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By request: My Recap of the Leaked Tell-All video.
A slow descent into madness: an exhaustive recap of the tell all leak Supposedly the leaked video (clocking in at 10+ hours) was the second day filming. I watched the entire thing. This is a rambling list of the thoughts going through my mind while watching, and a fairly comprehensive timeline / summary of events, or at least the juiciest parts. I believe it becomes fairly obvious when my mental state started to decline - I was well into the 5th hour by then. Part 1: David The show begins an hour into the video. A lot of time was spent on David. Asking David the same questions, hoping he’d get a clue. Instead he doubled down on his delusion. David started in this endeavor by going on two trips with a friend over 20 years ago. He states he did not like it - 25 guys meeting 400 women in a big bar. He said it was horrible - he called the women aggressive and professional daters. He went on another trip with 10 guys meeting maybe 40 women in different cities. He describes receiving catalogs of women and selecting specific ones to meet on the trip. A friend he met on one of these trips introduced him to a web site in 2007. Lana does not work for the web site or get paid. According to David, the web sites are US sites, they contract through the agency that vets the “girls”. He insists Lana derives no income from the web site or agency. It’s illegal for him to contact her directly? He pays in order to not be scammed. He has known Lana for 7 years. She was too young at the start - he won’t “date” anyone under 25. He wasn’t talking to Lana for 2.5 years. He’s “dated” 30 girls in Ukraine when he wasn’t talking to Lana. He’s been to Ukraine 20 times. He’s been engaged twice to women over there (and twice in America.) David says Lana is very poor. Has very few clothes and possessions. She only has five pairs of shoes and gets a new pair of sneakers every 3 years or so. She doesn’t speak English. He bought her an iPhone to talk directly but she doesn’t like the keyboard because of her long fingernails. She can’t talk directly to him on the computer because the agency owns the laptop and monitors activity. He’s spent $250,000 to $300,000 on “dating” on these sites. He claims he’s a millionaire so the money is no object. Friends of David appear, say their piece, then disappear. Cesar appears. David had talked to Maria years ago. Said she was high maintenance. Yolanda and Usman join in. Usman has poor connection. Usman leaves. A wild Tom appears. Tom compliments Yolanda’s weight loss. Says he’s not hitting on her, just complimenting her. Tom doesn’t watch much of the show. Says David is his “fast forward couple”. Cesar says he visited Maria. Maria wasn’t happy he showed up. But she met him, they took photos, she asked to see his phone and he realized later she deleted the photos. They spent 10 days together, he got a couple of pecks on the cheek and lips? But no intimacy. Specified no tongue. Maria was “pissed off” that he showed up, refused to meet Cesar if the cameras were there. Wanted him to buy her a $500 pair of shoes and $300 dinner. Tom asks if he packed the chocolate panties. Cesar said he took the beaded candy ones. Yolanda said Cesar DMd her and left his phone number. Cesar says Yolanda is beautiful and that he “loves chocolate” with a Pervy laugh. But he says he was just reaching out as friends. Shaun asks Cesar if he DMs Tom. Tom confirms that he did, and that the alumni reach out to each other. Shaun asks Yolanda if she would date Cesar, she replies with an emphatic no. David went back to Ukraine and met Lana. They kissed, no other intimacy. He proposed, she accepted (they show clips.) Lana is still on the dating sites. David is still on the dating sites because Lana is. Lana is still on the site because that’s where her only friends are, David basically describes her as a shut in with no friends. At one point later in the show he drops the bombshell “love has nothing to do with it.” Ed appears. He’s holding Teddy (against the dog’s will) on his lap. Ed shouts into his mic. He yells repeatedly about David being scammed for the better part of 18 minutes. David gets excitable. Yells about this being bullshit. Yells at Tom that Darcey was still talking to other guys. The current status of the relationship? David thinks they’re not together. He hasn’t communicated with Lana in 6 days. But their engagement hasn’t been broken. So they’re engaged but no longer together? Lana refuses to participate because she’s getting hate mail from guys who have seen the show accusing her of being a scammer. Stephanie appears. Stephanie says she thinks it’s disgusting that Lana is being discussed like she’s a commodity. Points out that their relationship is transactional. David and Ed are screaming at each other over her. Stephanie Commends David for not worrying about spending $100,000 while Ed freaked out about spending $2. A clip of David proposing to Lana with a prop fake ring shows. David says the jeweler advises not buying a real diamond because he didn’t know her ring size. Says she wants to choose her own ring. Return to Ed and David arguing. Usman appears. David is getting heated. Bottom Line: David’s retiring to move to Ukraine, but started the K1 process. Shaun wraps the segment with David still arguing at the 3-hour mark. Shaun leaves (possibly to drink heavily - I would be if I was her.) I forgot to note that at some point Tom made a remark to Ed about him not being able to see his toes. It was a joke, but went completely missed by everyone else. David, Ed, Stephanie and Usman chit chat. Usman sings a bit. Part 2: Yolanda We resume at 3:30 with Yolanda. Yolanda had the flu at the beginning of December. She was in a coma for a month and was on a ventilator for 3 weeks. Her kidneys and liver were failing. Her doctor now believes she had Covid-19. She did not hear from Williams during that time. She heard from him just a couple of months ago. She didn’t tell him about her coma, he was talking about his aunt dying so it “didn’t come up.” He didn’t reach out directly, he went through “sweetberry” (?) on Instagram to ask if he could contact her again. Yolanda’s daughter and a PI the daughter hired join in. PI says the accounts have ties to Nigerian scammers. Usman joins. He knows nothing about Nigerian scammers, doubts they’re Nigerian. Usman leaves. Darcey joins. She’s wearing a platinum blonde wig, primping a bit, trying to center herself on the bed she’s sitting on. She’s nodding along to absolutely nothing, shaking her head and smiling periodically like she’s involved in a totally different conversation than we are seeing. Daughter and PI leave. Shaun asks Darcey what she thinks about Yolanda and Williams. Darcey goes into a spiel about being a target and people on IG preying on her. Starts talking about Jesse and Tom. Says she spent a lot of money on Jesse, says she helped Tom financially and bought him clothes and gifts. Goes into a tangent of non-specific items, won’t provide a direct answer on how much she spent but finally claims she spent $2000 on Tom. Erika appears. Shaun tries to get back on the topic of Yolanda and Willams. Shaun asks Erika about her opinion on The Williams mystery IG account and the blackmail. Darcey uses that opportunity to talk about being targeted by a “network of people” that was calculated by “people in different countries to target certain people around the world.” “Maybe Nigeria was a part of it, Maybe England was a part of it”. After Tom, Darcey says she met someone who targeted her, says it was a couple she knew and Tom was a part of it, says IP addresses traced to Nottingham and there’s a network of people targeting women around the world. Darcey claims her second time in Amsterdam she was robbed while shopping after Jesse told her to leave her passport if she was going out shopping. Later says pickpocketed. Implies that the robbery was a setup by Jesse. Shaun tries to redirect the subject back to Yolanda and Williams. Lisa appears. Lisa jumps right in with her expertise about Yahoo Boys, G-Men and grooming people. Darcey drops off and Usman reappears. Lisa’s gravelly voice takes on a fake Nigerian accent as they yell “baby love” at each other. Lisa goes on about her social media expertise. Explains the three different cultures of Nigeria. She tells Yolanda to join the Facebook Group SSA: Scamming Scammers Action that Lisa is a big part of. They convince Yolanda to try to call Williams on speakerphone. No answer. Lisa is also an expert in African and Nigerian accents FYI. Erika leaves. David reappears. Lisa dominates the conversation. Keeps recounting conversations and events of hackings and stuff. Lisa starts talking about Blood Rituals. Sacrifices. Money rituals. Voodoo dolls. Kidnappings. Killing people to bring luck in scamming people. They believe in black magic and juju. Lisa and Usman keep interrupting each other. Usman has never heard of this. Lisa insists this is real. Go to SSA on Facebook, all the proof is there. Yolanda, David and Shaun are stunned silent. Usman is trying to fact check Lisa’s completely far-fetched theories. Lisa purses her beak. Finally, Shaun redirects. Yolanda says she’s done. If she hears from Williams again she’s done. Yolanda is getting DMs all the time offering to FaceTime her. David tells her to go get her Groove back in Jamaica. Yolanda and David both get DMs encouraging them to hook up since they’re both in Vegas. We are 5 hours 10 minutes in. Let’s see a clip! We see Lana before she met David. She’s at the gym. She’s walking around Kiev in a silver puffer jacket and Nikes. She using her iPhone (with her short nails) to take pictures. She’s shopping for makeup. She’s sipping a latte in a cafe while typing on her laptop. She’s talking to a friend on her iPhone. She talks about America. She knows that you can get married quickly in Las Vegas. She tells her friend she has an exciting day tomorrow “I’m meeting an American.” Her friend asks if he’s wealthy. Shaun points out the inconsistencies in Lana’s apparent poverty and David’s understanding of her circumstances. David says “that’s not real”. We spent the next 10 minutes or so with Yolanda, Usman, Lisa and Shaun trying to talk some sense into David. It doesn’t work. Shaun leaves for a break. Ash appears. We spend the next while discussing quarantine. Ash hadn’t heard about Yolanda being sick, his eyes get wide when he hears her coma tale. They’re talking about lockdowns and restrictions and being able to go where you want. David thinks they’re talking about Ash being able to visit the US on his Australian passport. Lisa’s ex-husband just got out of prison. David lives in a rental house that’s being sold in a month. Yolanda asks if people read their tweets. Lisa has a stalker with 25 accounts. Lisa now has her phone number and address. She’s going to have her arrested and “put charges against her”. David gets death threats. Back to Yolanda and the Covid. David leaves. Tom returns. He asks how many bottles of lube Lisa and Usman used raw dogging it. She said none - I’m guessing she just peed on him a la Dinyell. More R-rated banter. Lisa tells Tom to ask about Usman refusing to join the mile high club. Ash looks stunned into silence. Maybe a bit frightened. He’s retreated to his nothing box. Usman tries to explain about the 70%, that it’s a B and a compliment. Tom asks why she paid twice the going rate for a goat. Lots of goat talk. Peeing goat talk. Showering the goat. Walking in sandals through mud and goat shit. Tom makes a crack about not being the only cast members showering with animals. Ash asks about Ed showering with Rosemarie’s father? Then his feed goes out. Lisa starts talking about gross food. Tom are goat brain in Albania. Lisa starts everything with “Usman, tell them about the time...” then just talks over him to tell the story herself. Stephanie appears. Ed appears. Usman leaves. Lisa tells them about the armed convoy everywhere they went. Ed wants to know about the goat. More goat tales. 7 hour 10 minute mark. Part 3: Lisa and Usman Shaun is back with Lisa and Usman. We lose Usman. Lisa had surgery. She hurt her baby toe before going to Nigeria. Ruptured a blood vessel. It swelled up in Africa. Returned to the US with a dead/dying toe. Got infected, went gangrenous, was amputated. Usman returns. The next segment is insufferable. Usman says Lisa calls him a N***** frequently. Lisa screams about opening a can of worms. Usman asks if American women are all like this. Lisa and Usman are married but keep blocking each other. Lisa is Usman’s first serious relationship. Lisa freaks out about women on Usman’s comments and in his DMs. Says she’s seen the other girls Usman dated, they’re “3 times my size”. They fight about Trish Playtas. Lisa talks over Usman. Yells, curses, threatens. Enter Giant and Aba (?) after 25 minutes of toxic bullshit. Lisa talks about getting “gangbanged”. (I think she means ganged up on, but she’s so cringe who can tell.) Lisa has a screaming match. Hangs up because she was “mistreated and disrespected”. Enter Lisa’s friend Nikki. Nikki screams about disrespect for the next forever. Lisa returns. There’s endless raspy screeching about bitches, clowns, motherfuckers and more disrespect. Fuck you. Fuck outta here. Shaun loses all control. Aba and Nikki scream at each other some more. Shaun gives up. She is writing something just below the screen. I suspect it’s her resignation letter. Finally Shaun redirects the conversation. She brings up the polygamy. If Lisa has an egg and can tote it, Usman doesn’t want another wife. If Lisa can’t squat and hatch Usman’s offspring, he will take another wife. Cue Lisa’s expertise on polygamy. Clip Roll: the night before the wedding, Lisa storms off and disrespects Usman’s brothers the night before the wedding. Lisa cackles. Avery and Ed appear. Usman and Lisa keep arguing. Shaun asks Avery’s perception. Avery asks “where is the love?” All she sees is them screaming over each other and assert themselves. Before Lisa can respond Ed jumps in. Lisa calls the kettle black and says Avery and Ed aren’t portrayed well. Ed started to watch the show after he decided to be on it. Ed compliments Usman for being calm and respectful and not using any foul words. Lisa Cackles. Ed calls her a bull in a china shop “no disrespect”. Says he thought she was the definition of a narcissist, but says she’s actually the definition of delusional. Lisa interrupts. Usman starts singing. Lisa and Ed scream over each other. Lisa tells Avery to shut up, says she went on Ed’s live drunk and making an ass of herself. Ed keeps screaming “delusional”. Lisa calls Avery a drunk. Avery tells Usman “not all American women are like that”, Lisa rebounds with “that’s why Ash dumped your ass.” Ed tells Usman there are many more nicer women. Ed: she treated you like a piece of shit. She treated you like a slave. Lisa: you are a piece of shit! Ed: you made America Sick! Lisa: Ed Fuck You! Fuck You! Lisa: you abused Rose to go on this show because no fucking other woman would! You