That Russia got away with firing the missile that killed 298 people on MH17 over Ukraine really galls me.

* * * * *

The news from northern BC is feast-or-famine on the fishing front. The rivers are up and down by several feet each week. This may be common in the jungles of Indo-China during the rainy season, but not in Skeena country in the fall. The fishing pretty much follows the water levels, with lower and clearer water meaning more fish seeing and eating a fly or lure. This has been a good week so far, but now it’s raining hard and the rivers are on the rise.

I’m not holding my breath in respect writing more blogs the remainder of October. If the True Lies nation entries spur me to action, then I’ll sit down at the keyboard. Otherwise, I think the next blog entry will be early November when I’m back in Singapore and in Author-mode. (Right now I’m in klutz-mode, with a nasty gash in one fingertip from a whitefish and a sliced toe from an ax mishap. I’m going to end up like the protagonist in Roald Dahl’s The Man from the South if this keeps up.)
Team Lies looks forward to hearing from everyone and giving away Amazon gift certs in time for you to spread holiday cheer by buying a couple paperback copies of Sea of Lies (or anything else on Amazon that catches your fancy).
Bradley West
Skeena Valley, BC

 

“Ready, Fire, Aim!”

 

There’s No Mystery Whodunit to MH17

 

I set out this past weekend to write about MH17. There’s an excellent collaborative investigative journalist UK website called Bellingcat (www.bellingcat.com) that covered the crash and aftermath. See in particular their interpretation of the September 30, 2016 press conference (Sep 30 MH17 press conference interpretation Bellingcat) and the second anniversary three-page write-up from August, 2016 (Bellingcat MH17 Two-Year Anniversary Report Aug 2016). Wikipedia has another seventeen pages of write-up (and five more pages of references). Reading and re-reading these articles, the single topic that jumped out was the unwillingness of the international community—countries and the UN—to hold Russia accountable.

 

mh17-crash-cause

Source: Dutch Safety Board as re-printed in https://engtechmag.wordpress.com/tag/flight-mh17/

With the publication of the Dutch Safety Board’s meticulous final report, the facts are not in dispute (other than from Russian where the propaganda mill continues to work overtime) in respect of the July 17, 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. On July 16 a Volvo low loader hauled a surface-to-air missile battery from Russia across the border into the Donbass area of Ukraine. There was an ongoing war being fought between Russia-backed separatists (and Russia special forces troops in civilian garb) and the Ukraine army in a successionist civil war. The SA-11 “Gadfly” (“Buk”) battery was the only missile system in the theater able to reach an aircraft flying above 30,000 feet. The two hundred ninety-eight people on board died when the warhead detonated next to the cockpit, destroying the plane in mid-air and scattering wreckage over fifty-square kilometers of countryside.

 

As often happens, there are two general theories as to why Russia’s troops shot down a commercial airline. Either they thought it was a Ukraine air force plane and made a mistake, or they wanted to shoot down an airliner and then shift the blame to Ukraine.

 

The ongoing war delayed air crash investigators from combing the site, leading Australia prime minister Abbott to call recovery efforts “shambolic,” and “more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation.” It took almost a year and several site visits by foreign air crash investigators before the remains were identified of 296 of the 298 passengers.

c

Source: The-Ave.US (http://handbill.us/?p=58382)

As the flight originated in Amsterdam, the Netherlands led two investigations. The first was tasked with determining what brought MH17 down. The Dutch Safety Board’s report from October, 2015 identified the surface-to-air system as well as the warhead and location of the launch. The second committee’s mission was to determine if criminal liability could be assigned and prosecutions pursued. Their final report came out in September, 2016. A Russia missile operated by Russia regular forces personnel was the culprit, the same message as the prior two years’ worth of statements of Western intelligence agencies and governments

 

As far back as October, 2014 the United Nations Security Council backed a Malaysia-led proposal to prosecute those responsible with a vote of 11 for, 3 abstentions and a veto by Russia. The last two years, Russia refused to admit culpability, pointed fingers at the Ukraine government, and issued plenty of misinformation and false accusations. Doctored photos and phony experts abounded. That’s no surprise given that Putin’s a classic despot, with the Big Lie and its younger siblings in his repertoire.

