bus poem

Spokane in the middle of the night
The stars
Dim bus light
Brightness all around still burns
Vast, before the ground and back drops of mountains
The flipped suv
Belongings spread on the side of the high way.
Everyone silent and watching by
Grizzly train car stories are over heard, unable to ignore
Then there is the Detroit man
At the Missoula stop
2 hour layover
With a hole in his heart
Heavy his mind must have been the 3 days prior traveling to meet up with me on our same embark to west coast
He calls it home
I can’t call it anything out of name yet
But the hole was wide and deep and it poured out at me
Restless nights trapped with no outlet for grieving he was feeling
Shock and utter disbelief
2 months
I’m just there listening
Guilty, I cannot feel his pain
they wouldn’t want anyone to
And deep in his hole he knew it to
But it was still there, gaping
bus poem

the court marshal

The night was calm. Our camp was comfortable and the stars were out. We could hear the rumble of the motor-cycle for some time after it passed from sight. We made preparations for the return journey at sunrise. Adrian was furious at Grosvenor for taking the steamboat and abandoning the troops. Rightfully so, because the steamboat was the extraction plan. Banking on this, extra horses were not supplied to us. Men who lost their horses had to be left behind. There wasn’t any other choice. We remaining soldiers began the desperate journey to Saint-Louis. It was a long scorching journey, but our provisions held out. In a few days, we arrived back with no further incident.

Upon our return, Adrian Edgard and the Foreign Legion Division were a laughingstock of Saint-Louis. Grosvenor was back much earlier than us. He built public sentiment against Adrian’s command. The people lost all respect for the forces of the empire. It fit the printer’s interests to spin tales to smear the administration. Adrian was painted as an incompetent fool who wasted the lives of fighting men. Our reception from the city was cold, to say the least. People watched us file through the street. Some folks in the back of the crowds threw rotten vegetables at us.

Adrian was a broken man. Orders were given for a military hearing assessing his ability to command. He would just stare at the floor, and dispiritedly shake his head. His world seemed crushed. His experiences were an inescapable nightmare to him. It seemed to vividly consume him and he would speak. “If my Grandfather was in my place, he would have known what to do!” and sank into his chair, dejected. That was the most we could get out of him for a couple days.

He seemed to calm down after that. Back in the office, Adrian confided, “I don’t care what the people think about me. The legacy of my family is what I’m worried about. I have nothing to show for my efforts, nothing to pass on. Curse that Durant! His foresight has bested our forces twice. Curse Grosvenor! He robbed us of our escape! Worst of all is the knowledge that I did everything I could. I simply was not good enough. Nothing more we can do. Durant is long gone by now and the trail is cold. What should I care if they try to remove me from my post? I staked the family honor on getting that motor-cycle!” Besides that, Adrian was quiet until the hearing.

The examination was held in a stately building, downtown. I was taking minutes. Seated in a plush chair surrounding a circular mahogany table, I noted the persons in the room. The majority were Foreign Legion officers reporting directly to Adrian. A few journalists sat down. Adrian’s eyes flashed when Grosvenor settled in an armchair nearby. There were some formalities and testimonies for and against Adrian Edgard. Grosvenor began his testimony, “When I laid eyes on that motor-cycle I knew there was no chance in catching it. Adrian Edgard’s orders were incompetent.”

At this, Adrian sprang from his seat and smashed Grosvenor’s face with his fist. Grosvenor crumpled to the floor, hoarsely calling, “You cannot do that! You are nothing! I am the Imperial Emissary! Foreign Legion troops! What are you doing? Stop standing there and arrest this man!” None of the troops stirred. Adrian stood proud and proclaimed, “Will you listen to the man who abandoned you in the Sahara? Do you believe we can capture this motor-cycle? Follow me and we will find a way to do it!”

Later in the week, there was another intelligence briefing, but this time I was the one with the information. Since Timothy Adams and Ron Gerald were the ones planning to buy the motor-cycle, we searched for clues about the two Americans. The last reported sighting of them was my own. The misgivings about Adrian resurfaced. He would sit in the office, staring unblinkingly at the wall.

the court marshal

a chase in the sahara

Order was not restored until the reserve troops arrived with Grosvenor. In the confusion, Durant had escaped. The Sufi were nowhere to be found. Adrian approached Grosvenor, “We underestimated them!” Grosvenor looked self-satisfied. “So, you admit your incompetence in leadership? I have a plan to reclaim the motor-cycle. I’ll consider telling it to you. That is, if you have been humbled since your little outburst at our first meeting.”