fucking used her (x 5). Shut the fuck up. More screaming over each other. Usman begs Ed to calm down. Lisa: you’re going to let this fucking pervert who’s got charges for sexual harassment... you’re going to let this idiot come at me with the fucking charges he’s got? This fucking pervert has been grooming women. The women are coming out of the woodwork saying Ed has molested them, he’s groomed them, and god only knows what the fuck else he did to them. More screaming. Ed: the internet is fake! Lisa: Harry (producer) remove these two right now! Lisa calls them Thing 1 and Thing 2 and demands Harry remove them. Ed gets cut. Lisa continues to scream at Avery about glass houses. Tom appears. Usman is yelling now. Shaun tries to gain control. Tom: I was nervous delivering that letter to Darcey but coming in to this conversation is wild! Shaun brings up the polygamy subject again. Lisa might move to Nigeria for The Other Way. Shaun disappears. Avery drops. Lisa says “Tom, this is all for show. It’s a dog and horse, pony show I call it.” Tom blows smoke up her ass. His idea of love is apparently jealousy, anger and disrespect. He says it’s obvious they love each other because apparently only people truly in love can be that hateful and vicious and angry to each other. Shaun is back. Darcey appears. Usman is singing. Darcey is swaying to Soja Boy, slurring, “do it big! Lisa, Be the queen!” Darcey’s been in the sauce. Usman tells Lisa to cover her bra. More second wife talk. Tom asks a question about what kind of second wife Usman would have. Darcey says something. Shaun asks Lisa a question. Usman freaks out and screams “Tom asked me a question, let me answer the question”. This leads to Lisa screaming at Shaun about disrespecting Usman, screams at the producer “you better tell this hostess to shut her mouth” shut up! Shut up!” Usman keeps yelling. Shaun trying to calm everyone. Lisa: Barb! Barb! Barb! Do you hear me? It’s time to cut her now! Barb! Cut her now! Barb! Cut the fucking thing, cut it now! She’s disrespecting Usman! Fucking stop it! Stop it barb! Fuck off! Darcey looks like a confused bobble head. Lisa hangs up. Usman and Darcey talk about Trish Playtas. Darcey: things are don’t differently in America, I’ve been in the entertainment industry way before Tom, way before Jesse. Usman starts to explain going live with Trish. Lisa returns. Part 4: Wrap Ups and “where does your relationship stand?” Shaun turns to Darcey and Tom, asks where the future of their relationship is. Lisa and Usman respond loudly, not letting them talk. Finally, Lisa and Usman are gone. Tom: friends maybe blah blah blah great mom, good person, wish you the best. Darcey: my journey, my daughters, my brother who passed blah blah blah don’t want toxic negativity Ash and Avery return: same question Ash is worried about his hair being cut off on the screen. Ash started the journey with the intent to propose. Says he loves her. Breaking up was the hardest thing. Future is going to be looking after his family. Ash answers the question in a concise, straight forward manner. Just kidding. He uses a lot of words to absolutely avoid answering anything. Avery says this is a hard question to ask someone who just separated. She trails off. I think... I don’t... I wanted... honestly... Erika and Stephanie return: where do you stand? Not even friends. Can they ever be friends? Stephanie says best case is friends from afar. Erika says they’ve been friends and fought many many times. She came in today wanting to speak and wasn’t able to do that, but doesn’t hold any hate. It’s going to be hard to see any of this in a positive light. Erika didn’t get a change to express that she took a big step coming out to her parents then Stephanie dumped her the next morning. Stephanie came out to her mom too apparently, but it wasn’t like Erika’s coming out (receptive and kind). Pick up lines: Asking what they’ve been doing during the quarantine, will air at the beginning of the show. (Erika makes earrings!) Shaun has to rephrase the question to Stephanie to ask specifically about... HER ILLNESS! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Yolanda wrap up: no more online dating. She’s going to meet men at the market or the casino. Old school. Ed wrap up: who cares. Ok. I guess we do. Shaun asks about the shower. I just can’t listen to him anymore. Then she asks about the first night they were intimate. I’m going to barf. Ed takes full responsibility for “not the things I did, but the way I did them”. Rose is mad at him right now. She wanted to reconcile February 9. Ed is taking a break from dating (sorry ladies!) but Rose taught him to love again and “she didn’t destroy me like my first marriage did.” His mom is moving in with him. But she’s a nurse so hasn’t moved in yet. Ed’s mom is a nurse caring for a young child with a tracheostomy. Ed sucks, but a round of applause for Mother Ed is deserved. David wrap up: David is going to retire earlier than planned because of the recession resulting from the quarantine. Shaun asks about the first kiss. David says something about bowling. He bowls 4 strikes with Lana. The girls in Ukraine love bowling but don’t get to do that. So he takes them. He bets kisses for every strike he bowls. Lana is upset over the publicity from the show. Gets physically ill in front of the camera. If she won’t come to the US or dumps him, he will live part time in the Ukraine - 3 months at a time - to continue dating women there. It’s over. Thank God.
The Dupont de Ligonnès are an aristocratic family originally from Vivarais, then transplanted to Gévaudan, whose nobility dates back to 1507 and whose descendants are made up of soldiers and ecclesiastics. Louis XV offered the title of marquis to one of them. Another married a sister of the poet Lamartine and their son was bishop of Lozère. In Mende, the narrow and sloping street where he had a diocesan house built still bears the name of Monsignor de Ligonnès today. In Chanac, to the west of Lozère, the family still owns the Château de Ressouches, a 16th century building located on the right bank of the Lot, listed as historical monuments since 1971. In the chapel, you can see the arms of the family, a golden helm accompanied by three silver stars. Xavier might erase this ancestry by simply being called Ligonnès, it was nonetheless his pride and he recalled it by wearing a signet ring decorated with the family crest. His father, Hubert Dupont de Ligonnès, was born on November 7, 1931 in Senlis. His mother, Geneviève Maitre, the year before in Versailles. The two married in 1955—for reason and without love, as is often the case these aristocratic families—and they settled in Cannes, where Hubert took a job as an aeronautical engineer. In September 1957, the couple had their first child, Véronique. But Geneviève, who had always been fragile and introverted, found it hard to put up with the distance from her family and wanted to return to Versailles to be closer to her parents. Hubert found an engineer position with the household appliance brand, Arthur Martin, and they established themselves at 50 rue du Maréchal-Foch. It is there, in this Versailles family home which looks exactly like the image that we can imagine from a Versailles family—pious, conservative, noble but penniless—Xavier was born in 1961, followed by Christine, in 1966. Xavier was a “very easy child,” according to Geneviève. He’s barely a teenager when the going gets tough on both sides. The father: adventurous, rational, bridge player, dreams of prosperity, fickle. He tries to set up a business but only accumulates debts, in particular with Urssaf [ed. taxes], since he did not deem it necessary to pay his contributions. He also maintains an affair with his secretary, Catherine, and leaves the home around 1972, before resuming his life with her in Ivory Coast, in 1979. The mother: devout, not of this world, enigmatic. She is engaged in what her daughter Véronique calls “communication with the beyond,” a religious esotericism which resembles an escape from material life. By announcing pending cataclysms, she instills in her children an atmosphere of constant fear which pushes the family to cut themselves off from the outside. On leaving, Hubert leaves Geneviève in charge of the three children and all his debts: she is ruined. They will never divorce. Hubert will even keep his wedding ring until the end of his life, but his wife will not attend his funeral, and neither will his daughter Christine, whom he never saw again after 1979. Absences, then infidelities, then Hubert’s flight made Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès the head of the family. As a child, he was entitled to ten seconds every evening to tell his father what he had done during his day. This has built up his way of speaking - direct, with an automatic rifle flow - a fear of disappointing, a fierce desire to shine, but also an uncompromising conception of family loyalty. A man who abandons his family by flight or suicide does so because he does not love them. He considers whether it is egoism or cowardice. And since his father did not assume anything, the son, from the age of 13, decided to take everything upon himself, to be the one who would protect his sisters and his mother. He passed his baccalaureate, but after a first year in a business school in Paris, he had to give up his studies and work to support Geneviève and Christine. He does odd jobs, does handling. As if he wanted to be a father too early, he also got into a relationship with Agnès Hodanger, a girl from a good family whom he met in high school in 1979. They celebrate their engagement at the end of 1982, at just 20 and 21 years old. Xavier actually navigates between two worlds: on the one hand, this old corseted and reactionary world of the family circle and, on the other, a new liberal and gleaming world, which the United States then undertakes to define with Cadillacs, blue jeans, fast food, and the Beach Boys. Outside the family home, Xavier is at all the rallies and all the celebrations. He puts a cigarette in his mouth and dresses in a leather jacket, enchants himself with the local hooligans, in search of the thrill or the fury of living - it is rumored that he would not be totally unrelated to the theft of a few cars from Versailles. In the mid-1980s, he went down south, to Aix-en-Provence first, to treat a pneumothorax and overcome the gravity of Versailles. There he joined Véronique, who was living in Draguignan, and Emmanuel Teneur, of course, who also lives in the Var sub-prefecture. He was hired as a sales representative by the Société des Fertilizers Monnot (SEM), where he sold garden equipment for the PACA region. It was there that he met Michel Rétif, also a salesperson. Michel Rétif is the complete opposite of Emmanuel Teneur - extrovert, ladies’ man, adventurer - and quickly challenges him for the place of best friend. Michel and Xavier share a passion for the United States. Together, they will have a drink at L’air du Temps, a café in the Place aux Herbes in Draguignan. André, the boss, loves American cars, and his wife loves Elvis Presley and country music. Michel wears trendy denim shirts, tucked into pants matching his azure eyes. He has a southern sun-tanned face, dry, charismatic, and a James Dean or Johnny Hallyday look, giving the impression that he could jump on a motorcycle at any time. He also admires Xavier. To those close to him, to his companions, Michel is described as someone endowed with “somewhat supernormal skills,” “extremely intelligent,” having “incredible adaptability.” He feels about the same for this friend as he does for his brother and one replaces the other. Xavier becomes his model. With Emmanuel Teneur (left) and Michel Rétif (right) in the United States in 1990 The love-life of Xavier and Agnès also undergoes internal tensions between order and adventure, which disturb him. She was his first time. He loves her as much as he loves the idea of being true to their relationship, but they are still young, and he wants to discover everything. The summer of their engagement, in 1982, the couple went on vacation to Corsica, where Xavier met a young German girl called Claudia. Tall, blonde, and a camping model, Xavier fell madly in love with her and he left Agnès. Claudia returned to the Paris region alone and forgot about Xavier for a few years, increasing the number of trips back and forth between the Var and Hanover. In 1989, Xavier was made redundant by SEM. He is single. For the first time in his adult life, he is free of all responsibility, without forced ties. He then suggests to Michel Rétif to take a trip, the big trip: a road trip to the United States. At the end of the year, the two men fly to New York. They then go to Jacksonville, Florida, where Hugh, a cousin of Xavier resides. They buy a used car. Xavier is 28 years old, an age at when we can still reinvent ourselves, or finally assume who we have always wanted to be. The following months could be summed up by the names of cities (Key West, New Orleans, Austin, Los Angeles) or of girls met on the road (Mindy, Melissa), but their adventure was more internal. It becomes an initiation journey cementing a lifelong friendship and shapes the idea of the men they wish to become. They get drunk on this feeling of being able to seize any opportunity any time without anyone to bring them back to their duty of husband, son, employee. It is also the first time in his life that Xavier Ligonnès earns money as easily as he wakes, quickly and on the go. There will eventually be three trips of three months each in quick succession, during which they estimate to have set foot in 48 of the 50 American states. The first round trip was financed by their unemployment or redundancy benefits. For the following ones, they invent a scam. Each time they return to France, they bring back American vehicles, those Cadillacs and Ford Mustangs that have always fascinated Xavier, to sell them at a significant profit. Even if it means repatriating several at once by tampering with registration certificates and playing on this extended name which multiplies the possible aliases: a car in the name of Dupont, another in Ligonnès and another in Dupont de Ligonnès. He is also domiciled in Rennes, where the sticker is free for vehicles running on LPG. He is proud of his little scheme, which he sees as proof of his intelligence. In New Orleans, 1990 The two friends plan to extend the adventure, this time to New Caledonia, where another cousin of Xavier works as a banker for Crédit Agricole. And then one day, Xavier suddenly announces to Michel that he is canceling everything. While in Versailles, he saw Agnès again. She is pregnant with a little boy. The father—a certain François—left her and refused to recognize the child. New change of fate: Xavier blocks freedom and travel and resumes the course of his old life faster than a routed army beats a retreat. Agnés gives birth to Arthur in July 1990, Xavier recognizes him as his son and marries his high school girlfriend in September 1991, during an expedited ceremony.
