Monthly Archives: June 2012

…Bestland? – Part 5 (Conclusion? I hope not!)

At first, no one had ever heard of this new, young, charismatic leader, Osaka Barahm.  He seemed to rise to prominence from almost nowhere.  He espoused change and vowed to move Bestland further away from its roots, which somehow were construed to be the real source of all of Bestland’s failures and problems.  The media and power brokers got behind this new leader and practically raised him to cult-leader status.  The change-hungry mobs, the “gimme more” crowd, quickly got behind him, too.  The “used to be content” masses no longer were content, but never dreamed such a newbie to world leadership could ever win.  After all, who was he?

Osaka Barahm was a Bestlander, but only by birth.  He was legally a native Bestlander, but ethnically, educationally, and ideologically vastly different than any of Bestland’s previous leaders or even the hopefuls who had run for office and lost!  He made it quite clear that Bestland needed even more changes and that if elected to the nation’s highest office, he would see that it happened.

The masses said, “No more!  We need to return to our roots!”  The new wave cried for “Change!”  Barahm fed them a steady diet of Change Rhetoric – little substance, no real answers to real problems – just promises of change for the better.  Like kids gorging themselves on sweets, the new wavers ate it up and demanded more.  And Osaka Barahm promised them all they wanted!  His rallies raised the question – Can we change?  And the crowds yelled “Yes!”  Can we do better?  Yes!  Can we become wiser?  Yes!  Are you entitled to more?  Yes! Yesss!  Yesssss!!

With every rally and speech the crowds were whipped into a frenzy shouting “Yessssss!”  so much and so often that as the nation neared election time, it became clear that more change was coming to Bestland.  But no one seemed to have a clue how bad that would be.  The Yessss cries of the mob sounded to those who knew down deep, much like the hissing of vipers!

The Book had told the account long ago of how the serpent had deceived the world’s first parents and ushered sin and judgment into the human race.  But then, the Book had been quietly dismissed from the public arena and its influence had diminished.  Only a few now recognized the hissing of the serpent when they heard it.

The election ushered in a new era of more change.  Osaka Barahm took the reins of Bestland and began his reign as a world leader and rained madness upon the people.  Eager to please and hungry for more, politicians and judges, backed by the cheerleading media, sided with the new leader to ignore history, redefine age-old laws and principles for society and try to change Bestland forever.

It was a new nation – no longer Bestland, but now called ‘Chainjidahl’.  With a chameleon-like leader, the new government would change its color or shed its skin to appease anyone who might agree or help promote its own agenda and attack any who opposed.

As the masses finally began to wake up to what was really happening, they began to cry out, only to be squelched in the name of tolerance!  Freedom of speech seemed to be granted only to those who agreed to be PC – others were branded as bigots or ignorant or, at best, outdated.  Schools and other government affiliated agencies were threatened with lawsuits if they dared defy the new regime – all masked as toleration for anyone different or new.  Churches were threatened to tone down their stands against abortion and homosexuality and for the traditional family.  In fact, the family was redefined, abortions were promoted and once again tax funded, homosexuality was not only tolerated but promoted, and any other opinions belittled or even outlawed.

The military was weakened.  Banks and many other big businesses went bankrupt.  Taxpayers had to shoulder the burden of bailing out companies who had made unwise, greed motivated and sometimes even illegal decisions.  As companies went under, jobs disappeared and more and more people needed help.  Help can only come from more taxes or from depleting other sources, causing them to need help as well.  The public school system fell into disarray.  Healthcare went into a crisis mode.  National morale hit an all-time low.  Yet, politicians and entertainers seemed to be thriving!  Even so the criminals.  Oh, wait – that’s reduntant!  Many of the politicians and entertainers are criminals!  Well, at least some say.

Chainjidahl needs to repent.  The citizens need to rise up again and make at least one more change. – back to Bestland.  It’s an election year again.  Is change still needed?  Yes!  More than ever.  But a change back.  No, not to the “good ol’ days”, because they never really existed.  But to the roots.  The truth is, like it or not, Chainjidahl’s roots go back through its history as Bestland, to the Book.  Bestland was founded and flourished on the principles of the Book.

About half the people of Chainjidahl won’t like that, but the other, the masses that remember and long for Bestland, would say, “There are lots of other islands in the sea.  If you don’t want Bestland, move to one of them or change!  Join us!  Help Bestlanders rebuild Bestland!

What’s that I hear?  Do I detect a warm breeze?

