Wednesday, January 29, 2014

26. I'll be damned if I bow down to a bully

Senator Alan Wells was delighted to see Shannon Stone appear at the entrance of the great hall, though he was not surprised. Shannon had called him the evening before, saying, “I'm coming to testify.  I'll be damned if anyone sees me bowing to those bullies, not least of all Trevor who's seen me through all the earlier battles.  He wouldn't be impressed if I withdraw now, though he did ask me to consider withdrawing, for my safety, not his.”

“Well, I'm overjoyed, Shannon. Your presence at the hearing will make all the difference. But...”


“But, yeah, as Trevor said, your safety.”

“Trevor is still on his summer holidays.  I've sent him, against his wish, to stay with his dad in Arizona.  He'll be there till the end of August.”

“And you?”

“I'll be extra careful.”

Alan looked at her wide-eyed for a moment, then said, “All by yourself? Out in a farm? Where hunters can barge in at any time? While the law is on their side? I don't think so, Shannon. Tell you what. There is a guest house at my residence and the entire estate is heavily guarded. Why don't you, or you and Trevor if you wish, come and stay there until the voting is done?”

Shannon hesitated no more than a second, then replied, “That's a generous offer, Senator. The vote is two months away, and that's a long time away from home.  Still it is very considerate of you, thank you. I'll think about it.”

"The offer is open."

"I appreciate it."

Two hours later, she was facing the august panelists and the audience at the congressional hearing after Alan had made his intro statement, "... This bill, HR 1724, is to safeguard the U.S. Constitution from being undermined, eclipsed, devalued, much less overridden, by state-level laws..."

"Ms. Stone,” came the first question, this from Congressman Milton Stack (R-NV), “May I ask you whether every word you said under oath during your trial in the state of Pennsylvania stands?"

"All my words stand, Mr. Stack."

"You have a 14-year-old son named Trevor, correct?"


"What is his legal status?"

"He was convicted in Pennsylvania state court for violating the state's Hunter Harassment Statute by verbally interrupting a hunt in progress on my property without my permission, but has been exonerated in the Court of Appeals."

"So, not only are you yourself a convicted felon, you're also the mother of a juvenile delinquent?"

"No.  As I just said, he has been exonerated, and so have I."

"But the conviction is still in your record?"

"As is the exoneration."

"But still, you allowed a 14-year-old under your care to be involved in a dispute involving loaded firearms?"

"He exercised his own freedom of speech as guaranteed to every man, woman and child under the Constitution in a non-aggressive and non-violent manner.  This freedom, I believe, is the subject of this bill."

"Ms. Stone," Congressman Louis Knowlton (R-CO) took over the baton, "Were you at the time of the incident under the influence of any substance?  The policeman could not pin this down definitely, but he said he could not rule it out either."

"I do not use any substance, Congressman."

"You're using the present tense here, Ms. Stone.  But your record says otherwise."

"I had a DUI over ten years ago.  I have abided by the terms, and the case has been expunged from my record."

"Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, correct, Ms. Stone?"

"I have not touched alcohol for many years, Congressman."

"In the context of the incident, it is still he said, she said."

"I just said it.  There is no 'he said'."

"Were you aware of the Hunter Harassment Statute of Pennsylvania at the time of the incident, Ms. Stone?" asked Congressman James Holmes (D-MA).

"No, I was not, Congressman Holmes."

"Would you do or say anything differently had you known about its existence and contents?"

"Not a one, Mr. Congressman."

"Why not, Ms. Stone?"

"Because it violates my freedom of speech and my property rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  In whatever state, I am an American living on American soil, and am under the protection of the American Constitution.  Note that in the Constitution there is no clause saying, '... except in Pennsylvania'.  "

"Was this the premise upon which you stood when you won at the Court of Appeals?"

"Yes, sir, it was, and still is as applicable to this bill."

Congressman Ron Sykes (R-UT) pick it up with, "There is a federal prohibition of marijuana, but Colorado and Washington states have legalized it.  Are you saying, Ms. Stone, that people in these state should still not be allow to use marijuana due to the federal ban?"

Shannon answered without hesitation, "You are talking about federal law and policy, Congressman, not the Constitution.  There is no clause in the Constitution stating that marijuana should be banned."

And the questions rolled on for the better part of an hour.

When Shannon finally and wearily walked out of what she had mentally coined "the interrogation chamber", carrying a briefcase that seemed to weigh twice as it should, she was greeted at the door by the extended hand of a striking man she at once recognized from a recent AP newscast of which she had total recall.

He was saying go the TV-camera with the Gulf of Mexico behind him, "There is no doubt that the Alberta tar sands dwarf them all in sheer size and scope, but the others - the Kalamazoo pipeline burst, West Virginia's mountaintop removal, British Columbia's clear-cutting of old-growth forests, the Exxon Valdez spill, and, yes, the BP Deep sea Horizon rupture right here - is each a monstrosity unto itself.  At each of these sites I'm holding a media conference about Time-Capsule-2050, into which local material are being inserted for future generations to see as we are seeing them right now while these disasters are happening."  

