Saturday, December 31, 2011

EL DORADO WEST [PG] - Chapter Twelve



The following is Chapter Twelve of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:


Chapter Twelve – On the Trail

May 12, 1849
Tension has permeated the wagon company since Marcus Cross nearly fell into the Kanzas River, two days ago. Mr. Anderson has been trying to put an end to their feud by offering his apologies since the noon break, yesterday. But the Cross cousins maintained their distance. As far as they were concerned, the Louisiana emigrant had been careless.

The Delaware cousins’ hostile silence finally cracked during supper, today. After Marcus Cross rebuked another one of Mr. Anderson’s apologies, the latter turned away, mumbling complaints about ”bad” manners. It turned out to be the last straw for the Delaware native. Mr. Cross grabbed Mr. Anderson by the lapels of the his coat and punched him in the jaw. Intervention by Mr. John Cross, Mr. James and Mr. Wendell prevented the younger Cross cousin from committing further assault.

“I want that bastard hanged!” Mr. Anderson had cried. “That man tried to kill me!” His cries came to naught, for most of the company did not want to get involved in the feud between and the Cross cousins – even if most of them sympathized with the Delaware men.

Whatever feelings most of the company possessed, everyone’s main concern seemed to be that the two feuding men should remain apart. According to Mr. James, there was nothing more destructive to a wagon train than dissention among the emigrants. While the Cross cousins traveled behind the Robbins wagon, Mr. Anderson and his companions traveled at the rear.


May 18, 1849
Nearly two weeks had passed since our departure from Westport. By this time, a daily pattern had emerged for our trek west. The company usually started the day around five in the morning. While a handful of men tended to the stock, other emigrants – both men and women – gathered wood and water for breakfast. Mr. James refuses to allow any of the women to wander off alone. The women usually finished preparing breakfast by six-thirty, which was eaten by seven o’clock. After the company hitched up the wagons, another day’s journey would commence.

Around noon, the wagon train usually formed a circle to guard against marauding Indians (which we have yet to encounter) and prevent the stock from wandering. Only water was usually gathered for the midday meals. Mr. James had suggested we eat cold dinners around this time of the day and save the next hot meal for suppers. The noon halt usually lasted an hour before we set out on the road again.

The second half of a day’s journey usually ended around six o’clock. Mr. James informed us that when the days began to get shorter by September, the company’s evening halt would begin an hour earlier. September? That is four months away. How long will it take us to reach California?

Again, the men gathered water and wood. The women prepared the meals and we all ate supper. It was usually around this time when Mr. James would entertain us with one of his tales about the West or the Palmer brothers would engage in their outrageous sense of humor. One of our Tennesseeans, the younger Mr. Goodwin, seemed slightly perplexed by the New Englanders’ humor.

“What’s wrong with our humor?” Warren Palmer demanded in a more sober mood.

Jonas Goodwin admitted that he found them entertaining. “It’s just that I always thought you Yankees were a serious lot. You know – religious and penny pinching. With no sense of humor.”

Both Palmers broke into laughter. “Ah, the very image of Brother Jonathan himself,” Richard Palmer said with a twinkle in his eyes. “I reckon there are a good number of such men in our part of the country. Since traveling cross country, I’ve noticed that they seemed to be all over. Maybe even in Tennessee?”

The elder Mr. Goodwin spoke up in defense of his son and state. “Now, I would not exactly say that, sir. True, we have a lot of God fearing folk in Tennessee. But I don’t know about penny pinchers.”

“I’m from Kentucky,” Mr. Robbins said. “And I have certainly encountered a good number of Brother Jonathan types there. And in Virginia. I’ll tell you what. How many of you have encountered these Brother Jonathan types back home? With no sense of humor?”

Nearly everyone raised their hands, save the Goodwins and Mr. Anderson. The latter shot warning looks at his female companions. But they refused to be intimidated and raised their hands. “This is nonsense!” The younger Mr. Goodwin cried out. “But all of y’all are Yankees!”

Elias Wendell revealed that he was from Maryland. The Crosses mentioned that Delaware was a border state. Each of Mr. Anderson’s female companions stated that their birthplaces were Augusta, Georgia and Baton Rouge, Louisiana respectively. Mr. James added, “Although I’ve been living in Ohio these past two decades, I’m originally from North Carolina. Just goes to show you, Mr. Goodwin, it don’t do to judge a book by its cover. A fine old adage to follow, if you ask me.”