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Re-Format

I was just thinking…again.  The past couple of days I have had trouble with my Nook Tablet and finally today had to reset the thing back to the factory settings.  Meanwhile, the SD card I had in it went bad and it suggested I reformat it.  Well, I ended up getting a new card and so far the Nook is responding well to treatment, but it got me thinking about a spiritual reformatting that needs to happen in the individual.  In Romans chapter 12, the Apostle Paul said we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds; in Corinthians he said if any one is in Christ he is a new creation and the old is passed away.  Spiritual formation is like being reformatted.  Once we were strangers to God, but throught faith in Christ, He brought us back to Himself.  However, that doesn’t automatically make us like Jesus (which by the way is the goal!).  We need reformatted to operate in the new environment of His kingdom.  Wipe out the old and make room for the new!  With a blank memory card, so to speak, we have room for God to add all the things necessary for our spiritual growth and well-being.  Too bad all the old bad memories somehow stay on the card, though!  Just thinking…

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You Can’t Cover Up

I was just thinking….the church I pastor is not very big (numerically, that is – we do have a big heart!), so my salary isn’t quite enough to go around these days.  I do whatever I can on the side for a little extra income and often that is painting.  This past week I painted inside for one of the young couples of our church.  Most of the walls took two coats of new paint, while a few got by with only one and a few others actually took three to look really good!  I was just thinking about how we often try to cover up our mistakes and sins instead of going to God for forgiveness and cleansing.  Some of our sins require several coats of lies, excuses, or other works in attempts to cover them up.  Now, while I do a pretty good job of painting, even if I do say so myself, I’m not too good at covering up the errors of my ways.  And honestly, neither are you.  I can say that because I know that no one is.  Adam and Eve tried it first and failed and we’ve been failing at it ever since.  There is only one thing that can truly cover our sins and that’s the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary for the very purpose of paying for our sins.  Our own attempts may look alright for awhile – maybe they won’t even do that.  But regardless, they are only temporary at best and we need a permanent solution.  I am so glad that Jesus took care of that for us.  Anyway, I was just thinking and thought you might need to hear that.

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Trick or Treat? – Part 4

“I’ll just go down this list of car owners, just as it was given to me, quite random, as you know,” I said in order to alleviate any sense of favoritism or suspicion.  “So,” I continued, while looking at the top of the list, “let’s start with the Big Bad Wolf.”  I figured I had just as well stick with the names of the characters for now.  After all, that’s what they looked like and that is all they knew each other by.  I had their real names and addresses now and I could always get to the real person beneath the costume later.  Right now I was only interested in the events of this one night of their lives.

I looked up from the list in my hand and saw that the Wolf had refilled his punch glass, put another sandwich on his plate, and taken a seat by the fireplace.  His wolf head mask was by his side on the floor.  I walked over toward him and said for him to stay seated and keep eating.

I sat in the chair facing him and complimented him on his costume.  “So, Mr. Wolf,” I continued, “you spoke to the guest alone at some point?”

“Yes, I did,” he replied.  “In fact, we sat here for awhile.”  He pointed with his sandwich to the two of us, indicating that he and the man had sat in the same two chairs just a couple of hours earlier.

“Was it a friendly conversation?” I asked.

“Well, it started out that way,” he said.  “Then I decided we weren’t gonna get along too well.  Didn’t agree on much.  Two different lifestyles, I guess.”

“How do you mean?” I probed for more.  If there was any foul play, I would need a motive.

“I guess you could say I chose this Big Bad Wolf costume ‘cause that’s kinda how I see myself.  Now, I don’t break the law or anything, but I do like to have a good time, and I do like the ladies.”

“And he didn’t?”

“I don’t know.  It’s just that once we got into our conversation a little deeper – well, it’s like he started trying to get me to change.  He said my drinking would just get me in trouble, that all my carousin’ around would take a toll on me, and that a steady relationship with one good woman was much more rewarding than a string of one-night stands.”

“Really?” I asked, as if that sounded strange to me, when I really agreed with it all.

“Yeah.  Can you imagine?! Weekends with no parties?  And me with just one woman?  C’mon!”

“Imagine,” I said as I took notes and didn’t even look up.  “And church?” I asked.  “I suppose he mentioned church, too?”

“Oh yeah!” said Wolf, thinking he had found a sympathizer in me.  “He said I should give it a try.  Forget the way I’ve been livin’ and try things God’s way for a change.  Phhtt!  Right – give up my lifestyle for his!”

“Then what happened?”

“Well, as I remember, I just shook my head, stood up, and walked away.  I came here for a party, not a sermon.  Never really saw him after that.”

“Okay.  Thank you, Mr. Wolf.  Just stick around.  I may need more later.”  With that dismissal, he got up and left, so I decided this might be a good place to conduct all the interviews.  I remained seated and called out for Rowdy, the cowboy.

