In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the worst such event in more than a century, a prominent political leader recently told her constituents, If you want to wear a mask, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t be shamed into it. That is your right.
Really? In the middle of the pandemic, does this not seem illogical? The best scientific evidence indicates pretty clearly that, by wearing a mask while around other people, we can severely limit the transmission of the virus—thereby protecting those around us, our family, friends, and fellow-citizens.
For comparison’s sake, I’ve modified the woman’s statement to apply to other situations, to see if they would make sense—to see if they might impinge on another person’s rights. You be the judge.
If you want to stop your car at a red light, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you don’t want to stop, don’t be shamed into it. That is your right.
Can you imagine the potential carnage?
If you want to wear seatbelts while driving, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you don’t want to wear them, don’t be shamed into it. That is your right.
Can you imagine the increase in personal injury?
If you want to drive while sober, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you want to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, don’t be ashamed about it. That is your right.
Can you imagine the inevitable devastation?
If you don’t want to smoke in a public setting, that’s fine. You are free not to do so. If you do want to smoke there, don’t be shamed by it. That is your right.
Can you imagine the outcry?
If you want to use the store’s escalator to go up one floor, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you want to push your way back down on the up-escalator, don’t be ashamed to do it. That is your right.
Can you imagine the confusion and anger?
Of course, there are all manner of situations where an individual person’s choice to do something, or not do it, will engender no meaningful effect on others. For example, If you want to wear winter boots after a heavy snowfall, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you don’t want to wear boots, don’t be shamed into it. That is your right.
Another example: If you want to study for your final exams, go ahead. You are free to do so. If you don’t want to study, don’t be shamed into it. That is your right.
And a third: If you don’t want to wear a paisley tie with a striped shirt, plaid jacket, and check slacks, just don’t. You are free not to do so. But if you do want to, don’t be ashamed about it. That is your right.
None of these three personal decisions is likely to have a profound effect on someone else’s autonomy, unlike the first statement and its five adaptations. And that, of course, is the whole point.
A familiar maxim, first promulgated by an obscure legal philosopher, Zechariah Chafee, Jr., holds that a person’s right to swing his arms freely ends where the other person’s nose begins. In other words, your personal rights are not allowed to impinge on mine.
John Stuart Mill, in his famous work, On Liberty, postulated: The maxims are, first, that the individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself. Advice, instruction, persuasion, and avoidance by other people if thought necessary by them for their own good, are the only measures by which society can justifiably express its dislike or disapprobation of his conduct.
Secondly, that for such actions as are prejudicial to the interests of others, the individual is accountable, and may be subjected either to social or to legal punishment, if society is of opinion that the one or the other is requisite for its protection.
I have long been of the opinion that Mill’s work provides us with a near-perfect definition of the boundary between our individual rights and our societal obligations. And when I apply that definition to the exhortations of public health officials during the pandemic that we all wear a mask when out and about in the company of others, I find their pleas to be eminently logical.
It seems to me, therefore, that if government determines the actions of some people are, in Mills’s words, prejudicial to the interests of others—in this case, the general health and welfare of the citizenry—the wearing of masks in public places should be mandated by government officials. I further believe that scofflaws who flout the requirement should, also in Mills’s words, be subjected…to legal punishment.
The same controversy will arise, I’m sure, when vaccines against COVID-19 become available to the general populace. Some of us will line up eagerly to get it; others will dig in their heels, perhaps proclaiming, If I don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s my right. I am free not to do so.
To them, I would say, If you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s fine. That is your right. But if you want to present yourself in community settings where people congregate—such as malls, schools, churches, or city parks—don’t be surprised when you are denied access. That is our right.
Like any chain, our society is only as strong as its weakest link.
The sudden death and subsequent resurrection of RileyMoynes—-more a serendipitous circumstance than a major miracle—-unfolded an hour before dusk under a cloudless sky on an empty stretch of northern Ontario highway.