 

The only thing noteworthy about Putin’s behavior is that a poll of Russia citizens in July, 2014 found that eighty percent believed that the Ukraine military was responsible and only three percent believed Russia was at fault. A bellicose leader and quiescent media can numb people’s willingness and/or ability to think critically.

 

The US never levied sanctions. The first Dutch Safety Board report danced around assigning blame, while the second report confirmed Russia was behind the downing. And still no government has done anything other than wring its hands. Meanwhile, Putin’s state organs and government-sponsored web activists and dupes continue to try to shift the blame.

d

Source: Chemtrailsplanet.net (https://chemtrailsplanet.net/2014/07/19/evidence-of-foreknowledge-reported-in-alleged-mh-17-missile-attack/)

Western democracies are only as strong as the politicians we elect. If we don’t choose national representatives with integrity and courage, all we do is encourage adversaries to keep testing the limits, be it the halls of the UN with cynical vetoes, or in the South China Sea where disputed islands get occupied without repercussions. Right now, the international bullies have the initiative. I wonder if Iran’s leadership has been paying attention . . . or North Korea’s.

 

Sea of Lies Deleted Scene

 

We’re going to shake things up this time around by publishing an outtake from Sea of Lies rather than an extract from The Insider’s Guide to Sea of Lies. This first extract is an alternate version of the Bert Nolan-Michael McGirty subplot that starts at Washington State University and ends in Weaverville, California. Bert and Big Duck head north over the border. (We’ll continue the tale next time.)

 

From the bottom of the staircase where he’d watched Brother Bert dismantle the two Feds, MMA sparring partner and frat brother Michael McGirty took two steps and launched a dropkick at Agent Washburn’s right rear shoulder. Washburn felt rather than saw the menace behind him, and could do little but grunt as the blow dislocated his shoulder and sent the gun skidding across the carpet where Bert stopped it with his foot, bent over and put it in one of front pockets of his cargo pants. McGirty finished the move by planting his right foot, pivoting and stomping Washburn’s face with his boot heel. Washburn’s nose crunched underfoot, splitting open and gushing blood down the now-unconscious man’s face. It was carnage that would have done any cage fighter proud, even a college sophomore wannabe with zero MMA fights under his belt.

 

Bert said, “Well, Big Duck, we’re in the shit now. You got your truck outside?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Wallet and keys?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Protein powder?”

 

“In the back seat, fresh from GNC this afternoon.”

 

“Hand me that other weapon. Safety’s now on. Let’s roll.”

 

* * * * *

 

“Jesus, Big Duck, slow down a bit.” Bert had a grip on the oh, shit! strap above the passenger door of McGirty’s Silverado as they bounced and juddered down a decommissioned logging road on the edge of North Cascades National Park.

 

“This is the speed I drive, Brother Bert.”

 

“How in the hell do you know the way? You’re not even using a map, much less a GPS, and it’s five in the morning and you’ve only got the parking lights on.”

 

“Can’t afford to have any of these spots on a handheld: just giving the goodies to the DEA. Not to worry. I’ve driven this road many a moonlit night.” McGirty swerved as a deer bounded across the road and back into the woods. The second blacktail wasn’t so fortunate as the pickup hit the leaping doe in the legs and sent her into the windshield. The impact shattered the glass and momentarily blinded McGirty. He locked up the brakes and they skidded off the road, caroming into the ditch and flattening small trees before coming to rest facing the wrong direction, engine running. Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” still blared. Nolan and McGirty looked like hell, covered in glass pebbles, fur and blood. They couldn’t tell how much of it was their own versus the deer’s.

 

Nolan laughed. “This is pretty fucking funny.”

 

 

“How’s that? I think I cracked a rib. I definitely broke two front teeth and cut the shit out of my lip.” McGirty spat a mouthful of blood for emphasis.

 

“That deer broke my right arm. I kicked the piss out of two Feds and only got a bent nose, and now a 90lb deer has put me down.” Bert held up his right arm, forearm bent 30° from normal and bone-end distending the skin. “This is gonna hurt like a sonofabitch tomorrow.”

 

McGirty groaned and rolled his head from side to side to crack his out-of-kilter neck. He unclipped the seatbelt and rolled out the driver’s door, spitting more blood. “Let me throw the doe in the back and see if the rig still drives.”

