My Bookshelf

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

These Are The Good Old Days? (JRD's Star Wars 2015 Review)

Frankly I wasn't sure what to expect when I went to see the highest-grossing flick of all time. Though I hate to carbon-date myself, I must confess to having seen the original Star Wars trilogy in the 70s and the redux of the 90s. Being a Darth Vader fan, I liked The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith best. Obviously they would have to up the ante to keep me in, and somehow they didn't disappoint.

The trick was to have played the nostalgia card while coming up with some solid new talent. Director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) picked up where he left off with the best of the Trekkie flicks, knocking this one out of the galaxy. The shining star is Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on a desert planet who comes across a droid called BB-8. It's a R2D2 knockoff that is carrying a map to the location of fugitive Jedi Luke Skywalker. She is accompanied by a rogue Storm Trooper who puts her together with the legendary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookie pal Chewbacca. Together they go up against the evil First Order and its fiendish enforcer Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Carrie Fisher returns as General Leia Organa, and she sends her top gun Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) out with her Resistance fleet to save the planet from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his Starkiller Base.

Ridley, reminding us of her namesake in Aliens, comes off with an unforgettable performance. She is a female warrior who carries the entire show on her back. Rey is not only cute as a button, but she knows how to fight long before she discovers she has the Force within her. It sets her up for a climactic battle against Ren, a Darth Vader knockoff, and it comes off as Movie Fight of the Year (sorry, Creed fans). The icing on the cake is the reappearance of Ford and Fisher, who inspire nerd tears as advertised. Seeing them together again is worth the price of admission. Oh yeah, and Luke Skywalker shows up in the final reel. Can't touch this.

I'm thinking Abrams should walk away with a well-deserved Oscar. He got overlooked for his awesome work with the Star Trek remakes...but this is payback time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What Trump Has Accomplished

GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump has played the demagogue on countless occasions throughout his campaign. Appealing to middle-class traditions and values, he has toed the hard line in polarizing liberals and conservatives across the nation. Slowly eradicating the gray areas that have given way to the censorship of political correctness, he has voiced opinions that most Americans dared not speak. Only this time, the entire world asks whether he has finally crossed a line too far.

What he has done is pushed the envelope farther than many of his supporters dare reach. Suggesting that America suspend Muslim entry into the US has infuriated Muslims across the globe. Considering their majority percentage of the world population, the multitude of nations they govern and their financial influence, he has tackled what may prove an indomitable foe. The media and political leaders throughout the country are joining ranks against him, and it may form a pattern to be seen worldwide.

Most Trump watchers realize he is just venting, and allowing his supporters to vent along with him. What he suggests is a legal, moral and logistical impossibility. We can no more ban Muslims than we can ban guns, tobacco, abortion, gays, drugs, pollution, or any other controversial persons, philosophies or practices that affect our society. This is a free society and our battle against radical Islam is all about preserving that freedom.

What he has done is raise the issue of political correctness to a new level. Anyone who takes his side for whatever reason does so under threat of being declared racist or prejudiced. This puts one at odds with all minority groups by default, which is the scariest ground to stand on in this day and age. Trump has put his supporters in the trenches, and any who dare raise their heads will almost certainly have them shot off. This commentator chose to write this article rather than send out a Tweet or Facebook post which might have been misconstrued and result in the loss of countless cyberspace supporters.

Whether or not this has shipwrecked his 2016 election campaign remains to be seen. The pressing question is how our freedom of speech will be reinterpreted and if political correctness is going to become a new form of censorship that will render the Silent Majority mute for the rest of this decade.

Friday, December 4, 2015

"The Blight" --- Another Sneak Preview!!!

Here's a sneak preview of JRD's latest women's fiction psychological thriller coming in 2016...

She was totally wired after Brad left the apartment and could not relax, much less go to sleep. She finally decided to take a ride down to the Hilton St. Louis near the ballpark downtown to calm her nerves. She hadn’t been there for a while, and the scenic view would probably take her mind off things. There were enough distractions in her life without having to worry about boyfriends fighting over her.

