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When The Clandestine World Collides With American Education


The Ukrainian rout and the fall of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut) are clear evidence of Vladimir Putin’s demise, yessir! Chinese bats balloons cranes are spying on us! This is totally different from, totally worse than the FBI, DHS, CIA, NSA, DIA, etc. spying on us. Who knew Mexico was dangerous for Gringos? The SPLC has rebranded itself as the “SDTC”, the Southern Domestic Terrorism Center. Harry Markle hits the magic ‘shrooms. Republicrats are going to “help” us by, say, banning speech, books, blogs, and thinking, and by carting us off to the gulags. 

A lot is going on. So let’s forget about all of it and concentrate on something serious.

Did you see Shotwell Publishing’s press release last week? There was a blurb at the end. This blurb:

Speaking of fiction (this just came to me and I cannot stop myself), we have a new fiction book coming out in a week or two. It’s an action/adventure novel by a new-to-Shotwell author that takes place in the public schools in South Carolina. Action? Adventure? You bet! That’s all we’re going to give you for now, but believe me, it’s a good’un (and timely too)!

My well-informed suspicion is that the novel is the revised second edition of THE SUBSTITUTE, wherein Tom Ironsides brings plenty of action, and much more. Following last week’s interview with Dr. Ironsides, a social mediate remarked, upon learning the ultimate fictional nature of the affair: “I took it for a real interview! Seems like a great cross between Jack Ryan and James Bond, will definitely read more.” This author certainly hopes so. And the comparison to those two great heroes of page and film couldn’t be more appropriate. Tom is an alpha male’s alpha to break the category.

The book has multiple themes. One of them concerns Tom’s return to post-modern American society and his attempt to reconcile both his personal life and his place and role in a society gone utterly mad. To complicate matters, his previous clandestine existence follows him home, doggedly and sometimes violently. As such, the story is pushed along by kinetic energy. However, as the man builds a new life, he finds new love. What’s action without romance anyway?

Most interestingly, the world of international espionage and martial adventure he thought he’d successfully retired from, winds up being interwoven with his new exploratory career in the collapsing theater of public education. Tom explores that latter spectacle from end to end in an attempt to understand if any part of it can be saved. Can it? And is he the man for the job? Who, among many challengers, wants him dead? How many crimes can a bureaucracy commit? Who are Dandy and the Bass Slayers? The intrepid reader has much to investigate.

To help get the inspection going here follows a portion of Chapter Twelve. Enjoy.



By Perrin Lovett

Chapter Twelve 

A Date and a Plot 

Driving away from Hammond that Tuesday afternoon, Tom shook his head, as he thought: A popcorn riot! Kids will be kids. They do unruly things. But, with all that had happened at Eisenhower, every time he’d been there, he decided that was one school he would delete off his list of prospects. He did that as soon as he was home, the first alteration he’d made to his availability in A.S.S.’s system. It wouldn’t be the last. Later, he ate at Lyon’s and tried a new holiday porter as recommended by two prettier members of the staff. He ended up drinking several of them. Once home again, he thought about testing out his new fire pit but decided against it due to his travel schedule the next day. But he did have one last round of festive brew before bed. 

The following morning, while he sipped coffee and almost regretted the last round, he noticed something out the window. The dreary November clouds parted at just the right moment, opening a vast swath of earth and water below the American Airlines flight as it cruised north towards New England. He looked down and beheld lower Manhattan, a good stretch of the whole Island, and parts of the surrounding Boroughs. As he stared at One Freedom Tower, his mind returned to another day, years before. 

McLean, Virginia, September 11, 2001, 8:35 AM… 

‘I hope there’s a cute turtle in here!’ Vicky exclaimed while clutching a little box of animal crackers to her chest. She loved both the snack and the slower armored reptile. And, she really loved her Daddy. ‘Will YOU AND mommy come get me before you get Treeeey?? I wanna be first!’ she requested somewhat insistently. 

Still down on one knee, Tom tried to look concerned. ‘We’re supposed to pick up both of you? I thought we just picked one and the other spent the night here.’ The turtle-loving first grader wasn’t buying it that morning, instead giving Tom a squinty-eyed pouty face. ‘Alright!’ he said, relenting. ‘We’ll BOTH come get one of you and then the other. Maybe we can eat out tonight. Somewhere fun. Speaking of fun, looks like you need to get back in there, bunny.’ 

Dangling the turtles and other animals by the little string handle, she gave him a big parting hug. ‘Love you, Dabby!’ 

‘Ruv you too, baby doll.’ 

