Eddington A Caffeine Fortress 

It was good to be back in Stefaniak’s, a little normalcy with all the craziness lately. Time had seemed to speed along lately, and we found ourselves in December. It was the Christmas party for the employees.
The lights bounced and played against the windows, as the music played. A good Christmas cup, a muffin, and conversation. I felt almost comfortable, except for glancing outside every five minutes.
Otecko was entertaining everyone with stories. Joe was there, and my security guys. It was a caffeine fortress, no one was charging the door, so to speak.
I should have expected a more delicate touch, but I didn’t, until the phone call. “Hello, I think you’ll find the news interesting tonight.” That was the only thing he said, on the phone. He must have been tired after all of the talking he had done this afternoon.  
“My country is reclaiming its national treasures. It has come to my attention that some very important artifacts were taken from our country years ago. I intend to pursue every legal channel available to get them back.”
That was his next move. I took Otecko aside and told him. “What he could not grab, he would wrestle away. Tomás, this man is clever, but he’s also brash. That will work in our favor.”

Otecko went back to the party as if nothing had happened. It ended for me with the phone call. I didn’t leave, but my mind did. Primarily on how to stop the bad guy without looking like a villain ourselves.

Eddington Coffee From A Strange Pot

It was almost aggravating, the way that Otecko seemed to know things before you told him. “How did you know he would be part of the government?” He was never arrogant about it, he just knew.
“Simple, most of the people who have troubled our country, started out that way. It is like President Reagan said, they were from the government, and they claimed they were going to help us. What is reassuring to me is that we don not have to travel half a world away to face him.”
Otecko hated to travel, it messed up his routine. Just the hiding place we had talked him into staying for a few days was irritating him. He hates ‘sleeping in other beds, making coffee from a strange pot, and brushing his teeth in front of a strange mirror.’
That was an exact quote by the way. Him reluctantly agreeing to do it, indicated how important catching this man was. He still had a surprise in store though, one I hadn’t seen coming, and he knew it.
“While here, I visited an old friend from home. She hasn’t lived overseas in years, but her niece happens to be in the government. I believe I know enough about the Ambassador now to return home.”
“Otecko, it’s not safe, you need to …” “Thomàs, I Love You, but at my age, what is safety? Especially if this man is as clever as he is dangerous. Staying out of the battle, that is dangerous.” 
He returned like a general planning a large campaign, giving detailed orders to each of us. Stef’s job was to design a very special coffee bag, as a gift for the Ambassador. My job, as a semi famous businessman was to deliver it. 
We poured our best Guatemalan blend in it the day the bag came from the printers. It was great coffee, but the bag was the real message. On it were elegant scenes reflecting Czech and Slovakian heritage, but the real message was the words underneath Stefaniak’s logo.
“A gift for the ambassador. A bold, challenging blend, to embrace and hold you tightly.” It didn’t sound bad to anyone else, but to him, it was a direct threat. We were taking the battle to him, and Otecko wanted him to know it! 

Eddington The Grounds Of History 

“He said his name is Louis Rastilav.” Otecko gave a sarcastic laugh when I said it. “Then I am good King Wenceslas. No Thomás, that may even be his legal name. Yet that is not who he is.”

“What do you mean?” “Rastilav is the name of an ancient leader of the old lands. He’s using that name to help give him validation in The eyes of the people. You must find out who he really is.”  

“I will Otecko, but Joe insists we know what we’re trying to keep Rastilav from getting his hands on.” “It’s something that, at least part of which, the real Rastilav, and others held in their hands. Four jeweled symbols of power, comparatively, they have value outside of the country, but inside, they are priceless.”

“Such as?” “We don’t have time for a history lesson, but there are four native areas of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Moravia, Bohemia, Czech Silesia, and the principality of Nitra. Each artifact’s history touches the lives of its rulers. They are powerless objects, but dictators use props to gain legitimacy, as if they were starting on the grounds of history.”

It wasn’t everything Joe wanted, but it was something. Now that I knew this much, I turned my attention to Rastilav. Who was he really, and what did he want? The internet is a wonderful thing, but not always productive. I spent hours looking for any connection to a modern day Rastilav, and found nothing.  

My wife is a bit old school, she took a different tactic. She starting calling every hotel in town, looking for a Louis Rastilav. She was told that Ambassador Rastilav, of the Czech Republic, was in town for a speech at the university. We had found our guy, and discovered this was going to be a lot harder than we expected.  

