Baron of Buffet
Thomas Calabrese —Dim Sum is a large range of small Chinese dishes that are traditionally enjoyed in restaurants for breakfast and lunch.
First Sergeant Talon Morrison had been in the Marine Corps for 21 years and was currently assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force on Camp Pendleton. During his military career, he served two combat tours in Iraq and three more in Afghanistan. He was a warrior Marine and his skills were impressive and deadly.
Word came down that his unit would be deploying to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation. He was so angry at the turn of events in Kabul that he could chew steel and spit fire, but he was a consummate professional so he swallowed his emotions and went about his assigned duties. The other issue was that a lot of young leathernecks looked to him for leadership and he didn’t want them going off the rails.
Talon had a personal agenda to take care of when he got back to Afghanistan and the less anybody knew about his plan, the better. Abdul-Azim Ahmadi was his interpreter during his last deployment and became his good friend. His nickname was Johnny B. Goode because he loved to listen to Chuck Berry music. Talon knew that he would be in danger now that the Taliban had taken over the country.
Upon their arrival at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, the Marines were immediately assigned to guard the gates. Their orders were clear and not open to interpretation; do not leave the airport under any circumstances. First Sergeant Talon Morrison set the guard rotation; two hours on and eight hours off. The situation was too intense and dangerous to keep his Marines on duty for very long. They needed to maintain hyper-vigilance in this chaotic state of affairs.
Time was running out for those who had helped the Americans and the Taliban would be looking for revenge.
Talon found an armored Humvee parked by a group of Delta Force operatives and told them of his predicament.
Ty Darnell responded with a smile, “We’re wasting time, let’s go get your friend.”
The Marine and the three Delta Force operatives made sure they had enough weapons and ammo, then drove to the west gate. Corporal Len Hayworth questioned the driver, “Where are you going?”
The driver responded, “Disneyland.”
Talon leaned over and ordered the young Corporal, “Open the gate.”
“You told us not to let anyone out,” Corporal Hayworth responded.
“Now I’m telling you something else.” Talon impatiently said. “Open the damn gate.”
Once they were outside the perimeter of the airport, they drove directly to Abdul-Azim Ahmadi’s home. They encountered roving patrols of Taliban fighters and killed them.
Johnny Harrison, Delta Force operative, commented with a sly grin, “If I get killed today, then at least I won’t have to worry about taking meds for PTSD when I get home.”
Talon replied, “Before we designate this a suicide mission, let’s try and accomplish what we came here for.”
By the time, they reached the area where Ahmadi and his family lived, the Taliban were already going house to house and dragging the residents out to the street, where they were beaten and tortured. The Delta Force operatives were equipped with HK MP5 assault rifles. Talon preferred the Remington 870, loaded with #9 hardened 00 buckshot, with a diameter of 8.4 mm. Buckshot is brutally effective at close range against unarmored targets.
There was no way that the Americans should have survived the firefight with the Taliban. They were outnumbered four to one, but somebody must have been looking out for them, because they killed twenty enemy fighters in a hail of bullets and were able to get Ahmadi and his family back to the airport.
Talon escorted his friend to the proper processing table and told him, “This is as much as I can do for you here. When you make it to the states, call me,” then handed a piece of paper to Ahmadi. “Don’t lose this…it’s got my cell phone number on it.”
When the Marines made it back to Camp Pendleton, Talon was notified that he would be facing a court-martial for disobeying a direct order. He told the Judge Advocate General’s lawyer, “Seriously, you really want to go down that road?”
Major Darrin Webster shrugged, “Sorry, it’s not my call. The Pentagon has been receiving a lot pressure from the State Department to file charges against all military personnel who went on rescue missions. The optics were supposed to look like everything was going according to plan. The White House Administration is extremely paranoid.”
“I’m retiring…if you want to come after me…then knock yourself out,” Talon said.
Major Webster said, “I’m sorry about this…you deserve better.”
“A lot a people deserve better, since when does that mean anything in this screwed up politically correct world,” Talon spit out his frustration.
“I’m pretty busy, submit your retirement paperwork, there’s a good chance I won’t get to your case until after you’re long gone. Semper Fi, Marine,” Major Webster said.
“Semper Fi,” Talon replied and walked off.