The screen then switched to a metal plate bolted on to a large rock outcropping off the shoulder of a highway miles inland from New Orleans.  The man was saying, "Further, in the coastal areas, like here, too, I am planting markers like this one showing the future coast lines resulting from 1 meter, 3 meters, 5 meters and 7 meters of sea level rise.  This one marks the point of the new coastline at plus 5 meters, when cities like New Orleans and Miami will have gone under.  I'll be planting these marker along the southern and eastern coasts as I make my way through them, including Washington DC and New York City when I get there which will be partially submerged in 2050 when the time-capsule is unearthed and opened for our children's children to take a first hand glimpse of today for themselves..."

This same man now said to Shannon in person, "Ms. Stone, My name is Mark Lee.  I would like to congratulate you on your magnificent testimony, and the grace and power with which you presented it."

"Thank you, Dr. Lee," she said while shaking his hand, emphasizing "doctor" which Mark had not mentioned to indicate that she had known of him from before.  

"The one to give thanks should be me," said Mark.  "I'll be testifying for two bills in the coming weeks - #1896 of Michigan Democratic Senator John Buchanan, about banning new pipelines from Canada, and #1944 of Ohio Democratic Senator Joyce Moran, about banning culling as a means of deer population control.  Witnessing your performance was instructive and will be of help to my own testimonies as they occur."

"I'm glad someone finds it helpful.  I'll be looking out for these two bills and see how they fare."

"As will I for #1724."

Shannon glanced at her watch.  "Well, I'd better get going.  I have a couple of hours of driving ahead of me, into the sunset.  So not looking forward to it." 

"You're driving back to your farm, on this crucial day, alone, and arriving at night?  Sorry, I've looked into your court cases in Pennsylvania, so I'm familiar with your background to a point.  I have nothing but admiration for it, by the way."

"Well, thank you.  But, yes, all of the above."

"Is there anyone at the farm waiting for you?"

"Not that I know of."

Mark thought for a moment, then said, "Okay, this is what I'm gonna do.  My coastline work is done, and I'm now heading inland towards the Great Lakes.  The first leg will be via 270, then 76 to Cleveland - the same highway to Pittsburgh in fact.  So, if you will allow me, I'll escort your car back to your farm with my car and make sure that everything is secure.  How's that sound?"

Shannon's turn to ponder a moment.  "Well, that's very kind of you, Dr. Lee.  But I don't want to be a bother, and certainly don't want to develop a dependency on others for things I can do myself."

"Understood, Ms. Stone.  But the top issue right now is your safety, and it is a hot one, one so potentially hot that you wouldn't even want to handle, let alone all by yourself.  The priority now is to first ensure your survival so that you can enjoy your independence later.  Make sense?"

"It does make sense, Dr. Lee.  I just didn't want to impose.  So, when will you be ready?"

"I'm ready.  And, please, call me Mark."

"Okay, Mark, please call me Shannon."  She pulled out a business card, wrote something on it and handed it to Mark. "Here is my address.  You can GPS your way there if we get separated."

"You're not a need-for-speed type, are you, Shannon?" said Mark with a smile when they were walking in the parking lot.

She let out a spontaneous bell-like laugh.  "I kind of am when I'm on my motorcycle.  But for some reason I'm much tamer behind the wheel.  I won't try to leave you in the dust, Mark, but I don't like being tailgated either."

"No worries.  I hate tailgaters myself.  They must be extremely short-sighted."

She laughed again and said, "There's my car, that silver Mazda.  Where's yours?"

"No, that is my silver Mazda.  License plate number NGC-895."

"Ooops, sorry about that," she said, a little embarrassed.  "Fancy driving the same model car, and the same color yet."

"Mine's a manual shift."

"So's mine!"

As they walked past Mark's car to look for Shannon's, she did take a surreptitious glance at its license plate - a white BC plate with "NGC-895" on it.  

"Oh, there it is."

Two hours later, Shannon led Mark into her long and winding driveway.  She parked her car into her garage which is facing her house across a gravel patch, in which Mark parked his.  When they approach her front door on foot, she came to an abrupt halt thirty feet away.  Her right hand flew to her mouth from which escaped a gasp.  There lay on her front porch the carcass of White Shadow, her favorite Whitetail buck who frequented her wild orchard, with six arrows imbedded in his torso.  Instantly

"Oh, no!"  she cried, in instant tears.

Mark went for a closer look.  The arrow-riddled torso was still warm to the touch. He found a fourth arrow lying on top of the dead deer, with "Shannon Stone" painted in white on its shaft.

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