Fate’s Tumbling Die excerpt: Sitting on a Timeline

This is the opening scene of the novel Fate’s Tumbling Die.  It is not for sale on any websites.  It is the story of a man who discovers a wonderful theory.  He is a scientific researcher who discovers a theory from another researcher that was never fully explored.  His method through which he plans on revealing this theory to the world may be unusual, but he reaches a point where he can think of no other way of publicizing this theory to the world.

Words: 3,976

Rated: G.  No person, whatever age, should be offended by the subject matter or the words used in this story.  If I am incorrect, please let me know.

Fate’s Tumbling Die

It is the future.

What do we see when we peer into the future?  What is it that enters the mind’s eye?  Is the future going to incorporate flying cars, or some form of innovation that we cannot fathom at this point on the timeline?  Does the future exist light years from now, or is it next year, next month, or even tomorrow?

Whatever point in the timeline is in the eye of the beholder, it is calamitous.  There are millions of dollars available in capitalistic governments awaiting those that portray our future as one of ruin and despair.  The very notion of calamity, and total destruction of everything we know, excites the imagination of those that want to feel important in some way.

The very idea of the future is humbling in the sense that we know we won’t live to see it. It’s also humbling to think that the future will be so vastly different that we’ll be lost in it, until we are forgotten.

Will the future be dramatically different, or will it remain predominately the same? At a base level, we must ask ourselves how much life will change in the future by how much it has changed in the past. Where were you ten, twenty, thirty years ago and how much of the ordinary aspects of your life have changed? The first instinct of many is to say that our life, and our world, has changed dramatically. If we were to thoroughly examine our existence, and take away our need to be portrayed as exciting and ever evolving creatures, I think we would find that we really haven’t changed as much as we may have hoped. We may have a plethora of electronics now. We have advanced toys and many other advances in our lives that those who lived a hundred years ago could’ve imagined, but I would guess that the minutiae and patterns that occur through the course of a day for a human being have remained essentially the same. Ultimately, we define ourselves in the present by what we hope to see in the future.

Every once in a while, however, a person, place, or thing changes the course of history. I’m sure every person can think of at least two changes that have affected their world, both large and small, in some dramatic way. The death of a loved one, for example, can change our small world dramatically. Natural calamities, political and social upheavals, and wars can change the world at large a great deal. Those are the large changes, and the changes that immediately leap to the mind of individuals that think in terms of events that could transform the course of world history. Some of the times, however, there are relatively insignificant events that can change the course of history.  Some of the times, our collective worries and fears clash in such a way that a small vacuous hole is created for a quiet genius to step into and transform our world.


A small sedan traveled down a gravel road, in the future.  Normally, in a Northeastern town such as this one, the moisture in the earth eats up much of the sound that occurs between the gravel and the wheels of a car. On this abnormally dry day, however, the car sounded like the rolling tracks of an armored tank. This simple, unmarked automobile rolled down a gravel road trailed by six marked police cars filled with men in blue.

The sedan was a moderate, department-issued vehicle. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t old. It wasn’t beautiful. It wasn’t run down or ugly. Department issued often meant just that, everything in between. The powers that be didn’t want their officers to stand out in public, but they wanted to provide their men reliable enough transportation to prevent them from being stranded in a place such as this, the nowhere, Northeast.

The worst thing about department-issued, if one were to ask Lieutenant Kevin McMahon, was the leg room. None of them, it seemed to him, were properly equipped to handle a man over 5’10”. Kevin McMahon was 6’5”. On any trip, of any length, McMahon could be heard cussing and fidgeting and fussing about. On any other trip, McMahon would often request that Lieutenant Michael Murray stop for breaks, for a pop, for a bathroom break, and for anything and everything he could dream up to allow him out of the claustrophobic car so he could stretch his legs out a bit.

“Why is it they always live out in the boonies?” McMahon asked pumping his head forward with the last three words to physically expound on his words. He said this after directing Murray to take a right off of one gravel road and onto another. It was a lengthy ride, and McMahon knew that the time sensitivity of the trip would prohibit any of his usual requests for a pit stop.