Unable to support his earlier belief, young Mr. Goodwin acknowledged defeat . . . with good grace, I might add. However, Mr. Anderson seemed annoyed by the whole matter. Some people simply do not want to learn.


End of Chapter Twelve

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"WESTWARD HO": Introduction


schooner

Below is the introduction to an article about Hollywood's depiction about the westward migration via wagon trains in the United States - especially during the 1840s:


"WESTWARD HO!": Introduction

I. History vs. Hollywood

Between 2001 and 2004, the A&E Channel used to air a series called "HISTORY vs. HOLLYWOOD". Each episode featured experts that were interviewed about the historical accuracy of a film or television special that was based on a historical event. These experts or historians would examine a newly released film - usually a period drama - and comment on the historical accuracy featured in the story. Not surprisingly, most productions would receive a verdict of "both Hollywood fiction and historical fact".

A rising demand for more historical accuracy seemed to have become very prevalent in recent years. I cannot explain this demand. And if I must be honest, I do not know if I would always agree. If such accuracy ever got in the way of a whopping good story, I believe it should be tossed in favor of the story. Many of William Shakespeare's dramas have proven to be historically inaccurate. I can think of a good number of well-regarded productions that I would never consider to be completely accurate as far as history is concerned - "GONE WITH THE WIND" (1939), "GLORY" (1989), "ENIGMA" (2001) and "THE TUDORS" (2007-2010).

All of this brings me to this article's main topic - namely the depiction of the 19th century western migration in various movies and television productions. I thought it would be interesting to examine five productions and see how they compare to historical accuracy. I will focus upon two movies and three television miniseries:

*"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962)

*"THE WAY WEST" (1967)

*"CENTENNIAL: The Wagon and the Elephant" [Episode 3] (1978-79)

*"THE CHISHOLMS" (1979)

*"INTO THE WEST: Manifest Destiny" [Episode 2] (2005)


II. The Essentials of Western Travel

Before I start making comparisons, I might as well focus on the correct essentials needed by westbound emigrants during their trek to either Oregon, California or other destinations. The essentials are the following:

1. Farm wagon/Prairie schooner vs. Conestoga wagon - The Conestoga wagon is well-known among those who study American history during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagon used extensively during that period in the United States east of the Mississippi River and Canada to transport goods up to 8 tons. It was designed to resemble a boat in order to help it cross rivers and streams.

However, the Conestoga wagon was considered too large and bulky for the 2,000 miles journey between Western Missouri and the West Coast - especially for the teams of stock pulling the wagon. It was highly recommended for emigrants to use regular farm wagons. The farm wagon was primarily used to transport goods. However, small children, the elderly, and the sick/or injured rode in them. But since the wagons had no suspension and the roads were rough, many people preferred to walk, unless they had horses to ride. The wagon - depending on luck - was sturdy enough for the 2,000 to 3,000 westbound trek. More importantly, the wagon would not wear down the team of animals pulling it.


2. Draft animals - The westbound emigrants depended upon draft animals to haul their wagons for the long trek. Horses were out of the questions. A single rider could travel to Oregon or California astride a horse. But horses were not sturdy enough for the 2,000 miles trek and would die before reaching the end of the journey. It was recommended that emigrants use oxen or mules to pull their wagons.

Both oxen and mules were considered sturdy enough for the long trek. However, most would recommend oxen to haul a wagon, for they were cheaper and could survive slightly better on the grazing found along the trails. Mules could do the same, but at a lesser rate. But they were more expensive than oxen. They had a tendency to be temperamental. And they were more inclined to attract the attention of Native Americans.


3. Supplies and Goods - It was very essential for emigrants to haul supplies and goods during their long, westward trek. Upon leaving Independence, Missouri; there were very little opportunities to purchase food and supplies. The only locations that offered such opportunities to purchase more goods were a small number of trading and military outposts along the western trails. However, many emigrants attempted to bring along furniture, family heirlooms and other valuable possessions. They realized it was wiser to rid said possessions in order to lighten their wagon loads. And this would explain why these discarded possessions practically littered the major emigrant trails during the second half of the 19th century.


