Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The Isadora’s plight made the seven o’clock news. The ship
had sped to
The Center for Disease Control in
There were no fatalities, though one man remained in critical care following cardiac arrest that may or may not have been caused by the poison.
The ship’s physician, Dr. Subramanian Purushotham, was interviewed by the local news channel and quite enjoyed the experience. Passengers who were not ill were put up at Royal Scots Line expense in various hotel throughout the town, their bills for the day in port graciously covered by the vastly embarrassed company.
Colin spotted Mamadou’s limo and muttered, “Shit.” Encountering the Senegalese was not in his hastily formed plans. Keeping out of sight behind a parked truck, he watched as the African held up a cardboard sign. Passengers from the ship eddied around the man and Mamadou raised the sign higher.
Soon, two women approached. Colin saw they were young, dressed demurely. They seemed pleased at first to see the limo, then grew agitated as Mamadou spoke with them. One, a tall blonde, kept shaking her head. The other, a shorter brunette, stood slightly back and fidgeted with her purse. Mamadou opened the limo’s door for them but they refused to get in the car.
Curiosity won out. Colin came closer, heard, “...know what you’re talking about. We thought the school had sent the limo. If it hasn’t, then there’s been some mistake.”
Colin edged behind Mamadou, withdrew Joe’s police badge, held it up in the air. The blonde woman saw him first. She said, “Officer, this man is bothering us. He wants to...”
Mamadou turned and Colin stepped back, badge still held high.
If the African was surprised, he hid it well. “Mr. Marsh! Or is it ‘Officer Marsh’? Perhaps you can be of assistance. I believe these young women are perpetrating a felony, importing a great deal of illicit drugs---”
Clare Drake cut him off. “That’s bull-- nonsense. My friend and I are passengers on the ship and...”
Colin shook his head, stepped past Mamadou. “Your friend Herbie is dead. There’s no one to protect you. Nothing will happen, no police, no authorities, if you just hand over the package. That’s all we want and we’re out of your life.”
“Drugs,” said Comfort. “Heroine.”
“Which you obtained by...”
“Theft. From my boss. From the Zulu.”
“Earlier you said it came from a man named Herbie.”
Comfort nodded. His legs had gone from unbearably painful to numb. “Herbie. Yes, I’m sorry. The drugs came from Herbie, but he got them from the Zulu.”
“So you took the drugs from Herbie?”
“No. Yes. No. Herbie stole them from the Zulu. But it was my idea.”
“You’re confusing me, Mr. Okwuike.” The crank turned half a circle. Comfort’s legs spasmed.
“Herbie stole them from the Zulu. I told him how to do it. But he didn’t, not really. I had switched them. He stole a bag of flour. Flour and lactose.”
“What a resourceful fellow you are, Mr. Okwuike.” The man’s voice dripped sarcasm. “And what a stupid man this Herbie must have been...”
“Not stupid. I tricked him.” Comfort tried to swallow, couldn’t. He asked, “May I have some water? Please?”
“In a moment. How did you trick him?”
“I gave him some heroine. From an earlier shipment. It made him very sick.”
“And why was that?”
“Rat poison. A tiny amount mixed in. Less than one percent. It was his first time with heroine. And he thought...”
The man nodded. “He though all heroine might have the same effect.”
The man dipped another cupful of water and this time held it to Comfort’s lips. Comfort drank too greedily, choked, coughed. The man jumped back, wiped at his shirt angrily. Comfort closed his eyes, steeled himself for another turn of the crank. It didn’t come.
“So you sold the heroine, the real heroine.”
“Two former policemen. They bought it. A good bargain for them.”
“Lactose. Flour. He died.”
“From the fake drugs?”
“No.” Comfort shook his head. “No. Zulu. Zulu had him killed. After he found out.” Even in the midst of his pain, Comfort knew better than to admit his participation in a murder, or his role in engineering it.
“This is getting to be a fascinating tale, Mr. Okwuike. I’m enthralled.” He placed his hand back on the crank. Comfort stiffened. “I’ll put this away now.” He unclipped the leads from the generator, let them fall to the ground. Comfort felt his entire body go soft.