“You’re one of the only human beings left,” said Murray. “That has yet to adapt to the automobile as a method of travel and transport.”

The comment was effective in that it silenced McMahon if momentarily.  He didn’t know how long he had been in the car, but it had been long enough that he could not abide by Michael Murray’s calls for silence for long.  Other that the time constraints, Kevin McMahon knew that a pit stop for a bottled water, or a bag of French Burnt Peanuts was untenable.  They had six cop cars behind them.

“These car makers,” he complained, “and the way they built these things, I’m talking both Flint and Japan, they cut costs on construction so that it’s almost unbearable for anyone of any height.”

“For cripes sake Missy May, you are a five-year-old,” said Murray. He was gnawing on a toothpick and chewing gum at the same time. It was day three of his seventh attempt to quit smoking.

“I can’t help it, these fricking cars are built for women and small children.”

Kevin McMahon was a frustrated man.  Nothing in his life had gone according to plan.  He was not a miserable man.  He knew how to have fun, and he enjoyed some elements of his life, but there was a sense that he was trapped somewhere between misery and happiness. These subtle feelings of ever-present frustration arose on such long trips when he couldn’t get his caffeine fix, and his need for constant stimulation.  These frustrations manifested in form of complaints, and his inadvertent crinkling of the map on his thigh.

“Careful, for cripes sakes,” Murray said before McMahon could do irreparable damage to the map. “We’ll never find this place if you ruin the map.” He looked from the map to McMahon. “Do we need to find something to occupy you?  Like I do Alan, on long trips?” Murray added, referring to his five-year-old child.

McMahon flattened out the map he hadn’t realized he had been crumpling.  He smoothed out the wrinkles to make it readable again, and he looked over to the search warrant he had on his other thigh, thankful that he hadn’t inadvertently crumpled that.  He put it in the glove compartment just to make sure that wouldn’t happen in the future.

The search warrant had been given to them by Judge Kevin O’Neill, and part of McMahon’s relief was in that he hadn’t ruined something he and Murray had worked so hard to attain. He didn’t want to have to go through all of that again.

Judge Kevin O’Neill had been a longtime friend and associate of theirs. They were so close, in fact, that O’Neill allowed them to call him by his nickname “old Kipper”. He used to be simply Kipper, but the younger folk called him old Kipper for the obvious reason that O’Neill was older than most of them now.

Old Kipper gained a reputation, through the years, for being a cop friendly judge. He was a stickler for law enforcement and many were the times when old Kipper ruled in favor of law enforcement in some of the more controversial cases. He didn’t care about the reputation this gained him in the local, liberal media. He stated that he worked close enough with law enforcement to study them, but he kept himself distant enough from them to judge their character judiciously.

Even under old Kipper’s intense microscope, Murray and McMahon had always fared well. For this reason, McMahon and Murray were both caught off guard when O’Neill decided to reject their request for a full search warrant of the Mastich property.

The two of them had presented old Kipper with full confessions of the perpetrator’s two accomplices. They outlined why they needed to search the perpetrator’s place of residence. They even provided old Kipper with a laundry list of what they expected to find in the household of the perpetrator. This laundry list caused all of them to laugh and joke about the matter in a friendly manner. It was in the midst of this laughter that old Kipper provided them their surprise.

“It’s not specific enough boys,” he said. His laughter remained, trailing after the smoke he issued from his domestic cigar. “Not enough to invade a man’s home.”

McMahon and Murray were taken aback. Their laughter stopped almost immediately, and their smiles slowly dissipated when they realized old Kipper was, in fact, serious.

Old Kipper valued their friendship a great deal, and he appeared to recognize the taint he was placing on their friendship with his judgment. They could see him look down at their hands, as their hands went limp and dropped to their laps. His laughter eventually faded as he measured their faces. Then his smile dissipated. He set his cigar down, folded his hands before him and said:

“Sorry boys, you do your jobs, and I’ll do mine.”

