Thomas Calabrese–Jennifer Salter was born on Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. The youngest child of Colonel Robert Salter. Going back to World War I, someone in the Salter family had served in the military. It wasn’t that it was demanded or expected of them, but growing up in an environment where God, family and country were top priorities made serving in the Armed Forces and defending their country a reasonable and logical choice. Her mother was killed in a car accident when she was in seventh grade and her father took on the role of both parents.
Jennifer’s oldest brother, Doyle was currently an executive officer with a helicopter squadron in the Marine Corps and stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Her other brother, Mike spent four years in the Navy as a Corpsman before becoming a paramedic with the Temecula Fire Department. Jennifer considered a career in law enforcement while in high school so when she enlisted in the Marines, she chose the MOS (military occupational specialty) of 5811, military police officer. During her six years in the Corps, Jennifer obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice.
She stayed informed about current events and job opportunities so on her last deployment and six months prior to her separation from the military, she applied for employment with the Oceanside Police Department. The city was losing a significant percentage of the force due to retirements and resignations. The anti-police rhetoric had taken a toll on the morale of officers all over the country and the city was happy to accept an applicant with Jennifer’s experience and education. Upon her return to Camp Pendleton, she met with officials from the police department and did all the necessary paperwork to enter the Academy after her discharge.
Jennifer graduated from the academy at the top of her class and was enthusiastic to begin her new career. She focused on being the best police officer she could be with the goal of becoming a detective and from there, maybe even the Chief of Police. Her training officer was Sergeant Steve Gregson, a former Marine who had been on the force for 21 years. Steve was a good man and a dedicated public servant at the end of his career and looking forward to his retirement. The bureaucracy and numerous confrontations with criminals had worn him down.
Officer Salter didn’t like to make small talk with people she didn’t know. She answered when spoken to and asked questions when she didn’t know the answers. During her first one month on patrol, Jennifer earned the respect of Gregson with her workmanlike attitude. Like it is with most partners with similar core values, the man and woman slowly developed a friendship.
Sergeant Gregson asked, “What about lunch…got any preferences?”
“They just opened up a new place called, Rays of Health on Oceanside Boulevard across from the soccer fields on Rancho Del Oro. They have a variety of salads and healthy meals,” Jennifer responded.
Steve wasn’t into health food as much as Jennifer, but what he did like was that whenever he asked Jennifer something, she always gave him a straight answer. He liked knowing where she stood on most issues. In all the time that they had been riding together, he never heard her say, I don’t know, whatever you want do is fine with me. She was flexible even after she made her preferences known and didn’t sweat the small stuff.
He responded, “Sounds good to me…call it in.”
Jennifer picked up the radio and said, “Central Dispatch, this is One-Bravo-11, requesting Code 7 at Rancho Del Oro and Oceanside Boulevard.”
Dispatch responded, “Negative, One-Bravo-11, handle a disturbance at 1119 Mission Avenue, handle Code 2.”
“Roger,” Jennifer said.
Upon their arrival at Leo’s Liquors, Steve and Jennifer saw a group of men congregating in the area. “I’ll take the front, check around back.”
“Affirmative,” Jennifer said.
As he entered the store, a group of individuals started yelling profanities at Steve. Leo was a small Hispanic man, barely standing 5 foot seven inches tall and holding an aluminum baseball bat. “They’re causing trouble, I told them to leave, but they won’t.”
One of the men responded. “He treats us like criminals.”
Leo retorted, “They come in a group and while one buys something, the others are shoplifting!”
By the time that Jennifer walked back to the front of the store, there was a full brawl going on inside with Steve and Leo and six men. Not thinking about her own safety for even a split second or waiting for backup, Jennifer waded into the melee. She hit one assailant across the face with her baton and pulled the bloodied store owner to safety.
Steve yelled out, “Hit the deck!”
Jennifer dove for the floor as two bullets flew by her head. Steve shot the man holding the gun and Jennifer found cover behind the cooler and killed two more armed men with her pistol. The paramedics and other police cruisers arrived on site and emergency medical treatment was provided to Leo and the assailants.
An internal investigation was conducted by the City and they determined that Steve Gregson and Jennifer Salter acted appropriately and in the best interest of public safety. The findings also determined that the two police officers used the proper amount of force to neutralize the threat. However, that was not the end of it, The media latched on to the story like flies on rotting garbage and when some unscrupulous politicians saw an opportunity to build some capital by getting involved, they leaped at the opportunity. They twisted and manipulated the facts and demanded that the Department of Justice get involved. There was a warrant issued for the bodycam footage and the store surveillance camera and for weeks there was no word from the federal investigators.