The days following the discovery of the bodies and the abandoned car are days of frenzy. The picture of the father of the family (thin glasses, shapeless gray t-shirt) makes the headlines of all the newspapers, Marie Drucker opens the 8pm newscast talking about the “nightmare in a house in Nantes” and France, which likes to punctuate its history with various facts, plunges into the one that will mark its beginning of the century. Social networks are winning over society. For the first time, they become the ideal receptacle for conjecture and commentary on a criminal case which is quickly summed up by an acronym, in capital letters: XDDL. On Facebook, highly active groups are forming to “seek the truth,” attracting all the amateur investigators who once accumulated newspaper clippings and who now go through thousands of web pages to search the past of the protagonists. The first few days also gave rise to a large number of reports: Ligonnès looks like the ordinary man, the neighbor, so you can see his eyes everywhere, his smile, his allure. We meet a stranger and we wonder: what if it is him? We look at his best friend: would he be able to do the same? We look at his father: was ever tempted by this same gesture? The newspapers paint the portrait of XDDL without knowing which foot to dance on. The first elements of the investigation show the premeditation of the crimes. On April 1, Ligonnès bought from the Castorama d’Orvault two ten-kilogram bags of quick cement, two rolls of gray adhesive tape, twelve extra-reinforced 50-liter garbage bags, a Lorraine hoe, and a spade. The next day, he obtained four sacks of quicklime, with which he covered the corpses of family members and dogs a few days later. After the murders, he continued to respond to text messages from his children’s friends. He got rid of the whole family’s computers and phones. In other words: there are not many people who doubt his guilt. But on the other hand, there are the testimonies of friends who describe a trouble-free family from good Nantes society, the good kind of chic, the father who works hard, the mother who goes to mass on Sundays, the children registered at the private school, two beautiful Labradors, Léon and Jules. Emmanuel Teneur defends his friend. Michel Rétif speaks of “the calm that reigned within the family.” The neighbors deliver to the journalists the formulas that one hears after each news item: courteous, discreet, without fuss. On Xavier Ligonnès, they are unanimous: ready to do anything for his children, full of integrity, and proud of his family. This image resembles the mission that young Xavier set for himself when his father left: to become the respectable head of the family that Hubert did not know how to be. It means taking care of your children, being responsible. Xavier Ligonnès does not hide from anyone that Arthur is not his biological son but that he adopted him, he repeats, because he could not leave Agnès to raise him alone. It involves being successful, making money. In April 1992, he registered with the Draguignan trade and companies register - the couple settled in the Var - for a business selling olive wood objects which he intended to import from Tunisia. Then he imagines selling souvenir magnets on the Mediterranean coast. On June 1, 1993, he wrote a ten-page letter intended to entice investors. Over the years, he wrote dozens of similar letters, which alternated upper case, lower case, bold or underlined passages and bulleted lists—interminable letters to convince himself as much as his interlocutors. He systematically details the inventiveness (or the genius) of his concepts and their business model, rather dreaming of wealth aloud or planning to ride on the comet. He lives with this American belief in the “big blow,” which means rapid retirement by the sea, guaranteeing the material future of his family while saving himself from a life of toil and savings. And that’s exactly what he thinks he sees in 1999, after moving to Pornic, Loire-Atlantique, on his return from a family vacation in the United States. At a time when the domestic Internet is democratizing and where you seem to be able to become a millionaire with the flick of a wand, he has a simple and fashionable idea: a site listing the best hotel addresses for salespeople who, like him, roam the roads of France, which would provide hotels with a guarantee of regular customers and users with preferential rates. In short, a sort of Booking.com for VRP, on which XDDL relies absolutely everything. He created an association, La Route des Commerciaux (RDC), then a company, Selref, to which would add a nebula of internet platforms and a second association, the Federation of salespeople, all dedicated to the same grand purpose. We should then see XDDL as François M. saw it in June 2001, when he was hired to develop the DRC website. He set up an office on two trestles in the garage of the house in Pornic, where he spends his days canvassing hotels and imagining the possible profits. He drives in an American car (a large van registered in Florida, without French plates), he smokes hard, a Philip Morris light every quarter of an hour, and believes very strongly in his success. At the same time, Agnès’ father died and Agnès inherited around 350,000 euros in cash and real estate, including a theater in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, La Vacquerie ,” which she decided to sell to bet on this “business that starts very strong,” as she wrote then to her godfather. What is not invested in the development of the activities of XDDL is used to maintain the lifestyle of the family, which anticipates the future income of the website. It’s a nouveau riche existence: rented house with swimming pool, big cars, riding lessons and private school for children, trips. In the early 2000s, the Ligonnès even left for the United States for a while with the project to settle there so that Xavier assembles a replica of his site and to live the American awakening in Florida rather than in Pornic. The children are enrolled in school and between November 2002 and August 2003, everyone lives at the Little Inn by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale, a seaside motel. Less than a year after their departure, they nevertheless returned to France, where XDDL reactivated Selref and hired an army of salespeople, including his friends Michel Rétif and Cédric M. But the brilliant idea did not take hold. The few hotels that have signed a check to appear on the La route des commercial site do not record the expected surplus of customers and do not renew their registration. Some even ask to be reimbursed and Xavier Ligonnès runs. Even at the start of the millennium, his site, which looks more like a blog with a scrolling banner than a professional platform, already seems dilapidated. This is probably the moment when he could have stopped the machine for the first time. It would have been enough to accept being wrong, to have bet on the wrong idea. But he clings to it at all costs. He spends what he earns in the expenses invested in traveling through France and praising his company as a missionary. He performs a few missions as a mystery shopper for the Sphinx company, hotel audits that bring him at most a few thousand euros per year. Perhaps, after all, it is already too late anyway: in the United States, the family swallowed up part of the inheritance by living in the hotel, the other in the high life and the barrel pierced of the Selref. In 2004, Xavier Ligonnès could no longer hide from Agnès his difficulties in getting money. The couple sometimes wonder how to make ends meet. This bankruptcy is not only professional. It is also intimate, in love. Xavier Ligonnès manages both: ignoring it or pretending to ignore it. During the first months of effervescence, Agnès liked to discuss with him about his big project, she even called the salesmen of the DRC, suggested ideas on the presentation of the documents, but her husband did not give her a place, he was is locked into his role as head of the family in charge of household needs, stressed, unable to talk about work without getting carried away, and business had become a taboo subject. This unsaid, this silent anger, Agnès goes over them from Tuesday to Friday, when Xavier is on the roads, but also on weekends, which he spends in his office installed in the low-ceilinged basement of their new house in Nantes. You have to break in two to get through the door, the floor is dirt. The children’s friends will see XDDL come out every now and then in the middle of the night, country music blaring loudly. Agnès calls this his burrow - where she and the children are not welcome - “the cave.” At a time when the internet is becoming more widespread, Xavier has an idea on which he is banking everything: a site listing the best hotels for businessmen who, like him, crisscross the roads of France. In the house, Agnès is alone. Unhappy. From 2004, she expressed her despair on internet forums, pages and pages of messages that resemble the diary of a woman in the grip of her husband. She met Xavier in 1979, they married in 1991 and their relationship has never been what she expected since. She would like attention, gentleness, support, more moments shared with family, couples, friends, more looks, more openness. She loves him, but sometimes she starts to regard this love as a curse. Xavier is the man of her life, she told herself, but maybe he wasn’t meant to be. It’s too brittle, too stiff, or too military for that. On the forums, Agnès also wonders about her sexuality, wonders if she is “abnormal” because she masturbates several times a week, wants to have more frequent relations with her husband, to spice up their sex life. At the beginning of their relationship, he blocked her dead in her tracks, telling her “stop, not too much,” words that she still repeats years later, and which prevent her from living her desires freely. She finds that he is too little focused on the matter, too wise in their antics; sees things backwards, repeats that she is doing too much, pushes the blame on herself. Xavier Ligonnès sees himself as an adventurer, free, no doubt seductive, but the truth is that in the privacy of their bedroom, he is a prisoner of his conservative upbringing, unable to free himself. Agnès is afraid of cheating on him if nothing changes. She says she had three times an attraction to men, with whom she had a kind of virtual relationship. In October 2004, she wrote: “I have problems in my marriage because I have a husband who is very old-fashioned in his way of being in the family: the father is the chief, he gives an order, it is executed without seeing to question or understand, period! In his relationship with me, he plays his role of head of the family, of husband who must bring back “his crust.” but is neither tender, nor cuddly, nor attentive. “October 23:” I am badly, I am in need of everything: tenderness, love, mutual friends, sex. of all!! He was away for five days (...) Tonight he comes home late, and I will have only one desire again and again: to cry!!!!!!! help !!!!!!!!” Agnès dreams of a big discussion, of putting “things back on the flat,” but fears being unable to clearly express her frustrations and dissatisfaction, because she has convinced herself that she is “soft in the brain.” Or rather: Xavier convinced her of it. His self-esteem and sense of superiority prevent him from hearing his wife’s calls for help. So, he undermines it, crushes it. “What is very annoying with you is that you have to repeat everything regularly, you forget everything, and you have to start the same explanations all over again,” he wrote to her by e-mail. Is she complex about her weight? He accuses her of imposing her states of mind on the family. She asks him about the cash flow. He reproaches her for not supporting him, while he kills himself to the task to provide for the needs of the family. This is the argument he has been repeating since their marriage, since he adopted Arthur and “saved” Agnès from abandoning the initial debt, for which he keeps making her pay the price. “I noticed that your mood (more or less happy, more or less in love, more or less critical, etc.) is always linked to our financial situation !!!, he wrote to her in one of his long letters. I find that annoying, in principle! In fact, for 4 years, it is: business is going, the money is coming in: I am happy, you are wonderful and I love you ‘; “Finances are less well: I’m depressed and I find you full of faults, especially professional ones.” One day, in the summer of 2005, Agnès tries to escape this life. Xavier has just asked her for a last extension. She has 46,000 euros left of the 350,000 of her inheritance and this is precisely what he needs to launch the new phase of his business, the “Crystal project.” She never imagined refusing him that money a few years ago, but this time she said no. These crumbs of inheritance are, for her, her only chance of ever being able to live alone. It is also all she has left of her two deceased parents. The refusal provokes Xavier’s fury, who leaves the house. Agnès definitely does not understand anything, he argues: these 46,000 euros are necessary in order not to contract new debts and will precisely start new income. He instructs his friends Emmanuel Teneur and Michel Rétif to bring Agnès “to reason.” At the same time, he buries her with emails, which all say the same thing: it was her choices that forced him to slam the door. It begins with “My poor darling,” he writes “there you really have to understand because otherwise we are going to total disaster. I am serious and I ask you to be too.” Later, he affirms “I do not want to make you feel guilty, but it is not me who ‘brought us there’ as you say, but you by refusing since March to sell 2000 euros of shares, as a misplaced precaution!” All he really wants is that, that she feels guilty. Agnès loses almost 20 kilos. One day, at the supermarket, she runs into a friend, Florence, and collapses in her arms, crying. She reconnects with another friend, Sophie. Agnès confides. She tells her about her financial difficulties, that she no longer trusts Xavier, that he is never there and that she has the impression that he does not love her anymore. Sophie does not dare tell her that she has always found Xavier strange and that she would be right to part with him. With her husband, they will be part, in July 2005, of the recipients of a strange “open letter to the families and friends of Agnès and Xavier,” in which XDDL explains the details of the separation. The six-page letter then seems to Sophie “completely crazy and even pathological.” It contains all the financial details of the household budget and asks a question (repeatedly): “How did we get here?” The answer comes in two parts: 1) financial aspect, 2) psychological aspect. It includes a table presenting three solutions and, for each, an evaluation. Xavier’s is number l: “Normal use ‘a security pocket ‘that we haven’t touched for 2 years. There would remain 31,000 euros and the possibility of reconstituting little by little over the next few years that of Agnès number 3: “Extreme solution, stupid and ridiculous, due to an incomprehensible psychological blockage A sentence:” I did not marry Agnès , by adopting Arthur, to divorce after having had three other children. “Another:” To end this beautiful story, know that my first project, La route des commercials, allowed 1042 establishments to join and generated net revenues of 300,000 euros which supported several people. My new concepts, more concrete because they are based on customer loyalty, are being developed in an exclusive partnership with La Française des jeux. “ The separation lasts three months. Then, as if nothing had happened, Xavier comes home. His grip was starting to wane, the breakup allowed him to keep the pressure on Agnès. As usual, he made her feel indebted to him, who finally agreed to come back. Elsewhere what they write in a new letter sent to their friends and family in November 2005. This one consists of a kind of preamble from Xavier saying that the purpose of the mail is “to try to erase the negative image that she (Agnès) was able to give [them] of [him] and in which [they] readily believed “and of a text by Agnès full of sentences suggesting that she did not have it writes or was forced to do so: “Influenced by bad friends who took me down unhealthy slopes and made me do reprehensible things ,”” Xavier has never lived on my hooks as a legacy crusher ,”” I have faith in his projects which are now well advanced and promising and I regret having put Sticks in the wheels.” Shortly afterwards, Sophie and her husband were invited to 55 boulevard Robert-Schuman, in Nantes, for a dinner which turned out to be “appalling.” “The atmosphere was heavy and murky, she recounts. Xavier had said nothing of the evening. “She comes out with the unpleasant feeling of having participated in a production orchestrated by Agnès on Xavier’s orders. intended to show that all is well with the Ligonnès, that they can forget the letter received during the summer. Sophie saw her girlfriend later. That day, she found that it was “not her anymore” and she remembers thinking that Agnès in turn built a facade. Next Section-1C
