When I had first learned that Warner Brothers Studio and the producers of the HARRY POTTER franchise planned to divide the series’ last novel into two movies, I had harbored strong doubts against this plan. Then I saw “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART I” and my doubts were erased. I thought for sure that they would be able to pull this off. And after watching the last movie in the movie . . . I have changed my mind again. 

Directed by David Yates, “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II” picked up where “PART I” left off – with the trio seeking refuge at Shells Cottage, the home of the recently married Bill and Fleur Weasley. Despite this, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger continue their search of horcruxes, a group of objects that Lord Voldemort used to store his soul in order to ensure his immortality. After conversations with wand maker Mr. Ollivander and a goblin and Gringotts bank employee named Griphook, the three friends travel to the bank in London to get their hands on another horcrux, stored there by Deatheater Bellatrix Lestrange. After destroying the horcrux – Helga Hufflepuff’s cup – the trio is betrayed by Griphook, before they make their escape from Gringotts and London via a dragon imprisoned in one of the bank’s vaults. Harry, Ron and Hermione eventually make to Hogsmeade. They are briefly offered refuge by Albus Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, at the latter’s tavern. Neville Longbottom arrive and lead the trio to Hogswarts Castle. Before long, the school’s inhabitants are engaged in a major battle against Voldemort and his Deatheaters.

As much as I had enjoyed “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART I”, I now realize that it had ended too soon. By ending the 2010 movie with Dobby the House Elf’s death (along with Voldemort’s discovery of the Elder Wand), screenwriter Steve Kloves was left with the Gringotts Bank sequence before allowing the Battle of Hogswarts to take over the rest of the movie. And if I must be honest, I found this heavy emphasis on the battle very disappointing. The film’s title should have been“HARRY POTTER AND THE BATTLE OF HOGSWARTS”, instead of the “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II”.

There were scenes in “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II” that I enjoyed very much. Severus Snape’s death and memories of his past proved to be just as poignant as portrayed in the novel. Alan Rickman probably gave his best performances in the entire franchise. And he was ably supported by the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe. Another sequence that I enjoyed featured Harry’s discussion with Albus Dumbledore in the afterlife, following his “death” at the hands of Voldemort. It was another poignant scene made enjoyable by performances from Radcliffe and Gambon. The kiss exchanged between Ron and Hermione was very memorable – especially in comparison to the slightly disappointing kiss shared between Harry and Ginny. I also enjoyed the sequence featuring the Malfoys’ (Jason Isaacs, Helen McCrory and Tom Felton) ultimate rejection of Voldemort in order to preserve their hides.

However, I have two favorite sequences from the movie. One featured the trio’s confrontation with Draco Malfoy and his two friends – Gregory Goyle and Blaise Zabini. Thanks to Yates’ direction, Mark Day’s editing and the visual and special effects teams, this was an exciting sequence. But my favorite is the Gringotts Bank sequence in which the trio attempts to find the horcrux stored in Bellatrix Lestrange’s personal vault. Again, the crew did wonders with this sequence, which was capped by an exciting escape on the back of an imprisoned dragon. This last scene really blew my mind and I believe that Yates and the crew really outdid themselves. The sequence also featured a first-rate performance by Helena Bonham-Carter, who had to portray Hermione . . . impersonating Bellatrix. The actress deserves a Saturn Award nomination for that scene alone.

But as much as I had enjoyed the above mentioned sequences, “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II” proved to be a disappointment for me. My main problem with the film is that it fulfilled my worst fears about the movie – it nearly became all about the Battle of Hogswarts. The movie brought back bad memories of the Battle of Helms Deep in “LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS” and the two major battles featured in “LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”. The photography shot by cinematographer Eduardo Serra not only reignited bad memories of the second and third “LORD OF THE RINGS” movies, but also “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE”. The movie’s photography possessed that grayish tinge that I found very unappealing. I also recall one scene in which Neville Longbottom found himself facing a large number of Voldemort’s combatants at the end of the castle’s bridge. I never realized there were that many Death Eaters in the Harry Potter universe. It looked . . . exaggerated. As much as I like Neville, I found the entire sequence featuring the hunt for Voldemort’s pet snake and horcrux, Nagini and Neville’s killing of it very contrived. Yes, I am aware that Neville did kill Nagini in the novel. But I do not recall Rowling resorting to contrived delay tactics featuring the attempts to kill the snake. By the time Neville killed Nagini – seconds before Voldemort again used the Elder Wand on Harry with fatal results – I realized that I no longer cared. While everyone else cheered, I rolled my eyes in disgust.

For me, the worst aspect of “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II” was that it failed to continue the strong narrative that began in “PART I”. I got the feeling that screenwriter Steve Kloves, along with Yates, decided to dump the story’s narrative by the wayside and focus at least 85-90% of the film on that damn battle. “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART I”introduced a hint of some kind of scandal in Albus Dumbledore’s past. This was apparent in Harry’s conversation with Elphias Doge and Molly Weasley’s Aunt Muriel at Bill and Fleur’s wedding. In “PART II”, the trio met Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth Dumbledore, who made ominous hints about the late headmaster’s dark past. But this storyline, which had a lot do with how Dumbledore came into possession of the Elder Wand (one of the Deathly Hallows), was dropped the moment Neville made his first appearance. The jettison of this storyline also robbed moviegoers and Harry on the lessons of desire for power . . . and the fact that respected idols and authority figures also have feet of clay. And it seemed to make Ciarán Hinds’ appearance in the movie a complete waste of time.

Speaking of wastes of time, if you blink, you might come across some of the franchise’s past supporting characters who barely uttered a sound or two in this film. The movie featured appearances by Emma Thompson (Sybil Trelawney), Jim Broadbent (Horace Slughorn), Gemma Jones (Madam Pomfrey), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) and Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout). At least Julie Walters had her moment in the sun, when she killed Bellatrix Lestrange. Gary Oldman and David Thewlis (Sirius Black and Remus Lupin), along with Geraldine Sommerville and Adrian Rawlins (Lily and James Potter) had a line or two to spout, when Harry used the Resurrection Stone. Audiences also learned that Lupin had become a father . . . as an afterthought. In the novel, the Slytherin students had refused to defend the castle. I had hoped that Kloves would reverse Rowling’s narrative and have them take part in the school’s defense. Instead, Kloves’ script had Minerva McGonagall order all of the Slytherins to be locked in the dungeon before the battle. How disappointing, considering Snape and Slughorn’s willing participation in the war against Voldemort. By the way, I saw that Dean Thomas made it to Hogswarts before the trio. In “PART I”, he was reported on the radio to be on the run from Snatchers. Why did he decided to return to the dangers of Hogswarts . . . before the battle?

I have another question . . . when did Harry realize that he had become the Master of the Elder Wand? Following Voldemort’s death, he told Ron and Hermione that Draco Malfoy became Master of the Elder Wand, when he disarmed Dumbledore in the Astronomy Tower in “THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE”. Harry became the master when he disarmed Draco at the Malfoy Manor in “PART I”. How did he find out? He had overheard Voldemort’s conversation with Snape in which he learned that one has kill the current Elder Wand master in order to become one. How did Harry find out that one can also become master by the disarming of a wand?

Earlier, I had stated that “DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART I” should have ended a little sooner – with the Snatchers’ capture of Harry, Ron and Hermione. I usually dismiss other people’s attempts to rewrite movies already filmed and released. But now, I find myself doing the same. After watching “PART II”, I realized that if “PART I” had ended with the trio being captured by the Snatchers, “PART II” could have featured the Malfoy Manor sequence, Dobby’s death and the Gringotts Bank sequence before the film moved on to the Hogswarts battle. I would have also preferred if Kloves had allowed Mr. Ollivander to reveal more about the Elder Wand; and Aberforth Dumbledore to reveal more about his older brother’s past.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART II”. I really do. I enjoyed “PART I” a lot. And there were scenes in this last film that really impressed me. But as a whole, this last movie in the franchise proved to be one of my biggest disappointments from the summer of 2011. Pity.

“The Best Man” [PG] – 2/2

Here are Parts Three to Five of “THE BEST MAN”:



How long does it take to walk down the aisle? Captain Danny Walker pondered silently.

As he waited for his bride in front of the chapel’s altar, an assortment of emotions besieged him. One, Danny felt nervous as hell. After all, he was about to become a married man – and a father in less than two months. A father. He could not believe it! Somehow, he and Evelyn managed to create a new life during that passionate evening inside the hangar at Wheeler Field.

Recalling that particular event brought upon another emotion. Happiness. Danny felt as if he could walk on air. Evelyn Johnson was about to become his wife – Mrs. Daniel Walker. Never did Danny imagine he would find someone special in his life. Especially someone as kind and beautiful as Evelyn. And to think that it took a sad period . . .

Danny’s thoughts came to a screeching halt. The happiness he felt gave way to anxiety. Seeing Evelyn’s slightly pregnant form, Danny began to wonder how she really felt about him. Did she really love him? Or did she merely agreed to marry him, because of the baby? Danny fervently hoped the former. Yet, a small and dark suspicion niggled in the back of his mind. A suspicion that his bride might still harbor feelings for her former love . . . and his best friend.

The idea induced Danny to give the best man a quick glance. Rafe seemed . . . well he seemed fine. Calm. Danny frowned at the other man’s expressionless face. An odd expression for someone to have at a wedding. But this was Rafe. Who was about to witness the marriage between his best friend and former girlfriend.

A wave of guilt washed over Danny. He tried to fight the feeling, but the guilt refused to vanish. Okay, so he had pursued Evelyn. Danny did not believe he had committed a crime. After all, Rafe had been dead. ‘Yeah, for only three months.’ With a single-minded ruthlessness, Danny squelched the silent retort. This was no time to feel guilty over certain events that he had no reason to feel guilty about.

