Soul Harvest

The restaurant was a front for a Chinese gang. It was full of bodyguards, yet the tough guys ran out when he strolled in.

“I’m surprised to see you here.” The boss’s voice had a slight tremble.

“Think of me as a gentlemen farmer, coming to collect my harvest.”

“You put me in charge, I have it under control.”

“I am the landowner; you are merely a sharecropper. I planted the soil starting with the night your father visited that prostitute you called mom. I fertilized the fields with drugs and gambling. I weeded the land by driving out churches and bribing the police.”

“Don’t you mean I did those things for you?”

“No, I mean I used you to do them, giving you every idea and opportunity. I did it. Not you.”

The boss put his hand on a gun hidden under the table.

“Go ahead, shoot me. It will help me with the harvest.” It was one last command given the hireling.

The bullet passed harmlessly through the farmer, out the glass, and lodged in the wall beside of a thug. The man returned fire, and the harvest began.

Inside the restaurant, the boss had a neat hole through his head. The police never found a bullet.

This story was written for a flash fiction competition I entered this morning.  Probably one of my favorite stories of this sort. It is an example of being able to imply things with fiction that would be complicated to discuss in a teaching setting. Do you see anything in this story, stated or implied, that you would like to discuss? I would love to hear from you.

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Heuristics

This is a short story I wrote while trying to write something else.  I think it’s kind of fun though, so I decided to put it out here for Fun Friday. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Heuristics, is the term computer engineers use for evaluating and learning from patterns. I work with Homeland Security using heuristics to identify bad guys by comparing data points from all over the world.

Sometimes heuristics make perfect sense.

When a rural address orders titanium bearings and ammonium nitrate, it’s just a farmer. When a suburban address orders titanium bearings and ammonium nitrate, send in the CIA to capture the terrorist cell.

When a private pilot makes an emergency landing at a strip in Southern Texas where a rented limo is waiting, send in the FBI to collect the drug lord.

Sometimes heuristics don’t make a bit of sense, but still correlate.

Mob bosses’ girlfriends will gain weight the week before their bosses do a major import.

Middle Eastern terrorists will eat excessive amounts of Chinese takeout their first few days in America.

I collect the data and find the patterns. As the project grew I bought and set up new servers, always needing something bigger and faster. Soon my algorithms were accessing millions of data points a minute. As the data points increased, so did the arrests. This was my pattern, my heuristic.

After capturing a hundred bad guys from dozens of illegal enterprises I was feeling pretty good. When the total crossed a thousand arrests, and I felt like a data acquisition legend. The bad guys can hide their data trail, they can disguise their activities, but at some point their personal habits will always give them away.

After losing hundreds of operatives, someone was bound to wonder how we were doing it. They would begin to analyze the data themselves. Of course, I’m not an idiot. I know how to cover my tracks. My servers have masked IP addresses. Computer parts were purchased from different companies, and delivered to a collection of rented PO Boxes. But the electricity usage correlates to the increased computing power and was billed to a physical address. Heuristics would be the death of me.

So I began a pattern of remote computing, accessing the data over a wide area network. They could track the data back to the servers but not back to me. I covered my tracks, and enjoyed even more success. No longer did I have a fancy warehouse, but instead I had dozens of them. Meanwhile I actually did my work from home.

My boss asked me to find an arms dealer. They had no idea where he was or what he looked like. But they knew where he grew up. I felt like a genius when I was able to draw a heuristic profile that would definitively find him based on spending patterns. He was arrested in Amsterdam after buying a cinnamon and raisin bagel, a cup of espresso made with Kona beans, and watching a world cup game in an internet café.

I celebrated by going out and getting a diet orange soda and a snickers bar. It was the same way I had been celebrating since I was back in the original warehouse. It was much like the heuristic I had used to catch the arms dealer. This thought occurred to me as I saw a pair of black SUVs pull up in front of the house. They could be Homeland Security, except they aren’t speaking English. That is definitely the wrong heuristic.

Heuristics will be the death of me.

Splickety Prime 4.1 – The Family Business

prime_coverI have not written on the blog for a while for a couple of reasons. First it is one of those times when I get busier and I have needed to prioritize other things instead. Second I caught some kind of a head cold or severe multi-day allergy attack or some other miserable thing.

But I am taking a break from coughing to give you exciting news.  A few weeks back Splickety magazine picked up a story I had written and it released today.  If you like flash fiction, you will love Splickety and its three wonderful titles. Here is a link for your convenience.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/900198

My story is called The Family Business.  If you subscribe to Splickety and enjoy the story, I would enjoy hearing from you.  (If you hate the story, wait until I feel better to tell me that!)

Illegal Immigrants and Crime

Here in Arizona one of the big stories this week was when an off duty police officer was hit head on and killed by a drunk man driving the wrong way on a highway in Phoenix. The man who was driving the wrong way was an illegal immigrant, who had been convicted of crimes here previously and likely would still have been incarcerated if he had been a citizen.

 

It is being reported that about 36,000 illegal immigrants have been released during 2013. Many of these were released as a way of making the sequester more painful, that is as political gamesmanship to try and make opponents look foolish. This included individuals who had been convicted of about every type of crime imaginable.

 

Here in Arizona it has been a relatively common event to hear news of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Sometimes that would happen because the person was deported after committing a crime, but they simply re-crossed into the US. Other times people entered the country specifically for the purpose of committing crimes. But this final case of illegal immigrants being released because they are some kind of political pawn is most frustrating.

 

Part of the problem is we don’t know how to handle illegal immigrants anymore. The public information has been to sympathize with them, especially those who have become multi-generational. Consequently enforcement of immigration law now causes a person to be painted as a racist. So law is unenforced, people tiptoe around the issue, and now you even get out of jail free.

 

Our political and legal environment is getting to be so convoluted I wonder if the day will come that instead of immigrants applying to become citizens, citizens will seek to become immigrants in order to gain the privileges of that class.

Legalizing Drugs

America is in love with its highs. I thought of this while seeing a commercial for the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. He was one of several, who made their living as comedians by making us laugh at the lovable drunk.

But drunk is not really that lovable and neither is high. However it appears we have moved from laughing at the lovable drunk to laughing at the lovable pothead. Some people would like to go further and legalize all form of drugs.

At what point do we begin to admit our love affair with being high is self-destructive.

Once upon a time in America we had enough people who saw alcohol as a danger to society that we made it illegal. I assume the decision was like deciding it was more important to avoid the destruction of those who would become alcoholics than it was for individuals with control to have their casual drinks. During the days of prohibition, illegal alcohol changed the face of crime. The criminal aspect of it became so strong that it didn’t take long to decide to legalize it in order to cut down on the crimes surrounding it.

Please notice, prohibition was not overturned for the sake of the drunk, it was despite the drunk. Illegal drinking became trendy. This made illegal booze very profitable and the black market became dangerous. Making alcohol legal again was essentially a measure to take the power and money away from the gangs.

In essence reversing prohibition allowed an attitude toward alcohol which is now expanding to other intoxicants. Namely that allowing a certain number of people to lose their lives to the substance is preferable to withholding the high from the public or fighting the crime of those who will get their high even if illegally.

If this is the decision society ultimately makes, the number of people losing their lives to substances will increase. Some substances are massively more addictive than alcohol. Are we sure, the cost will be worth avoiding the fight?