“You have full confessions before you, a laundry list, direct implications based on affidavits and sworn statements, but you’re not going to do approve this?” McMahon said.  He was unable to conceal his frustration with this man they called a friend.

“I like both of you boys, and I think you’re fine agents of the law, but your asking me to allow you to violate a man’s Constitutional rights. The fourth amendment to be precise. Search and seizure laws dictate that you go above and beyond the call of duty, in matters such as these, because I know I do.”

“Bastard,” McMahon said the minute the door to the judge’s chambers were closed behind them.

“I actually appreciate what he’s doing,” said Matthew Murray. “He’s tough, but he’s reasonably tough.”

“He’s just being a bastard,” McMahon replied. “What does he think we’re up to? We have as much on this case as we had in the Donaldson case and the Baerde case. He gave us search warrants on those? What’s the difference here?”

“They were arrested,” Murray said.  “We had Donaldson dead to rights, and Baerde was almost open and shut.”

It took them three more trips to Old Kipper’s chambers to get the judge to concede and provide McMahon and Murray the warrant they needed to search the Mastich home. Throughout the trips, Murray’s respect grew as mightily as McMahon’s frustrations.

“With as much as we’ve been through these past few months,” said McMahon as they traveled through the dry, gravel roads that were probably pockmarking their department-issued.  “If this guy gives us any trouble, I’m liable to plug him a couple times on principle alone.”

“Easy my friend,” Murray returned with a snicker. “By all accounts, Mastich is a non-violent, white collar type.”

“He robbed four banks, Michael, for God’s sakes.”

“Without a single act of violence … no guns pulled … didn’t even wear masks,” Murray continued. “You’ve said it yourself … he didn’t need the money. I think we’re going to find out that this Mastich guy was on some kind of thrill seeking mission.” Murray was silent a moment, paused in search. “It’s the only thing the makes any sense.”

“He did have something of a boring life,” McMahon conceded.

“He was a workaholic. Middle aged. No wife. No kids. The profile speaks for itself.”

“Take a left here,” McMahon said lifting his thumb from that turn on the map to the next one.

“Out in the middle of the boonies here,” Murray furthered. “He probably went frigging nuts with the seclusion.”

“Why is it that we treat the white collar criminals differently than the … the regular fellas, the blue collar types?” McMahon asked after a lengthy spell of silence in the drive.

“Because the regular fellas usually have the guns.”

“Left right here too,” McMahon said lifting the thumb to place it on the next turn.

“Left right here?”

“Left! Whatever … jerk!” McMahon said with a flirtation of laughter.

“I know what you’re saying though,” Murray said.  “It is unfair, but I think we can both agree that blue collar types, like us, often have left to lose.  How many white collar offenders are violent?”

“Ok, here,” McMahon said discarding the map and pocketing the search warrant . “Here we go.”  He pulled the megaphone from the backseat and began signaling the marked cars behind him of the location. They both exited the car, and they both immediately began ordering the officers to flank out the house with trained gesticulations.

Reading the profile of this Robert Mastich, neither McMahon or Murray believed that such backup would be necessary. It was standard operating procedure however, and there was a reason for this: The unpredictability factor.  They may have been as subject to hype as anyone else, but when a perpetrator lives out in the boonies, the first thought goes to individuals holed up in shacks with guns and ammunition lining their walls, awaiting the day when law enforcement types attempt to take away their independence.

In their forty years of combined law enforcement, Murray and McMahon had both experienced otherwise tranquil locations go completely the other way to question the ideas behind the standard operating procedures.  The other motive for backup was that if a worst case scenario arose, and they needed backup, it would be hours away.

The Mastich estate was landlocked between four different farm fields.  Contained within the Mastich estate, as the satellite photos suggested, was a spruce farm located in the southernmost portion of the north facing house, and there was an enormous barn flanking the west portion of the house. McMahon and Murray stood to the left of this barn, behind the opened doors of their car. They were stationed at a Southwestern point that gave them full view of the living room of the house with the angle coverage of a corner.

“There it is,” Murray whispered quickly. He pumped an eyebrow up to the barn. McMahon followed his line of sight, then quickly looked out to the various points around the house.