Talon was at his studio apartment in Oceanside, watching television and letting his mind drift. His cellphone rang and when he looked at it, he recognized the name, “Uncle Greg! This is a hell of a surprise. I haven’t talked to you since Steve’s wedding.”
Greg Gillespie replied, “That’s on me, sorry. I called to wish your dad a happy birthday. He said that you had spoken to him earlier and you’re getting out of the Marines…is that true?”
Talon answered, “Affirmative.”
“Life has a way of moving on,” Greg said.
“Even when we don’t want it to,” Talon sighed.
Greg asked, “Made any plans yet?”
“Hell, I’m still in the transitional phase….I’ve got jokers to the left, clowns to the right and a broken road before me. I’ll need to identify my objective first before I make any decisions.”
“Sounds reasonable, can I give you something to put on the back burner?” Greg asked.
“Yeah, I’ve gotten fairly adept at multi-tasking.”
Greg offered, “Come work with me…notice that I said with and not for.”
“A few different things?”
Talon cautioned his uncle, “I’m not looking for a handout.”
“That’s not what I’m offering. Steve is living in Nashville with his wife. He’s a record producer and has no intention of coming back to California. Julie has been with the Hyatt Hotel chain for fifteen years and is currently working in Dublin, Ireland. I’m divorced and my ex is re-married. So you see, it’s just me. Here’s what I’ve come to believe over the years. When I was younger, I had more time than money, now that I’m older, I have more money than time. I don’t want to be working until the day I die, but I have people that rely on me. I just can’t walk away and leave them hanging. I need someone I can trust.”
“You’re in property management, which I know absolutely nothing about,” Talon answered.
“It’s not rocket science. This job is more about meaning what you say and doing what you mean. You possess unique people and organizational skills, add to that my respect and admiration for your military service. Look I’m not pressuring you…just think about it.”
Two weeks later, Talon called his Uncle Greg, “If that offer is still open, I’ll take a drive up to Alameda. We can have a visit and you can show me what this job entails. I won’t make a commitment until I know what’s expected of me.”
“I would expect no less. Drive careful,” Greg said.
Upon his arrival in the Bay Area, Talon and Greg went for a drive. Greg explained, “You already know that I’m in property management, but I also have some interests in various businesses. I like a diversified portfolio.”
They went to San Leandro where Greg showed Talon two apartment complexes, three strip malls and an office building. Their next stop was Oakland where they visited several commercial sites. One large building was located behind a ten-foot fence and had a security guard at the gate.
Talon asked, “What’s this?”
When the two men entered the building, Talon heard muffled gunshots. He then saw several men in an enclosed section doing target shooting. Greg gave Talon a tour of the facility. It had several shooting areas, urban training area and a simulated firing course.
Talon was impressed, “You own this?”
“I respect the military and law enforcement and the risks and sacrifices they make. This place helps our men and women on the streets hone their skills, which helps keep them alive. With the Defund the Police Movement taking money away from the police, the cities are not inclined to spend funds for something like this. I got a good deal on the building and to retrofit it for target practice wasn’t that expensive. I figure it’s a win-win situation. The police get something they need and in return they keep a close eye on my investments,” Greg said with a sly smile.
“I like it…I’m sure they appreciate it too,” Talon said.
Greg led Talon to a heavily fortified room with a steel vault door. He used a combination to open it. Inside were dozens of weapons and boxes of ammunition, “If you work with me, you’ll have complete access to practice any time you want.”
Their next stop was a parcel of land along the Oakland Estuary. There were nine large construction trailers on the property and dozens of kennels under a large fiberglass canopy. Greg said, “I work with some local animal groups. Homeless vets and volunteers take care of the animals.”
Talon asked, “Who pays for this?”
“Once in a while, I’ll throw in a few dollars when donations are slow.”
“If you’re trying to impress me, you’ve succeeded,” Talon smiled.
“Are you hungry?” Greg asked.
“I could eat.”
Greg drove over the Fruitvale Bridge into Alameda and turned right on Santa Clara Avenue. They parked in front of a small restaurant and went inside Mimi’s Dim Sum Den.
A man in his mid-thirties named Billy Bocelli was sitting at a table by himself. There were a dozen plates of food in front of him. He looked up between bites, “Hey Greg.”
Greg answered, “Hello Billy, how are you today?”
“I’m good, thank you.”
A beautiful woman who was half Chinese and half Italian walked over and flashed a big smile, “Good afternoon, how are you?”
