or torture of the three principal victims at this time, he has even convinced other guards to let them have food and drink;
“ — The televangelist who runs this hell hole, is on the way to visit. He likes to have sex with different inmates from time to time. He likes to use a whip, too.
“Clearly, we’ve a host of options. But them options don’t include just walkin’ away. The King won’t have it.”
There was a long silence as the two Elves, a Human, and one Bwca regarded each other and considered the problem.
“Well, gentlemen,” des Rivières paused. “Thank you for bringing this to me. You’re quite right, there could be all sorts of ramifications from such a criminal activity and you’re also correct, the King would expect us to take action. Let me start with a possible plan, and we’ll go through it step by step.
“First, I want the televangelist and the two thugs who’ve been torturing the recalcitrant inmates arrested and transported. Oh and any other torturers you may discover, too.
“Then, I’d like the other employees of this ‘konzentrationslaager’ tagged by a familiar and, if the familiar thinks it’s necessary, they can be warned. If they repeat they’re to be arrested and charged.
“All of the children are to be taken to Prime and treated and permitted to decide what direction they might want their lives to take. How does that work for you gents?”
“Sir,” Colonel Lewys responded. “That is easily within our ability. We brought this to you so there’d be no surprises for you.” He looked the question to Colonel DeLucca.
“Excellent,” he nodded.
“Thank you. You’ve handled this brilliantly. I want you to execute this plan tomorrow if it’s safe to wait that long. I’ll give a heads-up to some of our friends in the youth movement and the local media so they can jump right on it and that cretin of a televangelist will come under blinding suspicion. Possibly we can find someone here to give an interview to one of our journalists. He’d be anonymous of course, identified as a minor, so he’d be a confidential source. That would get the charge out there without naming any of the real victims. He could be a choir boy, or an altar boy, or whatever they call them. Yes. I like that.
“Also we can lead the media to believe that the children were rescued by locals and don’t want to be returned to their parents for further torture.
“Thank you sir,” Sergeant Owen acknowledged.
“Thank you sir,” Colonel Lewys nodded. “We’ll go in at noon tomorrow unless you ask us to hold for any reason.”
“Did you know that we have an undercover Bwca who is a special agent with the FBI? He’s let us know that there’s a German policeman who has been suspicious of something strange for years. He’s asked agencies all over the world to notify him of any ‘impossible’ cases. The school shooting with Sergeant Young has recently caused him no end of worries. I don’t know if you gents know it or not, but Sergeant Young left his hat behind when he was hauled out of the school. So of course they did a DNA test on the hairs left inside the hat and now they’re really mystified. They don’t know about the Bwca, don’t you know?” He smiled broadly and then burst into a very satisfying laugh. The Colonel smiled. The Lieutenant Colonel nodded. The Sergeant looked alert.
August 24, 2018
|To:||The Earl Martial Commanding in Chief|
The Permanent Under Secretary for North America
/s/ H des R
Your Serene Highness:
I would like to commend to your attention the stellar performance of members of the Commando Regiment currently involved in operations in this theatre.
Lt Colonel Lewys, ST, Officer commanding the 108th Commando Regiment and Sergeant David Owens of that same Regiment.
The exemplary performance of the men of the Commando Regiment in a large operation in the State of Mississippi involving crimes against humanity is cited.
This situation was discovered, investigated, and resolved by the men of the Commando Regiment to the great credit of Lt Colonel Lewys. The field operation was conducted by Sergeant Owens of the 108th and was a textbook example of excellent field service from discovery, through reconnaissance to resolution.
I respectfully recommend that Lt Colonel Lewys and Sergeant Young be invested as Officers of the Order of Merit.
The following soldiers distinguished themselves in this operation and are recommended to receive the Special Commendation Medal:
Corporal Cornell Jones 108th Commando Regiment
Lance Corporal George Bryant 108th Commando Regiment
Commando Charles Peace 108th Commando Regiment
Commando Henry Smith 108th Commando Regiment
Individual citations attached, case history synopsis attached.
Your favourable consideration is respectfully requested.
