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©02 The Media Desk
The one thing the Bishop required of his trainers was that they have a vehicle that could haul a lot of stuff, several people, and do so with relative ease without drawing a great deal of attention to itself.
I looked at my car. It held two people, no more unless they were an Oompa Loompa. As far as cargo, there had been times when I drove to a mission site with a bag under my legs because the tiny trunk and what claimed to be a back seat and the passenger seat were full.
I agreed after some rather weak protesting on my part and some rather persuasive arguments on his part. Then I went out to look at big vehicles.
It didn't take long for me to decide that I did not want a mini-van. Then the sales guy tried to sell me a station wagon. Four car lots later I was about to tell the Bishop I was going to buy a retired school bus from an on-line auction.
"Look. I want to see the biggest nicest most gussied up van you got." I told the sales manager.
I had walked right into the showroom and passed three salespeople. One of whom I did take two long careful looks at. She seemed to be in the wrong place, the woman, I mean it now, was gorgeous. But no matter what she looked like, or if she knew everything in the world about selling vans, I had had it with the entire automobile sales force in the state.
The manager looked at me. "OK. Sure." He said.
We walked out of his office and down a back hall onto the lot. "You said big." He looked at me with doubt in his eyes.
"I said big."
He opened a cabinet and ran his fingers down several rows of keys before he selected a set.
"This way." He said.
Their lot was the size of some towns I'd seen. But we weren't walking toward the cars and minivans. We were walking to where shiny dump trucks and a semi-cab sat with a huge flag flying from it that said 'NEW'. Pickup trucks with dual rear wheels were crowded together next to a utility box truck with a hydraulic crane on the back of it. For some reason I thought maybe I had overemphasized my point.
Next to a stake bed truck and behind a motor coach sat a van.
I fell in love with it before he even opened the door.
Sitting inside it I felt I had more room than I did in my old apartment.
The seats turned and reclined, the sales manager pushed a button and a TV came on, there was a refrigerator and a microwave, enough storage for all my stuff, and still it went on.
"Do you want to take it for a test drive?" He asked me.
I'd never win any drag races in it.
He talked about the custom fuel injectors and the extra gas tank and other features that he couldn't remember right then. But he'd be happy to look them up when we got back.
In spite of its bulk it handled nicely. It didn't take a forty acre field to turn it around, and when I backed up, I could see the whole world behind me in its oversized mirrors. It even beeped when in reverse.
We headed back toward the dealership.
"So what do you think sir?"
"I'll take it."
"Excellent. What are you trading in on it?"
His face was the perfect poker face. But he just nodded.
We went back into his office to talk deal. I got him to drop the price by almost five grand when he told me how much it was and how it came to be here. It wasn't exactly new, although it had never been tagged. I insisted on every warranty and road hazard coverage he had though, so the price went back up.
Then I made a face and talked about how it had been sitting here, so the price magically came down again.
"That's the best you can do?" I looked at the paper. "I really like the van but I think my wife will make me live in it for that price."
A little more haggling. The number got to where I felt like I wasn't being skinned alive.
"Now, what kind of financing do you want to work out?"
I pulled my ace in the hole.
Actually I laid the Bishop's 'theHunter' credit card on the table.
"I don't need to see your ID yet." He didn't touch it but kept typing on his terminal.
"No, I want to pay for the van."
He stopped typing and looked at me. "You're kidding. You're going to charge that van on your card?"
"What kind of credit limit do you have on it?"
"None that I know of."
He swallowed and picked it up. "Who's The Hunter?"
"I am. Just run it."
"If you say so." He got up and stepped around the desk.
"I'll come with you."
He went to the cashier and gave her the card and the paper for the van.
The lady looked at it all and asked if we were really doing this. He nodded, I just smiled.
The sale went through without even needing a phone call.
"Are you taking it today?"
"Sure am. Can somebody follow me in my car?"
The manager smiled for the first time in a long time. "I will."
Keia loved the van. She wanted to drive it back to the dealership to drop off the manager, then go for a drive around town in it.
With the seat all the way forward, and the steering wheel adjusted, she was able to reach the pedals and make it go. The manager was most patient in explaining some of the features to her, like the GPS mapping system.
I sat in the back and played with the gizmos and gadgets, and checked my email as well.
Keia drove around the beltway, then out to the bay, then down some back roads back home.
"Huntie did good. Bishop will like van." She said as she cruised expertly into the driveway.
"There's something else I wanted to show you." I said. "Back here."
"Huntie bad." She said as I showed her how the back seat reclined flat and gave us plenty of room to... to test drive it.
I got to where I drove the van almost half the time.
For runs into the office I used to work at for meetings and stuff I still drove my car. It maneuvered much easier in traffic and with the microscopic parking spaces there, I'd have needed four of them for the van.
Within two weeks I was hauling Thunder and a couple other trainers to West Virginia for an anti-terrorist summit. The powerful engine made riding up and down the mountains a breeze.
For breaks I went out and sat in the van and logged onto my home computer from the on board system to research what had been said in the meeting, and the person that had said it.