Continuing The flight continued along as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Nary a bump or jostle. Hours later, I was playing with the in-flight entertainment system when Major Nak awoke. I toasted him with a fresh drink and asked if he felt fully functional. “Doctor?”, he asked, “Have you slept at all?” “On the flight? Nah.”, I replied, “I slept well last night. Besides, this flight’s been fascinating.” “Do you always drink like that?” he asks. “Of course not!”, I replied, indignantly, “Sometimes, I really twist off and tie one on.” “Seriously?” he asks, shocked. “Major, I’ll let you I on a little secret.”, I said in confidence, “I’m a member of a certain class of unusual creatures; I’m an ethanol-fueled carbon-based organism. Many other geologists are as well. We tend to be drawn to that particular science.” He stares at me with a look that is a cross between incredulity and “you fuckin’ with me?” “You’re not normal…”, was his only reply as he shook his head. “Not by a long shot!”, I laugh, drain my drink, and signal for another. After one arrives, Major Nak stumbles to the head. A few minutes later, the annunciator notes that we are on the flight path to Bhavnagar Airport and should be landing in 20 minutes. Another drink and beer chaser later, we’re buckled into our seats and on final approach. We land light as a feather without a crosswind, a perfect three-point touchdown. We taxi for a bit and stop out on the tarmac, next to a large non-descript gray-colored four-door sedan. We begin to deplane and I see my luggage being loaded into the sedan already. Before I get off the plane, I am asked for my passport. The steward of the flight stamps it and welcomes me to India. Off to the sedan and I see it’s larger than most usual 4-door types. It’s a minor limo of sorts, with rear and front-facing seats, like an old London taxi, except one wall is taken up with a fold-out bar. Oh, I’m going to like this job. I am instructed to sit in the back. Major Nak is sitting up front, working on papers of some sort. I am told the travel time to Alang, the place where I’ll be staying, is approximately one to one and a half hours. I am asked to please make myself comfortable and if I desire, there is a humidor on the back forward-facing seat. I am to help myself to that and the bar, and enjoy the ride. Which I did. The scenery was your bog-standard usual coastal highway sort of stuff, moderately interesting for the first 5 minutes, then it just sort of blurs together. I sampled the humidor and most of the bottles in the bar while we wound our way south to Alang. It was getting late in the afternoon, so it was decided that I would be taken to the “Raj”, the company’s corporate house for when high-ranking business types, visitors, and guests arrive for more than a single overnight. Alang is a company town, and that company is the Ship Breaker’s. It’s a fairly common sort of one-industry town; kind of shabby, kind of old, kind of desperate. It’s not horrible like some oil towns in West Siberia, Venezuela, or West Africa; but it’s no Paris, Texas either. There are some green areas, quite a slew of shops selling sea-sailing ship-sourced stuff, and a few residences. We travel along and I can smell the diesel, dejection, and desperation in the air. This place is an area of low wages, hard work, little to no environmental or HSE controls, and throngs of men wanting to work. This is going to be some kind of experience. We wheel around a well-planted and manicured corner and arrive at the “Raj”. It is a colonial-era, how can I put it? It’s a fucking mansion. Situated behind security fences on grounds of approximately 4 acres, at least. It’s an Edwardian or Georgian pile some four stories thick. There is a security shack out front and even Major Nak has to show his ID in order to enter. They take my photo, particulars, and have me sign-in. Looks like I’ll be the only VIP staying here for the duration of my contract. However, I certainly won’t be alone. There are butlers, cooks, chauffeurs, maids, and other forms of domestic help. And they are all there just to make my stay as pleasant as possible. We drive into the compound, for the lack of a better term, come to a thick security door where the driver punches in a code and we are allowed to enter the underground parking facility. There are several security vehicles parked down here, a couple of motorcycles that I intend to ask to borrow. Before we went underground, I saw at least two teams of security forces patrolling the grounds with huge Alsatian dogs. “Is all this security really necessary?” I asked Major Nak. “Better safe than sorry”, he bewilderingly replies. “OK”, I reply, “Thanks for the clear-cut answer.” He smiles and confides that they’ve never had any trouble here, but since it’s where VIPs and corporate shills stay, they make a brave noise to dissuade anyone with evil on their mind. Shipbreaking is big business, with receipts measured annually in the billions of rupees. Yes, I agree, better safe than sorry. We exit the sedan as two worker bees attend to my luggage. We are lead to an elevator and get in, take a quick ride due up, and exit on the main floor. “Holy shit!”, I exclaim lowly. “This place is incredible.” Full late 1800’s glory expressed in dark, thick hand-carved wood, leather, and dripping in opulence. It’s quite the sight, and it takes me a minute to realize that all this pomp and circumstance is being laid out for me. Now it’s Major Nak’s time to smile on my bewilderment. He asks me to walk with him as he needs to ‘introduce me to the staff’. But first, a young lady appears, in a traditional maid’s outfit, and asks if I require anything. “Loaded question”, I smile, “But I am a bit dry. If you could rustle me up a drink, I’d be beholden to you.” She smiles and looks to Major Nak for a translation. He speaks in Hindi and she smiles wider and scurries off. “What did you tell her?” I ask. “That you’re American and can’t be expected to speak normal English”, he laughs, “Plus I told her of your favorite drink.” “Why, thanks Major.”, I smile. “Anytime, Doctor.”, he replies. We walk along and the cute maid reappears with my drink. Major Nak is holding off and abstaining for the time being. We walk along and meet the head of the household, the Majordomo, one Mr. Kanada. We exchange greetings. “If you require anything, Doctor”, he tells me, “Please let me know. I have read your contract so when I say ‘anything’, that is precisely what is meant.” “I will do that”, I reply and give him a hearty handshake in return. Suddenly, a young male individual type appears. He looks very intent and earnest. “Doctor Rocknocker?” He asks. “Yes. And you are?”, I reply. “I am Sanjay. I am your personal assistant while you are here in India.” He smiles back. “Nice to meet you, Sanjay”, I reply, “What are your qualifications?” I’m not messing around. I’m going to have a full tour on this job. He appears quite young but does have a good handle on English. At least English that I can understand. “I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology. I am going for my Master’s next semester, once this virus business is over with. I speak Hindi, Urdu, English, and some Russian. I carry a light, the time, and your favorite vodka. I am 100% at your disposal.” He smiles and hands me an airline-sized miniature of Blest Vodka; a local favorite. I look at Major Nak, “Oh, I like him. Good choice.” Sanjay beams. Major Nak smiles as well. Major Nak continues, “Sanjay here can show you the rest of the house. If you’ll excuse me, I must be off to camp”. “Most certainly, Major Nak. It’s been a pleasure.” I reply as we shake hands in a very manly fashion. “I hope to see you before you leave, Doctor. Perhaps at the yards to see your progress. “ he notes. “I look forward to that, Major.” I smile He smiles to Sanjay, and does a briskly military about-face and disappears. “Doctor Rocknocker”, Sanjay continues… “Sanjay.”, I interrupt, “Call me ‘Rock’, it’ll save everyone a lot of time.” “Oh, OK. Sure. Doct…um, Rock”, he says, as I smile back. “You must have made a big impression on Major Nak. He hardly talks to anyone he oversees.” “Oversees?”, I smile, “OK, he seemed harmless enough. Affable chap. Can’t hold his liquor worth a shit though. But you’re not to say I said so. ..” “Understood, Doc…Rock”, Sanjay smiles, “Let me show you the rest of the house. Let’s go to the basement first. “ “OK, fine. You lead and I’ll follow.” I replied. The basement was one of wonders. A large heated and chilled pool, a sauna, fairly well kitted out gym, and a game room. The game room held a snooker table, a billiards table, a ping-pong table, and a Ms. PacMan table video game and a Galaga upright game. Vintage. Sweet. There were cupboards full of ping-pong paddles, ping-pong balls, pool, and snooker cues, as well as the remotes for the sound system and large, flat-screen TV, with uncensored 7-satellite feed, hanging on one wall. There were several comfy chairs strewn around. This would be a nice place to relax after a long day of blowing the living shit out of old rusty boats. “Nice”, I noted, “But no beer cooler or bar in the rec room?” Sanjay smiled and motioned me to the elevator. “Moment.” was all he said. He did speak a bit of Russian. We go up two floors and exit the elevator. One side of this floor was taken up with a huge library, complete with a huge antique harp, a very shiny black Steinway grand piano, hundreds if not thousands of books, and several large leather chairs and a couple of leather couches and ashtrays strewn about. Another place to waste a modicum of time. Then Sanjay points me north to the other side of the floor. There was a huge bar, fully stocked, with about a dozen barstools in front. There were at least a dozen taps of Indian, British, and Indonesian beer. There were hundreds of bottles of non-repeating liquor. There was a large ice machine humming away in the corner, full bar glass set-up, wash station, and dishwasher under one corner of the bar. There were several under-bar coolers full of carbonated drinks, juices, and other potential mixers. “We have two dedicated barmen at your disposal”, Sanjay smiled, “Or you can go ahead and use it self-serve if you desire.” I look at the empty glass in my hand and decide we’ll go ahead and inaugurate it now and not bother to call the barmen. Sanjay, eager to please, runs behind the bar and asks what I’d like. “Well, since we’re in India”, I say, rubbing my chin, “Let’s start out with a nice IPA.” “Certainly”, he replies, “Light or dark?” as they had two on tap. “Oh, dark, I think.”, I said, “And since you’re back there, why not grab yourself one and get me 100 milliliters of the finest chilled house vodka.” “Yes, Doctor!”, he smiled and fetched our drinks. Sanjay and I spent an hour or two at the bar getting to know each other. Several times, house employees rolled through to see if I needed any dinner or a cigar or… “Good lord”, I say to Sanjay after the fourth one in an hour was dismissed, “They keep this up and I might take them up on something off the menu.” “I can arrange that”, Sanjay smirked. “Thank you, no. That was a joke.”, I told him, “I’ve been married 39 years to the finest partner and deadliest crack shot this side of Annie Oakley. Besides, I have no desire for any of that sort of extracurricular shenanigans. It was a joke. Seriously.” “Understood, Rock”, Sanjay said. “I’m not married, but I am engaged. I understand fully.” “Good and congratulations”, I replied, “No need to get off on the wrong foot or anything.” “Or anything?” Sanjay smirks and raises an eyebrow. “Keep that up and I might just keep you on as my assistant.” I said, “You will need a good sense of humor before this all over.” Sanjay quaffed his beer and smiled broadly. After I had him get me another beer and asked for my room as I was needing a cigar. He pulled out a phone, dialed a few numbers, and Hindi’ed directly into the device for a minute. “No worries, Rock”, he said, “One will be here directly.” “Fine”, I replied, “Now Sanjay, this job is not all skittles and beer, if you take my meaning.” “Oh, look. Your cigars have arrived.” He says, totally distracting me. An ancient butler pushing a silver tea cart appears. On the cart is a very large humidor full of many different shades, shapes, and sizes of cigars. I went to grab one when the butler stops me and tells me to make a selection. “Oh, oh, oh! Very nice.” I say and point to a likely looking Oscuro Churchill. He takes the cigar, carefully wipes it with fine cheesecloth, and asks what type of cut I like; V-cut, punch, or slant. “Oh, V-cut, if you please,” I reply. He V-cuts my cigar and with his with gloved hands, holds it out for me to inspect. “Lovely,” I reply. I jam the cigar in my yap and start digging around the pockets of my field vest for my lighter. He taps me on the shoulder and extends a lit piece of cedar bark. The ‘traditional’ British