The Trinity

My hands and face bore the marks of my trade. I’m homeless, and trying to clean the stink of the street, off my body. Water cascaded down my chest, as I splashed from the sink basin, to my face and body. Morning rays of sunlight, glared off the mirror—above the sink. I didn’t want to look, but was drawn to the image—it was majestic. Old Glory, the tattoo on my chest appeared to wave.
It was going to be a good day.
Last night was not, it rained hard, and neighborhood kids beat me in my sleep. They trashed my house—the cardboard box I lived it.
I’ll get another house today.
The bells on the church began to chime, it was six, and the mass would start in fifteen minutes. The priest was a good man, especially for the street people—he let us wash up, and he fed us every Friday night. I knew he wouldn’t say so, but he didn’t want us scaring his congregation away. I would be gone before mass started. I gathered my worldly assets; my bush hat, Camo jacket and three blankets—it was time to find breakfast.
It was going to be a good day.
I wasn’t always like this; there was a time, when I had a great job and a family. That all ended after nine-eleven, I snapped.
“Get a job, you bum,” said the passerby.
“Have a good day,” I said and picked up my tip bucket, there was a folded twenty at the bottom.
It was going to be a good day. “Thank you,” I said, it’s time to go to work.
My spot, was the block between Little Italy and the beginning of China Town. The buildings were covered in graffiti, but the pawn shop two doors down—drew a unique clientele. I laid out one of my blankets and set my tip bucket out. I hung my wet Camo on the hook, I had fashioned into the wall—months ago.
I slipped on my bush hat and the only dry clothing I had. My worn out, Property United States Marine Corps, red T-shirt with the Bulldog mascot. Now on duty, I smiled at my first customer.
“Semper Fi,” he said, and threw a buck in my bucket.
At noon, not counting the twenty, I made nineteen dollars and sixty-nine cents—the year I went to Nam. There was a pizza place around the corner, he sold slices to passerby’s. I got three slices and was content. On my way back to my spot, I saw a black limo parked in front of the pawnshop. A man in a dark suit was standing by the rear passenger door. As I approached, he opened the door, and a well dressed man stepped out—he approached me.
“Semper Fi, Gunny,” he said.
“Semper Fi,” I said. “How do you know I’m a Gunny, do I know you?”
“I would hope so,” he said. “But, I saw your jacket.”
“What can I do for you… “
“The three bones in your bush hat, are of great interest to me. Where did you find them?”
“I was with the First of the First, in Quang Tri in 1969.”
“Who has the others,” he said?
“Whoa, hold on a second. Who are you?”
“I’m Buck Davidssen, Jameson’s younger brother.”
“Holy ****! Jameson, was my Marine buddy, my closest friend—I trusted him with my life.”
“He trusted his life with you, and talked about you all the time, in his letters home.
“We were on patrol and digging in for the night, when I found those six bones. I gave him three and I kept three. We put them in our hats for luck. The Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“I saw you at his funeral,” Jameson said. “You stood in the back, why didn’t you come by?”
“I felt responsible,” Gunny said. “I shipped out three weeks before he was killed. I couldn’t live with myself.”
“When his body was shipped home, three bones were among his belonging. I had them checked out by experts.”
“What kind of fish are they from?”
“Gunny, those are not teeth. They are horns, from a baby Triceratops and they’re worth millions.
“You just made my day. I knew when I woke up, it was going to be a great day.”
“Come with me to the pawn shop. The proprietor collects dinosaur bones. It’s time, you got your life back together.”
The proprietor’s smile beamed, when we entered the shop, he spread his arms, when he saw my hat.
“Welcome to my humble establishment, I’m about to change your life.”