Some of what I had heard made me wonder if this summit wasn't doing more harm than good.
I had to speak up when we broke up into discussion groups.
"What is the working definition of terrorism we're using here?" I asked our group leader.
He seemed puzzled by the question.
"A lot of what Mr. Smith talked about deals with ordinary citizens. They could come and kick down my door because I just bought a vehicle and paid cash for it."
"Did you have a legitimate use for the vehicle?" He asked me.
"No. I hauled our bunch up here in it." The group laughed.
The moderator didn't laugh.
"I meant, no, I'm not a carpenter or somebody that uses things like that for work. But if a private citizen buys a truck and pays cash you are assuming they are going to fill it up full of explosives and try to blow up the Pentagon."
The moderator looked at me strangely.
A woman in my group spoke up. "If I go and withdraw a handful of cash you've got bank tellers calling the FBI telling them I'm going to smuggle drugs or buy an airplane full of guns."
"Why should my mother have to write an essay about why her sister in Syria called her from a pay phone?" A man added.
"There are of course innocent incidents that will be needlessly investigated. But we must be vigilant against terror."
"Vigilant or paranoid?" I said sourly.
Our group fell to a running argument about how far is too far to prevent what may honestly be unpreventable if some individual, or worse, a well organized and funded group intends to do something at all costs. How much freedom were we willing to give up, how much surveillance would we tolerate to prevent another World Trade Center or Oklahoma City bombing?
In the time left to our group, we didn't even get close to an answer.
After a break, everybody reassembled back in the meeting hall.
The headlining speaker was back up on the podium and started in about the threat to the security of the republic and why we, the law enforcement community of the country should do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of the country.
I sat and waited. I had something for this guy.
After awhile he opened the floor up for questions.
I jumped to my feet and walked toward the stage.
"You are under arrest for suspicion of terrorist activity." I flashed my badge and a handful of papers. The room fell to absolute silence.
"That is a very bad joke sir."
"No joke Mister Conn." I stepped up on the riser. "You have changed your cel phone three times in the last two years. You withdrew a significant amount of cash from two different automatic tellers in the last month. And you have purchased an unusual amount of ammunition of a type used in automatic weapons. And you have an outstanding warrant on you."
His face froze, "But..."
"Officer." I said to a uniformed cop I had prearranged this with in the front row. He got up and took out his handcuffs. Mr. Conn was shaking his head and unsure of what to say or do.
I faced the podium and spoke clearly. "This is how this sort of paranoid super investigating of everybody in the country will get out of hand." I waved the papers at the people. "This information is available on everybody, by anybody with the clearance, that knows how to get it. Based on this, I could throw him in jail and have him held without bail until his lawyer sorted it out. Even then, his arrest on terrorism charges will stay on his record, and blow any security clearance and credit application he made out of the water before the ink was dry." There was a murmuring of agreement from the audience.
Mr. Conn was recovering his composure.
I didn't give him a break, "How bad does this looks on the surface?" I handed him the papers. "See how an old parking ticket can be blown out of proportion? When coupled with these other actions, which I might add were innocent, if I had it in for you, I could ruin your life. And what price would I pay for it? It was a judgement call. I over-reacted, after all, it does look suspicious, sorry Charlie."
Some of the people laughed.
"Which is why we have to use common sense and good judgement." Mr. Conn said.
"That's not the way you were talking earlier." I said, the crowd agreed with me.
"Some professional restraint needs to be used when deciding if an actual real and present threat..." he stopped. The crowd was actually booing.
"You mean law enforcement needs to use restraint when we come after you. Before I kick in your door and dig through your sock drawer I should think about who you are and what you are doing."
"But some poor schmuck on the street is fair game." Somebody yelled from one side of the auditorium.
"Not unless we have reason to believe..."
I cut him off, "Not unless he has enough money or position to keep him out of your sights."
Mr. Conn didn't seem to be having a good day.
"So what do you think we should do? How should we handle things like this?" Somebody yelled to me.
"I want to hear this." Mr. Conn said to me. He stepped back from the podium.
I took a deep breath, and stepped toward the mike like it was a snake.
The drive home was interesting.
The others gave me a hard time from the minute we pulled out of the parking lot. I let them talk and simply drove along the highway, looking at the mountains.
The phone rang.
"Yes sir." Thunder said after she answered it. "It's the Bishop." She said handing me the receiver.
"Am I fired?" I asked as a greeting.
"No. That wouldn't be using professional restraint with some poor schmuck."
The voice cut through me like a laser beam. It was the same voice that had yelled out that he wanted to hear my opinion on the matter.
The Bishop continued to my silence. "However, sometime in the near future you will be called to a very special meeting." The line went dead.
My email box was swamped with mail from organizations and agencies requesting me to come to speak to them or be on a panel for a debate on the issue of privacy and personal freedom versus the security demands of the government.
Of which Bishop42 had already accepted several for me.
So I spent a couple of weekends a month on the road speaking, a week or so a month training agents in various aspects of operations, some time working on programs or games from the computer shop, and the rest of the time listening to Keia talk about our impending baby.
So was the life of theHunter.
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