In sequential order, he received the thumbs up from the various officers flanking their portion of the house. The reason for the silent acknowledgments was upon the direction of McMahon. The profile said the man was an electronics genius, and McMahon believed that they needed radio silence for this reason. As soon as he received the final, silent acknowledgment, McMahon pulled the megaphone to his lips.

“Robert Mastich, we have your house surrounded. You’re to come out of your house with your hands up!”

Movement immediately occurred within the confines of the house.  McMahon had supposed that they wouldn’t be able to sneak up on Mastich, with the wheels of their tires crunching on the gravel, but the immediate movement suggested that they may have caught Mastich napping. Either that, or Mastich had spent the last few months jumping at so many shadows that he had stopped opening the drapes at every car that passed. Whatever the case was, McMahon believed that the rapid movement they saw in the shadows on the curtains suggested that they caught Mastich off guard.

At one point, the man opened a small hole in the curtains.  The child-like belief that he could not be seen while viewing them may have been cute in ordinary circumstances, but McMahon had already been through enough of these occasions to expect the unexpected. He lowered himself a little more behind the door to take away whatever vulnerability he may have had a second ago.

The impulsive, and perhaps comical response would’ve been to say, ‘we see you Mr. Mastich … ’  After witnessing several different types of negotiators work their way through similar situations, McMahon knew this was a vulnerable moment for the man, and that he had to allow this man to work through his vulnerabilities in his own way, and on his own time.

“Robert Mastich, we have your house surrounded,” McMahon repeated, as if he couldn’t see Mastich.  “You’re to come out of your house with your hands up!

“Proceed to the door slowly Robert Mastich,” McMahon directed.

The inner door opened seconds later, and the man stood behind the screen door with his hands up.

“Slowly, with your left hand, open the screen door, Robert Mastich.”

Upon this direction, the man began opening the door.  This man, the man that had caused so much commotion in the area, stood about 5’6” at most, judging from his height on the door.

“Hands!” McMahon bellowed through the megaphone. “Keep your hands visible Robert Mastich.”

“It sticks sir!” Robert Mastich called out.  “You are going to have to have some patience here!”

When he finally managed to open the screen door, and step out onto the patio beyond it, the man that had caused so much commotion in the area appeared thin, almost to the point of frailty.  He appeared a little shaken by the spectacle before him when he first stepped out. He looked out at all the police cars. He looked out into the farm fields. His eyes were larger when he looked back at McMahon awaiting further instruction.

“Now turn around and face away from us and walk backwards towards me!” McMahon instructed.

“I will not step down the steps backward,” Mastich said allowing his screen door to close. He did, however, step slowly with his arms raised high. The minute he made the stairs however, he turned around and walked backwards to McMahon.

“Stop! Down to your knees!” McMahon instructed. He then continued his instructions, until the perp was on the ground, face down with his legs locked behind him. The man followed all of the instructions without event. The man even went so far as to put his hands behind his back without being instructed to do so.

Murray approached him, as trained, with his gun posed before him. The standard operating procedure dictated that Murray place a knee in the back of the man to secure him to the ground, but Murray did not do so. He presumably considered that his two hundred and twenty pound frame may be too much for the man who appeared to be around one hundred forty pounds soaking wet. He simply handcuffed the man.

“You’ve caused all this?” Murray asked with a smile of either appreciation or condescension. Murray sized the man up after guiding him to his feet.

The man shrugged. No smile.

“You’ve caused us all a great deal of stress my good man,” Murray furthered.

“I meant to do nothing of the sort,” the man said briefly meeting Murray’s eyes then McMahon’s. “I have a great deal of respect for men of law enforcement.”

The latter line sickened Kevin McMahon. “You didn’t consider the fact that you may have caused us to be stressed?” McMahon said. His disgust was also directed to his partner for appearing to be appreciative of Mastich’s criminal activity. “You do recognize how many federal and state laws you broke, right?”