Captain-Lieutenant St George Kilverstone Davids, SSM, smiled to himself as he remembered bits and pieces of song and rhyme. He was, indeed, on “cloud nine”, or “on top of the world”. He was, he thought, almost literally on “cloud nine” as he looked down upon the Ellendale countryside from the command bridge of HMS Akron, the newest and most modern zeppelin of the Naval Air Force. He was cruising at eight thousand feet and could actually look down on some of the scattered clouds that shared the sky.
It had been quite a run for him. He had been orphaned at an early age; but the matron of the orphanage doted on him and so he’d obtained a job as a Postal Office Messenger Boy. Then he had delivered a telegram to an estate and the butler had instantly taken a liking to him; so then he had a job as a footman with his own room, new clothes, plenty to eat, and other perks most orphans never had. He even enjoyed the school he was required to attend. But the Prince Ashmore also liked him and when he asked to go to the Naval Academy his wish was immediately granted. In fact, his permanent home of record was the Prince’s estate. After the academy he had joined the Naval Air Force and he’d been serving in zeppelins ever since and now. Well now he was the Captain. It could get no better than that.
His command was the first of a new class that was designed with a larger cargo capacity than any previous ship. She no longer had external gondolas for the engines. All the earlier designs had been based on successful German models all of which had relied on hydrogen gas for lift. All of the Naval Air Force zeppelins used helium, so there was no explosive hazard from hydrogen and no reason to carry the engines outside of the hull. Additionally, the propellers could now be mounted on pylons that would allow them to provide thrust through an arc of 210 degrees. This would be a great advantage in maneuvering and maintaining altitude in unsettled weather conditions.
His new command would not be going into passenger service immediately. Next week they would be working with the Army, experimenting with mobility, moving small bodies of troops about. He was concerned about off-loading the soldiers, the Army would want to get the soldiers off the zeppelin quickly, which would change the load radically which would then change the lift and the Akron would want to soar into the air. This would be very tricky. He had asked his friend Rikki, who was a familiar fond of flying on zeppelins, to do some research in military history on Earth and see if they’d ever moved troops by air. This amounted virtually to a free pass for Rikki to ride whenever he wanted, but that was quite all right as Rikki was good company. Besides, Rikki didn’t really need a ride. He did it for fun.
Then there would be a long run to the Great Kraal of Isandlwana scheduled for the dual purpose of delivering an order of heavy machine tools as well as returning the Ambassador of the Principal and embarking his replacement. It would be an interesting assignment and a nice voyage.
But there was something lacking in his new world and he wasn’t quite sure how to fill it. He had some wonderful friends that he had met at the academy and served with subsequently. One in particular, Ted DeLucca, would have to be described as an intimate friend. But they both had careers to pursue now, and they could not serve together. He almost hated to admit it, but he was lonesome. He knew that there was a certain inherent loneliness connected to being the captain of any ship, the colonel of any regiment. But he had no one to go home to. He had no one to share his quarters and his off duty life with. He had nothing to do at home, but think about his zeppelin and the Naval Air Force. Ted told him he needed to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend as it suited him. Perhaps even marry and have or adopt some children. That would fill his free time, Ted told him. Yes. That would fill his home life. But if all he wanted was to keep busy, why, he could collect stamps or walk the dog he did not yet have.
Of course, a large part of the problem was himself, although he was completely unaware of it. St George Kilverstone Davids was, quite simply, beautiful. And it was this beauty that had accounted for a number of advantages he had received. The matron at the orphanage was enchanted by his physical beauty as well as his helpful and charming attitude; the butler at the estate was similarly moved; and the Prince Ashmore found him to be a delight as a footman and all but adopted him as a son and naval officer.
But he was too beautiful. There had been none of the normal sort of romances and interaction with others of his age group that might be considered a normal part of life. He had not had much opportunity to interact with others of his peers. Girls hoped that he might approach them, but he never did, and none of them could muster the élan needed to demonstrate their interest in him.
Young gay men could only sigh and wish that they were beautiful enough to dare to approach him. He had been intimate with Ted, but this intimacy was a low level exercise largely driven by hormonal pressure and convenience. They were both very busy with their careers and all too often far distant in their assignments. They possessed a deep and lasting friendship; the sort of friendship that was intimate enough to talk about any subject including love. But it was not love.