Rowdy stepped over with a glass of punch in one hand and one of his costume pistols in the other.  He made an attempt at some fancy gun twirling and as he holstered the prop, said with a big grin, “Don’t worry, they’re not loaded.”

“Mine is,” I said to show I wasn’t impressed.

Taking the hint, he said, “Oh,” and sat down across from me.  “I don’t know what else I can add, but I’m all yours.”

“Thank you, uh, Rowdy is it?”

“Yeah, I guess for tonight it is.  Although it’s hard to get rowdy at a party with cops there, you know what I mean?”

I could tell he wasn’t taking any of this too seriously.  And maybe he was right.  Maybe nothing serious had happened.  But we weren’t sure of that yet.  “I know what you mean,” I said.  “Now, Mr. Wolf there got a little put out with our missing guest for getting a little too personal and, shall we say, intrusive.  Did you have any problem in your conversation with him?”

“Well, to be honest, I did.  Nothin’ serious, mind you, but, yeah, he kinda rubbed me the wrong way after awhile, too.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Well, I started once to walk away, but he stayed with me and kept talking.  He started to try to monopolize my attention.  It’s like I was supposed to focus just on him”, Rowdy explained.

“I can see where that would bother you.”

“And that’s just the beginning of it,” he continued.  “He kept after me to start doin’ spiritual things – you know – church and stuff.  Readin’ the Bible, prayin’, things like that.”

“What’s wrong with things like that?” I asked.

“Nothin’, if that’s what you want to do,” Rowdy said, “but I don’t wanna do those things.  At least not for now.  I’m happy just the way I am!”

“So what happened then?”

“I finally just said, ‘Go away and leave me alone.’  I didn’t mean to be rude, but…”

“I see,” I interrupted.  “And did you speak to him any more after that?”

“I don’t recall even seein’ him after that.”

“Interesting,” I said, adding to my notes.  “That’ll be all for now.”

Rowdy said he hoped it would help and got up and ‘moseyed’ away.  He seemed to be just a good ol’ boy – not much of a threat – not much of an asset, either.

I called for the Queen of Sheba, who was next on the list and she set her plate down on the table near where she had been standing and gracefully walked over to my interview area.  I rose to greet her as she approached and she looked so majestic that I almost bowed!  She looked and played the part well.

“Please be seated,” I said and then I complimented her on her costume and commented that she seemed to fit the part rather well.  She thanked me and said that even though it was just a costume and the jewelry was all fake, she was not unaccustomed to wealth and good breeding.

“Yet you came to a party to try to win some prize money,” I said, as if it were actually a question and I guess it really was.

“Oh, one can never have too much money,” she explained.  “And the prize was to be $50,000.00.  It’s a pity no one will get it now, but I’m quite sure none of the others would have truly appreciated it anyway.  They probably would have squandered it away soon enough.”

I sensed that she was trying to act as if she were acting the part of Sheba, yet really did feel that way.  Sarcastically, I responded, saying, “Like wasting it on college tuition or any of the hundreds of things kids want these days.”  I, of course, was referring to the other two young ladies who likely had legitimate needs for such a windfall.  It didn’t seem to faze her much.

“Well, to the business at hand,” I said.  “Did anything happen in your dealings with the man in white to, shall we say, put you off toward him?”

“Well, yes,” she admitted freely.  “He did turn me off after a short while.”

“Go on please.”

“Well, it didn’t take him long to start talking about my money, and the things I’ve bought with it.  You’d have thought it was his wealth!”

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Well, he was trying, I know, to get me to think that there is more to life than money and possessions – like I don’t know that!”  She sounded indignant, but I think she was trying to convince herself, not me.

“Go on,” I said.

“He started talking about me giving money away – to churches and missions, or even just to help people,” she explained.

“You mean like Mr. Gadston, maybe?” I asked, tongue in cheek.

“Exactly!” she replied.  “There are plenty of others who want to do that sort of thing.  But I came here to win more, not give some away!”

“I see.  So then what happened?”

“Nothing, really.  I politely excused myself at some point and just walked away.  I never saw the man in white again.”

“That seems to be the pattern so far.  That’ll be all for now.  Thank you.”  We both stood and she nodded as if to dismiss me, then walked away as gracefully as she had come.  She was quite the lady, though apparently a snobbish one.  Who did she think she was anyway?  Oh, that’s right, she was.

“Little Bo Peep, please,” I called out for my next interview.  I was beginning not only to sense a pattern in these conversations, but my intuition was helping me to get an inkling of what had really happened there that evening.  However, it was too fantastic to believe, so I would need more information.