Greg responded, “Good, thanks for asking. Mimi Bronco, I’d like you to meet my nephew, Talon Morrison.”
Mimi extended a heartfelt greeting, “Your uncle has told me about you. He’s very proud of your accomplishments.”
Talon smiled, “After seeing some of the work that he’s involved in, the feeling is mutual.”
While eating Dim Sum, Talon noticed that Billy was still eating voraciously, “That guy sure has got an appetite.”
Greg answered, “Let me give you a little background, Billy or as he is sometimes called, The Baron of Buffet, has Prader Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that results in a constant state of hunger. He also has malabsorption which means he also has trouble absorbing calories and nutrients. He comes from a wealthy family and has a trust fund. This is just one of the eating establishments that he likes to patronize. His others are Ole’s Waffle Shop and Jim’s Café.”
As they were leaving, another man in his early thirties entered. Greg introduced him to Talon, “This is Brad, he’s Mimi’s brother, we call him Kid Broccoli because he runs a produce company.”
Kid Broccoli smiled, “Actually we’re partners in the company. Nice to meet you.”
Talon and Greg went next door to Wally G’s Martial Arts Studio. Greg said, “Wally is a 10th degree grandmaster. I’ve been working out with him for about seven years.”
Later, Greg drove to his large house on the corner of Post Street and San Jose Avenue. He showed Talon the perfectly furnished guest house behind the main structure. Greg asked, “I’m not rushing you, take all the time you want, but have you made a decision?”
Talon honestly replied, “I’ll give you my answer in the morning…fair enough?”
Talon was very sure what his answer was going to be, but it wouldn’t hurt to sleep on it. He received a call at 3:57am and he answered it, “Yeah.”
It was Ahmadi, “I’m at a processing center in Texas with my family. The authorities said that they would expedite my release if I had a sponsor and a job. It is very crowded and unsanitary here.”
Talon was up at sunrise and waiting for his Uncle Greg in the courtyard, when he exited the main house. “Made a decision yet?”
“I’m ready to accept your offer,” Talon said.
Greg exclaimed, “That’s great news!”
“I need to talk you about something.”
“Salary and benefits?” Greg asked.
Talon answered, “That’s the least of my concerns, pay me whatever you think I’m worth. I have a friend who needs a job and a place to live for him and his family. You want me, you got to take him. We’re a package deal.”
“A good friend?”
“He saved my life,” Talon answered.
Greg responded with a smile, “In that case, we’ve got a deal.”
Using his connections in law enforcement, Greg had the Afghan family sent to Oakland and got them a three-bedroom apartment in a building that he owned on Bancroft Avenue in San Leandro. Even though he knew little about Dim Sum cooking, Ahmadi was a quick learner, a tireless worker and before long he was making all types of Chinese dishes at Mimi’s Dim Sum Den.
Talon quickly fit in and often met with the Baron of Buffet and Kid Broccoli at the restaurant. He adopted a Belgian Malinois from the animal rescue that his uncle funded, and named him Duke. Talon had the animal designated as a service animal because of his PTSD issues so that he could take him wherever he went.
Talon liked a structured routine so he’d be up at sunrise, run on the beach or go to the fitness center. He liked to eat lunch at the same time and when the work day was done, he would stop at the shooting range for target practice. He began training with Wally G, then go next door for a light dinner. Talon and Mimi soon became close friends and it was obvious there was chemistry between the two.
Greg was so easy-going that Talon often had to remind his uncle that it was alright to ask him to do things. Greg dismissed the suggestion and responded, “Once you know what I know, you’ll know what to do. I’m in no rush for you to find out.”
Talon laughed, “How did you ever get to be so successful being so cavalier about your business?”
“Because I’m a great judge of character and I know how to delegate authority. I’m sure you operated in a similar way in the Marines,” Greg added, “That’s why I knew we would be a good team.”
One night, Talon and Greg took a ride to the Lake Merritt area in Oakland and parked along the street.
Greg asked, “Are you going to ask what we’re doing?’
“You’ll tell me when you’re ready,” Talon answered.
Greg handed a pistol to his nephew, “An associate of mine has been having trouble with a gang extorting money from him. I thought I would discourage them.”
When a group of thugs approached the store, Greg called to them, “Hey you!” and got out of the car. Talon exited from his side.
One of the thugs replied, “You talking to us?”