way of lighting a cigar. After all that, he tells me his direct number is 214 and that if I need anything more to have one of the staff ring him. With that, he turns heel and exits without another word. “Well”, I smirk, “That was weird.” Sanjay just smiles and tells me to get used to it. They will do everything here for you if you allow them. “Yeah, I’ll bet.”, I say, get up and pour myself a new beer. A ‘Tiger’ this time. I ask Sanjay if he’s ready for a refill and he tells me he’s good. I grab another 100 milliliters of chilled Old Fornicator Vodka and sit back down at the bar. “Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Can you be a hard ass, Sanjay? Can you tell your peers ‘no’?” I ask. “Will I have to?” he asks. “Yep.” I say, “Damn, this is a really fine cigar. But working with me, you best develop a thick skin and a hard head.” “Oh, OK”, he says, obviously confused. “Right.” I say, “Serious talk time. I’m the boss on this project. What I says, goes. No questions. Period. You’re my de facto second in command. We are here to teach 24 of your comrades how to blast boats to smithereens and how to train the next set of like-minded individuals. This is a step up for them, every one. It means more money, more security, more prestige. I need only 24 and from what I hear, there’s what, up to 30,000 workers here? Guess what? That means a lot that are going to go home disappointed. They might hold that against me and you, Me? I don’t give the tiniest shit. But I’m going to leave after a couple of weeks. You’re here for the duration and going to take over my spot. Some of these characters might get shirty and decide to tap dance on your head if you tell them no. You have to be ready for that. Can you deal with that situation?” Sanjay just sits there and looks intently at the finely polished hardwood floor. “This is old hat for me,” I tell him. “I’ve had to tell some good friends that they weren’t picked for the job or contract. It’s business. And some have been less than adult about how they handled the rejection. There have been threats, usually hollow and empty. There have been altercations, usually unimportant. There have been fights with bloodied noses, broken arms, and police reports. But in the end, I had to stick to my guns. You ready for that, young Mr. Sanjay?” “Thank you, Doctor Rock…”, he replies, “I never thought about it that way. But, yes, I think I can handle that situation if it arises. It’s business like you say and I am able to defend myself.” “That’s good”, I reply, “At least physically. What about mentally? You might have to tell a good friend to get stuffed; in a nice manner, of course.” “I think so.”, he replied, “I’ll follow your lead over the next couple of weeks. Call it ‘on the job training’.” “Mr. Sanjay”, I say, “I do think you’ll do.” We talk a bit more and I decide that after one more round of drinks, I’ll call 214, grab a couple of cigars and have Sanjay show me my room. On the way down the long hall, Sanjay is smiling in a weird sort of way. “OK, give,” I say. “No, no yet. Wait until you see your room.” He snickers. Now I’m worried. We come to a large, polished, and engraved oak door. He produces a key from out of the depths of a Stephan King novel, twists it in the lock, and the door silently swings open. “Holy shit!”, I exhale. The room is enormous. En suite bathroom where one could hold an Olympics meet in the Jacuzzi. American Standard bog, flanked on either side by bidets. Twin sinks, a shower with tropical, right out of the ceiling rainfall, or the new waterfall shower design. Or both. With steam function. Not boiling water, but live steam like any sauna. “I could get to like this”, I mutter. The room is fully carpeted with tapestries on the walls. A large, Victorian oak desk is over on one side, with a very nice dual-screen computer work station at my disposal. There is a note with my login and password in the leather-bound legal pad on the ergonomic computer chair before it. There is a huge flat-screen TV over on the other wall with the same 7-satellite feed as in the rec room. “Whoa!” I say, “Data overload.” My luggage is next to the built-in wardrobes. One houses a bespoke mini-bar. “The maids would have put your clothes away”, Sanjay explains, “But they were locked. I can call them if you’d like.” “Sure”, I reply, “Why not?” I see two of the aluminum cases that I marked “Careful: Scientific Instruments” are next to the computer workstation. Two maids presently arrive and I unlock my luggage. They set to putting it away and are tsking that it needs to be pressed first. “Perhaps later”, I said, “It’s been a day and I’m a bit knackered.” “I will turn down your bed then”, one of the nubiles remarks. Sanjay is now smiling way, way too broadly. I go through the door to the master bedroom. “Holy shit squared,” I say. There is a huge four-poster Edwardian? Georgian? bed. The carved wooden uprights are the diameter of telephone poles. I’m a pretty large person, but on this bed, I’ll need a personal transponder as its large enough for me to get lost. Easily 3x4 meters and the mattress is nice and firm, just the way I like it. On top of the bed are blankets, a comforter, a quilt, an afghan, and more feather-stuffed keep-warms than I ever saw outside of Siberia. Under those, I’d sweat away to nothingness; but it looks so damned comfy. The bed properly turned back, I thank the maid and make the noises like I want her to get the fuck out so I can get horizontal. Sanjay notes that and has her and the other maid exit. All my clothes are put away, even my field vest I discarded when we walked into the room is tutted over and hung up. “So, Rock?” he laughs, “What do you think?” “I think if I didn’t have a serious job to do, I’d come down with some damned virus that would require me to stay home and socially distance myself.” I laugh. “Sorry, but work begins tomorrow. What time would you like for me to ring you?” he asks. “Right”, I said, “About that. I want to be on the job at 0600. Not leaving here at 0600, not wheels up at 0600. I want to be ready to select my 24 candidates beginning at 0600 tomorrow. I leave that to you. When do we need to leave, so when do I need to be rung up?” “I’ll call you at… 0430…?” he cautiously says. “Fine.” I reply, “Make certain that the notices I sent were posted. I want my 100 applicants ready and on-site spot-on 0600. I’ll need a large black coffee in a travel mug. Green?” “Green?” he asks. “My shorthand for ‘are we in agreement?’” I say. “Oh, yes. Rock. Very green. See you in the morning.” He says, shakes my hand and departs; but not before leaving me the room key. I lock the door and strip down. A steamy shower and a couple of very well-appointed in-room mini-bar bourbons later, I’m going over Email. Seeing nothing that can’t wait until the next day or two, I flop into bed and immediately become a missing person. The phone cheerily chirps at me at precisely 0430. If I had my Casull, that phone would be in another dimension. As it is, I drag my carcass to vertical, grab the phone, say “Thanks” and hang up. A quick shower, a couple of shower sunrisers, and I’m feeling much better. Damn near human. I gather the day’s necessities, don my vest, and Stetson over my usual field outfit and toddle downstairs. I’m not 5 steps out of the room when the maids arrive with the intent of committing premeditated neatness in my room. I wave to them, and gargle an obligatory “Morning”, and head down to the main floor. I am greeted by Sanjay, who is holding a large metal thermal coffee travel mug for me. “You are a gentleman, scholar, and life-saver”, I say to him. He beams in the way-too-early morning light. “Breakfast, Doctor?” he asks. “Just coffee. I don’t want to eat too much these first few days. ‘Delhi belly’ and all that. Too much work to do.” I remonstrate. “Understood.” Sanjay complies, “Cigar?” “Yes, it is,” I say. “I have brought along a box of them for you today,” he adds, smiling. “Outstanding”, I say and sip my coffee. Surprisingly, it is of the Greenland variety. “The driver is waiting. Anytime you are ready, Rock”, Sanjay informs me. “Give me a few minutes,” I say as I review the morning edition of the Times of India. I was actually waiting for the fine coffee to take effect. A few minutes later, we’re headed down the coast to the beach; right where the rubber hits the road. Or rather, the ships scrape the sand. Alang is the biggest ship breaking facility in the world. There are more than 400 ship breaking platforms here. They break about 1,500 ships every year. At any time about 300 people can be working on a single ship. The total workforce here is 40,000 plus. There are complaints about the treatment of workers and their service conditions. Ships are broken down crudely by hand using the minimum machinery; typically oxygen lances and welding torches. It’s a horror show. Huge, rusty, jagged pieces of ships everywhere. Puddles of every color, containing noxious chemicals of every description. Lead, organotins such as tributyltin in anti-fouling paints, polychlorinated organic compounds, by-products of combustion such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, and furans are found in ships and pose a great danger to the environment and personnel. There is a singular lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) here. Thatched, woven palm-frond ‘hardhats’. Steel-toed sandals; if you grasp the irony. No coveralls, gloves nor much else. Ragged shorts, torn shirts, and car-tire soled sandals are the uniforms here. Well, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s change this. We wheel into an area containing a huge tent-like structure, a couple of Quonset huts, and a smattering of non-descript outbuildings. The place is swarming with workers. All male, all young, and all looking to be part of the chosen 24 today. We park and I’m shown into the large tent-like structure. At the head of the tent are a table, a PA system microphone, and a desk where we can sit down and tally the day’s take. “OK, Sanjay”, I say, “Time to work. Remember I sent ahead the qualifications I’m looking for in trainees?” I had cabled ahead for them to pre-select 50 candidates, 175-225 pounds, 5’ 9” to 6’ 3”, preferably unmarried bachelors, which tend to be the best kind. They must be English reading and speaking. I need the larger guys to handle the physical demands of the job. They need to be within the height requirements as those are the heights my pre-ordered coveralls will fit. They must be fluent in spoken and written English as I don’t have time to learn Hindi. There were easily 5 times that number milling about just outside. “OK, here’s the deal”, I said, “Here are 100 numbered chits. You will pass them out to the first 100 gents outside that pass initial muster. That is their ticket inside. Pucker time. Think you can handle the throng?” “I’ve got this, Rock”, he says, with a stalwart look. “OK, but if you need help, you know where I am,” I reply. I busy myself constructing a 10x10 grid on a sheet of paper. I number it 1 to 100. This will keep tabs on our candidates. Behind me, on the wall, are 24 brass tokens, ‘chits’, about the size of a US$1 Silver Bullion coin, about 1.5 inches in diameter, numbered 1 to 24. They have a flat space for a name to be engraved upon. These are the coveted chits that enable a person to graduate out of the swill and into the ranks of blasterdom and eventual teaching. Right now, they are the most coveted possession within hundreds of miles. One by one, pre-selected individuals are filtering in and finding seats. Sanjay is doing quite the job, as so far, they all fill the bill nicely. Whether they pass or fail muster will be determined in the next couple of hours. I sip my coffee and smoke my cigars. The room swells by the numbers. Soon, all the seats are taken and Sanjay rejoins me at the head podium. “Good job, Mr. Sanjay”, I say, shaking his hand. “Let’s take a couple of minutes and then we shall begin, OK?” He agrees. I head to the loo and he takes my coffee for a refill. We reappear a few minutes later and I grab the microphone for the PA system. I key the mike, “Hello! Please, everyone, quiet down and pay attention!” Very few replies much less capitulation. Sanjay stands and shouts something in Hindi. The room goes deathly silent. “Remind me to ask you to teach me that,” I say and return to the job at hand. “Gentlemen. Welcome to the selection board for Blaster’s Assistants. If you are not here for that particular position, the exit’s to the rear.” No one moves, except to shift to pay me more attention. “OK. Great. I am Dr. Rocknocker, the headmaster of this special education class. I am the boss. The hookin’ bull. The head cheese. I am the Maharaja of this project. What I says, goes. I am an American, I am a geologist, and I don’t tolerate tomfoolery or bullshit from anyone. I say jump, you say ‘how high’? I say shit and you ask ‘what color’? You will follow my instructions implicitly, without question. Are we in agreement?” I ask. There are a few feeble “Yeah’s”, and “OK’s” that drift up out of the crowd. “Gentlemen. I am an American, as I said, and I’m old, weary, and slightly hard of hearing. I don’t expect you to use your indoor voice around me. You answer so I can hear you, loud and clear. Understand?” “Yes.” Comes a few half-hearted attempts. “GOD DAMN IT! I’m the fuckin’ deaf one. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!?” “Yes, Doctor!” came the reply. “What? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” “YES, DOCTOR!” came the thunderous response. “Outstanding,” I reply. There were some snickers and chuckles in the crowd. It was time to toughen up the crowd and see if I can thin the ranks early. “Gentlemen! Your attention.” I roar. I had their attention. I hold up my gloved left hand. I rip off the glove and show everyone my physical deformity. There were gasps, groans, and a couple of less hearty souls bolting for the door. “I received this in a Russian rig accident years ago. It was not from a blasting accident. I’ve never had one and don’t intend on starting now. If this bothers you, leave. This is me and I’m the instructor.” I announced. “That fact will not change.” Physical deformities here really scare some folks. I figured I’d get this out of the way straight off, and that would be one less thing to worry about. We lost three with that revelation. “Groovy,” I said as I replace my glove. “Now, we will begin the final selection. You all have your numbered tokens, one through a hundred. If you thought because you had a low number, you’d be first, forget it. I have a random number generator application on my phone, set from one to one hundred. And the first number is number…Lucky 13! Lucky 13. Come forward, front and center, and be recognized.” I say. Sanjay is seated next to me with our book of the job. He’ll be handling secretarial duties whilst I do the interviewing. “Your token?” I ask. The young gent hands me lucky number 13. “Fine.” I say, “Name?” Name go in book. “Age? Company number? Years with the company? Married? If so, children?” All data goes into the book in the proper zones. I ask a few questions about the job, to make sure they know what they’re in for. “How’s your English?” I ask. “I speaks it very goodly”, was the reply. “Marvelous.” I pick up this month’s Journal of Explosives Engineering monthly and hand it to him. “Page 22. Read the first paragraph, please.” I instruct him. He fumbles with the magazine, counts singly to page 22, and tries to read some random, but not first, paragraph. I retrieve the magazine, thank him, and tell him we’ll be in touch. Everyone and I mean everyone, chosen or not, will be personally told of their results. I mean, it’s only right and fair. It’s the way I’ve done business for 40 years and it’s worked pretty well so far. Candidates number 9, 57, and 42 results in much the same way. “Number 77!” I call. He lopes up to the podium. “Your token, please,” I say He hands it over. We gather the information and he’s unmarried and without children. How refreshing. I hand him the journal and ask him to read the last paragraph on page 52. “iRing has announced, “a breakthrough technology in ring design for underground mines” that uses a completely new blast design model. The development of this innovative blasting technique uses a unit charge and stress reflection methodology in conjunction with electronic detonators to design ring patterns with the objective of transforming underground blasting operations into primary crushing operations.” “Your name again?” I ask “I am Waazir Naidu.” He replies. “Mr. Naidu, welcome aboard,” I say as I hand him his brass token. “You are trainee number one. Do not lose your token. It is your key up out of the swill.” He smiles broadly and turns to the crowd to display his brass letter of acceptance. There are growls from the crowd, as well as a smattering of applause. “We will reconvene in Outbuilding #2 at 1300 hours. See you there.” I say and shake his hand. He’s all beaming smiles as he almost literally floats out the door. We spent the rest of the morning thinning the herd. There were some judgment calls, but by 1130 hours, we were down to two candidates and one last brass token. “Number 79!” I call. He approaches, we do the usual and get his information. “Please read paragraph three on page…oh, I don’t know, 31.” He fumbles with the magazine a while and stutters and stammers somewhat. “OK, thanks.” I say, “We’ll let you know.” “OK, number 5! The best and last number 5!” “About time!’ He scowls. “Excuse me?” I said. “You really are deaf, Yankee benchod.” He sneers quietly; but loud enough for me to hear. He figures he’s a shoo-in; last number called, last chit on the board. “Sanjay, a moment,” I ask. “This “benchod”? Not a term of endearment, I take it?” “Ah, no”, he stammers. “And it means?” I ask. “You don’t want to know.” Sanjay hopefully replies. “But, yes, I do. I insist.” I reply. “It means colloquially ‘motherfucker’. ‘Sister fucker’ literally.” He splutters. “Hmmm. OK. A new term for my dictionary. Fine. Let us continue.” Name, age, etc. all go in book. I hand him the magazine. He almost rips it from my hands. “OK, please read the ad on page 55. All of it.” I instruct. He flips the magazine to page 55. There’ a half-page ad in Russian for a new form of blasting cap super-boosters. “I can’t read that.” He complains. “Well, then me ol’ mucker; looks like you’re just shit out of luck. Good day.” I say. “Sanjay”, I say, “Go outside and find number 79. He’s our last candidate trainee.” “You said you wanted good English readers.” The rejected complains. “Yes”, I agreed, “But I also need people that can follow instructions and not have a Gibraltar size chip on their shoulder. I’m the boss, and what I say goes. And I say you go, dick cheese. Ta-ta.” He realizes his mistake and beings to entreat me with tales of woe. “If that was a loose blasting wire, we’d all be dead. I don’t need an attitude. I need people with brains enough to listen. Now, piss off. We’re done here.” I say. “Benchod fucker”, he snarls. “I keel you.” Luckily my coffee mug was nearly half empty. Otherwise, it could have really left a mark across his face where I slammed him with it. He’s down on the ground, wondering what hit him. I’m standing over him, towering and glowering. It was that kind of day. I don’t have time for monks resisting the carnival. “You get the fuck out of my sight, you sawed-off little prick. You’re lucky I’m in a good mood and don’t give you a fucking C-4 enema. Or kick your scrawny ass to death. You might still have your shit job here in the yard, but I hear from anyone one more foul oath or unkind word out of you and you’re going to be Alsatian chow back at the Raj. You diggin’ me, Beaumont” He just looked at me with eyes as wide as cheap paper plates at a windy Sunday picnic. “Get out of here, you asshole.” I snarled and puffed mightily on my cigar. He got up and scarpered. He didn’t even take the time to dust off. Sanjay arrived with number 79 just as he hit the exit. I hand number 79, one Mr. Yudhishthira Bahaiti, brass token number 24. “Welcome aboard. Sorry about the foul-up. It’s been handled. See you in building #2 at 1300 hours.” I say. “Sanjay? Lunch?” I suggest. “I could really use a fresh coffee.” After lunch, Sanjay and I are smoking away in Outbuilding #2. It’s about 1245 hours or so and already a couple of new recruits have appeared. They are sitting in one of the 24 seats which look for all the world like elementary school desks way back in the day. There are 24 locker boxes stacked along one wall. These are the new locker boxes for my recruits. These contain a number of specialty items which they will now need in the execution of their new jobs. Some of it could be considered quite pricey and there are needs for security, especially since this bunch will be dealing with high, low, and medium explosives. I’m getting that teaching vibe again. I love geology, I love blowing shit up, but I really love to teach. Especially a new crop of fresh recruits. I’ve watched Full Metal Jacket far too many times. It’s 1300 hours on the nose. All 24 recruits are assembled and in their proper numbered chair. Sanjay has made up a seating plan for me so I can get to match a name to face and locker box number. It’s showtime. To be continued…
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Forgive me but I am new to Reddit and social media in general. Circumstances are such that I am about to hit a major life change. I am being made redundant in April. Do not feel sorry for me as this is something I have planned. For the last few years, I have been making reasonable money with various “side hustles”. The purpose of this post is to share what I know and to develop my social media presence. I am not expecting to make vast sums of money (at least not yet) and do not expect it to be easy. I have worked for many years and would like to earn enough in the following areas. Please note that all referral links posted herein were accurate at time of posting. When clicking the links, I would encourage you to satisfy yourself of the conditions before proceeding. So here it is… Gift cards For the last 3 years, the majority of what I buy is with gift cards. I do buy gift cards in advance, so I am tying money up. This is how you get the biggest savings. I have a number of sources but the main one is eBay. I bought a new kitchen costing several thousand pounds. I located a website which sold Wickes gift cards for 8% discount. I paid a deposit for the kitchen on my credit card and made several payments on account using gift cards which I topped up regularly through this site. Anyone can do this and it is relatively straight forward. That said, you do have to be wary of scammers on eBay and the expiry of the various gift cards. Cashback Everyone knows about Quidco and Top Cashback. I have used both for several years and have received £’000s over the years. These are brilliant sites for holiday and insurance spend. Quidco: Click my referral link and you will get £10 for registration. There is a £5 annual fee but you only pay this, if you earn. [Ref]https://www.quidco.com/raf/254582 [NonRef] https://www.quidco.com Top Cashback: Click my referral link and you will get £5 for registration. There is a £5 annual fee but you only pay this, if you earn. [Ref] https://www/topcashback.co.uk/ref/sjd210469 [NonRef] https://www/topcashback.co.uk Complete Savings: Less known is “Complete Savings” and this has had some bad press. This is where you can earn a lot more and more regularly. There is a £15 per month fee but this is refundable if you make a cashback claim every month. One of the best retailers on this website is eBay. You get 10% cashback on the majority of eBay spend. From time to time, I do have to send emails regarding the cashback on the gift cards but the majority of times they accept my claim. The payments can be a little erratic but I am getting paid most weeks. They pay a lot quicker than Quidco and Top Cashback but there is a maximum cashback of £250 per month. I have been maximising this limit for a few years now but do wonder how long this will last. That said, as long as you make a claim every month and do not rely on the cashback, you cannot lose. Credit cards: Where I don’t use a gift card, I use a credit card which gives cashback. For example, all of my purchases on eBay are with an American Express Cashback card. Receive £25 cashback when you apply for the Platinum Cashback Credit Card, are approved and when you first spend over £1 on the card. You will also receive 5% cashback up to £125 for the first three months of card membership. [Ref]http://amex.co.uk/refesTEVED8T3D?CPID=100338455 [NonRef] https://www.americanexpress.com/uk/credit-cards/ Matched Betting Disclaimer: This is not for everyone. When I first heard about this, I was skeptical by some of the wild claims and I was right. You can make money with this and I won’t go into how this works but it is not 100% risk free. When the claims of it being 100% risk free, you are relying on two things:
you do not make a mistake; and
the bookie pays out
In the vast majority of bets, the above should not be an issue. If you are not careful, you can back one team and lay the same team but on the wrong event. This is a stupid mistake but one I have made! Also, the odds can move very quickly and you can place the wrong amount. The latter is rare but some bookies may try to use the “palpable” error as a way of not paying on a winning bet. I have had this, challenged it and have been successful. The other factor that is often excluded is the fact that you need to cover both sides of the bet. Depending on the back bet amount and the odds, this can be a large amount on the lay side. There are many offers open to new customers. One example is Stakers. Bet £10 and get £40 in free bets. I placed my £10 back bet on Rochdale v Newcastle (4th Jan) for Rochdale to win at odds of 4.40. At SMarkets, I placed a £9.02 lay bet on Rochdale not to win at odds of 4.90. Regardless of the outcome, I knew I would lose £1.16 but would receive 4 £10 free bets. I then was able to generate £27.73 from the free bets, giving me a profit of £26.57. This could have been more had I sought out better odds but I wanted just to get it done. [Ref]https://www.stakers.com/en/R-UMUIJSLT/ [NonRef] https://www.stakers.com/en [NonRef] https://www.smarkets.com/ There is money to be made here but you need to go in with your eyes open. Affiliate Marketing and Referrals I have no experience with this and must admit that I am a little daunted. A bit like Matched Betting, I believe money can be made here but I am still trying to work out what the truth really is. I will shill some referral links below. TransferGo (Money Transfer): Send £50 or more and you will get £10. Not eligible for EUR to EUR transfers. [Ref]http://trgo.co/en/WPly8Gor use WPly8G [NonRef] https://www.transfergo.com/en Wealthify (Investing): Invest £500 or more for at least three months, you will earn a £50 boost to your investment. [Ref]https://invest.wealthify.com/refe75139985 [NonRef] https://www.wealthify.com/ Retail Arbitrage I am making a little money on this but as I am working full time, I have limited time to devote to this at the moment. I am keeping an eye on special offers and am buying items to mainly resell on eBay. When I have more free time, I will look at expanding this and maybe open an Amazon FBA account. Print On Demand Just starting this now. I have a few ideas for designs and am in the process of setting things up. I have no idea what to expect but sometimes the journey itself is the most beneficial. I will be looking into using Facebook ads and Google to drive traffic. This is another skill that I am going to have to develop. Selling My Skills I will probably go self-employed in the future and do similar work to what I do now. I am a Finance Director and have experience in systems implementation. I will probably do contract work which fits with what I want to do. I may look at creating an Udemy course, provide services on Upwork or even create a You Tube channel. I’m not sure about any of these but maybe I need to do it to challenge myself. Recycling This is likely to be more of a hobby than a making money idea. My idea is to obtain scrap coppebrass and smelt into bars, to then resell on eBay. Sounds like fun but not convinced I’m going to make anything significant, if at all. Ecommerce This is for 2021 and beyond. I’m looking at creating a Shopify store and drop shipping. I recognise that I do not have enough time, at the moment, to give this the attention it deserves. I believe that once I better understand some of the other areas, I will be in a better position to tackle this. Other This covers everything else. There are many other opportunities that are one-offs. For example, many years ago I mistakenly deposited into a casino site with a credit card. I do like playing blackjack. On this occasion, I won and withdrew my winnings. When I saw the charges on my credit card, I saw a £3 charge for the deposit but then also noticed a £3 credit for the withdrawal. I then deposited £50 and immediately withdrew 10 lots of £5. I reviewed the transactions and again was charged £3 for the deposit. However, I received £3 credit for each of the 10 withdrawals. This meant I actually made £27. Over the next month, I scaled this up and made £’000s before the charges and credits stopped. I did keep this profit to one side. Sometime later, I received a letter from the credit card company stating that there had been an error in their system which had been corrected. They continued by saying that I would not be asked to repay these monies. It was pure chance that I found this opportunity. Another opportunity I have had which has been connected to my job relates to air miles. Over the last 3 years, I have used my personal credit card to pay company suppliers. This has allowed me to amass a lot of air miles. I hope this has been helpful to some of you and please bear in mind that I am still new to this. Yes, I wanted to shill some of the referrals but I wanted to try to provide some benefit in return. Any advice on the areas I’m about to embark on would be appreciated.