4. Western Outposts - As I had stated earlier, westbound emigrants encountered very little opportunities to re-stock on supplies during their journey west. Only a series of trading or military outposts on the western plains offered emigrants opportunities for more supplies. Emigrants encountered Fort Laramie (present day eastern Wyoming), Fort Hall (present day Idaho) and Fort Laramie after 1848 (present day Nebraska) along the Oregon/California Trails. Along the Santa Fe Trail, they would eventually encounter Fort Leavenworth (present day northeastern Kansas). Fort Bent (present day southeastern Colorado) and eventually Santa Fe in the New Mexico Territory.


5. Native American Encounters - The portrayal of emigrants' encounters with Native Americans during the western trek could either be chalked up to Hollywood exaggeration, American racism or a mixture of both. But many movie and television productions about the western migration tend to feature large scale attacks upon wagon trains by Native American warriors. One, such attacks never happened - at least as far as I know. The various nations and tribes possessed too much sense to attack a wagon train that was likely to be well-armed. And the number of Native Americans portrayed in these cinematic attacks tend to be ridiculously large. A small band of warriors might be inclined to steal some horses or stock in the middle of the night, or attack a lone wagon traveling on the plains for the same reason. However, westbound emigrants either socialized or traded with the Native Americans they encountered. Or perhaps some trigger-happy emigrant or more might be inclined to take pot shots at a lone rider or two. But large scale attacks by Native Americans ended up being figments of a filmmaker's imagination.


In the following article, I will focus upon the history accuracy or lack thereof featured in 1962's "HOW THE WEST WAS WON".

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS" (2011) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS", the sequel to the 2009 hit, "SHERLOCK HOLMES". Directed by Guy Ritchie, the movie stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson:


"SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS" (2011) Photo Gallery

























































Monday, December 26, 2011

"EMMA" (1972) Review




"EMMA" (1972) Review

I am aware of at least four adaptation of Jane Austen's 1815 novel, "Emma". But I have noticed that the one adaptation that rarely attracts the attention of the novelist's fans is the 1972 BBC miniseries, "EMMA".  

Directed by John Glenister and adapted by Denis Constanduros, "EMMA" told the story of the precocious younger daughter of a wealthy landowner that resides near the village of Highbury. Emma Woodhouse imagines herself to be naturally gifted matchmaker, following her self-declared success in arranging a love match between her governess and Mr. Weston, a village widower. Following their marriage, Emma takes it upon herself to find an eligible match for her new friend, a young woman named Harriet Smith.  However, Emma's efforts to match Harriet with Highbury's vicar, Mr. Elton, end in disaster. Also the return of two former Highbury residents, Jane Fairfax and Mr. Weston's son, Frank Churchill, and her continuing efforts to find a husband for Harriet leads Emma to question her talents as a matchmaker and her feelings for long time neighbor and friend, George Knightley.

Aired in six episodes, this "EMMA" was given the opportunity to be a lot more faithful to Austen's novel. Many critics and fans would view this as an example of the miniseries' ability to delve deeper into the story's plots and characterizations. I do not know if I would agree. The 1815 novel seems such a strong piece of work that even a 90 to 120 minute film could do justice to the story by adhering to the main aspects of the plot. Mind you, I have complained about Andrew Davies' adaptation of the novel in the 1996-97 television movie. But even I cannot consider that a failure.

I do have a few complaints about "EMMA". The majority of my complaints have to do with the casting. But there were some aspects of the production that I found less than satisfying. Director John Glenister's direction of major scenes such as the Westons' Christmas party and the Crown Inn ball failed to impress me.  The sequence featuring the Westons' Christmas party lacked the holiday atmosphere that I found in the other versions. And I failed to noticed any sense of a change in the weather that led the Woodhouses and the Knightleys to depart from Randalls (the Westons' estate) earlier than they had intended. As for the Crown Inn ball, it struck me as somewhat rushed. Dialogue seemed to dominate the entire sequence . . . to the point where only one dance was featured to the tune of the miniseries' theme song. Both Glenister and screenwriter Denis Constanduros made such a big effort in building up the ball in the previous episode or two. But when it came to the actual execution of the event, the sequence simply fell flat and rushed for me. Even worse, they failed to provide the audience with the Emma/Knightley dance, which could have provided the first real hint of romantic feelings between the pair. And what happened to Jane Fairfax and Mr. Elton at the Box Hill picnic? Where were they? Frank Churchill's flirting with Emma during the picnic had led to Jane's eventual breakdown and observations of the Eltons' quick marriage. The Box Hill sequence also played an important part in Jane and Frank's relationship. But without Jane in the scene, the importance of their storyline was somewhat robbed.