“I apologize for my transgressions,” the man said, “I assure you that no one was hurt in the course of any of the incidents, and all of the money is available and accounted for in the house, beside my bed.  I needed it … I needed the publicity for a greater cause.”

“A greater cause?” McMahon continued. He turned and signaled the all clear to the men in blue stationed around the house and came back to the Mastich. “What kind of greater cause would cause you to steal so much money?”

“All in good time my friend, all in good time.”

“Whatever,” McMahon said.

Kevin McMahon was not one for the theatrics.  Theatrics and greater causes were a daily event for the perpetrators he arrested.  Everyone had a reason, a cause, and some kind of plot line that they hoped would generate state and local interest.  No one, in McMahon’s experience, ever molested a kid to get their rocks off, no one ever killed a man just to see another man die, and no one ever robbed a bank for money.  No matter how simple-minded the perps were, they always had complicated motivations that were not apparent on the surface.  They didn’t sell crack to buy a Lamborghini, they did it to pay for their grandmother’ s chemo.  They didn’ t steal cars for money, they were apart of an FBI sting operation that the local, yokel law enforcement officials knew nothing about.

Crime was never about excitement, pleasure, revenge, or whatever simplistic motivations had driven them to do what they did.  It was based on the motivations they dreamed up between committing the crime and being caught, that were so complex.  When they say it’s not about the simple desire for money, McMahon had found that it’s always about the money.  Their lives were never that simple, according to them. They always believed they should be afforded more respect for who they were or what they did. In truth, however, most of them were simple people with selfish motivations for breaking the law.  They had been fed a steady diet of the search for understanding criminal motivations provided to them by the ‘there’s no simple truths’ crowd.  Whether they believed this or wanted to believe it, the criminals used movie themes and plot lines to try and feed into the sympathies and understanding of arresting officers.  The truth, in Kevin McMahon’ s experience was that most of these nine-to-five, forty hour a week people snapped at some point, and they wanted easy money, and some excitement in their lives that they believe would come attached to their criminal activities.

Quick, easy money was the motivation that no one would admit.  They would never admit that their limited skill set would get them nowhere fast.  They had been told for a couple generations that most of the upper 1% got theirs through stealing, cheating and corrupting the system.  Their movies and music told them that, they just wanted to get theirs, but they would never admit that.

“We have a full warrant for a search of the premises here,” McMahon said showing Mastich the document.

“Fair enough,” the man said without reading five words on the document.

McMahon had some trouble concealing his disgust for the little man’s enthusiastic compliance.

“And unless you want us to rip your house a part it’s in your best interests to show us where everything is.”

Mastich did. He led them into the house and into the bedroom.  He cleared his throat, en route to the bedroom.  It was a slight choke.  It lasted but two seconds.  It was a display of emotion that Mastich was choking back.  The brief emotional display suggested that he recognized whatever trouble he was in, and everything he brought down on himself.  It was the first and only display of emotion McMahon and Murray would receive from Mastich.

“I did it for a cause,” the man repeated, as they crossed the living room.  This was said without the confidence he had displayed the first time through.  This was more of an urgent whisper that didn’t ask them for mercy but understanding.  It was based on the same ‘I’m no ordinary criminal’ theme of the first delivery, but McMahon could feel himself crossing the transom into believing this guy a little more the second time through.

The money laid in the middle of the bedroom floor in six different stacks wrapped in cellophane, just as Mastich said it would be.

“I told the boys that I would disperse the money to them in good time,” Mastich informed the officers. “I lied to them, but look at me … do you think I would have the guts to lie to those two,” he said of his fellow conspirators.  McMahon had interviewed those two coconspirators, and he knew more about the reference to ‘those two’ than Murray did.  He knew ‘those two’ were the big old pieces of dung he arrested on a weekly basis.  He knew their types a lot better than Mastich did, and he knew that Mastich had to know he was messing with fire with those two.  Therefore when this small man, that probably lacked the amount of muscle necessary to curl a paperweight, alluded to the stupidity of outfoxing ‘those two’, it said something to McMahon.  “They both agreed to the proposal … probably because they had as little trust for one another as they did for themselves with that much money.