          It pissed her off that Brad would be trying to interfere in her private life. She knew he would move in with her in a heartbeat if she made an offer. Even though he understood it wasn’t going to happen, she resented the fact he was trying to mess things up with her and Kurt. And she knew that Kurt was not going to contend for her. He would just walk away, and that was what worried her most of all.

          There was also the issue with X. She realized she was trying to ignore the fact that the psycho killer was homing in on her. Brad sneaking up on her outside the apartment told her that she was getting sloppy. No one was able to get within a yard of her back in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her female instincts were getting dim out here in civilian life, if she could call it that. She had to stay sharp, she had to stay ready. Somewhere out there, X was planning his next move.

          The Three Sixty Rooftop Bar at the hotel was one of her favorite places. It afforded visitors a panoramic view of the Arch, the Riverfront and Laclede’s Landing further down the line. She used to go to Laclede’s all the time until the Ferguson riots. After that the gangbangers started pushing the envelope and making their presence felt throughout the area. It became too risky to have one of them make her from the street.

          She loved the lime-colored d├ęcor, the bar countertop matching the stool covers and the panels below the open flame grills. The subtle lighting offset the hearty fire off to the right of the bar. It provided a fireplace effect though the cooking aromas were reminiscent of the finest steak houses. The bartender was always friendly and often gave her a buyback when she visited.

          She ordered a Jameson Irish whiskey and promised herself to nurse it as an upbeat bossa nova tune strained through the bar speakers. It was sparsely crowded with tourists, off-duty hospitality staff and city personnel making up most of the clientele. It suited her fine because she needed some space right now.

          “Say, miss, were you at the hockey game?”

          She turned to face a giant of a man standing 6’4”, about 280 pounds. His hair was close-cropped and there was a hint of a beard and mustache growing in. She was fairly certain it was the Kansas City Terminator, Johnny Fairmount. She saw him once or twice on Metro Pro Wrestling and the new series, Independence Wrestling.

          “Nah, I quit going after they traded TJ Oshie. That kinda pissed me off.”

          “Yeah, TJ wasn’t too happy about leaving. We gave him a big sendoff before he left. Say, can I buy you a drink?”

          “Yeah, well…” she said before knocking out her shot in one gulp. “Why not?”

          He motioned to the bartender as he walked over and got his own drink in joining her. She signaled to the bartender to pour her a double, and he readily obliged.

          “Jameson? Great whiskey. I think I’ll have one,” he knocked down his drink and motioned for a refill. “So, what do you do?”

          “A little bit of this and that,” she shrugged. “Just try to get by.”

          “Ever think of getting into the entertainment business?” he asked, giving her a once-over. She was still wearing her workout suit, which failed to conceal her generous bosom and her hourglass figure.

          “What, like a clown?”

          “No, like behind the scenes,” he scoffed. “I’m sorry, my name’s Johnny.”

          “Yeah, I’ve seen you on TV.”

          “And you’re…?”

          “My friends call me Kirstie.”

          He extended his hand and was impressed by her strong grip. He was doubly impressed when she knocked down her double in one gulp.

          “No need to rush,” he waved a finger, causing the bartender to pour her another double. “I’m not leaving town until tomorrow morning. We’re on tour in Texas, then taking a run through New Mexico and Colorado.”

          “Sounds like fun.”

          “Wanna tag along?”

          “Nah, I got stuff to do.”

          Fairmount kept trying to make small talk, and she felt somewhat sorry for him. The poor bastard probably forgot how to chat with normal people. In his world, he roared and everyone listened. He probably walked into the wrestling bars along the circuit and had the groupies falling at his feet. In a way he was probably like a cop, drowning in a sea of cops. In his case, all he knew was barbell plates and cheap steaks. He was losing his connection with real life, just like she was.

          “Well, Kirstie,” he said as the bartender poured her third double, “I think you’re gonna have trouble driving home. Why don’t you come down to my room and chill out? I can order room service.”

          “Nah, I’m good,” she smirked at him. “I gotta go.”

          “Gotta go?” he was exasperated. “The party’s just started.”

          “Not for me. I gotta get up early.”

          “Now, look. A beautiful girl like you doesn’t need to be walking around downtown by herself at this hour of the night after drinking all that booze,” he said, stroking her hair away from her face.