His eyes focused upon the woman who glided down the aisle with the Naval officer. Despite being over seven months pregnant, Evelyn looked downright beautiful in her cream-colored gown. Considering her present physical condition, it would have been ludicrous for her to wear white. Then Danny quickly dismissed the thought. He only wanted to focus upon the moment. And on the bride. Her flushed skin and glittering dark eyes. Danny felt thrilled that she seemed to be as focused upon as he was upon her. Ever since Rafe’s return, he had feared . . .

Danny shot a quick glance at his best man. Like everyone else, Rafe seemed focused upon the bride. Yet, another glance revealed that Rafe was not looking at Evelyn, but past her shoulder. At the pew, beyond. Danny did not know whether to feel relieved at not detecting any embarrassing emotions in Rafe’s eyes, or annoyed that the latter was deliberately ignoring Evelyn. And what about Evelyn? Was she straining not to sneak a glance at her former love? If one could regard Rafe as former. But the moment Danny clapped eyes upon Evelyn, he could see that she had eyes for no one but him. His body nearly sagged with relief.

That relief soon became anticipation as the bride finally reached the altar. Commander Hayes handed over Eveyln’s arm to Danny. The latter smiled at his future wife. She returned the smile. Evelyn’s dark eyes glittered with the same anticipation that he felt. Then Danny shot a second glance at the best man. Rafe’s eyes had shifted from the pew to the altar. Again, those eyes avoided Evelyn. Squelching another flash of guilt that threatened to overwhelm him, Danny focused his attention to the minister, who began the ceremony. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God, and of this company . . .”

The minister droned on about love and marriage during perilous times. Obviously, the man had decided to ignore Evelyn’s pregnant state. Finally, the minister came to the first important question. “Daniel Walker, do you take Evelyn Johnson to be your wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love her, to honor and cherish her, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to be to her in all things a good and faithful husband as long as you both shall live?”

Danny stared deeply into his bride’s dark eyes. “I do.” His voice resonated throughout the small chapel.

Then it became Evelyn’s turn to answer the same question. For a second, Danny feared an embarrassing pause that would follow – indicating the bride’s doubts and possible true feelings about this wedding. But she did not hesitate. Evelyn quickly and firmly answered, “I do.”

Collective sighs filled the chapel. Repeating the minister, Danny added, “I, Daniel Walker, take thee, Evelyn Johnson, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. According to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge thee my faith.” Evelyn, following the minister’s words, pledged the same vow.

The minister continued with a wedding prayer, as his voice filled the chapel. When he finished, he turned to Rafe. “The ring please?”

Danny watched Rafe dig immediately into his trouser pocket for the wedding ring. The older man’s hand trembled as he handed it to the groom. Despite the blank, almost bleak expression on his face.

“Repeat after me,” the minister said to Danny. “With this ring, I thee wed. With my body, I thee honor. With this ring I give to you in token and pledge of my constant faith and abiding love.” Danny repeated the minister’s words. He smoothly placed the ring on Evelyn’s finger. Then he watched as she retrieved a ring from Barbara and repeated the same words. Her hands trembling, she inserted the second ring on Danny’s finger.

The minister concluded, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Forasmuch as Daniel Walker and Evelyn Johnson have consented together in holy matrimony, and have witnessed the same before God and this company and have pledged their love and loyalty to each other, and have declared the same by the joining and the giving of rings, I, therefore, by the authority of the state, pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He gave Danny a flourished smile. “The Groom may now kissed the Bride.”

Danny stared deeply into Evelyn’s eyes. She smiled. Then he leaned forward and kissed her with as much passion as he could muster. Once their lips parted, everyone inside the chapel rushed forward to congratulate the newly wedded couple. Everyone, except for the best man.

* * * *


“Congratulations . . . Mrs. Walker,” the Army pilot said with a cheerful grin. “Danny is sure one lucky guy.”

Evelyn smiled at the latest well-wisher, as she shook his hand. “Thank you, uh . . .?”

The grin became wider. “Adam. Lieutenant Adam Zelinski. I’m with your husband’s squadron.”

“Oh yeah.”

Lieutenant Zelinski shook Evelyn’s hand one last time before moving on. She sighed with relief. He was the last one to come up to Evelyn to give his congratulations, thank goodness. With another heartfelt sigh, she glanced around the living room. She had just given the performance of a life time and did not have an award to show for her efforts.

Evelyn now looked forward to some refreshments after a long and difficult day. Actually, the day was not over yet. The clock on the wall only read 12:55, in the afternoon. With all of the wedding preparations and emotional turmoil she had endured, the day seemed to have dragged since the moment the alarm clock woke her.

The phonograph inside the beach house that she now shared with Barbara, Sandra, and Martha, blasted “Blueberry Hill”. Evelyn winced. Not exactly one of her favorites, especially in her present mood. But the song happened to be a favorite of Sandra’s. Which meant that after today, Evelyn would no longer be forced to hear it whenever the urge hit the red-haired nurse.

Tonight. The implications of that word finally hit Evelyn. Starting tonight, she and Danny will share a bed together for the first time as husband and wife. Dear God! Evelyn closed her eyes for a brief moment. How did she ever get into this predicament? What had she been thinking during that evening inside the hangar at Wheeler Field?

“Evelyn!” Barbara’s voice cut into the bride’s thoughts. “Honey, why are you standing around like a lamp post? Shouldn’t you be mingling around? Having a good time?”

Evelyn took a deep breath. “I am having a good time. After all, I’m a married woman, now. Right?”

Barbara gave the other woman a hard stare. “Yeah,” she said in a lackluster tone. “Right. Say, why don’t we try . . .?”

The sound of a giggling female caught the attention of the two friends. They glanced at the direction from where the sound originated. Barbara frowned. Evelyn’s heart leapt about ten inches. Next to the refreshment table stood one of the Navy nurses who had been invited to the reception – Ensign Lara McColl. And the very attractive nurse seemed to be enjoying the attention of one Captain Rafe McCawley. The best man. Even worse, Rafe seemed to be enjoying Ensign McColl’s company, as well. Another fit of giggles left Ensign McColl’s mouth. Evelyn struggled to fight the rising anger and despair within her. And the urge to punch the young nurse in the jaw.

“I wonder what they’re talking about,” Barbara muttered.

Evelyn tried to sound nonchalant. “Who knows? Knowing Lara’s IQ, probably the latest edition of ‘Doctor Doolittle’.” Unfortunately, her words came out more bitter than she had intended.

Barbara gave Evelyn another one of those long looks. “Ev, honey, you’re not jealous, are you?”

“Whatever gave you that silly idea? Or have you forgotten that I’m now a married woman?” Evelyn flashed the gold wedding ring on her swollen finger. “Happily married.”

More giggles from the refreshment table punctuated Evelyn’s words. She saw Rafe lean forward and whisper into Lara McColl’s ear. Hot jealousy rose within Evelyn. Then she saw the silver flask in Rafe’s hand. Probably filled with alcohol.

Barbara coughed slightly. “I don’t mean to rain on your parade, Ev. But isn’t ‘happily married’ a bit premature? Especially since you’ve only been married for . . . oh, almost two hours?”

An exasperated sigh left Evelyn’s mouth. She shot a quick glare at her friend. “Thank you for pointing that out, Barbara.” Glancing at the refreshment table, she added, “I think I need a drink.” She started toward the table.

Barbara followed closely behind. “Uh, Ev . . . what are you doing?” But Evelyn did not bother to listen.

The two friends reached the table, where they found Rafe regaling the strawberry blond nurse with tales of his exploits in England, last year. Now, why would anyone find that topic, funny? Evelyn did not. “Hi,” she greeted the pair. Lara nearly jumped two inches off the floor. Rafe gave Evelyn a polite smile. “What are you two talking about?” As if she did not know.

“England,” Rafe answered shortly. “I was telling Ensign McColl here, about the time I served with the Eagle Squadron.”

The Eagle Squadron. Every time someone mentioned it or England, Evelyn wanted to rant against fate. Scream at the world for snatching away any chance of real happiness, when Rafe volunteered to fight with the RAF. A polite smile formed on Evelyn’s lips. “You must have some very interesting stories to tell.”

“Yeah, I do.” Rafe’s dark brown eyes penetratred Evelyn’s. A wave of heat engulfed her body. “There’s one about me being shot down over the English Channel. Now, that’s a real hoot.”

Evelyn felt her lower lip tremble. I will not cry, she told herself. I will not cry. Taking a deep breath, Evelyn calmly continued, “Was that the story you were telling Lara?”

“Actually, Rafe was talking about this little pub in England,” Lara answered. “Where he met this real wacky guy.”

Rafe interrupted, “Tom Finch.”

“And this Tom Finch used to tell him some of the nuttiest stories,” Lara finished. Evelyn realized that the young nurse never looked more prettier than she did at that moment. Her green eyes sparkled with delight. And her cheeks flushed deep pink. She made Evelyn feel even more gauche.

“Sounds like a delightful guy,” Barbara murmured sarcastically.

Rafe shot her a dark look. “As a matter of fact, Tom was a pretty swell guy,” he shot back. “Makes me wish I was back at the Blue Swan.” His remark caused further discomfort for Evelyn.

Discomfort became jealousy when Lara patted Rafe’s arm. Then she planted a light kiss on his cheek, causing more consternation within Evelyn’s breast. “Oh, you don’t mean that, Rafe,” Lara cooed. “If that had happened, we would have never met. And I would have never heard about the wonderful Blue Swan.”