Adrian clenched his fists. “Men died under my command. It is true. And that’s why I will not let their sacrifice be in vain, and we will bring Durant to justice. I admit whatever you want. Now! Tell me about this plan!” Grosvenor smirked. “My agents have tracked Lucien Durant to a small galley heading for the mainland. One of them managed to stow away on board. Upon landing, the agent will fire a flare. A steamboat containing mounted Foreign Legion soldiers will lie in wait, and capture Durant and the motor-cycle there.”

With that, it was full steam ahead, mainland. Waited in tense anticipation on horseback, watching for the flare that would signal the beginning of the operation. Just like clockwork. Flare appeared at the precise time as planned. Our ship put on steam towards the mark. The gangplanks were lowered on shore and the marines disembarked. Durant and his lackeys had entered a gated villa along the coast and sealed the entrance. Adrian approached on horseback the gates and challenged, “Durant, there is no escape. There are no civilians to interfere. You’re surrounded. Give yourself up!” A strange laughter came from behind the gates. Hired guns began firing on the Foreign Legion forces, who returned in kind. A rumbling sound ignited in the background. In the midst of the skirmish, a soldier yelled,

“There it is!”

Durant rocketed out of a side exit of the villa on the motor-cycle. It howled and sputtered like a wild animal. He was a black shade on the gleaming magenta machine that blasted off towards the desert. A vast cloud of sand blasted behind it. The Foreign Legion fired a volley of hot lead that was swallowed up by the sandstorm. The horses trembled in fear. Some fled, dismounting their riders. Adrian immediately commanded, “After him!” Adrian, the troops and I took off in pursuit of Durant.  Grosvenor cowardly returned to the steamboat. Durant led us into the Sahara, holding a steady distance, just out of range. Adrian pushed the abilities of the horses and their riders to the limit. Still, he was unable to close the distance whatsoever. The chase and the day wore on in the hot desolate sunlight.

By sunset, it was clear that the chase was futile. Adrian gave in to the reality of the situation. The horses were exhausted. Even if they could catch Durant, they would perish in the desert on the return journey. Adrian was forced to stop for the night, moody about the ignominious return to Saint-Louis. As we set up camp, I glimpsed Durant riding through the Sahara. Setting sun reflected off his motor-cycle in rare brilliant flashes of pink that made their way through the billows of sand and dust. That cloud slowly disappeared into the dusky horizon.


a chase in the sahara

the bar-room brawl

“How is it even possible to smuggle an ostentatious device like that in without someone taking notice?” Adrian paced about the room.

Grosvenor replied, “He must have landed along the coast. With a motor-cycle like his, crossing the Sahara would be no object.”

“Hmm…” Adrian pondered, “What reason would he come to Saint-Louis?” Grosvenor slicked back his greasy hair. “The only reason is there could be! He intends to sell the motor-cycle and make a clean getaway! Damn that clever bastard.”

            Adrian slammed his hand against the wall. “Durant had an obligation to construct that motor-cycle for the service of the empire. What he has done amounts to treason!”

            “Yes! Treason!” exclaimed Grosvenor. “He must be brought to justice!” I continued taking minutes. This job was about to get a lot more interesting.

            A week passed by until Grosvenor contacted us once again. I sat down with my pad prepared to take minutes for the first intelligence briefing on this case. The Foreign Legion soldiers stood attentively in the dim light. Adrian was on the stand, giving a speech about the necessity of their efforts. Grosvenor took over, and began the briefing in earnest.

            “My agents have informed me of local who have seen a man matching the description of tall black hat – dark glasses – lanky physique – shadowy overcoat. Based on this, it seems Durant is indeed in Saint-Louis coordinating the sale of the motor-cycle.” Adrian’s eyes sparked at the mention of the crime.

“Durant has been seen in nightlife districts of town in and around various establishments. Our next operation will be to infiltrate these clubs and locate him. Once a team of operatives has located Durant, they will fire off a flare which will alert Foreign Legion soldiers in reserve. Normally, such measures would not need be employed for a simple arrest.”

Adrian interrupted. “Durant must be considered armed and dangerous. He has been seen in the company of the Sufi mercenaries. The local people fear and awe the Sufi who are said to wield a strange mystical power. They are unlike regular guards and must be handled by the expertise of the Foreign Legion.”