Bo Peep came over and did a little curtsy.  Maybe it was the costume and character – maybe she was every bit the lady that the Queen was.  I motioned towards the chair and said for her to please be seated.

“Shall we get right to it?” I asked and without waiting for her answer, I continued.  “All the others had some difficulty with this guest.  Nothing serious, it would appear, but certainly some uneasy conversation.  How about you?”

“I guess it was the same with me.  Uneasy, as you put it.  He started talking about all these changes he thought I ought to make.  He said I should be attending church with my kids and reading them Bible stories every night.  He said I could make new and better friends at a good church, especially if I got really involved.”

“That doesn’t sound like bad advice to me,” I offered, still taking notes.

“Maybe not,” she said, “but I don’t do changes very well.  My life may not be much by some standards, but the kids and I do okay.  I’m comfortable and that’s the way I like it.”

“And he was trying to change your life –maybe for the better.”  I was trying to get her to think it through again, because I happened to agree with the man!  Not only did those kids need the gospel and church in their lives, but Bo Peep did too.

“Well, maybe he meant well, but like I said, I don’t like change.  I told him to go try to change one of the others and he left,” she said.

“Did you see him much after that?”

She thought for a second or two, and then said, “Now that you ask, not at all.”

“I think you’d be wise to reconsider what he said, but that’s all I need for now.”  I politely stood as she rose to leave.  I noticed that as she walked away, she paused for a second, then tilted her head to one side briefly, as people often do when they’re thinking, then walked away.  I hoped that meant she was thinking about what I said about reconsidering what the man had said.

I called for Superman and he was there in a flash!  Sorry, but I had to say it.  We sat down and I flipped to a new page in my notepad.

“I appreciate how you’ve been a little more professional in this whole thing.  You seem to take things a little more seriously than Rowdy and the Wolf,” I said.

“Anything I can do to help,” he said.

“Then tell me if there was any more to your conversation with the man in white – anything negative about it – anything at all?”

“Well, we never really saw eye to eye from the beginning, but he was polite and listened to what I had to say.  I think he understood me, too, even if he didn’t agree.  Like I said, he very quickly said he felt my priorities were out of whack, but that was okay – everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, even if it is wrong.”

I had often said that same thing in jest, but he seemed to be serious.  He didn’t crack a smile, or wink, or add anything further.  I believe he really felt that the man had been wrong and he was right – Superman indeed!

“Did he offer anything to explain his position?” I asked.

“Sure,” replied Superman.  “He kept trying to get me to see I needed more and deeper relationships in my life.  Maybe even with him!  He insisted that somehow, eventually, my life was not going to satisfy me and I would need something more that my career and success couldn’t provide.”

“And…?” I said, asking for more.

“And I told him that I didn’t need him or anyone else for that matter.  Things were just fine as they are and they’re headed just the way I’ve always hoped they would.”

“Let me guess,” I stated.  “And he just walked away.”

“That he did,” confirmed the man of steel.  “And we never spoke again.  I hadn’t even noticed until someone brought it up later that he had gone.”

“I suspected as much.  That’s all for now, thank you.”  I dismissed Superman and called for my last interview, Joan College.  She bounced over to my area with a big smile.  She was having a good time and I expected she would be.  I had risen to meet her and her enthusiasm was catching.  I felt younger myself somehow.  I told her to have a seat and we both sat down.  I took my usual policeman interview pose, I guess, and she sat forward in the chair, sitting on her hands and watching my every move, as if she couldn’t wait to testify.

“Well, Miss Joan College, you seem to be enjoying yourself this evening,” I said.

“Oh, I am,” she agreed.  “I mean, I hope there’s nothing wrong with the man in the white suit, but I am having a good time now.”

“Now?” I asked, feeling there was something to the way she had said that.

“Well, I mean, like earlier I was kind of upset about him missing and all, but once you got here, I kind of settled down.”

“Good,” I said.  “I’m glad to be of some comfort.  A lot of people your age don’t seem to want us around.”

“Oh, not me,” she said.  “I enjoy older people.”

“I meant policemen.”  I knew she had said it innocently and didn’t mean anything by it.  She kind of shrugged her shoulders and smiled as if to say “oops.”

“Anyway,” I continued, “I’ve asked all the others, so I’ll ask you, too, if there was ever any bad vibes between you and the man in the white costume.  Did he ever say anything that bothered you?”

“Actually, he did,” she replied.  “He kept trying to tell me that I needed to spend more time with spiritual matters, you know, reading the Bible, getting involved with some people my age in church, do mission work, things like that.”

“And you see that as a bother?”