Tennis Betting - Tips For Exchange Betting on Tennis Matches
By choosing tennis as your preferred sport for betting, you have already given yourself an "edge" against those who bet on or offer odds on other sports. To use this "edge" to make money consistently, however, you'll need to understand two fundamental principles first. Then apply the power of mathematics. Principle #1 It is sheer folly to place a tennis bet (or a bet on anything) with a "traditional" bookmaker. The expression "You can't beat the bookie" is axiomatic; you just cannot beat the bookie over time. It's because the odds are always mathematically calculated in favour of the bookmaker. Everyone knows (or should know) that the bookie's mathematical "edge" against the punter is necessary for him to make a profit so that he can stay in business. Computer technology has given rise to a new form of betting, known as "exchange betting" or "matched betting". With "betting exchanges" there is no bookie to beat; in other words, there is no middle-man. Every punter bets against another punter or punters somewhere out there in the Internet ether. Any punter (or "trader") can place a "back" bet that a player or team will win, and/or place a "lay" bet that a player or team will lose. Thus, any punter can choose to act as an ordinary bettor and/or as a bookmaker. With exchange betting the odds are not set by a third-party or middle-man; they are set by the punters themselves, who place requests for odds at which they are prepared to place bets (if they wish to act as an ordinary bettor), or place offers of odds at which they are prepared to lay bets (if they wish to act as a bookmaker). As the "back" bettors gradually lower their requested odds and the "lay" bettors gradually raise their offered odds, the software on the exchange betting web site matches all the back bets with all the lay bets at the instant they coincide. The accounts of the "backers" or "layers" are then credited with their winnings automatically a few seconds after the end of the event according to its result. Obviously, the technology for providing such a "fair" betting service must be paid for somehow. This payment is taken in the form of a commission on the punter's net winnings on an event (or "market"). That is, commission is charged only on any positive difference between winnings and losses on the same event. This betting system is as close to a perfectly fair betting environment as it is possible to achieve. There are very few betting exchanges in existence, however, perhaps because the exchange betting software is so complex and therefore costly. The giant among exchange betting web sites is Betfair, with about 90% of the market at the time of writing. Others are the Global Betting Exchange (BetDAQ), ibetX, Betsson, Matchbook and the World Bet Exchange (WBX). Betfair is by far the most popular because it was the first to offer this "perfectly fair" betting environment, and is trusted to perform accurately and instantly. Principle #2 So, why does tennis betting give you that "edge" over betting on other sports? The answer, though simple, is often overlooked even by those who bet tennis regularly. And if you're someone who's never bet on tennis, you'd almost certainly not have realized the significance of the tennis scoring system on the betting. Consider this fundamental difference between the tennis scoring system and that of probably any other sport you can think of. In other sports and games the trailing player or team must make up the points gap by winning a point for every point they have already lost in order to catch up to the leader. Only then can they start to move ahead. This fact seems obvious. In tennis, however, the trailing player or team can lose the first set 6-0 (possibly with a deficit of 24 points). That team can then win the second set by the most narrow of margins, 7-6 in a tie-break, winning the set by very few points (or even by winning fewer points than the opponents, a rare but possible occurrence!). As soon as the trailing player or team wins the second set, the two sides suddenly have even scores, even though one player or team might have actually won many more points than the opponents. This anomaly often has a profound psychological effect on one or both sides, which affects the way they play for the next few minutes, and therefore also the betting odds requested and offered by punters on the match. This, however, is another aspect of tennis betting which may be the subject of another article. This article deals with the mathematical aspect of tennis betting and how to win money with this knowledge. How to win at tennis betting Now that you're aware of these two fundamental principles, how can you use them to your advantage when making tennis bets? The key is not to be just a "backer" or a "layer", simply betting on the final outcome of an event. If you do that, you will lose out over time, because there's always a small difference between the "back" odds and the "lay" odds -- there must be, otherwise there'd be no incentive for anyone to offer odds and there'd be no betting at all. Combine that with the commission you pay on your net winnings, and the "edge" is against you mathematically (although it is not as great as with conventional bookmakers). The secret to winning at tennis betting is to be BOTH a "backer" AND a "layer", but at different points during the event. This is another aspect of betting that distinguishes the exchange betting web site from the traditional bookie. At the betting exchange you can place a back or lay bet at any time during the event, right up until the very last second or the final point. This is known as "in-play" betting. Because in-play betting is allowed, the odds for each opposing side change as the event progresses, according to the likelihood (as perceived by the punters) of either one side or the other being the eventual winner. The trick is to place a back bet on one side at certain odds and later place a lay bet on that side (or a back bet on the other side) at better odds as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. If you can achieve this, you will win your bet overall, regardless of the outcome of the event -- a true "win-win" scenario. Why bet on tennis and not on other sports? Apart from Principle #2, explained earlier, tennis is ideal for such "swing" betting, because the odds fluctuate after every point is played. There are therefore very many small swings to one side and then to the other. This doesn't happen in soccer, for example, because goals are so rare and a goal shifts the advantage suddenly and hugely to the scoring side. Furthermore, a tennis match can have one of only two results; there can be no draw or tie; and one of only two players or teams can win. In horse racing, for example, the winner can come from a large number of runners. The more possible outcomes there are to factor into the equation, the more difficult it is to win. (Despite this obvious logic, soccer and horse racing remain the two most popular sports for betting, probably for historical reasons. Tennis is already third in popularity, however, as more and more punters discover the fact that it is easier to make money betting on tennis than on any other sport.) "In-play" betting or "pre-event" betting? Now that you have -- it is hoped -- understood and absorbed the generalities of exchange betting and the peculiarities of tennis scoring, it is time to explain the details of how you can win at tennis betting. Earlier it was stated that the secret to winning at tennis betting is to be both a "backer" and a "layer", but at different points during the event, placing bets at different times during the event as fortunes change and the odds swing in your favour. This can be done with both "in-play" betting and "pre-event" betting. One method used with in-play betting is called "scalping". As its name suggests, scalping involves skimming a tiny profit by backing or laying at exactly the right moment as the odds move slightly in your favour, perhaps when one player scores two or three consecutive points, and repeating the process again and again. The biggest drawback of scalping is that it is very time-consuming and fraught with mental and physical tension. Not only must you pay full attention to what's happening during the match by live video broadcast, but you must also catch exactly the right moments at which to bet, which is, in fact, made impossible by the 5-second delay imposed by the exchange betting software between the time you place the bet and the time it is accepted. We're not elaborating on this here because, as stated previously, this article is about winning by mathematics, not by the sweat of your brow. The maths aspect involves betting, not during the event, but before the event starts. That is, pre-event betting. Mathematics do not lie! There are a few tennis betting "systems", some purely manual, others using software programs, some of which are enormously complicated. From the investigations of the writer (a mathematician), they all require the input, at some point, of a "probability factor" by the bettor. This probability factor is usually the odds at which you want your "balancing" bet (the "lay" bet on the "backed" side or the "back" bet on the opposing side) to be triggered, giving you the "win-win" scenario mentioned earlier. So, how do you determine the value of this probability factor? That, dear reader, is the crucial point of the whole matter, the linch-pin that holds any exchange betting "system" together and determines whether it succeeds or fails, whether you win or lose. Up to now, it seems, this probability factor has had to be determined by the sheer experience of a few seasoned professional gamblers, or by trial-and-error guesswork by lesser mortals. Little wonder that so many punters lose or do not win as much as they could because they do not know the EXACT value needed to optimize their bets! Accuracy is of paramount importance when determining the probability factor, in order to maximize the chances of winning consistently. A search on the Web for a tool to calculate it proved negative. The writer therefore created one that encompasses not only all aspects of exchange betting but also the peculiarities of the tennis scoring system, and called it the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, for want of a better name. The probability factor is calculated to two decimal places, merely by entering the pre-event odds of both opposing sides, and has enabled the writer to make consistently more than 10% profit from tennis betting since Wimbledon 2009. As a parallel test, the writer also placed bets according to "gut feeling", in sufficient numbers to establish a trend. It resulted in a loss of 10% of the working capital (or "bank"). Other tests were done, using the Abacus Exchange Betting Calculator, by betting on other sports where small odds swings occur, such as American Football, snooker and darts (very long matches only, otherwise the swings are too large). The results here just about covered the commissions paid on winnings; so, it is not worthwhile. It seems, then, that the particular mathematical formula or algorithm (which is very complex) discussed here works well only in conjunction with the unique scoring system of tennis. Conclusion As a scientist, the writer feels that it is highly probable to win at sports betting consistently over time only when the following factors are present:
An exchange betting web site is used, not a conventional betting web site. (Beware of many sites that pretend to offer exchange betting by appearing in search engine results for "exchange betting"! Ensure that their software system enables you both to back and to lay bets at any odds you want against other punters, not against the house. If in doubt, check that their web site looks like the one at Betfair.)
The sport is tennis, because of its unique scoring system.
AND 3(a) You learn about and become experienced in in-play betting and are prepared to devote almost all your time glued to a computer screen while following each match, sometimes more than one simultaneously. OR 3(b) You use software that tells you exactly the odds to request and offer and the stakes to place in pre-event betting in only a few minutes, thus allowing you to get on with your normal life.
My moronic Scout troop resurrected a batallion of Confederate soldiers. It went as well as you'd expect.
Before my mom and I moved, I’d thought I was the world’s worst Boy Scout. I couldn’t tie my neckerchief properly, much less any knot requiring more than a few steps to complete. Heck, I’d never even managed to start a fire that didn’t whimper and fade within seconds. None of this was surprising, as I’ve never wanted to be a Boy Scout. I’m bookish, clumsy, and not the least bit outdoorsy, and I’ve never been particularly interested in an organization with some of the social stances Scouts held until recently. But my mother had insisted. I’d been giving her new boyfriend a lot of trouble, and now that we’d relocated several counties over to the same town as him, I’m sure she didn’t mind having me enrolled in a program that sent me away for full weekends. I used to the past tense when describing my ineptitude at scouting for a reason: I was a genuine Davy Crockett compared to the members of my new troop. It didn’t help that I was assigned to a patrol of kids a year ahead of me, and that year was a significant one that separated middle school from high school. To make matters worse, I was scrawny and still catching up on hitting puberty late; the other kids included more than a few bulky athletes. And these fellow scouts…let me tell you. They were all the sons of rich parents: the owner of a local brick company, the vice mayor, a regional business executive, and at least two doctors. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But these guys were spoiled as hell, not to mention pampered. A few drops of rain caused incessant whining and the disintegration of tent camping into car camping. Our senior patrol leader, who went by Jeb, shrieked at a parent who refused to cut short a rainy hike that his buddy’s father would sue him into bankruptcy as punishment. This weekend, to fulfill a merit badge requirement, we were visiting a Civil War museum at the county seat and then camping overnight in a nearby park. The county seat is hardly a booming metropolis, but its old-fashioned courthouse, antiquated post office, and city hall formed as close to a city block as you could find within 75 miles in any direction. It was our first campout in several weeks due to the COVID-19 virus. We’d all been isolated long enough to confirm that none of us were infected or carriers, and we weren’t supposed to interact with anyone outside of each other and the tour guides at the museum. I was in the middle seat in the back row of an SUV wedged between Jeb and his chubby comrade Daniel. I remained surprised at their insistence that I attend the campout. I didn’t think they liked me any more than I liked them, and they were ignoring me as completely as ever, a fact I hardly minded. Jeb’s father drove. He had some kind of leadership role at a cellular service provider. “Time for a history lesson, guys!” he said earnestly. Peter, a red-headed buddy of Jeb and Daniel who played drums in the high school marching band, rolled his eyes. “What war is the museum we’re visiting dedicated to?” asked Jeb’s dad. “The American Civil War,” I responded, surprised he had asked something so trivial. Peter’s expression changed from annoyance towards Jeb’s father to loathing towards me. Daniel punched me on the shoulder. “No, idiot,” said Jeb. “It’s the War Between the States.” “That’s right, son!” said Jeb’s dad. “Nice job, you really know your history!” For fuck’s sake. I thought to myself. I’d grown up around this sort of thing. At family gatherings, my mother, departed father, and grandfather just wouldn’t shut up about their – and my – heritage. Nothing pleased them more than tracing back our family line to southern officers who, according to them, “fought the good fight for states’ rights.” They carefully avoided the fact that our ancestors fought to preserve slavery outside of their occasional half-baked excuse that “Yankee businessmen” were the true culprits. I stayed silent until we pulled up to the museum parking lot. Down the road from it was the town center, which consisted of a large concrete plaza outside the courthouse and town hall. Beside me, a sign posted on a power line pole read: Liberate Virginia, followed by the time 8:00 a.m. and tomorrow’s date. Our location was closer to nine other state capitals than it was to this one’s, so I guess those desperate to protest the state government but unwilling to travel 180 miles to do so were settling for demonstrating in the town center here. Inside the museum, two guides greeted us: a peppy white woman named Melissa, and a tall black man named Gerald. They led us through the building. The museum chronicled a local group of guerilla fighters who attacked Union supply wagons during the war. Melissa told us about how, late in the war, they even slaughtered townspeople who spoke in favor of laying down their arms and giving up. The townspeople fought back and even sought help from federal troops. The Confederate guerillas were wiped out in the battle that followed. Melissa gestured out the window to a field close to our campsite as the location at which they had all been buried. “The townspeople tossed them into an unmarked mass grave, still in the uniforms and with the weapons they died with, eager to avoid retribution they feared they could face for harboring guerillas.” Gerald led us into the final room, which was dedicated more broadly to county military history. In the center was an authentic-looking World War II-era tank. “My great-grandfather helped man one of these in the 