A wry smile twisted Rafe’s mouth. Evelyn looked away – and saw Barbara roll her eyes. Which brought a smile on the bride’s lips. A figure appeared before the group and Evelyn’s smile disappeared. So did Rafe’s. “Hey everyone,” Danny greeted the four people. “What’s going on?” He leaned forward and pecked Evelyn’s cheek. Instead of the usual warmth any bride would feel toward the groom, Evelyn only felt acute embarrassment. Especially with everyone, including Rafe, looking on.

Evelyn briefly closed her eyes and heaved an inward sigh. It was time for another performance.

* * * *


Rafe stood in the middle of the living room and raised his champagne glass. The other occupants did the same. “Here’s to Danny and Evelyn,” he announced in a too cheerful voice. “May they have many happy years to come! To Danny and Evelyn!”

“To Danny and Evelyn!” the others repeated, and everyone sipped their champagne.

Gooz Shannon watched the best man gulp the contents of the champagne glass in one swallow. It seemed like watching a performance, the laconic pilot thought. The too cheerful voice, the wide smile and the warm words to the bride and groom. And yet, Gooz noticed the pain in Rafe’s eyes. He shook his head. Poor bastard.

While he continued to sip his champagne, Gooz saw Rafe reach for the bottle and pour more liquor into his glass. That poor bastard had been drinking steadily for the past two days. Even before the bachelor’s party, last night. Gooz feared that Rafe’s personal problems would lead him to alcoholism. That would be a crying shame for a talented pilot like Rafe. What the poor bastard needed was another woman. A serious relationship with a woman who could help him forget Evelyn John . . . Walker.

Gooz’s eyes strayed toward Ensign Lara McColl. He recalled seeing Rafe flirt with the strawberry-blond Navy nurse. Personally, Lara did not strike Gooz as his first choice as a companion for Rafe. She seemed too vacuous and shallow for the more solid pilot. But she could be that perfect first step for Rafe to recover from Evelyn. If only one could lure the Tennesseean from the nearest bottle.

The bride and attendants started upstairs for the former to change into traveling clothes. It was Red who had discovered a small beach hotel on the other side of Oahu. Both the pilots and the nurses pooled their resources to offer a romantic getaway for the bride and groom to spend their honeymoon. Gooz took this time to approach Rafe. “Hey there, buddy! How you holding up?”

“Holding up?” Rafe gave the other man a hard stare. Then he broke into laughter that left Gooz feeling very uncomfortable. “Am I holding up? Hell, I’m doing just fine and dandy. Can’t you tell?”

Gooz could tell. Rafe’s voice had begun to slur from too much booze. He cleared his throat, as he contemplated his next words. “Say Rafe, why don’t we leave and head back to the barracks. Maybe a little rest would do you some good.”

“I’d say a good shot of bourbon or whiskey might do the trick,” Rafe slurred back. He wiggled the bottle of champagne in his hand. “This bubbly ain’t doing much for me.”

Gooz gently removed the bottle from Rafe’s hand. “Drinking yourself into oblivion ain’t gonna help you forget about Evelyn, Rafe.”

The other man shot Gooz a dark look. “What the hell are you get . . .?”

“C’mon Rafe! I’m not blind. None of us are. The Hula-La has been your second home since we got back from China. Let her go. Evelyn made her choice – even if circumstances forced her to make it. You gotta accept that.”

A Latin beat followed the swing number that blasted from the gramaphone. “Perfido”. Nice tune, Gooz thought But not exactly one of his favorites. “Huh,” Rafe grunted. “That’s sounds like ‘Perfido’. Did you know that it’s one of Evelyn’s favorite tunes?”

Gooz sighed. Trying to get Rafe to forget about Evelyn seemed like a hopeless task. Then again, he had not been in New York to witness the beginning of the romance. Not until that fight between Rafe and Danny at the Hula-La on the night before the Japanese attack, did Gooz realize how serious Rafe had been about Evelyn.

A strawberry-blond in a Navy uniform loomed before Gooz’s eyes. Perhaps it was time to test that theory about a new woman in Rafe’s life. He only hoped that Ensign McColl will not have a problem in dealing with a drunken pilot.

“Say,” the laconic pilot began, “isn’t that the girl you were talking to, earlier?” Gooz pointed at the beautiful nurse.

Rafe weaved slightly. “That’s the beau . . . beautiful Lar-r-r-ra McColl,” he slurred. “Well, not as beautiful as Evelyn.” Gooz suppressed a frustrated sigh. “Then nobody is more beau . . . beautiful that Ev . . . Evelyn.”

Gooz decided to go along with this line of conversation. “True. But at least . . . Lara, is it? At least Lara is available. You know?”

Dark brown eyes bored into Gooz’s. For what seemed like forever. As Rafe opened his mouth to speak, someone announced the reappearance of the bride and groom. Both Gooz and Rafe turned around and watched the newly married couple descend the staircase. The guests cheered and threw rice at the pair. Gooz glanced at the happy couple. Well, the groom looked happy. Not even the sun has ever looked as bright as Danny’s smile. When Gooz stared at Evelyn, he noticed that her happiness did not exactly match her husband’s. In fact, her smile seemed . . . strained. Forced. Then Evelyn’s dark eyes fell upon Rafe. If Gooz had not kept his focused upon her’s, he would have never caught the flash of deep love and regret. At that moment, he realized that Evelyn’s feelings for Rafe matched those of the Tennessee-born pilot’s.

“Well I’ll be damned!” Gooz muttered under his breath.

Rafe turned to Gooz. “Did you just say something?” Gooz shook his head and watched the couple head for the front door.

Some of the guests followed Danny and Evelyn outside, bombarding the pair with more rice. Neither Gooz or Rafe bothered to follow. Instead, the latter faced the former. A sickly smile stretched Rafe’s mouth. “You know what, Gooz? You were right! Lara is a . . . avail . . . able, and I reckon I should ask her to join me for a late night drink.”

Gooz watched Rafe take a deep breath and stride toward the strawberry-blond nurse. He shook his head and muttered under his breath, “Life can sure be a mess. Just a goddamn mess!”


Mary and Henry Crawford in “MANSFIELD PARK”


Every time I read an article or review about Jane Austen’s 1814 novel, “MANSFIELD PARK”, the authors of these articles always comment on the unpopularity of the novel’s leading character, Fanny Price. I could say the same about most articles and reviews on the novel’s television and movie adaptations. Time and again, both critics and others claim that most Austen fans have a low opinion of Fanny Price. At the same time, these same commentators like to point out the popularity of the novel’s antagonists, Henry and Mary Crawford.

The first time I had come across such a statement about Fanny Price and the Crawfords, I decided to search for further articles that verified these claims. In all honesty, I have come across at least less than a half-a-dozen articles or blogs that either criticized Fanny or praised the Crawfords to the sky – especially Mary Crawford – or did both. But most of the articles and reviews I have discovered usually followed this structure:

1. Fanny Price is very unpopular with Austen fans.

2. The Crawfords – especially Mary – is very popular with Austen fans.

3. The authors claim that they harbor the same opinions, until recently.

4. The authors eventually state that they believe Fanny Price is a misunderstood character and praise her character to the sky as a paragon of virtue and courage.

5. Or the authors would point out Fanny’s personality flaws and claim that Austen used as some kind of metaphor for eighteenth century morality play, or etc.

6. Bring up the Crawfords and reveal how degenerate they really were, despite any virtues they may possess. Both characters have been called the worse names in an effort to make Fanny look good.

I like to call the above structure or formula – “The Defense of Fanny Price Campaign”. And most articles I have read about“MANSFIELD PARK” usually follow this formula. In fact, I have come across so many articles of this nature that I now have doubts that most Austen fans really dislike Fanny or even like the Crawfords.

I am well aware that Mary and Henry Crawford were flawed. And I believe that Austen did an excellent job of making their flaws rather obvious. On the other hand, I believe that she did a pretty good job in portraying their virtues, as well. Fanny Price was no different, in my opinion. Mind you, I found her rather dull at times. But I have never dismissed her on those grounds. Fanny did have her virtues. But I believe that she also possesed flaws. And like the Crawfords, she never overcame hers by the end of the novel. But whereas Austen literally ignored Fanny’s flaws by the end of novel . . . and gave her a wide berth, she castigated the Crawfords for failing to overcome their flaws. Many critics and fans who have posted articles in the very fashion I brought up, also did the same. And so did the movie and television adaptations.

This is the main problem I have about “MANSFIELD PARK”. If Austen had been willing to acknowledge Fanny’s flaws (let alone those of her cousin, Edmund Bertram), I would have never found it difficult to enjoy the story. I suspect that“MANSFIELD PARK” could have easily been one of those novels that explored the complex nature of all of its major characters without labeling one or two of them as “villains”. Or . . . if she really wanted to villify the Crawfords that badly, she would have been better off portraying them as superficial, one-note characters.

But what I find really frustrating is this so-called “Defense of Fanny Price” campaign that seemed to have swamped theInternet for the past four-to-five years. By utilizing the structure that I had earlier pointed out, these critics and fans seem willing to turn a blind eye to Fanny’s flaws; at the same time, castigate Mary and Henry Crawfords as villains on the same level as George Wickham of “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. Of all the articles I have come across about the characters featured in the 1814 novel, only one has seemed willing to view them all as morally complex and ambiguous. If there are other “MANSFIELD PARK” articles of similar nature, I can only hope that someone would inform me.