Greg walked closer and Talon stayed in the background, “You’ve been bothering my friend. I was going to tell you that you’re making a serious mistake, more like a life-changing error in judgment. I’m telling you to stop.”
The leader laughed, “Is that so? If we don’t…what are you going to do…call the cops? They’re standing down, too afraid to do anything…afraid about being sued or going to jail themselves.”
Greg laughed as well, “No, I wouldn’t do that, I’m just going to kill you.”
The gang was astonished by this man’s bravado and stood there speechless. Greg slightly re-phased his question, “Leave or die.”
Talon was impressed by his uncle’s courage, although his behavior was bordering on reckless. The leader reached for his weapon and Greg shot him in the forehead. Talon took out three more who pulled their weapons. Greg got an additional one more and the last two ran into the darkness.
While returning to Alameda, Greg saw a row of ten Oakland police cars and pulled alongside the front vehicle. He recognized the officer as Sergeant Johnny Ryder, “What’s going on?”
Sergeant Ryder recognized the two occupants, “Hey Greg…Talon. We got a report of a gang shooting. Nowadays we don’t go anywhere without back-up and witnesses. As soon we get three more cars, we’ll go check it out.”
Talon said, “Stay safe.”
“Thanks for your service,” Greg added
As they drove off, Talon commented, “You should have briefed me on the rules of engagement.”
“Sorry…I just wanted to see how you would react…you’re really good,” Greg answered.
Over the next couple of weeks, Talon found out how his uncle had his business interests organized. He had a charitable foundation in which Talon and he were officers and were paid a salary and had expense accounts. From his numerous interests, he pumped all the profits into the charity. If he needed any large sums of money for a major purchase or additional income, he borrowed against his assets. Greg paid the loan off early then repeated the process as often as necessary. This allowed him to avoid paying any taxes and still have income.
Two months later, Greg’s birthday was coming up so Talon contacted Dan Gerry, who owned a catering and event planning company.
“How do you want to do this?” Dan asked
Talon explained, “Keep it simple, barbecue style, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, steaks and the appropriate side dishes. A few different kinds of cake so the guests will have choices. Use your own discretion, I trust you.”
“How many guests?”
Talon answered, “About a hundred but plan for one-fifty, just to be safe.”
The party caught Greg completely by surprise, and even though he did not like being the center of attention, he gradually warmed up to the idea when he saw how much the guests were enjoying themselves.
The rescue dogs eagerly greeted the guests from behind their kennel fences. Mimi commented, “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these dogs got adopted today.”
“That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” Talon smiled.
Sitting at the main table were; Greg, Talon, Mimi, Billy the Baron of Buffet, Wally G, Ahmadi and Kid Broccoli. Duke, the dog was right next to his master.
Many law enforcement personnel drifted in and out to extend their well-wishes and get a plate of food. Music from a Disc Jockey drifted through the air and was everything was going perfectly.
Kid Broccoli noticed that the Baron of Buffet was slowly eating his food instead of gobbling it down right away, “You sick or something?”
Billy responded with a smile, “Greg found a Homeopathic doctor who prescribed a course of treatment for my eating disorder. I can’t explain how good it feels to actually enjoy food instead of using it to fill this black hole in my stomach. Thanks Greg…thank you very very much.”
Greg replied, “My pleasure… you need a new nickname…what do you like better, Bite Size Billy or the Nibbling Ninja?”
All of a sudden, the law enforcement personnel at the party began receiving radio transmissions and started leaving in a hurry. Talon called to Sergeant Dave Madison, “What’s going on?”
“We’ve got a terrorist attack on Coast Guard Island,” Dave responded as he rushed out.
Coast Guard Island is an artificial island in the Oakland Estuary between Oakland and Alameda. It is home to several major United States Coast Guard commands and cutters, including the Coast Guard Pacific Area. It is one of the largest Coast Guard bases on the West Coast. The 67-acre island is situated in the historic Brooklyn Basin, now known as Embarcadero Cove. It is within the Alameda city limits but is only tied to land via a bridge from Dennison Street in Oakland.
Mimi overheard the exchange and responded, “My sister Mei Ling works there.”
Greg, Talon, Mimi and Ahmadi got in the SUV and drove to the base. Hundreds of police and government vehicles were lined up along the street.
A terrorist used a loudspeaker to make an announcement, “We will begin executing the hostages in six hours unless Zabihullah Mujahid is released from custody and brought here.”