 

A male voice crackled over the radio, “This is OnStar’s SOS service. It seems you’ve had a crash. Is anyone injured? If so, don’t move.”

 

Nolan and McGirty looked at each other in alarm. Nolan mouthed, “Oh, fuck!” and McGirty answered, “I’m fine. I clipped a deer and, uh, ran off the road. But no problems.”

 

“My computer screen shows a damaged radiator, broken headlights and windshield. Do you need a tow? I’ve already dispatched emergency services and they should arrive in approximately thirty to thirty-five minutes.”

 

Nolan gave the cut sign with his good arm. McGirty said, “That won’t be necessary. I’m going to drive back to Seattle. Thank you.” Working fast, he pulled off the plastic panel covering the OnStar unit, and disconnected the antennae and power cables. The unit was now dead.

 

Nolan was furious. “You shithead! We’ve got the FBI on our asses and you’ve got fucking OnStar activated! Why don’t you have a big sign painted on the truck that says, ‘Arrest me, I’m an idiot’?”

 

“Steady, steady pal. We’ve got only a mile and a bit to the border. If we can get across then we’ll be fine.”

 

“Fine? This isn’t Mexico in 1898. Canada and the US are allies. There’s going to be the world’s supply of cops on both sides now that they know where we are. We have to get well into Canada before daylight or we’re going to be someone’s bitches in a Federal pen.”

 

“I can call Brice, the fellow who supplies the BC Bud I sell. He knows these border roads better than the cops. Just let me put my iPhone back together and I’ll—.”

 

“No! Don’t touch that fucking phone. It’s a GPS beacon just like OnStar. I’ve got a Canada burner that’s clean. Just give me the dealer’s number and I’ll call him.”

 

“I don’t have the number memorized. It’s on my iPhone, which has no battery thanks to you.”

 

“Goddamnit. Forget it. We’ll figure something out later.” Nolan was now out of the pickup. “Leave the damn deer. Shut off the engine and lights. You got a flashlight we can use? Any maps?”

 

“I know the way over these roads. And there should be a light and maps in the glove box.”

 

“OK. Grab those plus get that second nine mil, the Glock. It was on the front seat. Fuck knows where it is now. But we have to stay off the roads as the Feds are going to land on us in maybe a half hour, sooner if they put up a chopper. I need you to set this arm before we go. Come over here and grab my wrist. Brace your other hand against my shoulder.”

 

McGirty assumed the position while Nolan leaned hard against the Silverado’s door. “You sure?”

 

“Just do it,” Nolan said. McGirty obliged him and Nolan shouted his best string of commando profanity as the broken bones shifted.

 

The forearm still had a visible bump. “It’s still off,” Nolan said, “Do it again.”

 

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” McGirty said.

 

“You have to set this right so we can splint it. Otherwise I won’t be able to fire the pistols. I can’t shoot for shit with my left hand.”

 

* * * * *

 

Bert got up unsteadily. That second session had been bone-against-bone. He may have passed out for a second as he didn’t remember hitting the ground. He looked at his arm and it seemed straight. He just needed to tape it up and he would be back in business.

“Damn, Bert! Next time don’t fucking punch me when I’m doing you a favor.” McGirty massaged his right shoulder. “You could have killed me with that left.

 

Lucky I slipped the punch.”

 

“You’re lucky I had my eyes closed when I swung. We have to go. If it’s a mile to the border, we’ll run five minutes on the road then cut into the woods. Turn off the engine, kill the headlights, take the keys and let’s start moving. Oh, and you got any duct tape?”

 

“Of course. You can’t have a bitchin’ pickup without duct tape. It’s in the tool box behind the cab.”

 

“Tool box? Let me take a look in there.”

 

They’d run nearly a mile before walking the last hundred yards while he probed the brush to their left.  “Take this path,” McGirty said through a grotesquely swollen upper lip as he pointed his flashlight beam at a game trail.

 

“Why here?” Nolan asked.

 

“It’s a shortcut to where we have to go.”

 

“If it’s such a big fucking deal, then let’s not leave any footprints.” Despite his broken arm, Nolan was breathing normally. McGirty could still feel the blood pound in his ears. “You lead, I’ll follow,” Nolan said.

 

“Got it.”

 

“Just remember to cut the light if you hear a helicopter.”