So begins the seventh novel in my Maggie Keiller/Derek Sloan crime-thriller series, a story that will capture and hold your attention from beginning to end. The book is intended for a mature audience, and is available online now from my author spotlight page—http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/precept
If you haven’t had a chance to read the free previews I sent out of the first two chapters—or watched my video-reading of them—they may be found at these safe links—
I hope you will check out the previews, and I hope you will visit my author spotlight page as you consider purchasing the book. In addition, please share this note with anyone you think might be interested. I know I’m biased, but The Resurrectionists is a heck of a good story!
Here is a preview of the second chapter of my new book, The Resurrectionists, which is slated to appear by the end of this month. The book is intended for a mature audience.
If you would prefer to hear me reading the chapter aloud, a video preview may be found by scrolling to the bottom.
final week of april, saturday afternoon
Sincerity oozed from every pore, as obvious as the sheen ofsweat on her forehead, although not nearly as genuine.
“I keep tellin’ you,” she said. “I don’t know ‘bout the money, I don’t know ‘bout the drugs. The guns, yeah, I knew Beau had guns. Far’s I know, he bought ‘em legally.”
Dani Austin was practiced at shaping the truth to fit any situation, but the detectives facing her in the squalid interview room were accomplished at recognizing lies. The big guy was Barnett, early-fifties, tie loosened, ogling her obviously and unapologetically. The woman was Lavery, a wiry brunette, mid-thirties, eyes narrowed as she appraised Austin. Neither seemed impressed with her story.
“You know a wife can’t be forced to testify against her husband, right?” Lavery said. “Whatever you tell us here can’t be used in court, and Beaumanoir never has to know.” She was leaning back, one arm tossed carelessly over the back of her chair, acting cool. Austin could see a holstered gun nestled against the side of the woman’s breast.
“Me an’ Beau aren’t married,” Austin said.
“He says you are,” Barnett said. “Says you been together two years now.”
“Together, yeah,” Austin said, “but not married. I been stayin’ with him, havin’ a good time, waitin’ ‘til somethin’ better comes along.”
“An’ now it has, right?” Lavery said. “You and this guy, Dylan O’Toole?”
“Tool-man?” Austin said. “What about him?”
“Beaumanoir says you and O’Toole been doing the dirty behind his back,” Barnett said. “Says he found out a few days ago. Says the money and drugs we found in the house must belong to O’Toole. Or you.”
Austin forced a laugh. “Are you kiddin’? If Beau thought Tool-man was screwin’ me, the guy would be dead. Same as you would, Detective, if Beau saw how you been lookin’ me up an’ down for the past hour.”
Might as well let him know I know.
“Don’t flatter yourself, Ms. Austin,” the detective said, shifting in his chair, miffed at being confronted. “I wouldn’t fuck you with someone else’s dick.”
“Yeah, you would,” Austin shot back. “You an’ your dyke partner, both. But I don’t swing her way.”
The detectives couldn’t resist a sidelong glance at each other, each knowing the truth of the jibe, but neither willing to acknowledge it in front of Austin.
Leaning forward, not so cool now, Lavery said, “O’Toole lives with you and Beaumanoir, right?”
“Wrong, Detective,” Austin said, sure she’d hit the mark about the woman’s sexual preference. “Me an’ Beau live together, just a regular twosome. Tool-man lives downstairs, rents the basement apartment.”
“That’d be the same basement where we found the drugs and money?” Lavery said. “And the guns?”
With a shrug, Austin said, “The guns, yeah. In a cupboard in the furnace-room. Drugs an’ money? Beats me. Beau musta had somethin’ goin’ on the side.”
“He says it was O’Toole’s stash,” Barnett said. “Swears you and O’Toole were screwing each other, and both of you were screwing him by dealing drugs without him knowing.”
“Yeah, well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Austin said. Placing
both hands flat on the table, she said, “Think about it! It’s Beau’s house, not mine. It’s him who belongs to a biker-gang, not me. You really think me an’ some numb-nuts renter are dealers? Puh-leeze!”
“Okay, you’re trying to convince us you weren’t boinking O’Toole, right?” Lavery said, leaning back, trying for cool again. “And even though both of you lived in the house, neither of you knew anything about what was going down. That the story you’re trying to sell us?”
“I’m not sellin’ you anything, Detective,” Austin said, imparting a double-meaning to her words. “I’m givin’ it to you for free.”