‘Stoney’ as he liked to be called by Ted and his other close friends, wanted a lover, but he had no idea how to go about searching for one. How do you even do this, he wondered. Surely you just don’t walk up to someone and say: ‘Hi! Let’s fall in love.’ Or, ‘Will you have dinner with me?’ There must be more to it than that. Perhaps a romantic novel would shed some light on the subject. He resolved to buy several as soon as an opportunity presented itself.
Sub Lieutenant Varela, in command of HMS Hubuki was on patrol in search of large asteroids that might be suitable for conversion to other uses.
“Sir. We have a possible that just pinged, bearing red twenty elevation three zero high, range ten thousand plus,”1 Midshipman von Berg reported.
“Splendid,” Captain Varela replied as he began to alter course to intercept the new contact. “Start all the tests as we close. We’ll take it slow and easy.”
“Ten-four,” Midshipman von Berg acknowledged in the Space Corps slang that the familiar Minerva had started as a result of watching too many police shows from Earth on her TV.
“Sir, preliminary assay indicates possible 80% ± 4% nickel/iron core composition. Just about four hundred meters long by a hundred meters or so at the widest. Looks pretty ugly if you ask me.”
“That’s excellent, Haakon.” Captain Varela did a very credible job curbing his enthusiasm as he switched on the intercom. “Gents,” he notified the four grenadiers that were the shore party. “Put down your cards and hat-up. We got an excellent prospect just ahead.”
“Here, Haakon, take the conn. I want you to bring us alongside. Match the velocity. Then I want to recon the entire surface. Then we’ll land the boys.”
The next few minutes were devoted to approaching the asteroid carefully and photographing every aspect of the asteroid. The four grenadiers watched the proceedings carefully as they would soon descend onto the surface of the asteroid. They would drill two core holes to determine the interior make-up of their find and, having removed the core samples, they would affix strong anchors in the drill holes for future use.
All of the grenadiers were fitted with a propulsion pack that would allow them to direct short bursts of low thrust to propel them about in the vacuum of space.
Captain Varela had wanted the grenadiers to remain tethered to the Hubuki with life lines and a short, sharp, and elaborately polite dispute occurred that was won by the grenadiers who appreciated their Captain’s concern, but also wanted to get the job done, and had hours of experience in space with their suits and the propulsion packs. Captain Varela ultimately yielded and the grenadiers went into the airlock. They entered space and easily jumped the fifty feet that separated the Hubuki without using their propulsion packs. There followed what could only be described as a no gravity bustle as two of the grenadiers started their core drills while the other two explored the surface, collecting samples and illuminating what appeared to be caves, but were actually just deeper indentations.
“I’m just kinda wondering, Cap. Why are we doing this? I mean, I understand water and precious metals, but there’s no way something like this can be moved and mined economically. What’s the point?”
“I really don’t know,” Luis smiled at his second in command. “There’re all kinds of stories. I heard that they want to have a bunch of tracking stations all around Prime, but they want them to look like normal space junk. But why would we need that? I mean, you know, what would they want to track.”
“Well I don’t know. That’s for sure. But I can tell you that my father fought against the Earl Martial in the war and he has naught but respect for Lord Colin. That’s what the old soldiers call him you know, ‘Lord Colin.’ There’s got to be more to it than observatories or tracking stations. I’d bet on that.”
In just under an hour, the core samples were drilled and the anchors affixed. The four grenadiers returned to the airlock with their samples. They stored everything save two samples of the rock to show their officers; they dressed down to coveralls and reported the results.
“Well,” Captain Varela decided. “Looks like a keeper. Let’s get her on a trajectory for moon base.” In short order they had completed the preliminary calculations and had started on a course for the moon. They were riding close herd on their asteroid.
Breathlessly the reporter told the audience that there had been a riot and a mass disappearance and possibly a murder at the gay conversion therapy center called ‘Camp Wayward Souls’. They had managed to locate one of the escapees and he had agreed to an interview if his identity could be kept secret.
The reporter went on to tell that the inmates of the camp had recently revolted against their keepers and had disappeared as had the noted televangelist Pastor Bobbie and two of the camp administrators.