          “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

          “C’mon, now,” he began kneading the back of her neck. “You just knocked down a hundred bucks’ worth of whiskey. You wouldn’t drink that much whiskey with someone you didn’t like, would you?”

          “Mmm, that feels good,” she said before shrugging him off. “That’s enough.”

          “Hey, darling, you wouldn’t be taking advantage of a stranger’s hospitality, would you?” he ran his finger along the neckline of her t-shirt.

          “Don’t do that,” she murmured.

          “You like that, don’t you?” his finger trailed down towards her bosom.

          “Last warning.”

          “What?” he leered.

          His finger stroked her left breast before she snatched the ball of his thumb and twisted it outward. She heard his wrist crackle as she grabbed her glass and shattered it against his temple. He wobbled slightly before moving toward her, at which point she had the barrel of her snubnosed .38 Smith and Wesson pressed against his head.

          “Now I asked you nice,” she said as the rest of the patrons froze in horror around the spacious lounge. “Where’s your fricking manners?”

          “Okay, lady,” she heard a voice booming from the end of the bar behind her. “St. Louis MPD. Put your weapon on the bar and step away nice and slow.”

          “Yeah, right,” she said, doing as she was told before sliding her purse down the bar in the direction of the voice. “I’m a cop. My ID’s in the purse.”

          Fairmount’s eyes were wide as quarters as he regained his composure and walked off. Kirsten held her hands out as the gray-haired man trained his pistol on her while rummaging through her purse with his left hand.

          “Detective Streicher,” he said, slipping his gun back in his shoulder holster beneath his suit jacket. He nodded as she picked up her revolver and came over to retrieve her purse.

          “Well, I guess that’s that,” she glanced over as Fairmount rejoined three other brutish men at a far corner table.

          “Word around the campfire was that you were an attractive woman,” the cop smiled. “I’m Bill Clinton from Homicide. I’d have to say those rumors were grossly understated.”

          “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

          “You’re wired kinda tight for a civilian bar. With your looks, you can’t possibly think you’re not gonna get hit on. You really should stick to cop bars.”

          “So what’re you doing here? You’re pretty quick on the draw yourself.”

          “I’m waiting for my wife. She has a strong aversion to cop bars.”

          “Yeah, must be the kind of people you meet there.”

          They watched as Fairmount and his friends headed out the door. Just before they left, he turned to her.

          “Sorry about the misunderstanding,” the massive athlete called over as the bartender began pouring the two officers a refill. “Drinks’re on me.”

          “No harm done,” she waved and smiled. “Thanks.”

          Just as the wrestlers left, a stately and attractive woman strode through the door. She spotted Clinton and a look of jealous anger swept over her face.

          “Oh crud,” he exhaled. “My wife’s here. I need to introduce you.”

          “Sorry,” Kirsten snatched her purse off the bar. “Gotta go.”

          “What the heck?” he gawked at her.

          “This is what you get for pointing guns at women’s heads,” she said sweetly.

          She swayed her hips as she strutted past an irate Mrs. Clinton, reinforcing her long-held belief that payback was indeed a bitch.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One Of The Top Ten All-Time Greatest Irish Mob Flicks?

You gotta hand it to Johnny Depp. Like Tom Cruise, he hasn't depended on his matinee idol looks to get his flicks over. Nor has he relied on genre to rake in the bucks (although the Pirates series has guaranteed his riches for ten lifetimes). Yet he does have an affinity for the crime category, as we've seen in his unforgettable Donnie Brasco and the not-so-unforgettable Public Enemies. He teamed up with Al Pacino to make Brasco one of the Ten Greatest All-Time Crime Flicks (IMHO), and overshadowed none other than Christian Bale in acing his role as John Dillinger in Enemies. Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet if you haven't seen Black Mass.