761st Battalion in France,” said Gerald. “A M4 Sherman with a 76mm gun. Maybe the finest American tank of the war. We keep this one maintained for a yearly demonstration.” “General Lee shoulda got one of those!” whooped Daniel like the moron he was. Melissa and Gerald led us out the door not long after. We set up camp that night. The other scouts and Jeb’s father spent a lot of time talking amongst themselves, and they grew silent and dispersed whenever I approached. It wasn’t unusual for them to ignore me, but I still found their evasiveness suspicious. As evening approached, Jeb’s father left without explanation, driving off in his SUV. Jeb called me over to the campfire and handed me a canteen. “Now that pop’s gone, we’re all sharing some of the finest gin I lifted from his liquor cabinet. Have some.” This made me uncomfortable. I’m a well-behaved kid, and if I ever was going to drink underage, it wouldn’t be around these insufferable goons. “Come on, drink up ya Teetotaler!” cried Daniel. “He’s too much of a goody-too-shoes,” said Peter. Reluctantly, I caved to the pressure and took a gulp. It tasked like medicine but I managed to swallow it without spitting any out. Jeb, Daniel, Peter, and the four other scouts gave each other satisfied looks. I started feeling dizzy and dropped the canteen to the ground. A green liquid poured out. Even I knew that wasn’t what gin looked like. A sense of weightlessness ran through me and the last thing I remembered was my face thudding against grass. When I awoke, night had fallen and a sharp pain ran down my arms. I heard voices, and the sounds of metal hitting rock and dirt. I tried to move, but ropes around my wrists, ankles, and waist restrained me. A small fire drew my eyes. “Damn bugs,” I heard Jeb say. “No matter how much spray I use, they keep comin’ back.” In the little bit of light, I saw trimmed grass punctuated by patches of dirt in which the other scouts were digging. “I think he’s awake!” said Peter. He was shirtless, probably a smart move considering the others’ Scout uniforms were now caked in sweat and dirt. “What are you doing? Where are we?” I croaked. I was getting less groggy by the minute, but I remained as alarmed and confused as when I awoke. I realized that a makeshift bandage ran under my arms from each elbow to the wrist. “We needed a blood sample for the potion!” said Daniel, who looked like he’d just gotten out of a filthy pool. “And we knew you wouldn’t give in willingly, not for this, Mr. American Civil War.” A blood sample? What the hell was he talking about? “Don’t worry, we’ll give you a chance to join us,” said Peter. “We just needed to make sure you didn’t resist, assuming you didn’t lose too much blood to wake up again.” He approached me and undid the knots holding me in place. Before I had a chance to enjoy the regained ability to move my arms and legs, Peter waved a long knife in my face. “Don’t run or cause any trouble,” he said. “Or I’ll cut your little head right off.” Peter did not seem to be kidding. I sensed that I was in serious danger and needed to stay on my toes. “Found one!” shouted Jeb. “It’s real. They’re all here.” He climbed out of a pit, shovel-in-hand. The other Scouts cheered. Daniel brought out what looked like a cauldron. He poured into it a small container of red liquid that I figured was my blood. Why couldn’t I be back with my old troop? I thought. Those kids were friendly – plus trustworthy, loyal, all that. These ones…I continued to gawk at the horror show before me, eager to run away but afraid of retribution if I got caught. “Check your phones,” said Jeb. “I’ve got nothing,” said Daniel. “Well of course you don’t, fatso,” said Jeb, treating his best friend with typical courtesy. “That’s the whole point.” The other scouts confirmed they had no cell signal. I checked my phone and noticed the same thing. “Great, pops did his job. We’ll have a total media blackout. Everything’s going to plan. Let’s light things up a bit.” Two of the other scouts ran off. I could hardly believe my eyes when they returned with a box of long, wooden objects. Within moments, everyone but me was holding a burning tiki torch. Jeb led them into a formation. Daniel and Peter dragged the cauldron forward and slowly poured its green liquid all across a large area of grass. “Careful,” said one of the other scouts. “That’s stuff’s flammable – keep it away from the fire!” “With this, great ancestors,” screamed Jeb, “We provide you a nourishment that will sustain your new lives, a resurrection potion containing the same bloodline that ran through your great leader. The spell is cast, the ritual performed. Now, we bring you back to life to finish the war!” The others began chanting vigorously. They stomped in unison. Apparently having brought his marching drum set from school, Peter provided accompanying percussion. I stumbled as the ground shook a little, then a lot. The dizziness from blood loss and whatever they’d had me drink didn’t help with my balance. Suddenly, I felt like there was a mild earthquake. I clumsily tumbled to the ground. Several yards from me, a bony arm clad in grey reach out of the ground. Then another. Within moments, dozens of uniformed, skeletal figures had torn their way through the earth. Many held rifles with bayonets. One had a sabre and a large hat. “It worked!” yelled Daniel. They entered a loose formation around the leader with the sabre. These…Confederate zombies walked with a drunken lurch and displayed raw bone behind decomposed patches of skin. With their empty hands, each of the scouts made a military salute. The leader walked past them and to the cauldron of liquid Daniel and Peter had been spreading over the burial site. He cocked his head at it, as if curious, and reached in with his brittle and tattered hand. When he pulled it out, the hand looked healthy and almost completely intact. Pleased, he scooped out a large amount and dropped it on himself. The liquid ran down his body, re-growing bits of flesh where it touched. Daniel, whose face was beaming with excitement, eagerly approached him. “Colonel,” he said. “I’m a big, big fan.” The Colonel looked at him blankly. “We read about this potion online,” continued Daniel, “and weren’t sure if it would actually work. But it did! We got the blood of a relative, and everything…We’re ready now, to join your army and liberate this great state!” A deep, distorted sound emerged to punctuate the painful silence that followed. I realized that the other scouts were heavily invested in the Colonel’s response to Daniel’s offer. The sound got louder. I realized it was laughter, first from the Colonel and then also from other soldiers. “Wait, what’s wrong?” asked Jeb. “We want to join you – to serve with you! We’re…honorable, good southerners, from respectable families too!” The laughter only increased in volume. Now, the entire battalion had joined in. It occurred to me, as I continued to lie in the grass, that they may not have seen me and my troop may have forgotten about me. I could use this moment to flee. But, I was frozen by the grotesque sight before me. If their guns still worked, only one had to notice me for me to end up as dead as they’d been only a few minutes ago. I decided to stay in place for the moment. “Come on!” screamed Jeb. “Can’t you see that we’re worthy of fighting by your side?” I heard sniffling and realized that Daniel was crying. All at once, the laughter stopped as the Colonel reached for Daniel’s arm. For a moment, I thought he was comforting Daniel. But, instead, he pulled Daniel by the sleeve of his scout shirt towards him with one hand and grabbed Daniel’s torch with the other. Holding the torch up to Daniel’s sleeve, he illuminated the American flag that decorated the standard Scout uniform issued in this country. “YANK-EE,” growled the Colonel in a deep voice. “What?” said Daniel. “N-” He didn’t finish the sentence. With a swift movement, the colonel slashed through him with his sabre. “Shit!” yelled Jeb. “This wasn’t supposed to happen!” The other soldiers – I estimated several dozen – charged forward. Blood flew through the air, some of it landing on me. I watched as five soldiers simultaneously impaled Jeb. At least some of the guns still worked, as I learned when two of the other scouts tried to flee only to be shot in the back. When it was over, only Peter remained alive, surrounded by a circle of soldiers. Discarding his scout shirt had saved his life, for the moment at least. Confederate zombies had their bayonets drawn at Peter and eyed him suspiciously. He looked understandably petrified and was probably responsible for the smell of urine in the air. An idea appeared to run through his head. He started drumming. “A little military marching tune,” he said, desperately. “It’s good, see?” One of the skeletal soldiers removed his grey overcoat and draped it over Peter’s shoulders. Peter breathed a sigh of relief as the soldiers lowered their weapons. A drummer boy had joined their ranks. I wasn’t so lucky. At that moment, I felt boney fingers dig into my back. A zombified rebel dragged me against the grass and threw me towards the fire. I landed next to a container of bug spray with a thud. “Another yank-ee,” said the Colonel, whose imposing frame loomed over me. I chided myself for not removing my uniform or at least ripping off the flag patch when I had the chance. The Colonel raised his sabre. I knew that if I didn’t act now, my fate was sealed. “Wait!” I said. “Grandpa? I mean…great, great, great, great Grandpa. Don’t you recognize me?” This puzzled the Colonel enough for him to hesitate. I searched my mind for the memories of the family conversations I’d spent so much time trying to forget. “You grew up by East River. Fought at Saltville and New Market. I grew up hearing about your achievements.” The final word pained me to say. The Colonel turned his head to the left and then to the right. He lowered his sabre. I knew this was the best chance I would get. I grabbed the bug spray, dived by the fire, aimed the container at him, and held down the ‘release’ button. The fire that emerged made contact with the Colonel. Rather than dying out, it caught on to the remnants of the flammable green potion in which the Colonel had doused himself. He let out a terrified shriek and collapsed as flames consumed him. I knew better than to wait around. I did something I was good at: I fled for my life while the soldiers were distracted by their burning leader. I heard rifle shots ring out and saw sparks hit the trees that surrounded me as I ran. After a while, I looked behind me as I ran and, to my relief, saw that no one was giving chase. When I looked forward again, I glimpsed a thick, low branch directly in front of me and collapsed amidst a wave of pain. When I came to, everything looked less foreboding in the morning light. My head throbbed and I felt parched. I needed to get help but was not sure what to do. Did other people’s phones still work? How widespread was this blackout? And where was the army of zombie Confederates? I prayed that they’d returned to their graves but instinctively knew they wouldn’t depart so quietly. Luckily, I soon stumbled across a road that led to town. It was early, but I make out in the distance that the Liberate Virginia protest had already begun. I gulped when a realization swept through me. These people…were waiving American flags. Tons of them. I heard the sound of a drum behind me accompanied by dozens of marching feet. Whoever was approaching was obscured by a bend in the road. But, I knew precisely who it was and where they were heading. I had to act. I forced my exhausted self to jog into town. Halfway there, I could hear chants by the protestors. At first they repeated, “COVID is fake news!” Then, “End the blackout!” So, it looked like Jeb’s dad’s trick was still in place. I chanced a glance behind me. Sure enough, the battalion of zombified soldiers marched down the road as Peter provided percussion. Shit, I whispered to myself, knowing I needed to hurry. Finally, I arrived at the protest, which consisted of several dozen people chanting in front of the county courthouse. In addition to the American flags they wielded, they displayed its design on posters and t-shirts. “You alright there, Boy Scout?” asked a middle aged woman there with a child. I realized I looked an absolute mess, and it dawned on me that I had no way to convince these people to leave. It’s not like they’d believe me if I told them the truth. I spoke as soon as I caught my breath. “Yeah, I’m alright.” “I just wanted to get back to work,” said the woman. “My employees can’t handle this lockdown much longer. But these people..they’re nuts. I’m getting out of here.” Good for her, I thought as she took her child away. It occurred to me that I should try to keep my distance from people to avoid catching the disease. But, my primary focus was not the virus, but the horror of the approaching zombified rebels. I had to find a way to get this crowd out of harm’s way before it was too late. A bearded man wearing a mask and gloves screamed next to me that the virus was a conspiracy. He held a sign that read “CONSTUTION NOT QUARANTEEN”. I wondered why he had on so much protective gear if he believed that. A thin man next to him complained that Big Brother had caused their cell phones to stop working. A hand grabbed me. It was Jeb’s dad. “Joey, you survived! Well, good for you, boy. You must have seen the light and joined my son and his gang.” He spoke with a proud smile and was treating me better than he ever had before. “As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve done my part with the media blackout. No one will ever know what’s really happening here! We’ll have the perfect window to go through burial sites throughout the area.” He looked proudly over the crowd. “I’ll bet a lot of the living people here will join us, too! We’ll liberate Virginia before anyone knows what’s hit ‘em.” “No. We need to get everyone out of here,” I said. “Now!” “What are you talking about?” said Jeb’s dad, looking a little concerned. “And, by the way, where is everyone else? Good ol’ Jeb and the gang? How are they fitting in with their new comrades?” I gave up on trying to talk sense to him. I sprinted up to the top of the stairs before the court and tried to get the crowd’s attention. The novelty of a disheveled, bandaged Boy Scout screaming at them must have worked, because the crowd got quiet. “You all need to disperse!” I said. “Right now!” “And why would that be?” said the bearded man. “You’re in danger! You have to listen to me and get to safety!” I pleaded. “Danger of what?” said the man. “There’s…” I sensed the weight of dozens of angry, skeptical eyes. “There’s something approaching right now that threatens to-” For better or worse, I didn’t have a chance to mention the approaching zombie Confederate army before a mixture of laughter, boos, and insults drowned me out. Someone holding a semiautomatic rifle hurled a half-empty can of soda at me. I looked behind the crowd, who were temporarily distracted by me, and saw that Peter and the soldiers had arrived. The Colonel was gone, but the others grew visibly angry at the American flags before them. “Yan-kees” one said, followed by another. The protestors turned and gazed with dumbfounded shock at the undead assembled before them. “YANK-EES,” chanted the zombie army as Peter slowly increased the tempo of his drumming. “YANK-EES.” The soldiers raised their rifles. “May the South rise again!” hollered the protestor with the AR-15, apparently pleased by what he saw. Suddenly, a massive array of gunfire rang out from the contingent of zombies as multiple cartridges struck that man and many others. Screams followed as the soldiers charged. I watched helplessly as the massacre unfolded before me. No one made it to safety. Everyone, including Jeb’s dad, was shot or bayonetted. A layer of blood covered the courtyard. I should have run. But, a combination of fear, exhaustion, and guilt got a hold of me. I had run for long enough. Also, this somehow all felt partially like my own doing. Without my blood, this monstrous army may never have re-existed, and I’d failed to convince anyone to get to safety. “There’s the one who killed the Colonel!” I heard Peter yell. Before me, a firing squad of undead Confederates formed. One held the AR-15. Peter stood to the side and smirked. “These men were never known for taking prisoners." I gulped and closed my eyes, ready to accept my fate. Would anyone even know what had happened here? If Jeb’s dad was as thorough as he claimed, word may never get out. Instead of the gunfire I expected, however, the sound of a massive explosion rang through my ears. When I opened my eyes, I saw in the fading smoke a round object rolling towards me. It was Peter’s head. His face was stuck in a pained expression. Behind him lay a smoky crater filled with zombified corpses. In the distance, I saw other Confederate undead flee in every direction. The loud noise of treads and a huge engine approached. The tank stopped just in front of me. Gerald emerged from a hatch at the top. “Looks like we arrived in the nick of time, young man,” he said. “Ms. Melissa and I realized we were undergoing some kind of invasion and got the old Sherman fired up to repel it. She’s inside on steering and I’m manning the 76 mm. We could use a machine gunner, though, to help with the ones who got away.” He held out his hand. I took it. If you’re reading this, it means we’ve made it outside the radius of the internet blackout Jeb’s dad created and that the writeup I’ve set to post through my phone has made it through. Don’t come looking for me, though. We have some important work to do, and I don’t want to be distracted from it. As I said proudly when Gerald pulled me to the top of the tank, “Let’s hunt some damn Confederates.”
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