“HORRIBLE BOSSES” (2011) Review

“HORRIBLE BOSSES” (2011) Review

The summer of 2011 provided moviegoers with a slew of what I would call raunchy black comedies. May saw the release of“BRIDESMAIDS” and “THE HANGOVER, PART II”“BAD TEACHER” premiered in late June. And two weeks later saw the release of the most successful of the bunch, “HORRIBLE BOSSES”

Directed by Seth Gordon, “HORRIBLE BOSSES” starred Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. The trio co-starred as three best friends who decide to murder their respective overbearing, abusive bosses (portrayed by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell) who they believe are standing in the way of their happiness. Nick (Bateman) works at a financial firm for emotionally-abusive Dave Harken (Spacey), who dangles the possibility of a promotion to Nick, only to award it to himself. Dale (Day) endures sexual harassment from his boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Aniston), who threatens to falsely tell Dale’s fiancee that he had sex with her unless he actually has sex with her. And Kurt (Sudeikis) actually enjoys his job under his boss Jack Pellitt (Donald Sutherland). But after Jack dies from a heart attack, the company is taken over by Jack’s cocaine-addicted, amoral son Bobby (Farrell). One night at a bar, Kurt jokingly suggests that their lives would be happier if their bosses were no longer around. After a brief hesitation, the trio agree to the idea. In search of a hit-man, the friends travel to a bar and meet Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx), an ex-con who agrees to be their “murder consultant”. Jones suggests that Dale, Kurt and Nick kill each other’s bosses to hide their motive while making the deaths look like an accident.

I really did not know how I would accept “HORRIBLE BOSSES”. Being a fan of the 2009 movie, “THE HANGOVER”, I had found myself slightly disappointed by the recent sequel, “THE HANGOVER, PART II”. And I was not really anticipating “HORRIBLE BOSSES”. But since I was in the mood to watch a new movie, I went ahead and saw it anyway. And I enjoyed it . . . very much.

Screenwriters Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein did a great job in finalizing a script that took several years to finalize. Superficially, the idea of three amateurs committing murder without attracting the attention of the police seems rather ridiculous. Two of the characters, Nick and Dale, certainly viewed the idea with amusement or disbelief. But further transgressions by their respective bosses finally pushed them to the idea with hilarious results. One of the funniest aspects of “HORRIBLE BOSSES” was the problem that the three friends endured to find a professional hit man to do the job. Their search led to a hilarious meeting at a motel with a man who does “wet work” (Ioan Gruffudd) – namely pissing on his clients. The three friends’ second search for a hit man leads them to a local bar, where Kurt manages to insult an African-American bartender in an effort to be “politically correct”. Their trip to the bar also leads them to “Motherfucker” Jones, an ex-convict who claims to be a hit man. As it turns out, Jones went to prison for video piracy and merely conned the three friends for money. But after agreeing to be their “murder consultant”, his advice for them to kill each other’s boss led to some hilarious scenes, including one that featured Dale’s encounter with the psychotic Dave Harken, when the latter nearly died from accidentally consuming some peanuts.

“HORRIBLE BOSSES” benefited from some funny performances by the supporting cast. Well, most of the supporting cast was funny. Only Donald Sutherland, who portrayed Kurt’s amiable boss, was never given a chance to display his talent for comedy. Thankfully, the likes of Ioan Gruffudd, Julie Bowen, P.J. Byrne and Bob Newhart received the chance to tickle the audiences’ funny bones. The three actors hired to portray the “horrible bosses” proved to be horrifying in a hilarious way. If I have to be honest, Dave Harken was not the first aggressive psycho he has portrayed in a comedy. His performances in “SWIMMING WITH SHARKS” and “THE MEN WHO STARED AT GOATS” come to mind. Despite his past experiences with such characters, Spacey still managed to make it all look fresh in his portrayal of Nick’s manipulative and aggressively controlling boss. Jennifer Aniston’s performance as Dr. Julia Harris was a revelation. Mind you, her Rachel Green character on the television series, “FRIENDS” was very complex. But I have never seen her portray such a scummy character before . . . and with such comedic skills. Colin Farrell’s appearance in the movie was not as long as Spacey and Aniston’s, but it was just as funny. In fact, I would cite Farrell’s performance as coke-addicted and self-delusional Bobby Pellitt struck me as the funniest of the three performances. His rants against the employees he wanted fired was one of the funniest scenes in the movie. And finally, it was good to see Jamie Foxx in a comedy again. Actually, he had a supporting role in the 2010 movie, “DUE DATE” and he was funny. But his role in that movie seemed mildly amusing in compare to his hilarious portrayal of “Motherfucker” Jones, the criminal wannabe, who seemed more adept at video pirating and posing than being a hardened criminal.

But the craziness of “HORRIBLE BOSSES” could have easily fallen apart without Seth Gordon’s direction and especially the performances of the three leads – Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. As funny as the movie was, it was bizarre enough to fall apart at the slightest misstep. One, the trio made a solid and charismatic comedy team. I would go as far to add that they could easily rival the comedic team from the “HANGOVER” movies. Jason Bateman is deliciously sardonic and witty as the ass-kissing Nick Hendricks, who spent most of his professional career toadying to guys like Dave Harken. I have never been aware of Jason Sudeikis before this movie. I am aware that he had co-starred with Aniston in last year’s comedy, “THE BOUNTY HUNTER”, but I do not even remember him. He was certainly memorable as the trio’s verbose lady’s man, who first talked his two friends into committing murder. But the funniest performance came from Charlie Day, who portrayed the slightly nervous and “hopelessly romantic” Dale Arbus. It is quite apparent that most of the other characters – including his two buddies – have no real respect for him. Nick and Kurt did not take his complaints of sexual harassment by his boss seriously. One, I suspect they find it hard to believe that any female would find him attractive and two, society views the idea of a man complaining of sexual harassment by a woman seems ludicrous. But it was the hilarious and socially awkward Dale who found an effective way of dealing with the sexually aggressive Julia without any problems, whatsoever.

There have been some complaints about “HORRIBLE BOSSES”. Some critics have complained that the movie was racially or gender-wise offensive. Others have complained that it was silly. I agree that “HORRIBLE BOSSES” was silly . . . but in a positive way. Besides, most comedies of this manner tend to be rather silly. But thanks to a wacky script and a first-rate cast, the silliness in “HORRIBLE BOSSES” made it the most enjoyable comedy I have seen in quite a while. I really look forward to its DVD release.

“PERSUASION” (2007) Review

“PERSUASION” (2007) Review

When it comes to adaptations of Jane Austen novels, I tend to stick with a trio of titles – ”Pride and Prejudice”,”Emma” and ”Sense and Sensibility”.  Before the last seven years, I have never seen a screen adaptation of any remaining Austen novels. Until I saw the 2007 adaptation of her last completed novel published in 1818, ”Persuasion”

Directed by Adrian Shergold, ”PERSUASION” told the story of Anne Elliot, the sensible middle daughter of a vain and spendthrift baronet named Sir Walter Elliot. At the age of 19, Anne had fallen in love with a young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth. But due to his lack of fortune and family connections, Sir Walter and Anne’s friends expressed displeasure at the idea of her becoming Mrs. Wentworth. But it was a family friend named Lady Russell who persuaded Anne into breaking off her engagement to Frederick. Eight years later, the Elliot family found themselves in financial straits due to the careless spending of Sir Walter and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth. They ended up leasing their house and estate – Kellylynch Hall in Somersetshire – to an Admiral Croft and his wife. The latter turned out to be the older sister of the now Captain Wentworth.

While Elizabeth and Sir Walter set off for their new residence in Bath, Anne remained behind to take care of further business in Somersetshire; including taking care of her hypochondriac sister Mary Musgrove, who is married to Charles Musgrove and living in a nearby estate. During one of his visits to his sister, Frederick re-entered Anne’s life. He had risen to the rank of Captain and has become rich from prize money awarded for capturing enemy vessels during the Napoleonic Wars. Frederick also became viewed as a catch by every eligible young woman – including her brother-in-law’s two sisters, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove. But Anne suspected that Frederick had not forgiven her for rejecting his offer of marriage so many years ago. And both end up learning how to overcome their personal demons in order to let go of the past and find a new future together.

Hands down, ”PERSUASION” has to be the most emotional Jane Austen tale I have ever come across. In fact, I would go as far to say that this tale literally had me squirming on my living room sofa in sheer discomfort during many scenes that featured Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Or . . . I found myself heaving with frustration – especially during the movie’s last ten to fifteen minutes, as Frederick made an effort to emotionally reconnect with Anne, while the latter’s family continued to put obstacles in her way. However, it eventually struck me that the main barrier between Anne and Frederick’s reconciliation came from the two lovers. I would probably go as far to say that the couple’s personal demons over the past broken engagement perpetrated the entire story. And I truly enjoyed this – in a slightly perverse way.

Thanks to screenwriter Simon Burke’s writing and Sally Hawkins’ performance, I came away with a feeling that Anne had existed in a fog of resignation ever since her rejection of Frederick’s proposal, eight years ago. Aside from struggling to keep her family out of financial straits – despite Sir Walter and Elizabeth’s spending – I wondered if she had spent all of those years flagellating herself for allowing Lady Russell to persuade her into giving up Frederick. Her self-flagellation seemed to have continued during moments when Frederick either snubbed her or when their past connections came up in conversation. Frederick’s attitude did not help matters, considering that he spent most of the movie coldly rebuffing Anne or wallowing in resentment. This especially seemed to be the case after he learned that Anne had rejected another suitor after Lady Russell (again) persuaded her that he would be an unsuitable match for her. Frederick’s anger and resentment assumed a righteous tone following that revelation. His attitude ended up blinding him from the fact that his friendliness toward the Musgrove sisters – especially Louisa – had led many to assume he was seriously interested in her. At that moment, Frederick realized two things – his inability to forgive Anne had nearly led him to a marriage he did not desire; and that he still loved her. In other words, ”PERSUASION” had the type of romance that really appealed to me. I found it complex, difficult and slightly perverse.