Scott Cooper (who?) does a masterful job in sailing this ship to shore, considering the fact that it depends far more on Depp's performance than anything else. Yet therein may lie the magic, letting the understatement build evil visions in the audience's mind. There's none of the Scarface blood splatter, no Goodfellas glitz and glamor, none of the high-styling and profiling of The Departed. Whitey Bulger (Depp)'s crew is a lunch pail pick and shovel gang of Boston Irishmen trying to earn an illegal dollar the hard way before getting propositioned by one of Bulger's neighborhood acquaintances. It just so happens that Joel Edgerton (the Pharoah in Exodus: Gods and Kings) is an FBI agent trying to take down the Italian Mob by any means necessary. He makes a deal with Bulger, who feeds the Feds enough intel to trample the Mafia so that the Bulger Gang can step into the power vacuum. It turns Bulger into the USA's most powerful Irish Godfather, ruling Boston with an iron hand until agent John Connolly (Edgerton) is indicted by the Massachusetts DA. Bulger, as is well-known, goes on the run and becomes America's second Most Wanted Man (behind Osama Bin Laden) until his capture at the turn of the century.

It's Depp's performance that truly makes this what the critics call 'mesmerizing'. His dead fish look is absolutely eerie, and his nickname is a most apropos nomenclature (you call him Whitey, he'll split your skull). Bulger's blue-eyed zombie gaze is enough to steal every scene, and every time he stares at someone you're expecting the worst to happen. So does everyone else, and the tension is bloodcurdling. It's hard to remember a baddie captivating the audience in such a manner --- unless you want to include Hannibal Lecter or The Joker.

Such over-the-top performances have a way of getting arbitrarily passed over by the Academy, so Depp may not get the Oscar nod he deserves for this. But you can be damn sure it's a crime flick you'll never forget. And you sure as hell won't forget the name Whitey Bulger.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"The Blight" - A Sneak Preview!

           The white Porsche cruised slowly down Goodfellow Boulevard near downtown St. Louis, boldly venturing where most strangers dared not go. The streetlights grew dimmer and the buildings more desolate, yet the vehicle continued along its path. There were few pedestrians on the street at that time of night, and most seemed up to no good. Eventually a couple of men stepped off the curb and waved at the luxury car. It slowed to a halt as the men approached on either side.
            “What you ladies looking for?” a tall black man asked as he hovered over the driver’s side.
            “We were trying to score some weed,” the driver replied crisply.
            “How much?” the man on the passenger side asked.               
            “About a half ounce, depending on the price.”
            “Hundred bucks?”
            “Yeah, I can do that.”
            “Good,” the man replied before sticking a .38 barrel against her temple. “Turn off the car and get out nice and easy.”
             She did as she was told, and both women exited the vehicle as their accosters pulled the doors open. The driver was prodded towards an abandoned two-story residence, her companion shoved along behind them by the second man wielding a knife. The women wore cocktail dresses and high heels, their footing unsure as they made their way across broken glass and scattered debris.
            “Where are you taking us?” the driver asked.
            “That’s for you to find out,” the gunman said as his companion dropped back to get the Porsche out of the middle of the street. “You just do what I tell you and you’ll come out of this alive.”
             “Please don’t hurt us,” the second woman pleaded.
             “Just shut the hell up and do what you told.”
             “All right, brother, nice catch,” a beefy gangster appeared on the porch accompanied by four other men. “We gonna do some partying.”
              The media was abuzz with news of the previous night’s incident along the boulevard. Two college girls had driven into the neighborhood looking to score drugs and had been abducted by thugs. They were dragged into a building where they were raped, tortured and nearly beaten to death. The gangsters were well aware of the event and considered themselves fortunate that such beautiful women as these two could be this foolhardy.                                                                                                              
              “All right, ladies, turn around and put your hands behind your backs,” the gunman shoved them into the house, sticking his pistol into his waistband.
               “What are you going to do?” the second woman cried as the driver’s wrists were bound behind her back with a plastic tie.
               “Shut the hell up, bitch!’ he snarled, grabbing the back of her dress and ripping it in half. She screamed as he grabbed her wrists and tied them, leaving her standing in her underwear.
                “C’mon, man, give us a break,” the driver pleaded. “You don’t need this kind of heat, not after last night. People are gonna look for us.”
                “Don’t you worry about it,” the gunman smirked as he headed for the door, his comrades ransacking the Porsche they parked out front. “We gonna be done here before you know it.”
                Once he stepped outside, the driver reached under her dress and produced a switchblade from her panty line. She flicked it open and held it tight as her companion spun around, cutting herself free of her bond. She took the knife and swiftly cut her partner loose.
               “Geez, Kirstie, here they come.”
               The gunman returned with the husky man, both gangsters barreling through the door towards the women. Only as they reached for them, the women’s hands flew from behind their backs. Kirsten Streicher dropped back and launched a roundhouse kick with her stiletto heel that ripped across the gunman’s carotid artery and punctured his windpipe. Jenna Harm, in her underwear, drove the switchblade into the husky man’s right shoulder.
               “You’re right,” Kirsten told the sagging men. “We’re gonna be done here before you know it.”
             At once they could hear gunfire being exchanged outside as their teammates made their presence known. They also heard patrol car sirens on opposite ends of the street as the sound of helicopter blades descended over the roof. The women raced towards the parlor and stared up through a gaping hole in the ceiling.

             “St. Louis PD!” Kirsten showed her badge as she shot the bird at the spotlight glaring down at them. “Get that damn light off me!” 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Miika Hannila's Creativia Acquires Nightcrawler Series!!!

Spoiler Publishing Co. announced this week that Miika Hannila's Finnish-based company, Creativia, has acquired the rights to the Nightcrawler trilogy and is discussing the possibility of a fourth installment to the Sabrina Brooks suspense/thriller anthology.

Hannila has proven himself to be the most industrious of the small group of JRD brand publishers. Creativia sent the horror classic Vampir to the top of the Amazon vampire sales list last spring. They followed their success by catapulting Generations, the Sanders family saga, to Number 55 in Amazon's enormous historical fiction category.

"We couldn't be more excited about Miika taking over the helm in steering the JRD starship to its deserved position in the indie lit industry," a Spoiler Inc. spokesman commented. "He's shown tremendous faith in the JRD brand and we know that the Nightcrawler series couldn't have a better advocate going into 2016."

Creativia has earned a tremendous reputation in the horror publishing genre and is expanding its horizons with its new projects. Hannila has demonstrated prodigious energy and vision in doing so, and Spoiler Inc. is confident that bigger and better accomplishments lie on the road ahead.

"JRD's needed someone who believes in his work, with the determination to bring it to the next level," the Spoiler rep asserted. "It's a marriage made in heaven." 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Redemption" --- Coming in Winter 2016?

          (Here's a beta sample of a possible Nightcrawler saga...send us your comments!)

Over a half century ago, New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin ran a series on a mysterious Mob boss known as Il Occhio. Although Breslin attributed enormous power and frightening bloodlust to the man, there was no proof that he was anything but a fictitious character symbolizing the dark side of the Godfather mobs of the Seventies. It was not until the Eighties when brutal killers like John Gotti and Nicky Scarfo rose to power did the glamor and mystique of the Mob fade away.                                                                                                                       
Peter Ruggiero felt as if he was going to pick up where Breslin left off with his series on Al the Blond. It was a chilling look into the New York underworld, only social media left little conjecture as to the personage being discussed. After the incarceration of Angelo “The Blade” Vacirca, there was a power vacuum in the Rossini Mob that most felt was going to be filled by Alastair Piedmont. Al the Blond had never been arrested or charged with a crime, but his name was on numerous State and Federal lists of racketeering suspects. He was under the microscope, but his network was so impenetrable that no one could even determine who his lieutenants were. Vito Scafati and Guido Rovigo were mentioned, but even they seemed as occasional contacts at best.                                                                             

Ruggiero was a tall, attractive man who many thought of as effete. Yet he fancied himself an intellectual and was at home among the rich and famous and gangster types alike. His placid and sociable demeanor belied his incisive and sometimes scathing editorial style. He made more than a few enemies among those who were shredded by Peter after unwittingly taking him into their confidence. Some of these were acquaintances of Al the Blond who made the grievous blunder of sharing more than they should have.                                                                                

Shortly after the Thinker had left the office of Walt Tkaczuk, Peter Ruggiero was powering down his PC for the night. He was feeling pretty cocksure after his tenth installment featuring Al the Blond hit the presses. The editors of The Inquisitor were certain that sales would begin soaring when the column pieces gave way to a feature series. His Rugg Ratt column was already the talk of the town, and the new Ruggiero Rap was predicted to become the newspaper series of the year.                     