“Truth was,” the man continued, “I never planned on spending a dime of it.”

“Checks out,” said one of the men in blue after ripping off the cellophane of several of the stacks and thumbing through seven or eight random packs to make sure that packs didn’t contain a bill at the top and paper beneath.  “By my rough estimation, it appears as though there’s one point four million here.”

McMahon’s expression changed subtly, as he glanced at Mastich. It appeared as if the money hadn’t even been touched. It appeared as if the man was on the level. The golden rule of law enforcement applied here, however, is believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.

With that in mind, McMahon had to search for motivations. His first thought was fear. Maybe the man was afraid to spend it, or touch it, for fear of further incrimination. He nixed that thought, as they worked their way out of the house, when he considered that the man robbed four banks in a space of nine months. If fear paralyzed him, he would’ve called it quits after one. McMahon also considered the fact that the man left the money in the open, in his bedroom. If fear paralyzed him, the money would’ve been hidden. It probably would’ve been in four different locations before he was done. Yet, he left this money in the open.

At this point, the men in blue were scattered throughout the property. Some were in the house bagging the money. Others were searching other rooms of the home, and some were out at their cars talking and laughing.

Without further direction, or communication of any sort, the man led McMahon and Murray to the barn.

In the barn, they discovered the blueprints of the banks Mastich had robbed. They discovered the plans and time lines for each robbery, but that was all discovered moments later.

The whole reason they were here, and the commotion that nearly wrecked the small city that this farmhouse existed on the outskirts of, was revealed to them after Mastich informed the officers the security code for the door.  They knew what they were looking for when they pulled up to the farmhouse.  They had read the eye-witness testimony collected by local law enforcement officials, and they had heard the same news stories, riddled with eye-witness testimonies, that had been covered by the local news stations, until it went viral.  They also figured, judging by the size of thirty-foot high barn, that the product of everyone’s imagination might come to fruition, but when the doors to this barn were opened and the physical product stood before them, it took their breath away.  The flying saucer, that one eye-witness claimed to be a conceptual construction based on the figurative schemes of thought we developed in the 1950’s for what a flying object from another planet might look like.

If the barn was thirty feet high, the flying saucer that Robert Mastich built was constructed to be just under thirty feet, and it did appear to be as wide as it was tall.  McMahon swallowed the question of whether the barn was built for the flying saucer, or if the flying saucer was built within the constraints of the barn.  That question could be asked later.  At this moment, even the normally undaunted McMahon went slack for a moment when the object that almost broke a small city was revealed to him.

“You’ve been a busy man my friend,” Murray said backing up from the saucer to take in its dynamics.

“Quite an achievement isn’t it?” Mastich returned.

One by one, the men in blue worked their way to the front of the barn. Many of them broke ranks asking the man if it flew, how it flew, and how fast did it go? Did you really build this, one of them asked, or did you find it?”

“I’ll answer that,” Mastich returned. “I built it. Took me two years.”

“Why?” another asked.

“I won’t answer that … yet.”

“Just for robbing banks?” another asked.

“All in good time, my friends, all in good time.”

It was the theatrics that always got to McMahon. The dramatic repetition rubbed him the wrong way.

“All right, all right,” he said. “Let’s not start getting our vaginas in a bunch. He robbed banks for God’s sakes. He took people’s hard earned money, and put the fear in a whole lot more.”

On that note, the men in blue quieted. They quieted, and they kept quiet in the immediate aftermath.  Word had worked its way down from their superiors, as it always does, that there was to be no talk about whatever they found at Mr. Mastich’s home, until some form of resolution could be reached. Whether their motivations were driven by fear or obedience to their superiors, the twelve officers managed to either avoid speaking about this incident, or they managed to keep it to a minimum.  As magnificent as Robert Mastich’s construction proved to be, both inside and out, as they would later discover, Kevin McMahon was a little surprised that all of these people managed to contain the story of Robert Mastich until a resolution could be reached. Once it was, they were all grateful that they had contained it so well.


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