Mimi asked, “Who’s that?’
Ahmadi answered, “A leader of the Taliban, he was able to make it to America during the evacuation from Kabul.”
“The FBI got extremely lucky and caught him and several other terrorists before they could blow up San Francisco City Hall.” He’s being held in protective custody at a secret location in the Bay Area.”
Greg injected, “You don’t think that they’re going to release him?”
“There was a time when this country didn’t negotiate with terrorists, nowadays I just don’t know. What I do know from firsthand experience is that this current administration will always be more concerned about politics than saving lives.”
Mimi was emotionally distraught. Talon did his best to console her, but he feared the worst.
He pulled his uncle aside, “I have to do something.”
Greg responded, “I know.”
Talon walked over to Mimi, kissed her and said, “I need you to trust me…don’t ask any questions, then turned to Ahmadi, “Look out for her.”
Ahmadi put his hand over his heart and responded, “With my life.”
Talon and Greg drove to the target range. Talon got two Sig Sauer P220 45 caliber pistols with noise suppressors, ten magazines and a combat knife.
They drove back to the Oakland Estuary, not far from the base. Greg watched his nephew enter the water, “What do you say in times like this?”
Talon petted his dog and replied, “Not much to say. Do me a favor, take care of Duke if I don’t make it back.”
Greg was too choked up to reply as the former Marine swam toward the base. When he reached land on the other side, Talon quickly assessed the situation. He came up behind one terrorist and slit his throat while holding his hand over the man’s mouth to stop any sound. He moved toward the administration building and shot three more men. A group of Coast Guard personnel were being held under guard by four armed terrorists. Talon burst through the door with a pistol in each hand and shot the four men. He cut the restraints off the servicemen, “Where are the civilian hostages being held?”
A young servicemen nervously said, “In the gym.”
Talon ordered, “Hold your position until you hear gunfire…then you’re on your own.”
Talon stealthily made his way to the base gym and fitness center. He climbed up to the second floor and looked through the window and saw dozens of civilian workers sitting on the basketball court. He climbed back down.
A terrorist was standing at the door when Talon grabbed him and stabbed him ten times in rapid succession. He went around to the other door where two men were standing and shot each one in the head. He entered the gym and told the hostages, “We need to leave…now!”
The people got up. Talon handed the terrorists’ weapons to several of the men, “Shoot back at anyone shooting at you. Stay close to the building until you get to the water. I will distract them.”
Talon watched the hostages make their escape. When the time was right, he took the noise suppressor off one of his pistols, walked into the open and fired several rounds. Several terrorists fired at him and he ran in zigzag pattern for cover, bullets nipping at his heels.
The terrorists chased after him. When three came around a corner, Talon popped out from a doorway and shot them. He then sprinted to the estuary and dived for cover near the water’s edge. When Duke saw his master in trouble, he jumped into the water and swam to the other side. He came out like a rocket and attacked a terrorist. This gave Talon enough time to stand up and shoot the man. He yelled to his canine companion, “Let’s go boy!”
They both hit the water at the same time and began swimming. Before the remaining terrorists could open fire, the freed Coast Guard personnel came up from behind and neutralized the threat.
Talon and Duke came out of the water. Greg sighed in relief and hugged his nephew.
Talon responded, “Let’s get the hell outa’ here before I get arrested for trespassing.”
Law enforcement personnel stormed the base when they saw that the hostages had been freed.
Even though Washington leadership did not know who was responsible for the rescue, that didn’t stop politicians and bureaucrats for taking credit for its success.
Several days later, the close group of friends were having dinner together when Greg stood up to make a heartfelt toast, “To the Dukes of Dim Sum, then quipped, not to be confused with the Dukes of Hazzard.”
Duke the dog barked in acknowledgement.
Being as modest as he was brave, Talon quickly diverted the attention away from himself to his friend Billy, “And I would like to propose a toast to the former Baron of Buffet. He’s my hero for following his doctor’s orders and making a complete recovery”.
In this world there are a special group of warriors who do not hesitate to go into harms’ way to fulfill their duty. That inherent danger is increased dramatically when incompetent and corrupt politicians make self-serving decisions to further their personal and demented agenda.
To all first responders and military personnel…I thank you for your service. You have my word that you will always be honored and respected in my heart and in my stories.
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual person