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Excerpt – Operation Next of Kin

our cat bella logoThe opening of Operation Next of Kin (due out in December 2013) sounds like this — right now, anyway —



… the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption;

the end is the creation of the Beloved Community.

— the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King


Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts.

— from Snow Storm by Tu Fu, trans. Kenneth Rexroth


My Spy Boy and your Spy Boy

sittin’ by the fire,

My Spy Boy told your Spy Boy

gonna set your house on fire.

— traditional song



Ma’s Day and the return of April Fools



First, a few definitions —


1) Expert or favorably disposed tree for milling, such as a yew, which has been cut down, bucked into eight-foot lengths, and limbed.

2) An expert-level, or professional, blog (qv) var. sp. prolog.

3) Worn, if not archaic, sp. for a ref. to front matter such as in a book

or novel.


1) Former drip under pressure (with thanks to some unknown comic spirit).

Like that.

Here’s another.


1) Poorly constructed furniture imported from Eastern Bloc, found in the bedroom, cf clothes closet, chest of drawers, wardrobe, armoire.

2) Book of spells … meant to be read forward or backward.

3) Series title of books by Goose Grim (qv) of which this is the third.

» » »

Hi, it’s me.

Friends call me OhJim, Pop called me OtherJim, and you can call me when I get back to Buffalonya, which may be a while, and since we left on April Fool’s Day, you might just take anything I tell you with a grain of salt or a bag of peanuts.

The bald bobble head next to me is Jim, who is the less elder of my two brothers (the other, and eldest, being Goose).

The two guys in the front seat of this cavernous Crown Vic, heading south?

Later for them, and that.

Jim, Goose, and I share a history and the same father, and his last name, which was Grim.

We three call ourselves the Bros Grim, and we own an eponymous Private Investigations company, based in the capacious backroom of a dusty, dear used bookshop, Caspar’s Books and That, in the northern reaches of Our Town, Buffalonya, New York, on the extreme eastern edge of Lake Eerie.

Caspar’s Books and That (as in Yeah, we got that) exists on several levels. We sell used books, we gather in the backroom to ply our trade, and we maintain cover for a group of over-the-hill ex-spooks who exist on even more levels than our beloved bookshop does.

Am I going too fast for you?

Didn’t think so.

» » »

As my brother Jim and I head south, hunched down in the back of this tank on tires, of a sort that screams POLICE DETECTIVE, I muse on the assignment that we have from the Tribe.

The Tribe.

That would be the collection of ex-spooks, spooks in training, and various hangers-on that forms a quasi-criminal enterprise that operates in Robin Hood fashion at the sufferance of a collection of Three Letter Agencies of more variants and permutations than Mother Goose has tail feathers, or tales.

As the Psalmist says, You are grass, and as the Africans say, When the elephants fight, the grass suffers, though we have not withered yet.

When we gather to do business, as the Tribe, we call ourselves the F-Troop, which is a quasi-Robert’s Rules corporation that has no status, 501(c)(3) or otherwise, but is the figment of imagination of three little boys who were raised by a wonderful post-war refugee from the Eastern Bloc and one-time spook named Missus McFeather (Ma to us) whom our Pop hired as housekeeper, reality principal, and all-in female presence for his three motherless sons.

The story of Pop’s three concurrent affairs that issued in us, in a matter of days, forms the core of our family identity and makes the celebration of Mother’s Day a mockery.

Ma’s Day, alternatively, is our yearly jubilation on the 4th of July.

Ma came back into our lives a year ago and has died by violence since that time and been resurrected in the media, having never left our midst, as the prime consequence of a hoax dreamed up and laid down by the Tribe and certain of our three-letter associates.

Said hoax is generally known in Buffalonya as the Double Daily Double Murders, which weren’t, but this was not general knowledge until we decided to make it so.

In other words, Ma and three others of our Tribe were murdered but only in the media, for reasons strategic to our efforts to protect our way of life, which up until two years ago was hidden in plain sight, in Caspar’s Books and That, in the frosty northern reaches of Buffalonya, on Delaware at Junker.

More on all that in a moment.

» » »

The F-Troop had its genesis in a comment that Pop made about my brothers and I when we were little guys. Waving his middle finger in the air, Pop said that this is the sum total of your collective I.Q., you little bastards.

Pop was joking. We have understood the banana peel aspect of what is loosely called humor, from that day.

Pop was, himself, something of an S.O.B., by choice and by nature/nurture. One might love Pop, especially if one were his son, but one did not really like Pop, any more than one would want to hug a porcupine.

At least the three of us didn’t.

Rather than being raised by wolves, S.O.B.s, or foster families, we grew strong and healthy, at least in body, through the work of our dear Ma. The one positive thing that Pop taught us, other than the truth about I.Q. and humor, was to see ourselves as a tribe rather than a family. I remember the lecture that Pop gave us, when we were still learning how to read, about the tribe mentality of the Apaches, who led one another by example and inclination.

For example, Pop said, one Apache might say, I am going to raid the fort; anyone who wants can come with me. Or not.

Pop, as you can see, was not politically correct, nor am I, I suppose, for perpetuating Pop’s piggy words and concepts. My brothers and I value political correctness about as much as we value right-wing talk radio.

Or left-wing talk radio.

But I digress … and will continue to do, like a herky-jerky pitcher who throws change-ups inside change-ups until you wind up striking out, gladly.

However, digressive or not, of the three sons who could by right expect the gift, I am the one who received Pop’s watch after he died.

And boy is that another story.

» » »

Notice that the two men sitting on the front seat of the Crown Vic are taller than we are, here in the back, and where we barely clear the back of the mouse grey bench seat upon which they sit, at the corners, and where we only show our bald heads out the side windows, which are, I admit, tinted to a degree that flouts the relevant state law, the two giants up front display large heads and wide shoulders out windows with less tint than ours.

As targets go, their heads would be hard to miss.

The upshot is that Jim and I are, in this dim light of late afternoon, probably only dimly visible to those who encounter this regulation unmarked COP DETECTIVE Crown Vic of a certain age and character.

Driving our tank is Agent Luke Parmgartner, whom you can call Agent if it is your misfortune to meet him professionally rather than socially.

Sitting beside Luke, at the far end of the car couch that is the front seat of your elderly Crown Vic, is Mister Ed AKA Mr. Blue, one of the retired but still trusty spooks from Caspar’s Books and That.

This writing of mine is starting to sound juvenile in my own ears, which makes me wonder why Goose has passed to me the baton of narration. By the time I am done telling you about our trip to Pittsburgh, and all the adventures that we are sure to have, I will be more than glad to hand back to Goose the baton. I imagine that I will invite him to stick it where the sun don’t shine, but we shall see.

After all, we return to Buffalonya with some rather startling facts, and we arrive just ahead of some gruesome developments.

But I digress into the future, which I am prone to do.

Blame it on Pop’s watch.

» » »

Luke looks like a spook, which he is, and he acts like a spook, which he does without strain or effort, and he drives like a crash dummy or a statue such as The Thinker would.

Upright, minimalist, competent, lights out/no one home.

Like a cop.

That’s our cover, and we are, according to Tommy (of whom much more is to come) Operation Next-of-Kin, a cross-platform effort of the Tribe and its murky TLA sponsors, who have given us Luke for muscle and Mister Ed for brains. Why Jim and I are along for the ride is anyone’s guess.

My mind is a blank.

Maybe we are the huevos, but somehow that seems unlikely.

Even though we are a couple of good eggs with shiny heads to match.

Mister Ed, broad of shoulder and loud of voice, is our resident expert on journalistic ops of the covert sort. Thus the nickname that comes from that old television show about the talking horse, with a long-necked nod to his covert time as an editor on several metro newspapers that will remain blissfully ignorant of his true nature. Which is why we also call him, once in a while, Mr. Blue — in honor of the non-repo pen with blue ink that no editor feeding info to an offset press would ever be without.

When the Tribe, meeting as the F-Troop, breaks into parliamentary mode, Mister Ed is our parliamentarian. A more gloriously pedantic parliamentarian you are not likely to meet, on either side of the Great Divide of Life. In the life to come, Mister Ed will be parsing public discourse for the angels when they let down their wings and do their tribal business.

As is the case with any human endeavor, there is a story, and a long one, about why the four of us are aping a contingent of public servants, of the sort who swear to serve and defend, on an official trip in a loudly unmarked Crown Vic with the tiny, shiny hub caps and the understated but always present plaque on the back, just above the bumper, on the right side and over near the tail light, that says, in letters cast in 36 pt. type —

Police Interceptor

What do we infer from this mix of covert intentions and overt trappings?


The disinformation coming to your eyes, that you are seeing a boatload of police types on a long trip for some official reason, is balanced nicely by the reality that an agent on loan from a TLA, a spook long in the tooth but still capable of recently proven violence, and two bald retired guys in casual clothes are making a big show of traveling to Pittsburgh.

We have specific tasks that flow from that long story that I still have not told you.

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