In the movie’s third act, Anne joined Sir Walter and Elizabeth in Bath. She became acquainted with an old friend named Mrs. Smith. She also acquired a new suitor – her cousin, the widowed and now wealthy Mr. William Elliot. Unfortunately, the William Elliot character proved to be the story’s weakest link. Many fans of Austen’s novel have complained that Simon Burke’s screenplay failed to adhere closely to the author’s portrayal of the character. I have read a few reviews of the 1995 adaptation and came across similar complaints. In the Austen novel, William Elliot happened to be heir to Sir Walter’s baronetcy and the Kellylynch estate upon the older man’s death due to a lack of sons. Fearing that Sir Walter might marry Elizabeth’s companion, Mrs. Clay, and produce a son; William set out to ensure his inheritance by re-establishing ties with Sir Walter and marry one of the latter’s remaining single daughters . . . namely Anne.

I can see why many have criticized the movie’s portrayal of William Elliot. But I find it interesting that many have not considered the possibility that the fault originated with Austen’s novel. Think about it. Why did William went through so much trouble to court Anne? Could he not tell that she had little interest in him? Why not court the daughter who did express interest – namely Elizabeth? And why did William believe that a marriage to Anne or any of Sir Walter’s daughters would secure his inheritance of the Elliot baronetcy and Kellylynch? How would such a marriage prevent Sir Walter from marrying a younger woman capable of giving him a son? After all, the man remained a vital and attractive man at the age of 54. And even if William had prevented Mrs. Clay from marrying Sir Walter, there would be other eligible young women (preferably wealthy) that would not mind marrying Sir Walter in order to become Lady Elliot and mistress of Kellylynch. Personally, I feel that the William Elliot storyline in the novel was a contrived and flawed attempt to provide a romantic complication for Anne and Frederick. And instead of re-writing Austen’s portrayal of William or getting rid of him altogether, Burke and director Adrian Shergold decided to vaguely adhere to the literary version.

Another problem I had with ”PERSUASION” turned out to be the supporting cast. Well . . . some of the supporting cast. Poor Tobias Menzies could barely do anything but project a bit of smugness and false warmth with the poorly written William Elliot character. And if I must be frank, I could not remember the faces of characters like Mary Elliot Musgroves’ husband and sisters-in-law, the Crofts, and Mrs. Smith. Mind you, it was nice to see television and movie veteran Nicholas Farrell in the role of the older Mr. Musgrove. Fortunately, I cannot say the same about those who portrayed Anne’s immediate family and Lady Russell. The always competent Anthony Stewart Head gave a spot-on performance as the vain and arrogant Sir Walter Elliot. One can only assume that Anne had inherited her personality from her mother. Both Julia Davis and Amanda Hale were memorably amusing as Anne’s sisters – the equally vain and arrogant Elizabeth Elliot and the self-involved hypochondriac Mary Elliot Musgrove. Mary Stockley gave a subtle performance as Elizabeth’s obsequious companion, Mrs. Penelope Clay. And Alice Kriege’s portrayal of the well-meaning, yet snobbish Lady Russell struck me as very complex and very subtle. Her performance made Lady Russell seem like a kind woman with a surprising lack of tolerance that ended up wrecking havoc on Anne’s life for eight years.

For my money”PERSUASION” truly belonged to Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones as Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. I believe that both did beautiful jobs in breathing life into the two lead characters. Someone had once complained in another article that in ”PERSUASION”, the two leads exchanged very little dialogue with each other and other characters. This person also added that it almost felt like watching a silent movie. This only confirmed my belief that both Hawkins and Penry-Jones are more than competent screen actors. Through their expressions and very little dialogue, they managed to convey their characters’ emotions, demons and development.

Not only did Hawkins express Anne Elliot’s resignation to a life as Sir Walter’s unmarried and overlooked daughter; she also revealed Anne’s despair and discomfort over dealing with Frederick Wentworth’s silent anger and contempt. And in the movie’s last half hour, the actress made it a joy to watch Anne bloom again under the attentions of her morally questionable Cousin William Elliot and Frederick’s renewed interest. One would think that Penry-Jones’ had an easier job in his portrayal of Captain Wentworth. Well . . . he had less screen time. Though his character did strike me to be just as complex as Anne’s. Penry-Jones took Frederick’s character through an emotional journey during the entire film; via anger, contempt, indifference, mild cheerfulness, longing, jealousy, desperation and joy. Some of his best moments featured Frederick’s struggles to keep his emotions in check. More importantly, both Hawkins and Penry-Jones had such a strong screen chemistry that most of their scenes that featured them staring longingly at each other had me muttering ”get a room” under my breath.

I just realized that I have not mentioned a word about Anne Elliot’s infamous run through the streets of Bath. Many fans have complained that no decent young English lady of the early 19th century would ever do such a thing. Others have viewed it as simply a ludicrous scene that made Anne look ridiculous. I must admit that a part of me found the sequence rather ridiculous-looking. But I have managed to consider some positive aspects to this scene. One, it represented Anne’s desperate attempt to connect with Frederick before it was too late. And two, the scene provided colorful views of the very distinctive-looking Bath.

Many fans have complained about the movie’s 93-minute running time. They claimed that ”PERSUASION” should have been a lot longer. Perhaps they had a point. After all, the 1971 adaptation had a running time of 210 minutes. And the 1960-61 version aired as a series of four episodes. On the other hand, some fans of the movie claimed that Austen’s novel was not as long as some of her previous ones. Also, the much admired 1995 version had a running time of only 107 minutes.

The 93 minute running time for ”PERSUASION” did not bother me one bit. I really enjoyed this latest version of Austen’s novel very much. Granted, it had its flaws – namely the handling of the William Elliot character. But I believe that this flaw can be traced to Austen’s novel. Flaws or not, I enjoyed ”PERSUASION” so much that I immediately purchased a DVD copy of it after seeing the movie on television. In my opinion, director Adrian Shergold’s BAFTA nomination was very well-deserved.

“The Best Man” [PG] – 1/2

Some time ago, I had come up with this idea for an Alternate Universe story for the Disney movie, “PEARL HARBOR”. I began to wonder what would have happened if Josh Harnett’s character, Danny Walker, had survived Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo. This is what I had came up with: 

FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Various reflections on the best man’s reaction to a wartime wedding; Alternate Universe, set about six weeks after the Tokyo raid.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.



Another beautiful day in Honolulu, Hawaii. Or so Red Winkle told himself. To be honest, the weather was the last thing on his mind. Instead, he harbored on the upcoming wedding between two close friends. And how that wedding would affect the best man.

Red glanced at the figure on the bunk. A tall man with dark-brown hair groaned out loud, before sliding – very reluctantly – out of bed. Red stretched his lips into a grin and cried out cheerfully, “Hey sleepyhead! I see you finally got up!”

Rafe McCawley stared at Red with bleary eyes. Apparently, he had not recovered from last night’s bachelor party at the Hula-La Bar. Not surprising, since he practically drank everyone else under the table. “What time is it?” he mumbled in his Tennessee accent.

“Oh eight forty-five,” Red answered crisply. Which pleased him. He had stuttered one word in seven months. Not since he had proposed . . . The red-haired Army pilot immediately squelched all thoughts of a certain blond Navy nurse. Or that disasterous day in early December. After taking a deep breath, Red continued, “Everyone else is up and having chow in the Officers’ Mess.”

A heavy sigh escaped from Rafe’s mouth. “Jesus! Eight forty-five! That means I have . . .”

“You have at least a little over two hours to get showered, dressed, fed and over to the chapel. Don’t forget that the ceremony starts at 011:00.”

“Yeah, the ceremony.” Rafe’s voice sounded mournful. Quite a contrast from the happy-go-lucky soul who had been the life of the party, last night. Once more, he sighed. Red suspected that a lot more will be heard before the end of the day.

The older pilot grunted, as he struggled to rise from the bed. “Having trouble there, Rafe?” Red frowned at him. “Need any help?”

“No, I uh . . . Maybe . . . maybe I do need help.”

Red grabbed Rafe’s hand and pulled the latter off the bed. Then the redhead led the other man to the bathroom for a shower. Seconds later, Red heard running water. Red peeked inside. “Say Rafe,” he added, “don’t you think you ought to get out of your skivvies, first?”

An olive-drab T-shirt flew out of the bathroom and landed on top of Red’s head. A pair of boxer shorts followed. Fortunately, Red was able to duck in time. While Rafe showered, an enlisted man appeared in the barrack’s doorway with a bundle of clean clothes and polished shoes. “Private Jancek, reporting as ordered, sir!” the latter barked. “With Captain McCawley’s uniform!”

“Thank you, Private,” Red responded. “Place the bundle on the table near the door.” Private Jancek did as he was ordered. Just as he was about to leave, Red added, “By the way, is that jeep ready?”

Jancek replied in a crisp voice, “Yes sir, Lieutenant! Uh, do you need a driver?”

“No, that will be all, Private.”

Private Jancek gave Red a salute and left the barracks. Two minutes later, Rafe emerged from the bathroom, wearing nothing but a towel. “What’s that?” he asked pointing at the bundle on the table.

“Your clothes. After we got back, last night, I figured you’d need a fresh uniform for today. Especially since you’ll be . . .”

Rafe gruffily interrupted, “You don’t have to remind me about today. I remember. Thanks for the clothes.” He began to remove his towel.

An embarrassed Red quickly glanced away. The last thing he wanted to see was Rafe in his birthday suit. “Um, when you finish dressing, I guess we can join the others in the Officers’ Mess. That is, if they’re still there. You weren’t the only one who got drunk, last night. Poor ole’ Gooz must have drunk so much booze . . .”