 

They picked their way off the road. Nolan figured that the police wouldn’t be able to get bloodhounds out here for hours. That was their window to get far across the border. McGirty hiked for ten minutes, taking a few U-turns and bushwhacking occasionally. There was a glow in the east: it was 6:15 and getting light. Nolan had no idea where they were, but knew there was no going back. They were both chilled in their sweat-soaked indoor clothes. Bert’s shirt had the added feature of being ripped from the neck to naval, compliments of Agent Sanborn. The game trail crossed a rough two-wheeled track. McGirty veered right and they followed it north for fifty yards.

 

McGirty stopped and said, “The tunnel entrance is around here.”

 

Tunnel? What tunnel?”

 

“My supplier Brice is a big time pot grower. He built a tunnel under the border. I meet his people at the tunnel mouth in my rig, weigh the weed, pay them, throw the bud in under a tarp, and close the tunnel entrance. In-and-out in ten minutes.”

 

“So how do you know this is the spot? I can barely see my feet.” Nolan was irritable because his splinted forearm was itching. He wished he had some Ibuprofen.

 

“Look over here. See where the brush is crushed? That’s where I turn my rig around. So the tunnel entrance is over here.” McGirty swung the light back around and took a few steps. He let out an “ah, hah!” of discovery. He switched off the light and attempted to deadlift one side of a large stump. The prodigious hunk of wood swung up and over on a hinge. Beneath was a two-foot diameter hole. McGirty turned the flashlight back on and the bottom showed five or six feet below. A stepladder stood against the dirt wall.

 

“I’ll be a sonofabitch,” Nolan said. “Where does this lead?”

 

“Canada, my man. I’ve never been down it before, but Brice tells me it’s quite a long one. He’s got ventilation and electricity, plus tracks and carts for moving bales of sensimilla and money.”

 

“Yeah, and he’s probably not going to be thrilled when we pop up on the other side.”

 

“You want to go first?”

 

“I’ll have to. With this arm I’m not going to be able to get the stump back in place. Can you handle it?”

 

“Hell, I don’t know,” McGirty said. They inspected the underside of the stump and saw that someone had thoughtfully attached two handles. With a little effort, McGirty was able to swing the stump closed from his perch on top of the stepladder. Nolan steadied the ladder and kept the light shining upward. The stump came down with a satisfactory whump and they were sealed in. The beam illuminated barely twenty meters of a four-foot by four-foot tunnel they could only duck walk in.

 

“Here, look for a light switch,” McGirty said as he handed the flashlight to Nolan.

 

“Light switch my ass! Watch your step. There’s a trip wire. Your dealer buddy Brice has booby-trapped this fucker.”

 

. . . to be continued.

 

©Bradley West, 2016

 

The Other Side

It’s been a barren two-plus weeks on Pack of Lies. I don’t know how those famous fishermen-who-wrote of yesteryear like Hemingway and Zane Grey were able to pull it off. And Hemingway was a drunk to boot.

 

Locker Room Motivation

 

I’ve had a tough time recently keeping my digits intact of late, bringing to mind the excellent advice of “Measure twice; cut once” (traditional proverb).

 

I’m also reminded that success is too frequently ascribed to luck. Whenever I indulge in this emotion, I know I’m but a short step from self-pity.

Branch Rickey

(paraphrased)

“Luck is the residue of hard work

 

Hue and Cry

All the experts say authors should ignore reviews of their work, especially the scathing ones as these typically come from people who are unhappy in their own lives and want everyone else to be miserable, too. That’s good advice, but what writer doesn’t read his reviews? My skin isn’t particularly thin, so comments that Sea of Lies is too long, too complicated and has too many characters don’t concern me because they’re true when measured against the industry standard paperback thriller. But if you bought the book after July 1, you should have read a few reviews (e.g. more than 25 at that date) before parting with your $4 for an eBook version or $12 for the paperback. So the recent one-star review on Amazon.com that said that SOL suffers from length, complexity and too many characters led me to question whether the reader had bothered to read anything about the book (much less others’ reviews) before buying?

 

Thanks to True Lies nation, Sea of Lies still sports a 4.75 (out of 5 . . . not 10!) aggregate rating . . .despite handful of two-stars and that one-star.

 

See you in November!