Eddington Latte Trouble 

I took him a latte, and set down with mine, to talk about our battle plan. ” It has to work, it’s the only thing.” “Otecko isn’t comfortable about it.” 
“I know, but we can’t take a chance on him getting hurt.” “Do you think it’ll work?” Joe just looked at me. I waited for a minute but he didn’t speak.
I looked behind me to see that he was actually looking at a small thin, straw haired man walking towards us. He was dressed in a black suit that made his hair, mustache, and beard, seem even grayer than they were.  
“Good evening gentlemen. I hope you don’t mind me introducing myself. I am Louis Rastilav. You have a lovely little coffee shop here.”
“Thank you. Is this where you tell us you’re the mastermind behind the thugs that have been attacking our family? That you’re the leader of some group that wants whatever you think we’ve got?”  

“Yes.” He paused, knowing he stunned me. “You did not expect me to be so bold? I find pleasantries waste time. I will have the … artifacts, not the necklace.”
“My subordinate was deceived, I was not. He won’t make that mistake again. In fact, he won’t make any mistakes anymore. Provide me the artifacts in a week’s time, or you won’t either.”
He got up and walked away. I wanted to follow. Joe shook his head, and pointed to the guy two tables over. He left, hand still in his coat, after Rastilav walked out.

My cousin got up. “I’m headed to the precinct. You’re going to call Otecko. It’s time to know everything about what they’re looking for, no excuses.”

“What are you going to do?” “I’m going to find out more about Louis Rastilav, and how to hit him back. Minus the pleasantries!”

Eddington A Coffee Stained Threat

“What do we give them? Even a fake treasure is hard to come up with quickly.” Otecko laughed. “Not so hard as you say. A fake treasure only has a handful of requirements. The chief of those, it must be old. I’m an octogenarian, almost everything I have is old.”
Stef and I went with him to his home, to help him select the right thing. He brought out different trinkets, all of them I thought would work. He rejected each, knowing it had to have the proper connection to the past.

Finally, he chose a small rosewood case. In it was a beautiful necklace. It was simple, handcrafted, and had what appeared to be green jewels. “They are called moldavite, and are native to Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. This will work.”

Part of a CEO’s job was marketing, and I went to work. We polished it until it sparkled, careful to leave areas of the patina to keep the ancient look. Next, the story you tell, and that had to be the truth.

If you were to boast about the treasure, they would know what we were doing. If you down play it, they’ll want it more. I blogged about this family artifact that would now be on display at our local library, as part of an exhibit about my ancestry.

That was easy, when your sister in law is the primary librarian of all the city’s libraries. Kate agreed to put it in a case with books about moldavite, and the region of Bohemia. She slipped the story to a reporter she had met at a local book reading.  

We booked the unveiling for Saturday morning, and waited. Nothing happened the first day or two, but on Friday something happened. I was at Stefaniak’s, doing busy work, and I noticed something.  

A customer had left some trash on a table, I went to pick it up. On a napkin, underneath the coffee cup, was some coffee stains, and a message. It read, “The necklace, or the old man?”  

I don’t like threats, especially to my family. They didn’t know it, but they had just made a mistake. There plan was to scare us, threats don’t do that to me, they just make me mad enough to fight.

Eddington Bold Americano

The security team handled the mess, he didn’t expect that. I kept a few things from my days running a company, like home protection for my family. They had the guy in the vehicle subdued in a few minutes. What I didn’t expect, was that this was only a distraction.  

While we were all focused on the guy in the car, the other guy slipped past them. I found this out when he set off the silent alarm at the window. He didn’t get in, but by then, any hope of sleeping was over.
Now I called Otecko, he answered on the second ring. “Are you okay Tomáš?” 

“How did you know anything was wrong?” I was so rattled that I didn’t expect logic. “When my called ID shows my Grandson is calling at 1:30 in the morning, I think something is wrong. This is not difficult.”

I explained, and asked him again. “What is so important that they would try all of this?” “Tomáš, that is not the question. The question is why such stupid attempts.”

“Otecko, there’s no rule that said they have to be intelligent.” He sighed before answering. “Unfortunately, every evil man to ever threaten our country, had a black heart, and a brilliant mind. This is like that soy milk at the store for the health conscious. It looks the same, but very sour. Something is very sour with these attempts.”  