“Red.” Rafe harshly cut into the other man’s conversation. “Don’t take this wrong, but could you please shut the hell up? You’re rambling.”

Red’s face immediately matched the color of his hair. “S-s-sor-ry ab-b-bout that. I . . .”

“Hey, forget about it, Red. Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for being such a grouch.” Several uncomfortable moments followed. Then Rafe added, “Okay, you can turn around.”

Which Red did. To his relief, he found Rafe dressed in his formal uniform – khaki, for the summer. Despite the haggard eyes and mussed hair, Rafe still managed to look handsome and tough. Red felt certain that many women will be all over him, now that he was . . .

Let’s not dwell on that, Winkle, Red mentally castigated himself.

Ever since Rafe’s miraculous appearance in Hawaii nearly six months ago, Red has experienced a lot of guilt. Why? Thanks to his advice, Rafe’s best friend had decided to pursue Rafe’s girl. And now seven months later, Danny Walker and Evelyn Johnson were about to become man and wife. Even worse, Evelyn was pregnant with Danny’s child. And if that did not seem bad enough, Red harbored deep suspicions that Evelyn was still in love with Rafe, and not with Danny.

Thinking of Rafe, Evelyn and Danny also reminded Red of Betty. His fiancée of nearly two months. In another year, he and Betty would have married inside the chapel at Hickam. The same location for Danny and Evelyn’s wedding ceremony. Only the Japanese attack on December 7 had ruined Red’s matrimonial plans. As much as he mourned Betty, he thanked God that he would never have to watch her marry another man.

“Hey Red. You okay?” Rafe frowned at the other pilot. “You look as if you’re in another world.”

Red responded with a weak smile. “Just thinking about the past. Ready to go?”

One last sigh left Rafe’s mouth. “I reckon so. Let’s go.” He strode toward the door, with Red close at his heels.

* * * *


Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. It was a situation in life that Lieutenant Barbara Kurtz has always dreaded and found herself in. Yet, for once, she felt more than happy not to be the bride. At least not for today’s wedding. Hell, she felt downright relieved.

Poor Evelyn. Poor Rafe. Poor . . . Well, perhaps not poor Danny. After all, not only did he barely managed to survive Doolittle’s suicidal mission over Tokyo, he was also about to marry the woman he loved – namely Evelyn. And become a father in two months. Then again, Danny was also about to marry a woman, who was probably not in love with him. Barbara suspected that Evelyn loved Danny, but was not in love with him. Loving someone and being completely, down-in-your-guts in love were two different matters. At least to Barbara. And she thanked God that she was not about to marry the wrong man for the right reason.

“Barbara!” Sandra O’Connell’s voice screeched in the blond woman’s ears. Geez! “Are they here, yet?”

Here meant the little white Army chapel at Hickam Field. The bride, along with her attendants, stood inside a small room, adjacent to the chapel. Barbara’s fellow attendants, Sandra and Martha Cole, fussed over the bride’s wedding gown. And it was beautiful. Evelyn wore a cream-colored gown with puffy short sleeves and a square neckline. It looked elegant and hid her pregnant form very well.

“Will you all leave her alone?” Barbara groused. “She looks fine.”

Evelyn heaved a deep sigh. “Barbara’s right. I feel fine. And I’m ready to start. Is the . . . groom’s party here, yet?”

“I’ll check.” Barbara left the small room. She found the groom standing in the back of the chapel, surrounded by his friends. However, two seemed to be missing – Red and Rafe.

Barbara cried out to them. “Hey! Why are you all standing around like suspects in a line-up? Evelyn’s ready.”

Danny, who looked downright handsome in his full khaki uniform, replied that they were waiting for Red. And the best man.

“What? You mean they’re not here, yet?” Barbara demanded. Of course she did not blame Rafe if he decided not to show up. What man in his right mind would want to witness the wedding between his best friend and the woman he loved? Barbara had noticed something else. Evelyn did not strike her as radiant bride. Granted, the former nurse happened to be at least seven months pregnant. Yet, still . . .

The sound of a jeep screeching to a halt caught Barbara’s attention. Gooz poked his head outside the chapel’s door and announced, “The best man is here. And Red.”

Barbara heaved a relieved sigh. “Great. Now, the only person that’s missing is Doc Hayes. Let us know when he arrives.” She returned inside the chamber. “Hey! Rafe and Red are here.”

Evelyn stiffened momentarily at the mention of her ex-boyfriend’s name. Barbara noticed. Then the bride-to-be asked in a placid voice, “What about Commander Hayes? Has he arrived?”

“Not yet. I asked Gooz to let . . .” Barbara bit off her words when a head poked inside the room. It belonged to Rafe.

The pilot’s eyes met the bride’s. Electricity crackled in the air. Even a blind person, Barbara decided, would have noticed the chemistry between the former lovers. And Barbara was not blind.

“Hello Rafe,” Sandra finally greeted, cutting the tension. “Is there something you want?” Anxiety filled the eyes behind her gold-rimmed glasses.

Rafe continued to stare at Evelyn. Whose face turned pink. Martha coughed slightly, snapping the pilot out of his trance. “Uh, I just came to tell you that Commander Hayes has just arrived. So the wed . . .” He took a deep breath. “The ceremony will probably start in five minutes.”

Silent tension filled the air. Martha finally responded. “Thanks. We’ll be . . .”

A second figure appeared in the chamber. Relief flooded Barbara’s body. It was the nurses’ commanding officer, dressed in a khaki naval uniform. Commander Hayes glanced at Evelyn and smiled. “Is everyone ready?” he asked.

Barbara smirked. “Now that you’re here, sir.” She nodded at Rafe. “You can tell the others that we’re ready.”

Rafe tore his eyes away from the bride and left. A deep flush colored Evelyn’s cheeks. Barbara sighed for the second time this morning. This promised to be a long day.


A Few Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”

After viewing the Season Three ”MAD MEN” episode called (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”, I came up with the following commentary:

A Few Observations of “MAD MEN”: (3.09) “Wee Small Hours”

*I think that from the moment Lee Garner Jr. tried and failed to seduce Sal Romano, the latter was screwed no matter what. Even if Harry Crane had immediately informed Roger or Don about Garner’s demand; or if Sal had acted professionally and told not only Don, but Roger on what happened, he was screwed. The client came first. Especially clients like Lee Garner and Conrad Hilton, who were too powerful to ignore. As I recall that back in Season One, even Don had to apologize to Rachel Menken for his outburst, despite the fact that she had yet to become an official client.

*I have read a few posts on Betty’s aborted affair with Henry Francis. I find it interesting that so many are disappointed that she did not go ahead with the affair. In fact, they have harshly criticized her for not going through with the affair . . . which I found rather odd. Even more interesting is that some of the fans are demanding to know what she really wanted. Henry also seemed to be wondering. Judging from her disappointment with her marriage to Don and the realization that Henry simple wants an affair, I am beginning to suspect that what Betty really wants is a meaningful relationship with someone. She wants a meaningful relationship with someone. That would explain the letters she exchanged with Henry, her anger at Don for keeping her in the dark about his contract problems, and her tears following the dinner with the Barretts in “The Benefactor”. And when she visited Henry’s office, she realized that she was not going to receive one from him, anymore than she was ever going to receive one from Don.

*Despite Betty’s remark about civil rights, Carla is one lucky woman. She could have easily found herself in the same situation as Sal ended up by the episode’s end. All Betty had to do was fire her and lie to Don about her reasons for firing Carla. Unless she feared that Carla would retaliate by telling Don about Betty’s meeting with Henry Francis. That is the only reason I could find why Carla remained employed.

*I also find it interesting that criticisms are being lobbied at Betty for her remark about the Civil Rights Movement. I found it interesting and a little hypocritical. One, of course Betty would make such a remark. She is a white female from a privileged background. And she is also a conservative, although a moderate one. She had called Carla ”girl” when referring to the latter during a phone call with Henry. What did these fans expect? Yet, many fans made excuse after excuse for Joan’s unnecessary and racist remarks to Sheila White back in Season Two.

*Is it just me or did Peggy look slightly smug after Connie Hilton made it clear that he disapproved of Don’s presentation? Mind you, I was not that impressed by it, either. It seemed a bit too simple and infantile to me. And it failed to invoke the glamour of travel, while maintaining the message of American values. At least to me.

*How many times has Don assumed an aggressive stand when a client fails to be impressed by his work? Why does he do this? Is this Don’s way of intimidating a client into accepting his work? I can recall him pulling this stunt with Rachel Menken, which angered her in the process. He also pulled this stunt with the client from Belle Jolie and succeeded. Then he tried it with Conrad Hilton and failed. Again, the fans’ reaction to this latest incident seemed to be anger toward Hilton. I found myself feeling slightly sympathetic toward him. After all, he is the client. If he did not like Don’s presentation, he did not like it. Don’s slight temper tantrum seemed a bit uncalled for.

*Pete hacking up a storm after taking a puff on a Lucky Strikes cigarette struck me as hysterical. So did the scene in which Betty threw the money box at Henry.

*Is Roger still a force at Sterling Cooper? Judging from the scenes in this episode, he seemed to be. But considering how the British regard him, I wonder how long this will last.

*Don and Suzanne. I failed to see the chemistry. In fact, Miss Farrell seemed like a second-rate version of Rachel Mencken, but with a less stable personality. I realize that Don also wants a meaningful relationship in his life . . . but Suzanne Farrell? I think he could have done better than her. Especially someone who had recently been his daughter’s teacher. What makes Don’s affair with Suzanne even more troubling is that he is using her as some kind of drug. He had suffered rejection from a man he was beginning to view as a parent figure and he turned to Suzanne for comfort.  Unfortunately for both, an unpleasant encounter between Don and Betty ended up severing Don’s romance with Suzanne for good.