            After the meeting, life went on as normal. I resumed living the nightlife since there seemed to be no developments about Durant. The only change was in Adrian. He began attending clubs with a Foreign Legion escort, interrogating revelers as he went.   All servicemen were required to carry flares in case of the sighting of Durant or the motor-cycle. Days passed into weeks, still no news. I reentered the calm repose of Saint-Louis life.

            On a balmy evening, I staggered into a swanky bar and ordered myself a drink. I sat teetering on my chair for a little while, taking in the sights and sounds, the pounding drums bouncing dancers about the floor. I leaned my elbows on the sticky bar counter, and felt a hard smack on my shoulder. I immediately knew the man to be an American as he hollered at me in broken Spanish. “Hello! You look good man! You having a great time!?” Another American leaned out from the bar and yelled, “I love it here! Living life to the fullest! Oh yeah!”

            “What’s your name, friend!?” said the first American. Before I could reply, he swelled up his chest and pointed at it with his thumb, “I’m Timothy Adams!” The other American leaned out again, “And I’m Ron Gerald!” Adams sprayed spit as he loudly questioned why I hadn’t said my name yet. I managed to utter, “Jules Verel!” when Gerald cuts me off, “No way! Your name is Gerald too!? We must be long lost cousins!” Adams and Gerald have an enthusiastic toast and finish their drinks. Adams shakes me by the shoulder. “So French Gerald, what brings you to Saint-Louis?!” My ears rang from the volume of his voice. Gerald screamed, “French Gerald! I know I can trust you! Because you and me, we’re family! My associate and I plan to buy a radical motor-cycle said to have the ability to outpace even the fastest horses!”

            Stunned, I reeled in my seat. I glanced aside, and see who else but Adrian entering the bar. He was surrounded by seven Foreign Legion troops. The music stopped playing, the conversation died down, and the people around us began glancing at us, at Adrian, and around the room. Oblivious to this, Adams gave me a hard slack on the back, “Yup, from a strange man in all black! Just decided where the deals going down! He’s French too, is he a buddy of yours?” Gerald answers my follow-up question before I can even verbalize it. “Yeah, he’s still sitting over there in the corner of the nightclub! Go find him, maybe he’ll sell you a motor-cycle too! Wait, there is only one in existence! Too bad!”

In the low light from across the room I made out robed men sitting at the table. A candlelight gleam was reflected from the dark glasses of the slender man seated in the corner seat. Gerald and Adams, laughing and yelling uproariously, stumbled away distracted. My eyes dart to Adrian, who now has someone whispering in his ear and pointing to the corner with the robed men. Adrian turns on his heel and unshoulders his rifle. “Lucien Durant! You are under arrest for treason!”

            The club went dead silent and the Foreign Legion troops pointed the guns at their adversaries. Durant rose up from the corner and adjusted his tall black hat. Adrian responded in one word.


            The bar exploded into action as eight gunshots sounded. A few of the troops paled, realizing only two of the bullets had found their mark. The remaining Sufi seized on this hesitation. They leaped into action, cutting down two unprepared troops. Other Foreign Legion soldiers drew their knives and met their adversaries head on in a desperate struggle. The crowd absolutely panicked. Adrian sprang towards the door, knocking partygoers from his path as he went. I dived under a table as people brawled or fled around me. A flare blasted outside.


the bar-room brawl

chapter one: the debut


I found this memoir at an estate sale in Quebec.

My translation from the original French text attempts to be as true as possible.

Sincerely Yours,

Ted Calhoun

Without further ado


I opened the daily newspaper with excitement. Finally, I thought the mystery would be solved. Then I perceived this headline: EXPLORATORY EXPEDITION RESULTS: INCONCLUSIVE! As I read on in the article, it became clear. They had found scant evidence of the struggle. The true fate of Lucien Durant will never be known. So I commend this tale to my memoirs as the sole living witness to these uncanny events.

A few decades before the war, the Great War, I was stationed in Saint-Louis. I spent some pleasurable years on that sunny island. The beaches were fine and the women beautiful. Conflict between other colonial powers, African kingdoms and Islamic polities did not bother us, besides in reports received from the northern and Ivory Coast territories. Those were the good times. Our duties were light, allowing us ample time to enjoy the invigorating climate, excellent society, and high quality Caribbean rum. We were patriots who gained freedom through an escape into the French Empire. Fascinating conversations on the nocturnal seashore with expats of all stripes. By day, I served as a minute taker for the brass in charge of colonial administration. This memoir is concerned with the events that pertain to that cave in the Sahara.