And there were performances, or should I say . . . casting that seemed rather off to me. Fiona Walker made an interesting Mrs. Augusta Elton. In fact, she was downright memorable. However, her Mrs. Elton came off as rather heavy-handed . . . to the point that she seemed more like an over-the-top 1970s divorcee, instead of a vicar's pushy and ambitious wife from Regency England. She seemed to lack both Juliet Stevenson and Christina Cole's talent for sly and subtle humor. Belinda Tighe gave a solid performance as Emma's older sister, Isabella Knightley. But she seemed at least a decade-and-a-half older than Doran Godwin's Emma, instead of someone who should have been at least seven to ten years older. Donald Eccles would have made a perfect Mr. Woodhouse, if he had not come off as slightly cold in a few scenes. I find it odd that many Austen fans had complained of Godwin's occasionally chilly performance. But Eccles seemed even more chilly at times, which is how I never would describe Mr. Woodhouse. At least Godwin's Emma became warmer and slightly funnier in the miniseries' second half. It seemed as if the arrival of Augusta Elton allowed Godwin to inject more warmth and humor into the role. I also had a problem with Ania Marson as the reserved Jane Fairfax. I understand that Jane went through a great deal of stress and fear, while awaiting for a chance to finally marry Frank. But Marson's performance struck me as . . . odd. The intense look in her eyes and frozen expression made her resemble a budding serial killer.

I really enjoyed Robert East's portrayal of the mercurial Frank Churchill. Although I felt that East did not seem effective in his portrayal of Frank's penchant for cruel humor.  And at times, it seemed East's handling of the character's many traits seemed a bit off balanced.  I still believe that his performance was overall, first-rate. Timothy Peters was excellent as Mr. Elton. In fact, he was spot on. Of all the characters featured in Austen's novel, Mr. Elton seemed to be the only that has been perfectly cast in all four productions I have seen. I really enjoyed Debbie Bowen's performance as the slightly naive Harriet Smith. In fact, I believe she was the perfect embodiment of Harriet. One of the funniest scenes in the entire miniseries featured Harriet's efforts to make up her mind on which color ribbons she wanted to purchase. And Constance Chapman made an excellent Miss Bates. She perfectly conveyed all of the character's likeability and verbosity that made her irritable to Emma. And the scene that featured Emma's attempt to apologize for the insult during the Box Hill picnic was beautifully acted by Chapman.

But I was very impressed by John Carson's performance as George Knightley. Perhaps he seemed a bit old for the role at age 45. But he perfectly conveyed all of Mr. Knightley's warmth, dry humor and love for Emma. And surprisingly, he and Doran Godwin had a strong screen chemistry. I also have to give credit to Doran Godwin for her first-rate portrayal of Emma Woodhouse. Mind you, there were times in the first three episodes when she seemed a bit too chilly for the gregarious Emma. But Godwin did an excellent job in developing the character into a more mature young woman, who became mindful of her flaws. And as I had stated earlier, her Emma also became warmer and slightly funnier upon the introduction of Augusta Elton.

There were also aspects of the miniseries' production that I enjoyed.  I was very impressed by Tim Harvey's production designs. The miniseries' photography seemed crisp and colorful, even after 39 years. I found this impressive, considering that most BBC television miniseries between 1971 and 1986 seemed to fade over the years. I also liked Joan Ellacott's costume designs - especially for Emma and Jane. However, I noticed that the high lace featured in some of Emma's dresses seemed a bit theatrical and cheap . . . as if they came off outfits found in some minor costume warehouse.