Tom rose and watched her skip away to a table where gathered some other little girls proudly wearing the uniforms of the Academy of Saint Mary. He bid Ms. Flaxon a good morning and made his way to the front doors, waving and nodding to a few nuns on the way out. Down the steps and across the front lawn, he almost bounded towards the parking lot. He’d just returned the night before from another overseas junket that, as usual, lasted a little longer than planned. Tonight would be fun family time; today was a chance to spend precious time with his bride. Or, it would have been. 

About the time he reached his aging, ailing Rover Defender, his belt and side began to vibrate as if his work pager vehemently objected to any and all of his plans. He stopped mid-entry, with one foot still on the ground, and checked. Despite his line of work, there was no expecting what he saw scrolling over the little screen: 








As he raced towards CIA Headquarters, he tried a talk radio station. Some newsman was laughing about the time a World War Two-era bomber accidentally flew into the Empire State Building. This wasn’t an accident! You guys will know soon, he hastily thought. Just as he switched off the dial, his phone started ringing. He let it ring; he had traffic laws to break. 

Ten minutes later he ran into a situation room, already crowded with officers, analysts, assistant directors, and several men in military uniforms, mostly Army. They were whispering if they dared to talk at all. All eyes were on the largest of screens in that room which, from the looks of it, could have launched the Space Shuttle. He joined them in time to see the second plane strike. Reports buzzed about the Pentagon. The FAA ceded aerial control to NORAD. Another screen, live from a satellite, computer-highlighted fighters as they assumed Combat Air Patrol over America’s East Coast. The President was moving. The Capitol was evacuating. South Tower collapsed. North Tower followed. A shocked world watched equally stunned media figures stumble through the reports. 

His shock gave way to anger. He recalled, vividly, his meeting, little more than a month earlier, at the White House – his first with President Bush. He’d read aloud the footnotes to his April report on Serbia. He was one of the bold who warned of an imminent attack on the nation. He had stared in disbelief as, first one and then another, idiot neocon rebuffed his advice. Who were those people? Bin Laden was not bluffing to cover for Saddam. There was no need to bomb Iraq again. Shit, the targets were THERE, in the US, at that time! He’d lost it on two of the loudest chickenhawks. And, he almost lost his job as a result. He would have but for a certain respect from the Deputy Director and that, for his faults, Bush seemed to know the value of at least one dissenter. They let him stick around but they didn’t take his advice. Now, this! 

Many voices spoke to or at him simultaneously. The Director had found him and was instructing him to ready a direct-action team for deployment, probably to Afghanistan, and probably that night.  

Does that mean, ‘you were right?’ he thought coldly. ‘Roger that. I need to get the’ 

‘They’re saying Tower Seven is going to fall too!’ The Director’s assistant of something had found her boss, and Tom, and broke in. She seemed terrified. 

Tom looked at both of them with a grim, set face. ‘Who are they? And, how do they know?’ he replied. Then, as a horrible thought entered his head, he uttered a single word: ‘Northwoods.’ 

That afternoon, Elizabeth picked up the kids by herself. Tom went not to the Middle East (not yet) but to Tampa so he could escort a band of Saudis out of the country. Their flight happened at a time when no-one else could fly. Almost no-one. His rival teams were busy shuttling Israelis and others back to their homes, some of them being hastily released from custody for the trip. The rest remained muddled, forgotten, and covered-up history. 

Derry, New Hampshire, Thanksgiving Eve, late… 

Tom, Larry, Darla, Trey, and Romona sat around Larry’s kitchen table, enjoying drinks and conversation. Everyone had been anxious to probe into Tom’s progress with the schools. His answers, while entertaining, didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, at least not in his own self-critical mind. 

Trey kept the process in motion: ‘Sounds like you’re learning a lot, Dad. Do you think you like teaching at that, at those levels?’ 

Tom had been thinking the same thing lately. He was learning, though not everything he learned made him happy. Things were bad, terminally-bad even, but he still wanted to help. The question was, did anyone else want help? He had a strange feeling that, just as his predictions and assessments were ignored before 9/11, so now they would be dismissed by the academy. ‘The Curse of Cassandra,’ he said. 

‘The curse of who, now?’ Romona inquired. 

Tom explained, ‘Cassandra was the Priestess of Apollo at Troy. A foresight was on her but she was cursed. No matter how many times she was right about things, no one ever took her seriously. It ended up costing Troy the war. That’s how I feel sometimes in this new profession.’ 

‘Is that the soldier in you? Do you see it as a war?’ Larry wanted to know, though he suspected he already knew the answer. 

He did, Tom confirmed: ‘It’s the Marine and the scientist and the moralist in me, yes. And, this most certainly is a war. Not just for the minds of the children, but for the soul of the Nation, of the West itself. We’re losing.’ 

… [Continued in print]


The rest of the story will be available very soon from Shotwell, Amazon, and wherever better novels are sold.

© Green Altar Books, an imprint of Shotwell Publishing / Perrin Lovett