Having explained that their witness would remain anonymous and that his voice would be electronically disguised, the reporter added, “As you will see, he selected his own mask.
“So how long were you locked-up there at Camp Wayward Souls?”
“Three months and ten days,” the victim replied in an electronically distorted accent.
“Were you ever in solitary confinement?”
“Yep, sixty-four days to be exact.”
“Did they tell you why you were in solitary?”
“Can you share that with our viewers?”
“Well, they said I was reluctant and disruptive. But the real reason was I wouldn’t let that ass-BLEEP William suck my BLEEP and BLEEP me.
The camera now swung to show the disguised witness.
“Then I told them their stupid fuh-BLEEP BLEEP Bible was a load of BLEEP.
“Then pastor puke face wanted to BLEEP me and I asked him if he ever read his BLEEP BLEEP Bible so I got whipped for that as well as back in solo.”
“What did they feed you in, you call it ‘solo’ is that right?”
“Yeah. Crackers and water.”
“Yeah, you know, saltines. All you could eat.”
“Were you ever physically abused?”
“Yeah. Many times. Punched and slapped mostly. That BLEEP Bobbie liked to whip us, and he did me several times. The BLEEP. I’d BLEEP him up if I ever see him again.”
“What do you mean by that?
“What the BLEEP do you think I mean. The BLEEP whipped me and he BLEEP BLEEP-ed me. He’s just a thief and a pervert and a BLEEP.”
“Where will you go from here?”
“Not home. That’s for sure. I’ll be leaving with the attorneys who brought me. It can’t be worse. I’ll drop you a card.”
The camera panned back to the reporter and then shifted to a view of the camp premises which looked hard used. There was trash all about, broken windows and a door hanging from one hinge, a general atmosphere of dislocation and unease.
“As you can see the facility looks anything but pristine. All the children who were housed here are gone. The sheriff’s office is treating this as a possible homicide as there are three missing persons, the well-known Pastor Bobbie and two of the camp’s administrators.
“As you just heard, serious allegations have just been made about the operation of this conversion therapy center. But the sheriff has a considerable problem in that none of the children have come forward to tell their story, indeed none of them can be located. They are apparently not at home according to family members. And the three chief administrators are all missing and considered likely suspects or possibly victims.
“Inspector Hollweg, what a great pleasure. Thank you for seeing me. I’m Special Agent Dryw of the FBI.” They were meeting for lunch at a cheerful gasthaus in Freising, Bavaria, where Inspector Hollweg was settling into retirement.
“I was asked to drop this case off for you by Agent Thomsen in Washington, he told me you’d be expecting me.”
“Yes, thank you, Claude and I haf been for years this mystery working on. He must be close to retiring also, I should think. Did he explain? All I know is that it will of interest be.”
“Well it’s a mystery, okay,” Agent Dryw answered as he puzzled over the menu. He was familiar with American food, and of course the Mexican and Bwca cuisine of Prime, but he knew nothing of German food. At length he allowed the comely young waitress to convince him that the sauerbraten lunch was delicious. He ordered that as well as a copious tankard of the beer on tap.
“It seems there was this conversion therapy camp in Mississippi. And it was kind of there one day and gone the next. All of the inmates and three of the bosses all vanished. One of the honchoes was a TV preacher with quite an audience. Somehow, the media managed to locate one of the kids who told a pretty spectacular story to the news, and then he too vanished. We know that the kids existed and were sent to the camp by their families, but we’ve no idea where they are now. We gave some help to the locals, but there was no real way to make it a Federal case.
“This is delicious,” Agent Dryw commented shifting topics. “I’d never had späetzle before either. Really good.”
The two policemen talked shop as they enjoyed their lunch. Inspector Hollweg was determinedly gracious though he was anxious to get home and read the thick file that was in the large file folder he’d been given.
1 The use of ‘red’ to designate the portside of the ship is by ancient tradition. The starboard side, of course, would be ‘green’. In this case the contact is twenty degrees off the port bow at an elevation of thirty degrees from an assumed ship’s horizon that is relative to the ship. It could also be below the simulated horizon in which case it would be down in degrees.