He had just buffed his gold-rimmed glasses and put them back on when he saw the two figures stepping through the doorway of his office. They looked like a couple of overdressed college teens with a strangely chilly demeanor. One of the last sights he would ever remember was their doll-like lifeless eyes.                                          

“This place is closed,” Peter said sternly though he broke a cold sweat upon realizing something was terribly wrong here. They walked in and leaned up against the wall, the black-dressed kids waiting for him to speak. “You can check in with security at the desk in the lobby. They can help get you where you need to be.”             

“They’re not there,” the blonde girl replied. “I think they’re kinda tied up in the ladies’ room.”                                                                                                           “Well, we’ve got roving security,” Peter switched on his desktop intercom. “They can come and escort you back downstairs.”                                                                   

“See, I told you,” the pale young man said softly.                                                         

“Yeah, so?” she replied nonchalantly.                                                                            

Peter watched with trepidation as the teens gazed down the hall through the doorway. They seemed as if waiting for a bus. Eventually they heard the elevator door in the hallway and the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps.                              

“Everything okay, Mr. Ruggiero?”                                                                       

“These two appear to be lost. I told them you could escort them back to the lobby.”                                                                                                                             

“Sure can,” the strapping Puerto Rican guard replied. “Come on, we’ll take you back downstairs.”                                                                                                         

“Screw you,” the blonde said tersely.                                                                     

“Excuse me?” the hulking black guard asked.                                                          

At once the black-leathered blonde launched a lightning front kick into the Puerto Rican’s groin. The black man was startled but lunged for her, running right into a high-heeled roundhouse kick that nearly broke his jaw. She charged into them with a flurry of elbows and knees, dropping them to the carpet where she rendered them unconscious with a vicious stomping.                                                                         

“What the hell do you want?” Peter tried to appear belligerent.                                     
“That column you’ve been writing,” the blonde replied. “You’ve been printing lies that are hurting lots of good people. You need to go on vacation for a while. Maybe take a leave of absence.”                                                                      

“Look, you don’t realize how much trouble you’re already in,” Peter flared. “You’d better get out now before it gets any worse.”                                                    

“See, I told you he wouldn’t listen,” the blonde murmured.                                 

“Yeah, I was hoping he would.”                                                                           

“Okay, look, I’m gonna call an ambulance. It’ll probably take them about ten minutes to get here,” Peter picked his cell phone off the desk.                                       

“Don’t do that,” the raven-haired kid entreated him.                                           

Just as Peter raised the phone to his lips, the young man swung across the desk and smashed the device into his teeth. Peter dropped the phone as the kid grabbed his lapels and pulled him over the desk. The reporter landed painfully on his knees as his assailant grabbed his hair and slammed the back of his head against the edge of the desk.                                                                                                                             

“You would’ve probably lied to us anyway,” the kid produced a small vial from his inside jacket pocket and unscrewed the cap with one hand. “You wouldn’t have gone nowhere.”                                                                                                

Peter tried to rise but the attacker gave him an excruciating kick to the groin. The journalist was paralyzed with pain as the kid yanked his head back, pinning it to the top of the desk.                                                                                                  

“Sorry about this,” the young man said before pouring the contents of the vial into Peter’s eyes.                                                                                                                  
Peter let loose a deafening scream as the sulfuric acid burned through his eyeballs. The assailant pulled out a small sack into which he put the vial and the small cap.                                                                                                                           

“Wipe your fingers,” the blonde said as Peter began losing consciousness.   
“I’ll be okay,” the young man replied as they stepped past the fallen guards and headed for the elevator.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Generations" by John Reinhard Dizon - A Sneak Preview!