When Lavery’s eyebrows lifted querulously, Austin added, “The truth, that is. Nothin’ else!”
Barnett cut through the sexual undertone. “So why should we believe you over Beaumanoir?”
“Up to you, I guess,” Austin said, eyes still on Lavery. “I’m a law-abidin’ girl.” Her gaze switched back to Barnett. “Ask Tool-man if Beau’s tellin’ the truth.”
“We would if we could find him,” Barnett said. “Nobody’s seen the guy in almost a week. We figure he took a powder after Beaumanoir discovered you and him fucking each other. But I’m thinking you already know that.” He leaned in, daring her to contradict him.
Austin did know that. Beaumanoir had surprised them in O’Toole’s bed by coming home early last Tuesday, and a brief fight had ensued. O’Toole got the better of it, and when Beaumanoir had retreated, shouting threats, vowing retribution, Austin had convinced her lover to take off. He’d been reluctant to leave her alone, but had finally agreed when she swore she’d join him as soon as it was safe. He’d promised to call her when he got settled somewhere.
She’d fled to a friend’s place to escape Beaumanoir’s wrath, staying a couple of nights with Debbie and her dogs. When she went back, it was only to pack a few essentials, but Beaumanoir had been waiting, disconsolate, and pleaded with her not to leave. Despite her unfaithfulness, he really was smitten.
She’d agreed, reluctantly, to stay, not knowing yet where O’Toole might have landed, and the next three days had passed mostly uneventfully—although Beaumanoir, prone to mood-swings, had hit her a couple of times when anger and frustration got the best of him. To protect herself, she’d protested that O’Toole had forced himself on her, but Beaumanoir wasn’t buying it.
The prospect of further physical violence bothered her, knowing his volatile nature firsthand. But it had bothered her more that O’Toole was gone, and she waited anxiously to hear from him.
At dawn this morning, she and Beaumanoir had been awakened by the unexpected police raid and taken in separate vehicles to the downtown detachment. Shortly before noon, Austin had been offered doughnuts and lukewarm coffee before being brought to the interview room. She hadn’t seen Beaumanoir since the raid.
“Look, I got no idea where Tool-man is,” Austin said, responding to Barnett’s assertion. “Me an’ him were not gettin’ it on, period, end of story. Beau’s makin’ all this shit up ‘cause he knows you got him cold. I never saw the money, I never saw any drugs. He knows I’ll tell you the truth, so he’s spinnin’ you like a kid’s toy to save his own skin. You think he cares about me? Look what he did to me.”
Both detectives had noticed the bruising and cuts. They marred a pretty face, framed by curly black hair, cut short in a page-boy. Her eyes were mesmerizing—almond-shaped, with clear, brown irises—although one was blackened. Even clad in a track-suit, her figure was unmistakable. She reminded Lavery of Betty Boop.
“I got bruises all over me,” Austin continued. “You’re gonna hafta take my word for that, though.” She glanced again at Lavery.
“Yeah, my heart bleeds for you,” Lavery said, wishing a strip-search could be authorized.
“What-ever,” Austin said. “So listen, I got places to be an’ people to see. You gonna charge me or let me go? If you’re chargin’ me, I want a lawyer.”
The detectives checked wordlessly with each other, and Barnett said, “We’re releasing you for now, but don’t leave Thunder Bay. We’ll probably need to talk again, once we have a few more chats with Beaumanoir. Could be you’ll be charged with living off the avails of crime.”
“I don’t live off Beau,” Austin said. “Got my own job. I’m a PSW over at the seniors’ centre. My money’s my own!”
“Yeah, and you’re still a virgin,” Barnett scoffed. “I get it.”
Switching gears, Austin asked, “Beau gonna make bail?”
Both detectives shrugged.
“He gets out, he’s gonna come lookin’ for me,” Austin said.
“Like I said before,” Lavery smirked, “my heart bleeds for you.”
* * * * * * *
Austin never went back to Beaumanoir’s house. After her release, she took a cab to a nondescript strip-mall in the east end. In a garbage-littered laneway behind the stores was a row of garages, one of which was locked. With a glance up and down the lane, Austin unlocked it, flicked the light-switch, and rolled the door down behind her.