“You’re quite welcome. Please do go on. So the Zulu killed your poor friend Herbie for a bag of flour. There’s something almost Biblical about that, isn’t there? And how did he react when he discovered the subterfuge?”
Comfort tried to stand up straighter but his legs were without feeling or strength. “Will you untie me, please? I couldn’t escape, even if I wanted to.”
The officer smiled but shook his head. “Perhaps in a moment, when you’ve finished your tale.”
Comfort took a deep breath. “Herbie gave the drugs for safekeeping to some other people. The Zulu never learned of the switch. Until it was too late.”
“Your idea, of course.”
“Brilliant.” The officer shook his head in admiration. “Simply brilliant. Now. Let us talk about your foreign assets.”
Thursday, June 18, 2009
“I am not quite sure that I’m satisfied with your answers, Mr. Okwuike. May I call you Comfort? Of course I can. At this point, I can do virtually anything I want!” The man smiled as if he found the statement amusing.
Comfort breathed through his mouth. He thought his nose might be broken but wasn’t certain.
“Good. Let’s begin again.”
The Nigerian State Police officer was a bulky man with café-au-lait skin. He had removed his Armani jacket, unbuttoned the top of his white Caleche shirt and rolled up his sleeves. He had big hands and two pinkie rings, one set with a diamond, the other with a ruby, and a heavy silver and gold watch on his left wrist.
There was one chair, one table, one lightbulb, no windows, a bucket of water on the floor. The NSP officer occupied the chair. His elbows rested on the table. Between his elbows was a child’s ruled school notebook and a Lacrosse pen. The room was blindingly hot. Comfort was naked and tied ankles and wrists to four iron rings set in the wall. Two wire leads ran from his limp penis and testicles to an old-fashioned crank generator the man held in his lap.
Both of Comfort’s thumbs were broken and his hands had swollen so they looked like winter mittens. One of his eyes was closed, the lid bruised and bleeding.
“We shall begin again.” The policeman seemed to ponder a moment, then gave the generator’s crank a vicious turn. Comfort jumped, moaned.
“My god, that looks painful.” the officer said. “Personally, I don’t think I could take it.” He turned the crank two more times. The shocks made Comfort whimper.
“Now that I have your attention, let me say that you may be Comfort, but my middle name could be Patience. I have all day, Mr. Okwuike. As a matter of fact, I have all week. I’m on leave, you see. The government gives me twenty days a year. I have spent two of those days finding you, which was longer than I anticipated. I would prefer not to spend any additional vacation time in such a hostile environment, but if is to be, Insh’ Allah.”
He sighed, turned the crank. “You know,” he said, “your case is positively unusual. People pay me vast amounts of cash so I might help them leave
Comfort’s speech was blurred by his thickened tongue. He said, “I’ve told you everything.”
“And I do not believe you, which puts us in a quandary. So we begin again. You’re name is?
Comfort’s breath rattled in his throat. “You know my name.”
A turn of the crank made his back arch.
“Your name is...”
“And you came from...”
Comfort hesitated. The man’s hand pressed lightly on the crank.
“Good,” said the man. He stood, took a cupful of water from the bucket and threw it in Comfort’s face. Comfort tried to catch some with his tongue, got a few drops.
“The $136,000—which, incidentally, is contraband. We have strict laws in
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
G. Stanley Hall, reputed as the founding father of child psychology in the late 1800s, called being an only child “a disease in itself.” Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author at Rutgers University, says the only child "myth" has been perpetuated ever since. “People articulate that only children are spoiled, they’re aggressive, they’re bossy, they’re lonely, they’re maladjusted,” she said. “And the list goes on and on and on.”
According to a recent article in MedIndia, which tracks family health in a nation where more and more families are opting to have only one child, " ‘onlies’ become extremely independent and take on responsibilities very soon in life. They take on more than they can handle and rarely or never ask for help. Pleasing parents and devoting almost an entire lifetime trying to live up to expectations weighs them down heavily, but in most cases the expectations are usually theirs and not imposed. Singles have a strong desire to succeed, mostly for self-fulfilment, and studies also show that single children are rarely dreamy; they like things straightforward, tend to get one thing done at a time and generally like their lives uncluttered.