Yes, I do have some quibbles regarding the production and casting for "EMMA". After all, there is no such thing as perfect. But the good definitely outweighed the bad. And for a miniseries with six episodes, I can happily say that it failed to bore me. Personally, I think it is the best Jane Austen adaptation from the 1970s and 1980s I have ever seen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 10/15




"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"

Chapter Ten

Agitated voices from outside his office caused Cole to glance up from the bulging file on his desk. One of the voices belonged to his assistant, who cried out, "I'm sorry, Mr. Giovanni, but you just can't . . ."

The door burst open, revealing a very desperate looking Alonzo Giovanni. "Turner! I need to speak to you. Now! It's about money."

"Mr. Giovanni, please! You just can't barge in here without an appointment!" Eleanor glared at the young man.

Alonzo rolled his eyes and coolly retorted, "I can do anything I damn well please. Mr. Turner . . . works for my father. My family."

Annoyed by the young man's arrogance, Cole glared at him. "That's okay, Eleanor," he reassured his assistant. "I'll deal with Mr. Giovanni. Thanks." After Eleanor left, Cole leaned back into his chair and regarded his client's son with chilly eyes. "What do you want, Alonzo?"

"It's Mr. Giova . . ." Alonzo broke off, as he wilted under Cole's withering stare. "I'd like . . . I mean . . ."

"You had said something about money."

Alonzo's face turned red. "Not much. Just a small amount from . . ."

". . . from your trust fund," Cole finished. "Yes, I know." He leaned forward. "We've had this conversation before, Alonzo. Until you reach the age of twenty-five, you will receive a stipend from your trust fund every two weeks. Which means that payday doesn't arrive for you until next Monday."

An impatient sigh left Alonzo's mouth. "C'mon man! What's the big deal? I just need an extra five thousand to tide me over for the next few days."

"Five . . . thousand . . . dollars?" Cole stared at the blond young man with incredulous eyes. "Wha . . . You receive half that much every other Monday!"

Alonzo hesitated. "Look . . . it's an emergency. Okay? There's something I specifically ne . . . I mean want."

"Like what?" Cole demanded.

Shaking his head, Alonzo glared at Cole. "Never mind! This is a waste of my time!" He turned on his heels and marched toward the door. His hand on the doorknob, he turned to glare at Cole again. "I'll find my five thousand from somewhere else." He opened the door.

"Alonzo!" Cole cried out, but the young man left and slammed the door behind him.

Cole stared at the closed door. Something was wrong. Normally, he could care less about Alonzo Giovanni's spending habits or greedy nature. But the desperation in the young man's eyes and voice told the half-daemon that Alonzo had drifted into a sea of trouble. Trouble that probably cost five thousand dollars. Cole sighed in frustration. If only his telepathic abilities included reading minds, instead of simply manipulating them. Then he would know what really troubled his client's son.

------------

The tall, bearded man regarded Larson with confused eyes. "I'm . . . I'm sorry. I don't understand. What exactly do you want from me?"

The warlock sighed. "I need help in tracking down this . . . daemon."

Shaking his head, the other man said, "I'm an alchemist, Mr. Larson. What do you need me for? I'm certain that a divination spell would do the . . ."

"I've tried using divination." Which happened to be the truth. Larson had used various divination tools to track down Ronald Wong - water in a chalice, scrying and even tarot cards. When all had failed, it occurred to the warlock that he might be able to use Wong's blood on his dagger to point him in the right direction. This decision led him to a local alchemist - a human wizard named Herman Getz.

The alchemist sighed and took the dagger from Larson. "Okay. Let's see what I can do with this. I'll need my chalice. Come this way." Larson followed the wizard past a beaded curtain that led to another room, away from the latter's shop.

------------

Olivia guided her BMW to a parking space in front of a two-story clapboard house in San Mateo. The reddish-orange sun hung near the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains - a sign of the approaching dusk.

"This is it," she said to her companions. "Keir Larson's address. Of course, I don't see any silver Lexus in sight." Olivia glanced at her husband beside her. A frown darkened his usually handsome countenance. "Is there something wrong?" she asked. "You know this Larson?"

"Huh?" Cole finally snapped out of his reverie.

From the car's backseat, Darryl asked, "Something wrong, man? You look a little troubled."