Two motorcycles sat in the middle of the floor, covered by tarps, assorted socket wrenches lying beside them. An array of junk littered the rest of the space, but Austin paid it no attention. Kneeling in front of a large, cluttered workbench at the rear, she pulled a couple of cardboard boxes from underneath. A third box, smaller than the others, was at the rear. From this box, she removed a manila envelope, heavy in her hands, and dumped its contents on the floor—a dozen bundles of currency, each held together by large elastic bands.
Oh yeah! I knew this would come in handy.
Counting it quickly, ensuring the total was the same as she remembered, eighteen thousand dollars, she stuffed eleven of the bundles back in the envelope, then shoved it into her small backpack. The remaining bundle went into her pocket.
She then took a smaller envelope from the box. Inside was her passport, a copy of her birth certificate, and a provincial certificate entitling her to work as a PSW, a personal support worker. The most important thing right now, though, was an expired Secure Certificate of Indian Status in her mother’s name, identifying her as a member of the Odishkwaagamii band, a First Nations community near Port Huntington. That certificate was her ticket to disappearing so Beaumanoir could never find her.
Christened Daniis Tabobundin, she’d been born on the reserve twenty-eight years ago to Marjorie Tabobundin and the charming Irishman who’d fathered her, Sean Austin. They’d married a few months later, changed their surname to his, and left the reserve for Thunder Bay. But the new husband and father was gone before two years were out. Too ashamed to go back to Odishkwaagamii, her mother had stayed on in the Lakehead, working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
After completing high school, Austin had worked a minimum-wage job in order to help. When her mother died, she’d enrolled in a part-time course at Confederation College to obtain her diploma as a PSW. With her certificate, a job soon followed at a seniors’ centre that had seen better days, providing a boost to her income. But nowhere near the level she wanted. Hence, her relationship with Beaumanoir.
Today was a day she had planned for, knowing Beaumanoir’s luck would eventually run out. The leader of the Midwich Bloods, he’d been peddling fentanyl and cocaine since before she met him, and had been happy to lavish money and good times on her.
‘Til I met Tool-man. That was the end of me an’ Beau.
Over several months, she had squirrelled away money she skimmed from the large sums of used bills he’d bring home in his saddlebags, proceeds from his illegal dealings. After they’d been lovers for awhile, he’d trusted her to do the counts for him, never imagining she’d try shorting him. She made regular deposits to his account, even purchased GIC’s in his name, and never took too much at any one time. Beaumanoir had no idea.
Not too swift.. Mean, though. He’ll come lookin’ for me.
Her time with Beaumanoir, enjoying no shortage of money, was the first time she’d been able to live anywhere close to the manner she had long desired. But she considered him a bottom-feeder, and herself better than that.
Before leaving the garage, she took a long look around—wondering if there was something else she could use, ensuring there’d be no trace of her left behind. On impulse, she opened one of the drawers in the tall, portable tool-stand belonging to Beaumanoir. As she’d expected, three handguns were inside, each wrapped in a hand-towel.
One of them, a small S&W Bodyguard .38 Special, was perfect for what she wanted, and she’d actually fired it before, at the gun-range with Beaumanoir. It, too, went into the backpack, still in the towel, along with a box of shells.
After relocking the door, the key found its way into a sewer grate. And after a few seconds’ deliberation, so, too, did her phone.
Can’t risk Beau trackin’ me, usin’ the phone. If the cops find this place, tough luck for him. If they don’t, their bad. Either way, I got no link to it now.
A second cab took her to the city’s main bus terminal, where she bought an overnight ticket to Toronto. With a few hours before departure, she visited a couple of clothing stores, paid in cash, packed her purchases and envelope of money into a larger backpack she bought, and had a light supper in the terminal diner.
By midnight, she was sleeping soundly on the half-empty bus, but with no intention of riding all the way to Toronto. With Thunder Bay in the rearview mirror, Beaumanoir was already a fading memory, and Dani Austin was about to die, to vanish completely. With the resurrection of Daniis Tabobundin, she would return as a prodigal daughter to her birthplace at Odishkwaagamii.
It didn’t occur to her until later that, having ditched her phone, there was no way now for O’Toole to contact her.