Hmmm. Doesn't much sound like me.
When Mollie got to the airport a stream of gaily painted cabs was disgorging passengers. She’d planned it that way, had made it a point to get there when traffic was at the highest. The ten pound package weighed much more than she’d anticipated. It was in the carry-all and the strap pulled at her shoulder so that she felt lopsided.
When someone bumped hard into her, she stumbled, almost fell, felt herself being pulled around. Then the strap of the bag broke. She yelled but someone pushed her again and this time she did fall, landing on her hands and knees. She heard the sound of feet running, looked up from the floor to see a pair of worn Reeboks weaving through the crowds. Then she heard a police whistle. Four sets of uniformed legs dashed past her, a shiny military boot barely missed her head. She struggled to a sitting position on the floor, felt hands on her neck, on her shoulders.
“Miss? Miss, are you all right? Miss?”
Not much later, as she sat on a hard plastic chair in the congested office of the airports customs office, it struck her that her luck hadn’t held out, that no matter how things worked out, she was in a great deal of trouble. She stood, put her hand on the doorknob, tried to turn it. The door was locked. She sat back down, looked at the tourist posters advertising a much more pleasant country than the one she was in. She lowered her head into her hands and started crying.
Two door down from the office in which Mollie was sequestered, Major Charles Townsend opened the travel bag. He was a tall black man of military bearing, born and raised in
He unzipped it, reached in, felt a heavy parcel wrapped in paper. He pulled the package out, slit the paper with his pen knife, found a layer of plastic, slit that. The white powder gleamed at him. He moistened a finger, poked it into the powder, brought it gingerly to his lips. He frowned, did it again.
The Major was due to leave the Customs Services in a week. His good-bye party was already planned. He thought about the paperwork involved in this particular seizure. It might take weeks to interrogate the suspect. He had already purchased two airplane tickets to
He found that morning’s newspaper, spread it carefully on his desk. Then he slit the parcel completely open.
He tasted the powder again.
He flattened the mound of powder across the newspaper with a ruler, poked his finger here and there throughout. He smelled it, tasted it again a half-dozen times. He inspected the powder, used the eraser end of a pencil to push it around, looking for anything that might have been concealed there.
After a while he gathered the corners of the newspaper, folded them together, used several feet of Scotch tape to wrap the bundle tightly.
In one of the bag’s sidepockets he found Mollie’s wallet, opened it. There was $318 in cash, plus change. He took $250 out, folded it and placed it in his shirt pocket. He dropped the parcel in his trashcan.
Mollie had stopped crying when he opened the door but her face mirrored her thoughts. He handed her the travel bag, led her out of the room. “I’m afraid you’ve missed your plane, Miss. You’ll have to make other arrangements.”
She nodded, not really hearing him.
“I’m very sorry this happened,” he said. “I hope it won’t stop you from visiting
Mollie nodded, still not hearing.
He gave her a gentle push in the direction of the Delta counter. When she was a few feet away, he said, “Miss?”
Mollie turned, faced him. He wore a stern look.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I'm selling my Ferrari. This is meaningful because for a short while, the car was manifest proof that I had made something of myself. It's red, it's beautiful, it's a 12-cylinder Testarossa (nothing to do with testosterone, thank you. Testa Rossa=Red [cylinder] Head) and the entire interior is covered in glove leather. It goes like a bat out of hell and kids love it. So on the off-chance that someone in your family has a few extra dollars to spend, here are the particulars. The car is listed on eBay, item no.
This is a 1990 Ferrari Testarossa in classic red with tan leather interior. I am the second owner, and it has always been garaged and never driven in the rain. Both exterior and interior are in excellent condition. The car has a new battery and starter, installed three months ago, as well as a new clutch put in by Ferrari of Washington when the car had 15,000 miles.
Tires are in excellent condition, and all engine and belt work was done prior to my purchasing it from Ferrari of Washington. I have driven this car sparingly, and it has been maintained by marque experts. Included are a car cover, original manuals and leather case, all original documents and bill of sale, and a hard-to-find wiring diagram. A full leather tool case comes with the car as well as the Ferrari ‘donut’ spare tire
The Testarossa is a two-door coupe with a fixed roof that premiered at the 1984 Paris Auto Show. All versions of the Testarossa had the power fed through the wheels from a rear-mounted, five-speed manual transmission. The Rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout (engine between the axles but behind the cabin) keeps the center of gravity in the middle of the car, which increases stability and improves the car's cornering ability, and thus results in a standing weight distribution of 40% front and 60% rear.