“Well, no, but I just don’t have time for all that, Inspector.  And I told him so, too.  I mean, like I told him, I’m a cheerleader for the men’s games, I play on the volleyball team myself, I sing in the ladies’ ensemble, and I’m on the student council and the school newspaper.  There are practices and games and I have to keep my grades up to keep my scholarship.”

“I’ll bet you barely have time to date more than three or four guys at a time,” I said with a smile.

“That’s right!” she said as she tilted her head up and back a little and flipped her hair.  “I don’t.  But anyway, the shiny white guy said that my priorities needed an adjustment and I was too busy with things that really wouldn’t matter in the end.”

“So you said…”

“So I said, they all matter to me, and that’s what counts.  And then I think I went to get more punch and when I looked back, he was gone.”

“Did you ever see him again after that?”

“No, I didn’t.  I don’t know what could have happened to him.”

“Thank you, Joan College.  I think that about does it for now.”

We both stood and she asked me if I was any closer to solving this puzzle.  I told her that I had an idea, but needed to confirm a couple of things with the Hoffmans and clear up a few small details with my officers out front.  “If all goes as I think it will, I believe we’ll be able to clear this mystery up very soon,” I concluded.

“Everyone!  If I could have your attention please,” I called.  “I’m going to confirm that neither of the Hoffmans have much to add, as I believe is the case, and then I have a point or two to clear up with the officer outside.  I’ll be back in shortly and see if we can’t have a solution.  Please stay here in the parlor until I return.”

(more to come!)  ( Trick or Treat? (A short-story mystery) ( 2 ) ( 3 ) ( 4 ) ( 5 ) ( Conclusion! )

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Trade-Offs – Part 4 (Conclusion)

Chapter 4

 

The Practical Applications

 

            I’ve tried to show the practical applications and implications for each of the three lists along the way, but a few more points are worth mentioning.  I am more concerned about people making good trades in their spiritual and church matters than in other areas, but the plan works in all areas.

Don’t assume that checking with God is only for the religious and church decisions.  Our whole life is God’s.  Our time, our talents, our money, our jobs, our relationships – they all really belong to Him and are to be used for His glory.  We need His help to set our goals and priorities in every area of life, so bible study and prayer are just as vital when choosing a car, a job or a mate as when choosing a church or a pastor.

The most important part of life here on earth involves preparing for the real life to be experienced in heaven.  You cannot afford to miss heaven, so salvation is a must.  You cannot trade that for anything!  So trust Jesus Christ and Him alone to get you to heaven.

Meanwhile, pleasing God by becoming more and more like Jesus is to be your number one purpose in life.  Don’t trade that purpose for any other!  Work on a relationship with Jesus that will cooperate with Him as He works in you to become like Him.

As you become more like Jesus, His way of thinking will become yours.  His attitudes will shape your attitudes, so His actions will become what you do.  In the ideal, you would always then make right decisions and do right actions.  In practice, we carry a sinful nature too and will always have some struggles in getting ourselves out of the way.  Our mindset and our personal desires and agendas cloud our decision-making process and we sometimes end up doing the wrong things.

Having a decision-making plan of action can help.  Determine and develop your three lists for making trades.  Pray and think seriously about List One especially, because once you’ve made it you must determine never to trade off whatever you have put there!

Begin your lists with beliefs and values rather than particulars.  The particulars of each decision will be added as the need arises, but beliefs and moral values, ethics, and character must always be present in every situation.  Never trade character for convenience.  Never trade morals for money or momentary pleasures.  Never trade biblical principles for base practices.  Never trade the timeless for the temporary.  Never trade God’s best for the world’s best, for the world’s best is always a trade downward from God’s best.

Whether deciding on where to eat lunch, what car or furniture to buy, what person to date or marry, what school to attend or career to pursue, set spiritual priorities and make your three lists.  Then always – always – trade even or up, never down.  And never trade ham for a hot dog!

 

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…Bestland – Part 4

Every few years, new leaders arose in Bestland with promises of turning the country around.  Some things got better, some got worse.  The masses continued to cry out for personal freedoms and benefits with little real regard for what might be best for all.  One by one the changes came as politicians catered to special interests in order to get elected.  However, once elected to office they could govern to their own advantage as well.

The government swelled, entitlements flowed freely and freedoms once enjoyed by all were gradually forfeited in order to grant new freedoms to whichever group cried or threatened the loudest.  A new trend arose called Political Correctness (PC).

Once upon a time, the standard was right or wrong set by a higher authority.  The general understanding for the people of Bestland about values, morals, ethics and therefore, its laws, came from the founding principles derived from the Book.  This new PC wave set a new standard for decision making.