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They Call Me Trouble

I lived a good life, and this is my story— believing is seeing, the bridge is real.
I’m pushing one-hundred in dog years, and the tolls of living off the street have finally caught up to me. I have been on my own for the better part of eighty years wandering the streets looking for my best friend.
One day I woke up to find my best friend lying on the floor in a pool of urine. No problem, been there done that, but in my mind—months had passed, and he never moved. People finally came and carried him out. They tried to put a lasso around my neck, but I was too quick for them. The mean looking person said, “this one’s gonna be trouble.” He pulled out a small contraption and shot me with a dart.
When I woke up to barking—that’s how us four-legged communicate, a nice man in a white coat picked me up and put me on a metal table. “Hello Runt,” he said. “Let’s get you cleaned up and feed.”
I later heard someone call him Dr. L, and that’s when I recognized the surroundings. I was born in this place. It was where my friend picked me from a litter of five. I was the runt of the group, and that is what he called me—Runt.
I no longer answer to that name, but over the years, I would come back for visits. The nice people would feed me and clean me, but when they tried to put me in a cage—I was out of there.
I took to the streets like a champ, and when people saw me coming, they’d say, “Here comes Trouble.” I liked the moniker and rolled with it.
*
On a couple of visits to Dr L’s place, I would see people crying and holding a collar and leash. Some of the nice people would be talking about a place called Rainbow Bridge. They called it a place where pets went when they passed on. Their health and vigor restored just as they were when they were younger. They were happy and content, and needed only one more thing—their special someone to come and join them.
I had always wondered if it worked both ways, and I felt in my heart I would soon find out.
*
It had rained hard the last three days, and with each passing day—I grew weaker. I’m wet, cold, dirty, tired, and hungry. I do not have the energy to move, so I stay tucked under the cover I have found. My eyes close and I drift off—visions appear, and they always began the same way.
An afternoon sun glistening through mighty oaks and spruces sparkled upon a field where people and animals mingled in play. They roamed the great expanse searching. Off in the distance, four-leafed clovers sang and danced along a path that led to a bridge the colors of a rainbow. It seemed to stretch up over a beautiful lake with fountains and waterfalls, and disappear into the clouds.
Last night the vision ended differently. I saw my friend sitting on a bench singing with the clovers—he stopped and smiled.
The vision ended as I awoke to the first rays of sunlight. The rain had finally stopped and now I’m in search for what I expect to be my last meal. I can smell the stench from my wet mangy hair, so I’m not offended as people steer clear of me.
I turn down a side street and head toward the back alley. I know this neighborhood well. I’ve been pounding these streets my whole life.
The back door to the deli opens, and the man in the apron nods in my direction as he places a bowl of water and a plate with scraps on the ground. I nod back to him—thanking him. I can’t do much more. I was born with an oversized tongue and long jaw line, so I can’t speak, but I’ve become a master of gestures, and I’ll even do a trick or two for food.
The door closes behind him and I sate my thirst and hunger.
A couple of blocks away is the place where I was born. I feel it in my bones that the end is soon, and I want to leave with dignity.
As I approach Dr. L’s place, one of the nice people is walking a pet. She sees me as I stumbled and fall to the pavement.
“Someone get Dr. L,” she said. “Here comes Trouble.”
A young man lifts me and carries me into the building. “Phew,” he said, as he cleaned me up in a large basin. “Trouble, you stink.”
He dried me off and set me on the floor. I managed to walk the few feet to a pile of blankets laid out in the corner.
Dr. L approached and looked into my eyes. “You look tired Trouble.” He took my temperature. “Not good,” he said, and reached for an injector.
I barked twice, put my head down, and put my paws over my eyes.
“Ok,” he said. “Get some rest.”
I closed my eyes and drifted off.
An afternoon sun glistening through mighty oaks and spruces sparkled upon a field where people and animals mingled in play. They roamed the great expanse searching. Off in the distance, four-leafed clovers sang and danced along a path that led to a bridge the colors of a rainbow. It seemed to stretch up over a beautiful lake with fountains and waterfalls, and disappear into the clouds.
At the end of the path where the bridge began to rise toward heaven, a man stands next to a bench. He’s my best friend and looks great. He sees me and starts running toward me. I jump into his arms and lick his face. He rubs my head, and then we stare at each other. “I missed you,” he said.
I see the trust and love in his eyes. “I missed you, too,” I said.
He put me down on the path, and turned toward the bridge.
Best friends forever—
We walked across Rainbow Bridge together . . .

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Book Signing at The Bulldog Grille – Amityville, NY

Book Signing

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I want a Jameson

The afternoon sun glistened through the mighty oaks and spruces that lined my course. Like the colors of the rainbow the trees and fairway sparkled, and the four leafed clovers that lined the ruff sang with glee—my day couldn’t have been written more perfect.

I watched as Grandpa Buck teed it up for the third hole. A monster five-hundred-fifty meter, par five dogleg right. Anna, Grandpa’s love designed the course for me before she fell ill, so yes—the course was designed in meters.

A beautiful lake with fountains and waterfalls formed the dogleg and waited to be fed. A smile formed in the waterfall as the golf ball left the tee.