Cole shook his head. "It's nothing. Just . . . trouble with a client." He paused. "Mark Giovanni's son, as a matter of fact. It's . . ." He hesitated. "It's a private matter."

Olivia climbed out of the car. "Well, it's show time, guys." Cole and Darryl also climbed out. The trio made their way toward the house's front door. Darryl knocked.

More than a minute passed before Darryl knocked again. It became apparent that Larson was not home. Olivia sighed. "Talk about a wasted trip," she grumbled.

"Maybe not," Cole replied. "I say that we take a look around for ourselves."

Darryl regarded the half-daemon with horror. "Are you crazy? We can't just break into this man's home without a warrant! Anything we find won't be considered admissible in a court of law. We haven't contact the San Mateo Police. And Olivia and I can lose our badges."

"If we find anything, you and Olivia can return with the San Mateo cops and a warrant. Just pretend that you haven't been here," Cole coolly explained.

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged wary looks. The latter sighed and nodded warily. "Okay," he began. "We'll do . . ." Before Darryl could finish, Cole teleported all three of them inside the house.

Upon receiving information about the silver Lexus spotted outside Janet Hui's house, Olivia had done a background check on the car's owner. She discovered that Keir Larson owned a private security firm here in San Mateo. Judging from the house's tasteful, yet modern décor, Larson's business must be very profitable. Her eyes caught sight of a tall armoire made from pine.

"Not bad," Cole murmured. "Even if his taste is a little too Spartan for me."

Darryl added, "Very Scandinavian."

Olivia drifted out of the living-room and made her way along a narrow hallway. She soon came across a door on the left side, painted in red. A few twists of the doorknob proved the room to be locked. Using her telekinesis, she unfastened the lock and opened the door. Olivia found a light switch and flicked it on.

What greeted her eyes took the redhead by surprise. A wide cabinet sat against the far left wall. Jars of herbs and various liquids filled the shelves, along with knick-knacks and what seemed to be magical tools. Even a crystal ball rested upon the cabinet's lower left shelf. A small table stood against the room's right side. Upon it laid a map of the San Francisco area and a white pendulum for scrying. Olivia opened one of the cabinet drawers and found several knives - mainly daggers and stilettos - inside. She also found a double-edged ax. In the center of the room stood a table that obviously served as an altar for spells and magic ceremonies.

Both Cole and Darryl appeared in the doorway. "We found something very interesting," Darryl began. "In Larson's . . ." He paused and gaped at the sight before him. "What the hell?"

Cole also stared at the room in shock. "Who is this guy?" he demanded. "What is this guy?"

"Who knows?" Olivia replied grimly. "He's obviously a magic practitioner. And I find it odd that Ron Wong's alleged killer happens to be one." She finally glanced at the two men. "What did you find?"

Darryl held up sheaves of paper. "Receipts showing deposits made into a bank in the Cayman Islands. The last deposit had been for twenty-five thousand dollars - hours before Ronald Wong had disappeared."

"And I found this." Cole held up a business card. "Just a name and a phone number."

Olivia took the card and read, "James Bishop. No title and no company name. Interesting." An idea came to her. She whipped out her cell phone. "Let's give Mr. Bishop a call, shall we?"

She dialed the telephone number from the car. Seconds passed before a recording voice echoed in her ear. "You have reached the voice mail for James Bishop. Please leave a name and telephone number and I will return your call."

Olivia snapped her cell phone shut. "I only reached a voice mail message. I have to tell you, Darryl . . . I don't think that we have enough to pin Ron Wong's murder on this guy. Just the eyes of a Peeping Tom and these receipts. Which doesn't tell us much."

Cole added, "You should also take into account that magic might be behind Ron Wong's death. If this Larson is involved . . ." He sighed. "I just can't imagine who would want him dead."

"What I'd like to know is why Vampire Ron would go after . . ." She turned to Darryl. "What's his name? The guy who was killed last night?"

Darryl replied, "Dean Corbin. He was Curt Decker's defense attorney. You know, the millionaire's son who's standing trial for drug manufacturing."

"That's it!" Cole's exclamation drew stares from both Olivia and Darryl. "That must be it."

Her eyes still fixed upon her husband's face, Olivia demanded, "What are you talking about?"