This Testarossa sports a 4.9 litre (4,943 cubic centimetres/302 cubic inches) Ferrari Colombo Flat-12 engine mounted at 180 degree mid, longitudinally. Each cylinder has four valves, with forty-eight valves total, lubricated via a dry sump system, and a compression ratio of 9.20:1. These combine to provide a maximum torque of 361 ft·lbf at 4500 revolutions per minute and a maximum power of 291 kilowatts at 6300 revolutions per minute.
This Ferrari Testarossa can accelerate from 0–100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) in 5.8 second and from 0–97 kilometres per hour (60 mph) in 5.2 seconds and on to 161 km/h (100 mph) in 11.40 seconds and can complete a standing (from stationary) quarter mile (~400 m) in 13.50 seconds or a standing kilometre in 23.80 seconds. The maximum speed of this Testarossa is 187 mph.
There is a slight road rash on the rim of the left rear wheel. The driver and passenger side carpets have been replaced but the originals are included.
Recently, a 1990 Testarossa with comparable mileage and in the less popular white/tan leather combination sold for $82,000 at Barrett-Jackson auction held in
Tell your friends.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The first passenger to report to the infirmary complained of acute stomach cramps and, while she was being given a tiny cup of Pepto Bismo, vomited on the attending nurse’s shoes. Two more passengers, a first-class couple, came in shortly thereafter. They were pale, their hands were clammy and they also suffered from cramps. The nurse logged these complaints, and when twelve more passengers appeared in a twenty-minute span, she called the ship’s physician, Dr. Subramanian Purushotham.
Dr. Purushotham was a regular at the Captain’s table. Tall, graying, a urologist by training who had studied in
He had seen every conceivable manifestation of sea-sickness, agoraphobia, and motion disorders. He had set broken bones, treated fibrillating hearts, purged gastrointestinal parasites, and closed the eyes of more than a dozen cardiac arrest victims. He could and often did prescribe antidepressants, beta-blockers and, on rare occasions, opiates. He had never, in his long sea-borne career, witnessed anything like the tumult that soon took over his infirmary.
The first patient had come in shortly after one that morning. By five a.m., more than three hundred passengers were clamoring for Dr. P’s attention. The corridors reeked of regurgitate and other effluvia he hardly dared name. Three of the ship’s four nurses were as ill as the passengers they were trying to treat.
Dr. P. knew that, 24 hours earlier, the ship’s sous saucier, Jean Marie Berger, had complained of agonizing pains in his bloated stomach. Dr. P. had diagnosed an inflamed appendicitis in need or urgent removal and remanded the man to
Captain Roderick Stuart, made aware of the pandemonium, checked in by phone every 15 minutes. As the news grew worst, he consulted his charts. By seven that morning, 417 passengers at last count were seriously ill. One elderly woman had lapsed into a coma, three tourist-class fares were vomiting blood. Few crewmembers were affected, which was a blessing. All hands not crucial to the immediate running of the ship were on clean-up detail, swinging mops and buckets throughout the four decks.
Shortly before eight, Captain Stuart, having explored all available alternatives, changed the ship’s course. They were twenty hours out of
Even at maximum steam, the Isadora would not reach
for twenty-five hours. He consulted his charts again.
His mistress had joined him. “What does Dr. P. say?”
“Food poisoning, almost certainly. Perhaps botulism. Two more passengers are in a coma. ” He massaged his eyes. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”
She stood behind him, rubbed his back. He was standing erect at the chart table and she thought she could feel a slight tremor beneath her fingers.
“A Coast Guard helicopter is on its way to ferry the coma cases out, and the cutter Seawitch is on its way with half a dozen doctors. There aren’t enough helicopters to take everybody. “
She kneaded his shoulders, the muscles unforgiving as stones.
Captain Stuart said, “