Grandpa Buck let his big dog eat, and the ball ripped through the air like a bullet—a wounded bullet that is. There were only two things in the fifth dimension that would stop it from landing in the lake—a gale force wind or me.

I decided to stop it, but not until listening to Grandpa’s peanut gallery ramble on for a bit. He brought along his crew for moral support. They were following along on the cart path—drinking beers and being obnoxious as always. It was just me, Grandpa, and our caddies playing on my course, and I was the only one playing golf—Grandpa and his pals cheat.

Jack, Grandpa’s best buddy and caddie for the day yelled, “Nice rip Cap’n.”

“Take a mulligan,” yelled Big John, my caddie and bodyguard. That got him a punch in the arm.

Buck bent over to tee up another ball while his first one was still hooking right. “Mulligan it is,” he said.

“Well, I want a Jameson,” I said.

“What?” Buck managed to blurt out. “You don’t drink.”

“You don’t get it Grandpa,” I said. “I’m coining a new phase. If you really, and I mean really want something bad, you say, I want a Jameson.”

With that, I raised my hands and stopped time—

I’m Jules Spenser, President of the United States in the fourth and fifth dimension. I have an eidetic mind and can bend spacetime. Grandpa, on the other hand, happens to be a sore loser. It’s not bad enough that I give him a shot a hole—he still cheats, and takes a mulligan whenever he sees fit.

I finally had enough of that, too.

My last act of the day before playing golf with Grandpa was to ban two oxymora—mulligan’s and congress.

Everyone knows that the opposite of progress is congress—so I banned it—they’re useless anyway. From now on all laws will be enacted and voted on by the people for the people. Kind of like the Constitution has stated forever.

A mulligan is a do over. One do over—that’s it—and now that term is banned forever.

Grandpa’s been in a funk for a year now. His author caught a bad case of writer’s block and left him stranded on K2 at 27,000 feet in The K2 Sanction. The love of his life, and my mentor Dr. Anna Semyonova was trapped in an avalanche. They’re kind of stuck in the fourth dimension and aging badly.

I decided to stop time and teleport back to the third dimension to fix things. All the writer really needed was a little reassurance and advice. In other words, he needed to get his act together, too. A happy writer makes happy characters.

And with a snap of my fingers—ok, it’s really not that simple—I’m back in the fifth dimension, and it’s time to set it straight with Grandpa Buck and his cohorts.

“Grandpa, what did I say about taking a mulligan?”

“Ok, fine. I really want a Jameson.”

“That’s better,” I said. “Now look down the fairway.”

“Holy Sh—”

“No Grandpa, the word you’re looking for is thank you. When you ask for something sincere and correct—you’re rewarded.”

Not only was his ball sitting pretty in the middle of the fairway, but a third golf cart appeared from nowhere. Anna, the smartest and most beautiful woman on earth—in the fourth and fifth dimension that is—held three bottles: a Jameson Gold, a Jameson Black, and a Jameson not bad at all. “Did someone ask for a Jameson?” Anna asked, in her perfect Russian accent.

“No,” Buck said. “I asked for you, and someone answered.”

“That someone,” Jules said. “Just happens to be Gene Hilgreen. He’s all better now, and soon you and Anna will be, too.

***

Did anyone else yes for a Jameson?

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The Cipher

It’s that time again. A terrorist group was messing with my universe, and order must be restored on earth—someone needed to die. I was placing my ducks in order—including my updated will—before I left on my next sanction. The knock on the door caught me off guard. It was my chief of security with my daily bundle of mail.

“Boss, you gotta see this,” he said.

I normally sort through my mail in front of the fireplace. Junk mail keeps the fire blazing. I was about to toss the oversize envelope into the flame when the hair on the back of my neck started to curl.

My mailman was trained. Ninety-nine percent of the time he separated the junk mail from the bills and what have you.

Not this time—

The letter was simply labeled Buckner Axele Davidssen—no address, nothing. Nobody calls me Buckner—nobody alive that is, and very few people know my middle name. The return address made my neck hair stand straight up—as the envelope fell into the fire.

4 Oak Street, McAllen, TX. 42853-1185

I reached into the flame and grabbed it.

No name, but that didn’t matter, I knew the street well, and there was only one house on that street—number 13.

Clue one—
The zip code for McAllen was 78501, which told me the zip listed was another clue. Problem was—I hadn’t seen nor spoken to my old friend for twenty-five, no make that twenty-six years. Big John went dark and never resurfaced.