"Curt Decker." Cole inhaled sharply. "Janet had told me that he was a close friend of Alonzo Giovanni's. And lately, that little sh . . . I mean, Alonzo has been asking me for extra money. He . . ." The half-daemon paused, realizing that he was about to break client confidentiality. "Never mind. Let's just say that . . ."

A frowning Olivia interrupted, "Wait a minute. Are you saying that Mark Giovanni's son may have been involved in Curt Decker's drug operation?"

Cole nodded. "Yeah."

"But what does that have to do with Ron Wong?"

Darryl added, "Well, he was one of the Federal prosecutors of the case."

"And Janet told me that Ron had wanted John Reyes to subpeana Alonzo," Cole said. "It seemed he had been investigating the money trail to Decker's operation. Alonzo may have been an investor. And if he was an investor that means that Decker had other investors."

Olivia now understood. "Investors who would want to make sure that Ron Wong and John Reyes never find out about them." She paused. "Wait a minute. If Keir Larson was a magic practitioner . . ."

Cole finished, ". . . then his employers - or Decker's investors - might be magically linked, as well. I think I should find out if there is any magical connection to the Decker family."

Darryl glanced at the receipts in his hands. "And we need to find Keir Larson. Find out who had hired him."

Olivia nodded. "Darryl and I will try to find Larson." She sighed. "Only I don't know where to start."

Cole's glance fell upon the map and scrying pendant. "Why don't you try scrying for him?"

Both Olivia and Darryl stared at the map and pendant. "Good idea," Olivia said. "And I have the tools, right here."

"What about the vampires?" Darryl asked. "You know, Ron Wong and the other one."

Cole suggested, "Scott and Piper can find him. Along with Harry and Paige." He pecked Olivia's cheek. "I'll see you later." And he beamed out of the room.

Olivia walked over to the table that held the map. "Well, we best get this show on the road." She picked up the pendant. As the white crystal hovered over the map, she began to chant.

---------------

The white crystal's large tip finally settled upon a spot on the map spread across the table inside the Halliwell manor. "There," Piper declared. "Around Fillmore and Broadway, in the Marina District." She frowned. "Why does that area sound familiar?"

"The Diamond Club," Harry said. "It's one of the top nightclubs in the city."

Piper sighed. She recalled the time she had visited rival clubs to ascertain how she could save P3. The Diamond Club, a glittering nightspot with a Vegas motif, had quickly become very popular since its opening during the summer of '02. The place seemed to be especially popular with the young scions of the city's elite. Customers like Harry McNeill.

"Why would a Chinese vampire hang around a nightclub?" Paige asked.

Scott shrugged. "Probably looking for victims." He glanced at his watch. "It's nearly six-thirty and it's already dark. I suggest that we leave now."

"I'm going home," Janet insisted. "I don't think I can . . ." She broke off, as her voice began to waver.

Piper frowned. "Is that a good idea? What if Ron or the other vampire decide to come after you?"

Paige moved to stand next to Janet. "I'll stay with her. Until you guys return." A wide-eyed Piper stared at her sister. "What? I'm only doing it just in case Ron or that other vampire decides to return. Someone needs to be with Janet. All I need is a piece of wood. I might not be fast enough to stick it into his chest, but I can sure as hell orb it into either of them."

"I'm convinced." Master Chan nodded. "Let's go." He started toward the front door with Harry and Scott close at his heels.

Piper remained behind to give her sister one last questioning stare. And uneasy feeling struck her that Paige had used Janet as an excuse to stay out of any future fray. "Well," she began in a hesitant voice, "take care."

"Yeah. You too. See you later." A mirthless smile touched Paige's lips before she turned away. Piper sighed and followed the three men out of the house.

-------------

The large silver chalice stood on a podium, in the middle of a room filled with materials and tools for magic. The room was located behind Getz's store. "Wow!" Larson exclaimed. "That's one hell of a large chalice!"

"It had originally belonged to a Saxon Pagan priest named Eorpwald," Herman Getz replied. "An ancestor." He held up a silver pitcher of water. As he poured the water into the chalice, he chanted a few words in what Larson recognized as Old Saxon. "Put the dagger into the chalice, please," the alchemist added.