Then it hit me. “Grandpa, lets talk more in the morning, at the store, night.” I know it sounded abrupt, but Otecko got the message. You see, that’s the reason we never called him Grandpa. Otecko means papa in Czech and Slovak. Grandpa is the family code word for trouble, if any of us ever use it, that means something is wrong.  

Otecko was at the gate in twenty minutes, along with Joe and Stef. I waited til they walked in, handed them each an americano, and started. “This has all been a decoy, a way of drawing us out.”

“Everything since the start was trying to get a rabbit out of it’s hole. I think they’re listening to our phone calls, maybe even stalking us. Trying to figure out where the thing is Otecko gave away. Now, that we know that, what do we do.”  

Stef was always the adventurous one of the two of us. She was ready to charge at any obstacle, that’s what made her great in her work as a photographer too. Anxious to take chances to get the shot. So I expected bold when she opened her mouth.  

“Simple, they want a treasure to steal, give them a treasure. Draw them out, and we’ll take them down.” It would have sounded more effective, if she wasn’t wearing purple slippers, and adding peppermint mocha to her coffee.  

Eddington Mental Espresso 

After Joe left, we started the clean up. Otecko had only told us that he had passed the, whatever it was, to our cousin Michael in the marines. He wouldn’t tell us what it was, only that it was safe in the heart of America’s military.

Joe wasn’t happy, but you can’t argue once Otecko sets his mind. Joe set about figuring out how to protect the family, and I was full of nervous energy. Otecko was quiet, and that’s what terrified me.

It was a strange quiet, he was second guessing himself. I tried to reassure him. “You did what you thought was best. I’m sure we’re in good hands with Joe and the E.P.D. looking out for us. “I’m not worried about us Tomáš, but the countries of my birth.”

“If someone is after the králi poklad, that means they’re after more. Every dictator wants symbols to convince those he imprisons that he cannot be defeated. This means they will not try. To whoever it may be, the králi poklad, is the velvet glove for an iron fist.”

I looked it up when I got home, but the internet didn’t have anything that helped. I also text Michael, and cryptically told him what happened. Then I asked what it was.

He text back. “Don’t no, never saw it, never asked. Once he gave it to me, I buried it in the sands.” “Was it in a box or something? How could you not see it?” 

Michael has a odd sense of humor, and loves riddles. Instead of answering like a normal person, he responded the way I was afraid he would. When I read it, I could imagine that sly grin on his face when he got my goat.  

“In a container, but not a box. One that’s empty til filled up.” I hate riddles, I obsess over them. They’re like a mental espresso to me. Which is why I couldn’t get to sleep for a half hour after laying down, but not the reason I was up again in an hour. No, that was because of the car that rammed through the front gate, that ended any plans for rest I had.

Eddington: A Cup And Joe

Otecko sat there, sipping his coffee, staring out into space. He waited as we sat down, each taking a place around him like we did when we were kids. Only this wasn’t a bedtime story.

“We’ve faced many enemies of freedom, all similar, just different coats. Whether it was the Nazis, or the Communist, or even before, the goal is always the same. Liberty not for the many, but the few.”

He paused, and sipped again. I saw Joe resisting the urge to hurry it along, knowing the slowness wasn’t for effect. It was almost as if he was struggling to share something with us.

“Our countries have always had good men, ready to sacrifice if needed. When I was young, four of us were chosen, not to fight, but to transport. They knew we had chosen to seek new paths for our future families, and they asked us.”

“We were to carry something old into our journey towards the new. Novak put something in four containers, and sent them with us. I hoped last week was just a random act, until tonight. He was looking here, because he expected I passed it to the next generation, and they to one of you.”

Joe didn’t ask, and neither did I. We each made calls to make sure everyone was safe. Otecko let us, and then continued. “I knew they were safe, because he is here. This was their second attempt, and since we have fought back, it will do three things.”

“First, it will anger them. Fighting back always angers evil men. Second, it will confuse them, the fact that they have failed again. Last, it will intensify them, they will be more dangerous next time, and there will more of them.”

Joe couldn’t take it anymore. “Otecko, what are they looking for? What is it?” He looked at us with very sad eyes. 

“Something I would not give them, but also, something I could not give them. Because I no longer have it, it has been passed already, but not to any of you.”