*Did this mean the end of Sal Romano on ”MAD MEN”? Yes, it did.  Actor Bryan Batt has not returned to the series since.   Unlike Duck Phillips, he never became a recurring character.  So far.

“RETURN TO CRANFORD” (2009) Review



“RETURN TO CRANFORD” (2009) Review

Due to the success of the 2007 miniseries, “CRANFORD”, the BBC aired a two-part sequel called “RETURN TO CRANFORD” (also known as the “CRANFORD CHRISTMAS SPECIAL”), some two years later. Like the original miniseries, it was adapted by Heidi Thomas and directed by Simon Curtis. 

“RETURN TO CRANFORD” was based on material from Elizabeth Gaskell’s two novellas and a short story – “Cranford”,“The Mooreland Cottage”, and “The Cage at Cranford”, were all published between 1849 and 1863. Also, themes from“My Lady Ludlow”“Mr. Harrison’s Confessions”, and “The Last Generation in England” were included to provide continuity with the first miniseries. The new miniseries took place between August and December 1844. The citizens of Cranford find themselves facing major changes in their society, as the railroad continues to be constructed near the edge of town. In fact, I was surprised to learn that a great deal of the story surrounding the new railroad was not in any of Gaskell’s novellas and short story. Only the storylines featuring about Mrs. Jameson’s (Barbara Flynn) cousin, Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie) and Captain Brown (Jim Carter), Miss Pole’s (Imelda Staunton) Parisian “cage” for her pet cockatoo, and a magician named Signor Brunoni (Tim Curry) putting on a show came from Gaskell’s works.

I have to be frank. It did not bother me that most of the material featured in the miniseries did not come from any of Gaskell’s novellas and short stories. Thanks to some decent writing by Heidi Thomas, I believe that it all worked out fine. Unlike the 2007 miniseries, “CRANFORD”, the screenplay for “RETURN TO CRANFORD” seemed tighter and more focused. In fact, I noticed that the majority of major storylines featured in the miniseries have ties to the main story about the railroad’s construction. Because of this, “RETURN TO CRANFORD” avoided the episodic style of storytelling that I believe marred “CRANFORD”. My favorite storyline featured the budding romance between two newcomers to the town of Cranford – William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston), the Eton-educated son of a salt baron (Jonathan Pryce) and Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker), the daughter of a less-affluent widow (Lesley Sharp). Mr. Buxton wants William to marry his ward, the Brussels-educated Erminia (Michelle Dockery). But neither are interested in each other. And Peggy has to deal with her ambitious and greedy brother, Edward (Matthew McNulty), who dislikes William. What I liked best about“RETURN TO CRANFORD” was that most of the storylines were tied to the new rail line being constructed near Cranford – even the William/Peggy romance.

As much as I hate to admit it, “RETURN TO CRANFORD” had its problems. Another storyline featured the problematic pregnancy suffered by Miss Matty’s maid, Martha Hearne (Claudie Blakley). The problem arose, due to the lack of doctors in Cranford. And I found this confusing. The 2007 miniseries ended with two doctors residing in the town – the recently married Dr. Frank Harrison and longtime resident Dr. Morgan. A year later, both no longer resided in Cranford and Heidi Thomas’ script never revealed their whereabouts or fate. Thomas’ real misstep featured the death of LadyLudlow (Francesca Annis) and the arrival of her ne’er-do-well son, Septimus (Rory Kinnear). The latter’s attempt to cheat young Harry Gregson (Alex Etel) out of the money he had inherited from the late Mr. Carter was a poorly conceived and written storyline. And despite the built-up, it failed to have any real impact upon the Harry Gregson character, due to its vague ending. As much as I found Signor Brunoni’s Christmas show rather charming, I thought it also reeked of a sentimentality that made my teeth hurt. Especially when Miss Matty’s reunion with Jem Hearne (Andrew Buchan) and his daughter entered the picture.

The production design for “RETURN TO CRANFORD” was top notch as ever. And Alison Beard’s supervision of the costumes proved to be just as first-rate as Jenny Beavan’s work in the 2007 miniseries. The cast continued its first-rate work from the previous miniseries – especially Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkyns, Imelda Staunton as town gossip Octavia Poole, Francesca Annis as the aristocratic Lady Ludlow, Emma Fielding as her assistant Laurentia Galindo, Alex Etel as Harry Gregson, Julia McKenzie as Mrs. Forrester, Jim Carter as Mr. Brown, Alex Jennings as the Reverend Hutton and Barbara Flynn as the pretentious Mrs. Jamieson. But the newcomers that impressed were Tom Huddleston as William Buxton, Jonathan Pryce as the tyrannical Mr. Buxton, Jodie Whittaker as Peggy Bell, Celia Imrie as the earthy Lady Glemire and Tim Curry as the warm-hearted magician Signor Brunoni.

For a while, I had been reluctant to watch “RETURN TO CRANFORD”. Because it was a sequel to the 2007 miniseries, I figured that it could never be as good as “CRANFORD”. I was wrong. I do not know if I would consider it better than the first miniseries. But the latter is certainly not better than the sequel. And ”RETURN TO CRANFORD” does have one major advantage . . . namely Heidi Thomas’ screenplay turned out to be more tightly written, due to her decision not to use much of Elizabeth Gaskell’s material. Personally, I find that rather ironic.

Pioneer Cookery

Below are some recipes for dishes prepared by wagon train emigrants during the 19th century: 


BUFFALO STEAK – Render some fat in a hot skillet. Add sirloin of buffalo steak and sear on both sides. At a lower heat, cook as beefsteak until done. For gravy, add a tablespoon of flour to the pan drippings and cook until brown. Stirring constantly, add a cup of milk and bring to a boil. Salt to taste.

BUFFALO JERKY – Slice buffalo meat along the grain into strips 1/8 inch thick, 1/2 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long. Hang them on a rack in a pan and bake at 200 degrees until dry. To prepare outside, suspend them over a fire or drape them on bushes to dry in the sun.

FRIED CAKES – Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour with 1 cup of water. Mix well with a fork. Using plenty of flour on hands and a breadboard, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Roll into 2 inch balls or cut into 2 inch squares. Render beef fat in a skillet and add squares of dough. Brown slowly on both sides. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Makes about 20 cakes.

SODA BREAD – To make dough, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water, add 2 1/4 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Knead well. The dough may be used at once or allowed to rise overnight in a warm place. In either case, flatten dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake (in a 400 degree overn) for about 25 minutes.

MORMON JOHNNYCAKE – Combine 2 cups of yellow cornmeal, 1/2 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of molasses. Pour batter into a greased 9-inch pan and bake (in a 425 degree oven) for about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 squares. To make lighter cake; add 2 beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter to buttermilk and cook about 25 minutes.

DRIED APPLE PIE – Soak 2 cups of dried apples in water overnight. Drain off the water and mix apples with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon each of allspice and cinnamon. Line an 8-inch pie pan with a crust, add the apple mixture, dot with 3 tablespoons of butter and cover with a second crust. Make a few slashes in the top for ventilation and bake (in a 350 degree oven) for about 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown.

If you know of any recipes from this era, let me know.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 8


Part 8

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sorry, short chapter.

It really was a shock finding his body like that,” Paige was saying. “You should have seen him. His eyes were bugged wide open. And his throat slit. He must have lost a lot of blood.” 

Barbara heaved a sigh. “Paige! Honey, must you go over the entire thing in such graphic details?” The Charmed One’s mouth formed a moue.

Nick, who had used his lunch break as an opportunity to visit Ostera’s, leaned against the store’s front counter. He said to Paige, “And you say that the body was inside a locked apartment?”

“Yep.” Paige nodded. “I even had to orb Phoebe and myself inside. Like I had told Barbara, we thought we heard voices from inside the apartment. Before we found the body. I mean, there was no way the killer could have gotten out without being seen by us, unless . . .”

Nick urged her to continue. “Unless what?”

“Unless some supernatural force was involved. Only what demon or warlock would want this guy dead?”

Barbara handed over purchased goods inside a plastic bag, over to Nick. “Maybe they were supernatural gay bashers,” she commented.

“Gay bashers?” Nick frowned. “This guy was gay?”

Paige added, “According to Phoebe.”

For the first time, Nick understood Portia’s failure to seduce the columnist. DeWolfe Mann obviously had no interest in anyone of the opposite sex. Including a succubus. Perhaps her male counterpart – an incubus – would have done the trick. “Who knew?” he muttered under his breath.

Unfortunately, Barbara overheard him. “Knew what?” she asked.

“Uh . . . DeWolfe Mann. I uh, I’ve heard of him. I just didn’t realize that he was . . . you know.”

“Honey, this is San Francisco. Location of the biggest gay community in the world. DeWolfe Mann’s sexual preference shouldn’t have been that surprising. Maybe finding a heterosexual partner in this city.”

Nick merely responded with a wan smile. Who could argue with the truth?

* * * *

Employees of the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR took the news of DeWolfe Mann’s murder with great shock. The portly columnist had seemed like the last person who would meet with a violent death. Mann had struck the others as too remote and disciplined to incite another to kill him. But once everyone had accepted the news, many began to express possible motives behind his murder.

The sports columnist Gunther Weiss, whom Olivia had once met, remembered that Mann had been a homosexual. “Clearly a case of gay bashing,” he declared to the redheaded inspector. “Hasn’t gay bashing been on the rise, lately? At least that’s what I’ve heard. And Mann had never bothered to hide his homosexuality.”

Olivia regarded the sports columnist with a speculative eye. “Gay bashing? Inside his apartment? Hmmm. Perhaps. But such cases usually involve some kind of physical assault or beating. There were no signs of a struggle inside Mr. Mann’s apartment.”

“But didn’t some neighbor report a disturbance inside the apartment?” Weiss asked.

Shaking her head, Olivia replied, “Actually, a Mrs. Patio had reported hearing someone banging on Mr. Mann’s apartment door. A woman. She didn’t say anything about a disturbance from inside.” Yet, despite Olivia’s arguments, Weiss seemed convinced that DeWolfe Mann had been a victim of gay bashing.

Another staff reporter, also aware of Mann’s sexual preference, offered another theory. That a lover had murdered Mann in a jealous fit. She seemed slightly disappointed when Darryl explained that the dead columnist had not been involved with anyone for nearly a year.

In the end, it was Phoebe who provided the information that they needed. “Paige and I were the ones who were overheard by that neighbor last night,” she confessed. Darryl heaved a sigh and surreptiously closed the door to her office. “I had a premonition of Wolfie being killed. Unfortunately,” she added in a remorseful tone, “Paige and I didn’t get to him on time.”

“You and Paige.” Darryl frowned. He then shook his head. “So you two had originally discovered his body.”

Phoebe nodded. “I think I had heard voices from inside his apartment, before we found him. One of them belonged to a woman, I think. But once Paige and I orbed inside, we only found Wolfie’s body and no one else. And in my premonition, I saw a man’s hand slit his throat.”

“Are you saying there’s a supernatural connection to Mr. Mann’s death?” Olivia asked.

“How else can you explain voices from behind a closed door? And just before we found his body?”

Before Olivia could reply, the door swung open and in walked Jason Dean. “Phoebe, are you free on . . .?” He took one look at the visitors and paused. “Oh. I see you’re with the police.”

Olivia greeted her former boyfriend with a polite smile. “Hi Jace. It’s nice to see you, too.” To her amusement, the young publisher stiffened with discomfort.

Tension filled the office like thick fog. “Jason,” Phoebe began, “you remember Olivia, don’t you?”

Jason nodded uneasily. “Yeah, it’s nice to see you, Olivia.” He glanced at Darryl. “And you’re Darryl, right? Darryl Morris?”

Darryl warmly shook the other man’s hand. “Nice to see you, again.”

The publisher suddenly became more business-like. “So, what can you tell me about this murder?”

Maintaining a polite smile, Darryl explained that he and Olivia had just been assigned to the case, this morning. “And I’m afraid that we can’t disclose any information without the Department’s authorization, at the moment. Or without Ms. Mann’s.”

A frown darkened Jason’s countenance. Olivia recognized that look. It usually hinted Jason’s stubborn inability to accept that some matters were beyond his control. “But as Mr. Mann’s employer, surely I have a right . . .”

Olivia heaved a long and frustrated sigh. Out loud. “Jason. Please accept the fact that we cannot tell you everything. You’ll just have to wait until we make our knowledge public like everyone else.”

Jason struggled to hide his disappointment. And Olivia struggled to keep from smirking. God, she must really be evil.Finally, Jason assumed a polite mask. “Well. I guess I will. Excuse me.” He started to turn away.

“Before you leave, Jace,” Olivia said, barely keeping her amusement in check, “we have a few questions to ask you about Mr. Mann. Is there a time when you’ll be available?” She gave him a sweet smile.

“Uh . . .questions?” Jason shook his head. “What can I tell you? Mann was a columnist and I’m the paper’s publisher. I usually don’t deal with my writers.” Both Olivia and Darryl glanced at an uncomfortable-looking Phoebe. “Except on a personal basis, of course.”

Olivia and Darryl’s eyes met. “Uh, Mr. Dean,” Darryl began, “I understand that you tend to be a hands-on publisher. You know, deal with your staff, personally.” From underneath her lashes, Olivia’s noticed Phoebe’s growing discomfort.

“Who told you that?” Jason demanded.

Darryl hesitated before he coolly answered, “Mr. Mann’s sister. And his attorney.”

“Cole?” Phoebe said, sitting upright.

Nodding, Darryl continued, “Actually, both he and Ms. Mann had informed us about Mr. Dean’s direct involvement in the paper’s editorial process.” He faced Jason. “Which apparently had led to clashes between you and Mr. Mann. So much so that according to his attorney, Mr. Turner, he had made plans to leave this paper.”

“He can’t!” Jason protested. He flushed slightly, obviously realizing he had spoken in the wrong tense. “What I meant was Mann wouldn’t have been able to leave just like that. He had a five-year contract and had only been with the BAY-MIRROR for three years.”

Olivia spoke up. “But according to . . . Mr. Turner, Mr. Mann was only obliged to work for three years. After that, he had the option to leave if and when he wanted. Apparently, Mr. Mann had been approached by the CHRONICLE.” Poor Jason. He looked as if an oncoming truck had struck him without warning. At least Deborah Mann had been wrong about his possible knowledge of Mann’s attempted defection.

“Jason didn’t know about this,” Phoebe cried, coming to her boyfriend’s defense. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Darryl calmly replied, “We understand, Phoe . . . Ms. Halliwell. We simply have to explore all possibilities in this investigation.” He said to Jason, “And I’d like to add my thanks, Mr. Dean, for your cooperation.”

A grunt left Jason’s mouth as he nodded. Then he turned on his heels and left the office. Probably to check the contracts of his surviving columnists, Olivia sourly surmised. She and Darryl found themselves facing another outburst from Phoebe. “Was that really necessary?” she demanded angrily. “Attacking Jason like that?”

“C’mon Phoebe!” Darryl protested. “We were only doing our jobs.”

Olivia added, “So far, Jason is the only one who seems like a potential suspect.”

“And I bet that Cole was more than happy to give you that little information about Jason and Wolfie,” Phoebe spit out.

Darryl sighed. “Actually, he only told us about the contract and the job offer. It was Deborah Mann who told us about the bad blood between Mann and Jason.”

Phoebe insisted, “He didn’t do it. Jason, I mean.”

Gee! Talk about standing by one’s man. “Phoebe, we realize that now,” Olivia reassured the Charmed One. “Don’t worry.” She paused. “However, we . . . well, I was wondering if you and Paige would return to Mann’s apartment. See if you can get a premonition of his killer.”

Darryl stared at his partner in horror. “Are you kidding? How in the hell do you expect us to explain that we solved the case using magic? Especially if this comes to trial?”

“Look Darryl, I’m sure that we’ll find a way. It’s just . . . well, haven’t you noticed something odd about this case? The body was found in a locked room. And Phoebe heard voices – including a woman’s voice – before she and Paige had orbed inside the apartment. I don’t know about you, but I find that very odd.”

Phoebe added, “But it was a man who had killed Wolfie. At least a masculine hand.”

Olivia nodded. “Right. Look, if Phoebe can find out who did it, all we have to do is collect the evidence to convict . . . him.”

“But we have the button,” Darryl protested. “That would easily convict the guy.”

“Unless he turns out to be supernatural.” Olivia paused. “Instead of arresting him, we might have to vanquish him.”

Darryl’s eyes rolled northward. “Great! Whatever happened to the good old days of a simple homicide?”

* * * *

Two days later, Nick burst into his apartment in a state of giddiness. “Eureka! Guess what I have?” he said to his guest.

A bored-looking Portia glanced up from the glossy fashion magazine she was reading. “Anything that will get me out of this dreadful place, I hope.”

Ignoring the barb, Nick thrust another magazine into her face. A magazine titled, “JOBS TODAY”. It was a weekly periodical that advertised white-collar jobs in the Bay Area. “Turn to page 12,” he suggested.

Portia frowned at the Streghore, before flipping through the magazine. “What are you talk . . .” She paused. Her eyes grew wide. “Oh. A position is being advertised.”

“That’s right,” Nick added. He sat next to Portia. “A position as food columnist for the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR. DeWolfe Mann’s old job is being offered. And you can apply for it on Monday.”

“Why not tomorrow?”

Nick quickly replied, “Tomorrow is Saturday. Mann’s editor probably won’t be there, until Monday.”

The succubus leaned back against the sofa and sighed. “Finally! I was beginning to fear that I would be stuck here, forever.” Nick tried not to look crestfallen. And as usual – when faced with personal criticism – he failed. Portia noticed. “Oh please! Do not take my words, personally. I am simply not used to such . . . cramped living conditions. I need a bigger place to stay. Like a hotel suite.” Her eyes brightened. “I know.” She snapped her fingers.

Within an instant, Nick found himself standing in an alley, next to a tall building. Along with his suitcase. “What the . . . where are we?”

“Outside the Omni Hotel on Nob Hill,” Portia explained. Three suitcases surrounded her. “I’ve decided to stay here during the remainder of my stay in San Francisco.”

Nick cried out, “Are you . . . how in the hell do you expect me to pay for a room at the Omni? It’s one of the city’s most exclusive hotels!”

Portia rolled her eyes. “For heaven’s sake! I will deal with the payment. Now, pick up my bags and we’ll check in.”

“But . . .” The succubus gave him a warning look. “Never mind.” Nick sighed and picked up all four suitcases with a great deal of difficulty.”

“Here, I will help you.” Portia plucked one suitcase – the smallest – from Nick’s grasp. “Cheer up,” she continued. “Once we’ve checked in, we will do a little shopping. And come Monday, I will go to the offices of this BAY-MIRROR. It shouldn’t be a problem. And within a few days, Bruce McNeill will be dead. And you will have your witch.”

That was something to look forward to, Nick grumbled silently. And he followed Portia toward the hotel’s entrance, while struggling with three suitcases.