            Anyone who had been in the vicinity of the Connor estate that night after Ioan’s coach rode off would have seen the four black-clad figures creeping across the lawn to the manor. They wore black-dyed long underwear and military boots along with a hairnet over their curlers. Their faces were black as night though white skin was visible above their black leather gloves.
            Edward Connor was going over the union proposals in his office in order to prepare a report for his partners. Sharon, among others, had convinced him that the conditions in the mine had to be corrected with all due urgency. Although they were fully prepared to make immediate changes, they wanted to choose the most expedient course of action possible to meet the greatest needs. They also wanted to ensure that, by bringing the union aboard, they would be given the best advice on how to make working conditions both as safe and cost-efficient as possible.
            He heard a noise in the parlor and thought to investigate, but shrugged it off as possibly an animal bumping against the house or a tree limb blown against it. His instincts made him think twice, especially with the notion of the Molly Maguires possibly lurking in the vicinity and committing an act of vandalism on the property. He was confident in the abilities of the Pottsville Police Department, as well as the resolve of the Coal and Iron Police and the Pinkertons in tracking down the Mollies. Yet he knew that there were a fair number of hooligans amongst their ranks who would slip through dragnets undetected and destroy property to establish themselves with their more dangerous counterparts.
            As he came down the stairs, he was shoved hard down the steps where he crashed into the banister and tumbled down to the floor. He sprained his wrist and banged up both knees, unable to offer serious resistance as two sets of hands grabbed his arms and dragged him to a wooden armchair. He was twisted around and dropped down, a third man coming over to help tie him to the chair as the fourth intruder came down from the stairwell.
            “Well, well, quite a setup you have here. Doing slightly better than in the Old Country, I see,” the leader chortled as he descended to the parlor. “Perhaps you’ll be a bit more generous to those less fortunate than you in this new environment.”
            “You’re making a mistake,” Connor warned him. “This property is under surveillance by the Coal and Iron Police and the Pinkertons. Just walk away and it’ll be as if nothing happened. Leave now before this gets out of hand.”
            “Don’t you think we would’ve been watching the house as well to see when those bunglers make their rounds?” The leader strolled across the carpet, admiring the tasteful Victorian furnishings. “They come by at five o’clock so they can beat the evening rush to the steak house. I’ve got six-thirty on my pocket watch.”
            “What do you want? I don’t keep much money in the house,” Edward bargained.
            “I’ve got a pen and paper. I want your signature on a document agreeing to allow your workers to form a chapter of the WBA here in Pottsville.”
            “That’s absurd! I’m a junior partner in the firm; it wouldn’t be worth the cost of the paper!”
            “It’s what they call a moral victory.” The leader walked over to stand before him. “It would signify a rift in leadership among the mine owners. The beginning of a petition, if you will.”
            “My name won’t be at the top of it,” Connor asserted. “I don’t know why you started here, but you picked the wrong fellow.”
            “Luck of the draw,” the leader produced a long-handled pair of pliers from a small sack tied to his belt. “Well, let’s see now. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘pulling hen’s teeth’?”
            Connor did not answer, jerking at his bonds, and staring balefully at the three other men standing around him.
            “In your case, I can either knock them all out in one shot, or I can pull them one by one. Either way, I can assure you the pain will probably be more than a pencil-pusher like yourself could tolerate. I will give you a moment to consider, and should you choose to remain stubborn, then you can decide how we will proceed with the dental work.”
            “You infer principles, yet you fail to consider how you will strengthen the resolve of the mine owners to resist your demands! Do you not think they will declare war against you on principle? You defeat your own purpose with these acts of barbarism!”
            “I’m sure when they see how this dental work affects your job performance, they will surely reconsider.” The leader grinned, clicking the jaws of the pliers nonchalantly.
            Suddenly there was a great crash as a huge earthen pot from the outside patio was hurled through the framed glass door. Wood and glass flew through the room before the vase exploded on the tiled floor, sending shards of clay and dirt everywhere. Behind it hurtled a figure, which catapulted across the floor to the fireplace. Most of the men recognized Ioan, who yanked a poker from its stand and tumbled across the floor once again. He rolled to where two of the men stood and took vicious swings, cracking them across the knees and shins. They dropped to the floor in agony as he rose to his feet.
            “Okay, William, let us get on either side of him,” the leader rose to the balls of his feet, brandishing the pliers as a small club. “He can only take one of us; the other will catch him from behind.”
            “You know you’ll be the one I take out, and I’m sure your friend would be no match for me thereafter,” Ioan assured him. “Take these goons and get out while I attend to Mr. Connor.”

            “You strike a hard bargain,” the leader grinned. Both he and William helped their partners to their feet and out the broken glass door as Ioan took his time freeing Edward.