I was in the office with the Colonial Commander, Adrien Edgard. His hawkish features broke into a grin as he took advantage of weakness in my formation on the chessboard. Recovering from a long night of celebration, I felt somewhat nauseated. A man walked through the door. He wore the uniform of the Ministry of Colonies, the Parisian delegation commanding our activities. His small stature was exaggerated by his guard, two sultry men from the Foreign Legion. I was concerned by the newcomer’s demeanor, which did not portend good news. These thoughts were cut short by the unfurling of the letter as the man began to read:

“Greetings. My name is Wyatt Grosvenor, and I am the emissary for the Ministry of Colonies. I come bearing an assignment involving the Foreign Legion. Our forces require your cooperation as we address this matter.”

“Jules!” Adrien barked at me, “Do your duty, and begin taking notes!” I reached for the pad. “May I continue?” Grosvenor asked.

“You may.” Adrien stated. His expression was clouded and I imagine he shared my misgivings about this assignment.

Grosvenor resumed. “Sirs, you may have heard of the famous gentleman, inventor, and craftsman, Lucien Durant. He was given funds to complete a prototype personal transport device for use by the Foreign Legion. Soon after, he vanished from his workshop in the countryside of La Hexagon. Neither the prototype nor any recompense remained at his abode.”

“Just hold on a moment!” interjected Adrien. “What is the nature of this ‘prototype’?” Grosvenor was visibly irritated at the interruption. The Foreign Legion guards shifted their weight.

“This prototype,” Grosvenor began through his teeth, “Is a motorized velocipede said to have the ability to outpace even the fastest horses. Fitted with a powerful motor and a suspension system designed by Durant, it was designed for use by the Legion across all types of terrain. Thanks to his wide social connections, he was able to create a fantastic construct using most extravagant materials. The motor-cycle has controls made of gemstones, electrical components of rare and precious metal, and it is plated with lustrous rose-gold.”

I was dazzled with the description of this strange contraption. Adrian sat with his arms crossed. He warily asked, “So how does this missing motor-cycle concern the forces of Saint-Louis?” Grosvenor’s lips curled in an atrocious sneer.

“You see, lieutenant, our agents believe that Durant is concealed in this backwater colony. In fact, we have tracked his movements to this very town of Saint-Louis. We can only assume that Durant has the motor-cycle in his possession. Under my command is a division of the Foreign Legion to retrieve it for the Empire. Your assignment is to quarter our troops and provide us with rations and supplies.”

Adrien became increasingly sullen as Grosvenor went on in this way. At this last patronizing sentence of the emissary, Adrien exploded from his seat, and pointed his finger at Grosvenor. The Foreign Legion guards tensed and grasped their knives. Adrien roared,

“Just one moment, sir! Your condescension is unwelcome here, and you insult the honor of my forces. My family has served in the French Army for generations. I intend to live up to that legacy! I assisted in the conquest of Algeria. I know the terrain and the peoples of this region. And I am certain you will need my assistance in carrying out this operation. How dare you call me quartermaster?!”

Adrian stood pointing his finger squarely at Grosvenor. I put my hand on my forehead and shook my head. The Foreign Legion troops exchanged ominous looks, but Grosvenor held up his hand. He grudgingly assented.

“Fine. I am a forgiving and merciful man. You can take command of military operations. I will direct intelligence operations. Together we will track down the motor-cycle and return it to the Empire.”

 “How is it even possible to smuggle a device like that in without someone taking notice?” Adrian paced about the room.

Grosvenor replied, “He must have landed along the coast. With a motor-cycle like his, crossing the Sahara would be no object.”

“Hmm…” Adrian pondered, “What reason would he come to Saint-Louis?”

Grosvenor slicked back his greasy hair. “The only reason there could be! He intends to sell the motor-cycle and make a clean getaway! Damn that clever bastard.”

Adrian slammed his hand against the wall. “Durant had an obligation to construct that motor-cycle for the service of the empire. What he has done amounts to treason!”

“Yes! Treason!” exclaimed Grosvenor. “He must be brought to justice!”

I continued taking minutes. This job was about to get a lot more interesting.



chapter one: the debut