Eddington Mug Shot

The pain was starting to subside, and I was beginning to see again. I didn’t really think my eyesight was ok at the time, because of what I saw. Which was my eighty plus year old Grandfather hitting the guy that had my gun in the back of the head. “Tomáš, are you okay?”
“What did you hit him with Otecko?” I only knew a few words from what had been Czechoslovakia, and was now the two countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Otecko, or Papa, as we called Grandfather, had family on both sides.
“I hit him with a good strong ceramic mug. The kind my brilliant vnúča said we should replace with non breakable ones.” He padded my shoulder, and smiled wide.  
Otecko still seemed as healthy and as vibrant as I had always remembered. His hair was white now, but otherwise he was as sharp as ever. He reminded me a little of Edward G Robinson. Otecko loved old movies, and I had inherited it.
We decided it was time to examine the guy on the floor. Otecko had picked up his gun while I was standing up. The guy was tall, scary, and ugly for that matter. “Did you expect George Clooney?”  
Otecko loved sarcasm, I think he counted it as part of his heritage. I remembered seeing the unconscious man the night last week when it had all started. We were trying to determine who he was when Joe and the police walked in.
That’s my cousin, Uncle Adam’s son, Detective Joe Stefaniak. “Otecko, Tom, what’s going on?” “He attacked me. One minute I’m in the storage room, the next minute he threw coffee in my face.”
Joe cuffed the guy, who was still out cold. “Why?” “I don’t know, robbery doesn’t make sense. If that wasn’t it, why attack me?” “That wasn’t what I meant Tom. I meant, why didn’t he just shoot you. I see the gun in Otecko’s hand.”
My look must have indicated what I was thinking, because Joe answered without me asking. “Simple, Otecko’s holding a gun now, but the guy’s out cold. If either of you had the gun, he’d either be subdued, bleeding, or dead.”
“Let me see the gun. Isn’t that your glock Tom?” “Yeah, he must have taken it from my office.” “Don’t you keep it locked up?” “Yes, he must have broke in the desk.”  
“Something’s bad wrong here Tom. If he came to attack you, why didn’t he bring his own gun? An if he went to the trouble of getting your gun, why not shoot you?”
I saw where he was going. “So he must have been looking for something besides my gun in the office. The only thing is, there’s nothing important in my desk. What could he have been looking for?”
Joe and I just stood there, I was watching the man. Joe was watching something, or someone else. Otecko didn’t say a word, but left silently through the door to the kitchen.  
I looked at Joe, he nodded, and we followed. He was sitting at the counter when we walked in. “He will not find it. They will try again.” I was scared. “Who Otecko?” He gave me a sad, weak smile. “The enemies of freedom my vnúčas, always the enemies of freedom.”

Tune in next week’s Eddington to find out what Otecko knows.

Eddington Glock or Cream?

PruittWrites hopes you like the first episode of our new serial, Eddington, and our new character Tom Bendix.

We’re the little coffee shop on the corner, the place where Grandpa gets his java, Mom gets her cappuccino, and Bonnie gets her latte. What we weren’t supposed to be, is the sight of the biggest mystery to ever hit Eddington. That happened last Tuesday, the gun in my face happened tonight.

My name is Tom Bendix, and I run Stefaniak’s, it’s named after my maternal Grandfather. The name, as well as Grandpa, came from Czechoslovakia. He was a young immigrant with a love for hard work, and strong coffee. I inherited both, and when I got tired of running the company I started, I decided to slow down.

Actually my wife and my doctor decided I had to, my bp was sky high, my energy was gone, and my health was in trouble. So I left the two million dollar company to my successor, and opened Stefaniak’s. Since some have trouble pronouncing it, they call it Stef’s for short.

Which is fine, that’s my sister’s name, and she is Grandpa’s favorite granddaughter. You’ll meet them both later, right now, I think the gun takes precedence. It’s a glock, about two years old.

I know because it’s my gun, the one holding it took it from my office in the back. I’d describe the one holding it if I could see. The hot coffee they through in my eyes sort of prevent that.

Right now, I’m more interested in staying alive. That’s why I’m on the floor of the storage room with the lights out. They threw the coffee, I lunged for the lights, and now I’m trying to hide and struggling to see. Thankfully I know this room like the back of my hand.

I’m counting on the fact she or he doesn’t, and taking these mental notes to keep my sanity. I’m trying to focus on something besides the pain in my eyes. The gun holder hasn’t found me yet, hopefully my signal button on my watch works, and the police are on the way. While I’m listening for movement and or sirens, let me tell you how all this got started.

Read next week’s installment of our new serial Eddington to see how Tom Bendix got in such hot, well, coffee. I couldn’t resist!