Some argue that the entertainment industry set the standards through its movies and television shows, forever lowering the bar.  Others blame a combination of the judicial and legislative branches of government.  Laws were changed or created anew to suit the new ways of thinking, trying to force everyone into the PC mode.  Others say it’s like the age old “chicken or egg” question which came first.  Did the masses cry for out for changes and the entertainers and politicians merely give them what they wanted?  Or did the media and politicians control the changes and the masses followed suit?

Regardless of who started it or manipulated the system, the people of Bestland continued to cry out for change, but it seems that the nation was basically divided in two.  Those who had cried out, begged, schemed, demanded, coerced and bribed for the changes they wanted were not content with their new freedoms.  They demanded more for themselves and less for those who opposed them.  Those who longed for the return of Bestland to its former glory finally began to cry out as well, but not until after many rights had been lost, freedoms had been trampled underfoot and their core beliefs were dismissed from affecting any public arena.  Still, their voices finally began to be heard.

This could very well explain how the changes in Bestland could have occurred.  While it is true that money brokered power with national media support to affect the changes, there is another factor to consider.  If half of the people, and many argue it is actually still a large majority, didn’t want the changes and continued to oppose them, how could it happen?  Well, someone once said that all that is necessary for evil to win is for the good to do nothing!

The winds that blew in the changes were not met with opposition.  Contented bystanders ignored the signs and warnings.  If the winds didn’t blow down their own houses, the contented folks went on enjoying their little piece of the world as if nothing bad could ever happen to them.

Universities that began as seminaries training ministers of the gospel became liberal bastions of anti-religion, turning out leaders – politicians, lawyers and educators – who no longer believed much of that for which Bestland had always stood.   And the contented masses paid no heed.

These new leaders with new-fangled notions gradually took their places of leadership in the education institutions, governing bodies, courtrooms and media where they could gradually change things to suit themselves, not the masses.  And the contented masses paid no heed.

Laws were changed, textbooks were re-written, ideologies and even religious beliefs were reshaped to be more PC.  Remember, the truth had been suppressed for a long time.  New “truth” could be written.  And the not-so-contented-as-before, but still somewhat contented, masses paid heed a little, but did nothing to stop the changes.

Then it got worse!

You see, once a man has moved away from the light, he is forced to make his next decisions in the dark!  Inevitably, he will make bad decisions since he is in the dark.  Those bad decisions only move him further into the dark where he will naturally make even worse decisions.  People in Bestland began to cry out more for their own brand of changes, and as people in the dark, made bad choices as to whom should lead.  Leaders, operating primarily in the dark, continued to make wrong choices for the people.

What was once truly the ‘best land” in the sea, might still have been, but only because it had once soared so high and the other nations had already sunk so low.  But Bestlanders have always fought!  They would never give up!  They worked hard for years to “fix” the problems.  Of course, everyone still had their own ideas of what the problems were!

And the winds of change continued to blow.  First, this way, then that way.  Sometimes hot, often cold.  Sometimes slightly, other times at gale force, but always blowing.  Until recently – a wind began to blow with the audacity to identify itself as a wind for change.  No one is quite sure yet where the wind came from, but there is no doubt that it clearly wanted more change – and definitely not a change back to Bestland’s former ways.  The winds blew in a new “hopeful” for leadership.

(Yep!  More to come…)

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Trick or Treat? – Part 3

Fritz Hoffman answered and didn’t even blink an eye or crack a smile when he saw me.  I told him who I was and he identified himself and explained that apparently, and he stressed that word, someone had vanished unexpectedly and unexplainably from Mr. Gadston’s Halloween party, so he had made the call.  I asked him what he meant when he said apparently one had vanished and he replied that he thought it best that I should find that out for myself as I questioned the others.  I said, “Alright.  Let’s do that,” and he showed me the way to the parlor where the other guests had remained together.  I noticed the air of frivolity and unconcern in the room.  Of course, I learned quickly that it had only just become that way after quite a bit of panic, confusion, and genuine concern.

The room was abuzz with chit chat and the clinking of dishes and cups as Fritz and I entered the parlor from the front entry.  No one even noticed.  Fritz interrupted the festive atmosphere speaking loudly enough to be heard above the chattering.  He called out, “Excuse me, but the police have arrived!”

All the guests immediately stopped talking, eating, and drinking to turn in silence toward the doorway to see Fritz and me standing there.  I’m not sure what they expected, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t what they saw.  You’ve waited for it – here it comes!

“You’ve got to be kidding!” cried Superman.

“Is this some kind of cruel joke?” asked the Queen.

Joan added, “Was all this planned?  It’s all just been a Halloween prank, hasn’t it?”