Larson did as he was told. Getz then poured more water into the chalice. Both men leaned over to observe the water's surface. Seconds passed before the water revealed a Eurasian man garbed in a red-and-gold Chinese robe. His face looked slightly green and his fingernails resembled claws. He soared to the rooftop of a building, in which bright lights illuminated the words - DIAMOND CLUB.

"What the hell is that?" the warlock murmured.

Getz coolly replied, "Your mortal is now a chiang shi." The image on the water's surface disappeared.

"A what?"

An audible sigh left the alchemist's mouth. "May I assume that you're not familiar with Chinese mythology?" he asked sarcastically.

Larson shot him a dark glare and retorted, "Do I look like I might be familiar with Chinese mythology?"

"Do I?"

The warlock's mouth formed a grim line. "Just what in the hell is a chiang shi?"

Getz replied, "A Chinese vampire. Or what is also known as 'The Hopping Ghost'." He went on to describe facts about the chiang shi, including ways to kill it.

Larson snorted with derision. "Well, a Buddhist priest is out of the question. Along with fire. I need the body intact to show to my client." The alchemist stared at him. "Don't ask."

With a shrug, Getz continued, "Perhaps you might want to consider decapitation. Once that happens, the chiang shi reverts back to the original host's body."

Recalling the speed and power of European vampires, Larson asked, "Exactly how am I going to slow him down long enough to kill him?"

"Rice," the alchemist replied without blinking an eye. "Remember what I had told you about the rice." He turned his back on the warlock and removed the dagger before emptying the chalice. Then he filled the latter with more water.

Larson cleared his throat. "By the way, how much do I owe you? Was it fifty dollars for . . ."

Getz interrupted. "You better make that seventy-five."

"What for?" Larson stared at the alchemist, whose attention seemed to be focused upon the chalice.

"For the sword I'll be giving you to kill the vampire."

Suspicion niggled in the back of the warlock's mind. "Why do I need a sword from you? I plan to use mine from home."

The alchemist's dark and piercing eyes bored into the younger man's. "I wouldn't return home if I were you. Take a look."

Larson stood before the large chalice and glanced down. The water's surface reflected two men and one woman entering his house . . . and discovering his private room. "Who in the hell are they?" he demanded. "And how . . . ?"

"I have no idea," Getz said with a shrug of his shoulders. "But something tells me that they are looking for you. It might have something to do . . ." He broke off, as they watched the dark-haired man teleport from the room. "Well! This is interesting."

Larson exclaimed, "A teleporter? What the hell?"

Getz handed the sword over to the warlock. "Here. I suggest that you first take care of the vampire, before dealing with your visitors."

With a nod, Larson handed over seventy-five dollars to the alchemist. "Thanks for the sword." He shot one last uneasy glance at the chalice. "And the advice."


END OF CHAPTER TEN

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top Five Favorite Episodes of "LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN" (Season Two)



Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Two (1994-1995) of "LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman". The series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher:


TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF "LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN" (SEASON TWO)



1. (2.18) "Tempus Fugtive" - Lane Davies and Terry Kiser are superb as time traveling villain Tempus, who wants to kill Superman before he becomes an adult, and legendary writer H.G. Wells, who needs Lois and Clark's help to stop him in this first-rate episode.





2. (2.14) "Top Copy" - Raquel Welch plays a television journalist, who is also an assassin hired to find Superman's identity and possibly kill him.





3. (2.22) "And the Source Is . . ." - Having discovered Tempus' diary, a criminal attempts to blackmail Superman into killing Lois Lane, or he will kill Clark's parents. Clark finally summons the courage to ask for Lois to marry him.





4. (2.03) "The Source" - Lois is suspended from The Daily Planet after she fails to help a source to the illegal operations of a corporation.





5. (2.10) "Metallo" - Scott Valentine has a field day as a petty criminal and boyfriend of Lois' younger sister Lucy, who is shot during a robbery before his head is grafted onto a kryptonite-powered cyborg body by a pair of scientists who are also brothers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"TAKERS" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are images of the 2010 crime drama, "TAKERS". Directed by John Luessenhop, the movie stars Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Tip "T.I." Harris, Chris Brown, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jay Hernandez and Zoë Saldaña:


"TAKERS" (2010) Photo Gallery