I quickly extinguished the flaming envelope and ripped it open. A smile spread across my face. Once a spook—always a spook and Big John wanted out. Problem number two—there was only one way to leave the CIA—dead.

The letter was an extremely fancy pictorial code with plenty of hints—to be precise—it was a double column cipher with the cipher text in a crest, and ‘Quenches Fortify’ on a ribbon underneath the crest. As a hobby I cracked codes for the Alphabet Soup community when I wasn’t eliminating terrorists. My work was definitely cut out for me with this one.

The double transposition cipher had been around since WWII, but without a key even the best program would spin forever without breaking it. This code had at least three keys by my count.

I tried several algorithms on the column key words to no avail. When it occurred to me that quenches fortified was an anagram and the main key. My program quickly came up with Frequency Shift O.

Ok Big John, good one. The address (4) was the shift.

The key word above the left column was EXLIRE with an arrow under the column pointing right (forward). Over the right column was QIHYWE with an arrow pointing left (backward).

Using the frequency shift of four, I got Athena and Medusa. They were code names of the two sanctions we worked on together. This also told me the code was a six column double cipher, and the cipher codes were seven characters.

Now to crack the cipher which read as follows.

FLEBFMN
ANRTSUY
KGDDEAD
IGYDMII
IONIILR
HORIEHJ

First I had to place the cipher codes vertically into a six position column using the alphabetical equivalents of MEDUSA, which was 432651.
4 3 2 6 5 1
M E D U S A

I K A H I F
G G N O O L
Y D R R N E
D D T I I B
M E S E I F
I A U H L M
I D Y J R N

Reading across horizontally I had six new cipher codes: IKAHIFG, GNOOLYD, RRNRDDT, IIBMESE, IFIAUHL, and MIDYJRN. Placing them vertically gave me the following:
1 6 4 3 5 2
A T H E N A

I R G M I I
I R N I F K
B N O D I A
M E O Y A H
E D L J U I
S D Y R H F
E T D N L G

Reading across horizontally I had six new cipher codes for Athena: IRGMIII, RNIFKBN, ODIAMEO, YAHEDLJ, UISDYRH, AND FETDNLG. Next I had to apply Athena’s code of 164352, and place the cipher text back into the column. The column read as follows:
I F Y O U R
R E A D I N
G T H I S I
M D E A D F
I N D M Y K
I L L E R B
I G J O H N

Marines don’t cry, but I came close when I read the text out loud. “If your reading this I am dead. Find my killer—Big John.”

I looked back at the envelope, and keyed the zip (428531185) into my bank account cracking program. It didn’t take long for my program to tell me that Big John left me his life savings, and now I had to find his killer.

My sanction would have to wait another day. The clues from Athena and Medusa told me who killed Big John. It could only be one man.

Vulkan—

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First of Jules

Jules_cover02

Born with eidetic memory and a mind that worked in ones and zeros, Jules Spenser was labeled a prodigy child before her fifth birthday. Her ability to clearly process information and formulate solutions to problems at an early age became apparent to her teachers, and supporting cast of family. She began taking advanced college level classes at the age of twelve.
Having spent most of her life around much older people—Jules lacked social skills, and was socially inept around members of the opposite sex her own age. She had three loves—gymnastics, quantum physics and information technology, and let it be known that she wanted to use her gifts to help humanity. This did not go unnoticed by her grandfather Buck Davidssen, who groomed her for a career in Medical Nanoscience at his company—The Corporation.
The Corporation had many divisions under its umbrella, and fighting domestic terror was one of them. This tidbit didn’t go unnoticed by Jules, who dreamt of sleuthing in her spare time.
One minute sixteen year old Jules is embracing her national vaulting title in gymnastics, and before she can say what is Advanced Nanofabrication and Characterization, she is neck deep in a multiple murder investigation on her own.
Her cobalt blue eyes are the gateway to her soul. They record everything she sees—forever. Her greatest fatal flaw may be her arrogance and believing she can do anything. This devil-be-damned attitude is demonstrated by her desire to push the limits of her mind and body with her early morning Ferrari runs, where she breaks the 200 MPH barrier on a regular basis.
But when she matches wits with a psychopath killer—it will require every bit of her intelligence and athleticism to stay alive.

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Rants and Raves

Welcome to the official blog page for Author Gene Hilgreen. Follow along for all Gene’s Rants and Raves!

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