To which I stepped forward to make my response.  There I was, straight from my own costume party where I had received Mac’s call, dressed like none other than the great detective Sherlock Holmes!  That’s right.  The entertainment I had spoken of at the outset of my story was a costume party where each guest was to come as a famous fictional character.  Before the night was over we were all to take turns identifying ourselves and explaining why we had chosen that particular character.

“I assure you this is no joke,” I said.  “I, too, was at a Halloween party when I got the call to come here.  I didn’t want to waste time changing clothes and I figured I wouldn’t look too out of place anyway.”  Most acknowledged that fact with a nod, an “amen to that” or a “touché” and I continued.

“I also assure you that the two officers out front are equally genuine and so are our weapons, should the need arise, though I trust it won’t.”

I introduced myself and began to gather the facts of the case, much of which I’ve already shared with you, dear reader.  I’ll tell you now more than I told them, though.  My name is N.B. Watson and as I said before, I’m the Chief Inspector of the Robbery-Homicide Division.  My name is the result of my father’s warped sense of humor coupled with his lifelong fascination of all things Sherlock Holmesian.  I inherited his fondness for mysteries and that’s at least part of what led me into my profession.  I, like my father before me, have read all the stories and seen every Sherlock movie and television show I know of, regardless of who portrayed Mr. Holmes.  My favorites, as Dad’s, were the old black and white movies starring Basil Rathbone as the famous detective.

My name came from those shows. The last name being Watson is obvious, I think, even to those relatively unacquainted with the stories.  It may take a more avid fan to understand what the N.B. stands for and I won’t tell you.  Dad intended all along to have me go by my middle name and I did all the way through junior high.  Teachers understood and cooperated and to this day, only my closest friends or fellow Holmesians know what my first name is.  You know enough now to figure it out.

Anyway, when I hit high school, not really liking my middle name much either, I decided to go by my initials and soon everyone called me N.B.  Most of the time, it comes out as Enby and that’s okay by me.  The party guests and Fritz, and for that matter the two officers, just called me Inspector.

It didn’t take too long for me to find out all I have shared with you so far and it was about that time that one of the officers came in to report.  I stopped my questioning of the guests long enough to turn my attention fully to him.  “We checked all the cars and called in the license numbers like you said, Inspector.  Here’s the list and nothing looks out of the ordinary about any of the cars or owners.  No sign of any monkey business here and no wants or warrants on any of the owners.”

I took the list and thanked him.  “I’ll compare this list with the guests and you two begin to look around the estate for anything out of the ordinary.  These folks have already done that, but it’s a large estate and they could easily have missed something,” I said.

“Right,” responded the young policeman.  “What kind of costume was the missing guest wearing and are we looking for a man or a woman?

“Apparently, a man wearing a bright shiny, almost glowing, white costume.  Maybe a ghost,” I replied.

“Check,” he said without any sign of emotion as he turned and headed back to the front door.  On Halloween, not much fazes a policeman.

I called out the names of the owners of the cars along with the corresponding makes and models as if in a roll call and each guest called out a “here” or “that’s me” or some such answer.  One by one, all six guests and cars were accounted for and then I called out the seventh.  “A blue Ford Explorer, owner William J. Dixon,” I called out.

The party guests looked around and I could see that no one recognized the name, until suddenly, Fritz spoke up.  “Goodness, that’s Bill, the chauffeur!”  He paused a moment to think it through, then continued.  “Oh dear.  I’m afraid this won’t help at all.  Bill left yesterday in his own car – of that I’m sure – and I’m equally certain that he hasn’t returned.  Before he left he said that he had made a grand purchase with his bonus check and it should be delivered while he was away.  It never occurred to me that it was that vehicle.”

“You obviously didn’t see it delivered, then?” I asked, just to confirm.

“No, sir, I didn’t.  We’ve been very busy all day getting ready for the party,” he explained.

“So maybe this guy drove himself to the party, stayed awhile, and simply drove away without letting anyone know he was going,” I said.

“Not likely,” said Fritz.  “You see part of my duties as groundskeeper and party host is to check on the cars and driveway after all the guests have arrived and the party is underway.”

“Go on,” I said, always taking notes.

“After all the invited guests had arrived and I had shown them into the parlor, I helped my wife for awhile in the kitchen.  Sometime later, I’d say around 9:00, I made my outdoor rounds.  Part of my job is to check the parking situation making sure that all the vehicles were parked decently – you know, see to it that there were no fender benders, no one parked on the lawn, and making sure there’s enough room for emergency vehicles, etc.”

Rowdy interjected at this point, saying, “By that time the ol’ boy had to have already been here awhile.”

“Precisely,” continued Fritz.  “If all of you indeed had all of these separate private conversations with this person, then he must have been here when I made my rounds and there were definitely only the seven vehicles there now, parked exactly as they are now.”

I saw his point.  “So, if he had driven himself to the party, his vehicle would have been there when you made the rounds.”

“Correct,” replied Fritz, “but it wasn’t.”

Superman spoke up, saying, “That changes things a bit doesn’t it?”

“How?” asked Bo Peep, looking to me for the answer.

I let Superman handle it, though I knew where he was going with his train of thought.  “It means that the man did not drive himself to the party, so he couldn’t have left by himself either,” he explained.

“That’s right!” said the Big Bad Wolf, leaping out to the forefront.  “So he had an accomplice!”

“An accomplice to what?” I asked.

He thought for a second or two, and then said, “I don’t know.  Whatever he had in mind when he came here uninvited, I guess.”

Joan picked up from there and offered her explanation.  “Maybe he came hoping the prize money would be cash.  Maybe he planned to take it and run.”

“And that’s why he made sure we didn’t know anything about him,” added Bo Peep, as if they were really on to something.

“That’s a point I need cleared up,” I said.  “Just what is this prize money all about?  What kind of party is this anyway?”

A couple of the guests started to answer, but Fritz overrode them in force and volume.  “I think I can best explain that,” he said.  “Mr. Gadston got the idea awhile back to give away some money, $50,000.00 to be exact, and he fell upon this idea for a Halloween party.  He advertised in the newspaper for potential guests to send an application explaining why they should be one of those invited.  He chose these six people to invite.  My wife and I were to be the unknown judges of not only the best costume, but the most believable character.  By that I mean the one who did the best at actually seeming to be whom they portrayed.”

“So it is all up to you who gets the money?” asked the Queen.

As Fritz answered, “Yes,” The Wolf shouted out in fun, “I take it all back, Fritzy.  Every bad thing I said about you.  You’re the greatest!”

Fritz simply replied, “Too late, Mr. Wolf.”

Rowdy chimed in, “I told him you were a good ol’ boy, Fritz – I told him.”

“Enough schmoozing,” I said, stopping the others before they all took their shots at Fritz, too.  “Back to the matter at hand.  Can anyone at all give any evidence at all to suggest that the man in white was up to anything criminal or even strange or suspicious?”

I waited, but nothing was offered, so I continued.  “Even if this person had taking the prize money or anything else in mind, he apparently didn’t try anything out of line and then disappeared.  So here’s what we do know, or at least think we know: sometime tonight, not only after 8:00, but after the six invited guests had arrived, an unknown person in a shiny white costume, somehow arrived at the estate, let himself in – without Fritz seeing him…”

“Or my wife, either,” interrupted Fritz.

“Okay,” I said, “entered without the butler or the cook seeing him, and spent at least an hour, I’d say, chatting at one time or another to every one of the guests.  This person, without ever being seen by the Hoffmans, then either alone or with help, left the party and apparently the estate, without being seen by anyone.”

Superman spoke for the rest to confirm my summation.  “That’s pretty much it, Inspector.”

“Well, up to this point, we don’t have any evidence of a crime, but it sure is a puzzle,” I said.

At which point Rowdy tried to lighten things up a bit and said, “Yeah, but I bet ol’ Sherlock Holmes can figure it out,” he said with a grin.

Joan, a true college student and avid reader, joined in.  “Yes, Mr. Holmes.  Is it ‘elementary’ or not?”  I hadn’t noticed just how attractive she was until she posed that question with a big, beautiful smile.  Her eyes sparkled with mischief and I knew she knew at least a little bit of Holmesian lingo.

“Not quite yet, my dear lady,” I said in character, “but I’m quite sure that before this night is over I’ll come to the right conclusion of the matter.”  I winked at her and she politely winked back, as if to tell me she thought I was an okay guy for an old cop.

I told Fritz Hoffman that he could go help his wife in the kitchen if he wanted and that I would get their statements later.  I knew that neither one had seen nor spoken to the uninvited guest, so they wouldn’t have much to add.  I also knew they had been in the employ of Mr. Gadston for several years and were likely above reproach.  I always try to keep an open mind until all the facts are in, but I had no reason to believe they were involved in any wrong-doing at all.

I then told the party guests to just relax, but stay in the room.  They were free to continue eating and drinking, but I would like to interview them one at a time and for now, it was alright for them all to hear everything.  I said ‘interview’ because that is much more cordial sounding and less suspicious sounding than ‘question.’  I find it facilitates cooperation.

(More later…) ( Trick or Treat? (A short-story mystery) ( 2 ) ( 3 ) ( 4 ) ( 5 ) ( Conclusion! )

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