Suddenly the footage of the incident began appearing on select news outlets. It had been altered to make it look like the officers shot first without provocation. Steve heard from a contact in the government that federal arrest warrants for him and Jennifer were due to be issued. He met with Jennifer near Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside and said, “It only gets worse from here on. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in prison.”
Jennifer protested, “We’re innocent…we didn’t do anything wrong.”
“That fact and a couple of bucks won’t even buy you a latte at Starbucks. If they’re willing to alter the video footage, there’s nothing off the table when it comes to getting a conviction. When this anti-police movement started, I took everything out of my name and put it in my father’s. The house, my car, bank accounts are all his. I wouldn’t be telling you this, but you are also in their crosshairs. I was the senior officer so I’m their main target, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to let you off. You’re going to do some serious time, you know that?”
“What’s the plan?” Jennifer inquired, “Take a plea…beg for mercy?”
Steve hesitated and then answered, “I’m leaving the country….come with me.”
“Are you telling me that they have the power to drive us from the country that we swore to protect? Is that what you’re telling me?” Jennifer exploded in anger.
“I’m not telling you anything. You can see what’s going on for yourself. This whole situation is a big bag of dog droppings with a pink bow wrapped around it. You can call them whatever you want, the Cabal, the deep state, the swamp. They are our sworn enemies and they are currently holding the high ground.”
“Run or go to jail?” Jennifer asked
Steve sighed, “Not much of a choice.”
Jennifer didn’t want to go to prison so she whispered. “I’m going.”
Steve explained, “Don’t tell your family, you don’t want them to lie for you later. Get as much cash as you can in small denominations, fives, tens and twenties. Pack some clothing and personal items and put them in a large pack, something you can strap over your shoulders rather than carry by hand.” Steve took out his cellphone and took a photo of Jennifer, “I’ll get you a fake passport.”
“So what are you going to do in the mean time?” Jennifer asked.
Steve smiled, “Give them some wild goose chases to occupy their time with me and not you. I’ll text you a number from a burner phone. Your password is starburst….don’t forget it.”
“Starburst….I got it.”
Steve walked off.
It took a few days before the Department of Justice realized that Steve Gregson was on the run. They put out a BOLO, that’s enforcement talk for ‘Be On the Look Out.’ Law enforcement agencies from over all the country reported seeing the fleeing police officer. After 25 reported sightings, the Department of Justice realized that they didn’t have the manpower to follow up on every lead. They were also suspicious that they were being given false information as the ‘Blue Brotherhood’ protected one of their own.
Steve was actually in Rosarita Beach, Mexico. He was close enough to monitor what was going on with Jennifer. When he received word from his contact at the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego that the FBI was about to arrest Jennifer, he contacted her by text with the single word ‘call’.
Jennifer took out her burner phone and called, “Starburst.”
“Time to go…. I’ll send you instructions.”
Jennifer got her bag, called an Uber and went to the train station in Oceanside and took the Coaster to the Santa Fe Depot. Steve was waiting for her when she got off. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too,” Jennifer replied, “I wish it was under different circumstances.”
“That’s makes two of us.” Steve handed Jennifer a fake passport.
Jennifer read the name on it, “Eve Garner, I should be able to remember that.”
It was 4AM when a dozen FBI agents raided the home of retired Colonel Robert Salter. They went through the entire house in search of Jennifer. Earl Kleiner, the agent in charge rudely demanded, “Where’s your daughter?”
Colonel Salter replied, “Haven’t seen her since yesterday and she’d didn’t tell me where she was going.”
Agent Kleiner was a pompous bureaucrat with an over-inflated sense of his own importance, “If you’re lying to me, you’ll be sorry. I’m the big dog in this fight and I’ll cut you to pieces, Marine. You’ll be begging for mercy if you cross me.”
Colonel Salter knew that it was best not to say anything, although he wanted to smash the arrogant moron’s face in but he kept his emotions in check, “I’ll remember.”
It was a week before Colonel Salter heard from his daughter. He asked, “Are you alright?”
“Good…the point is, how are doing?”
Colonel Salter commented, “There were some people looking for you.”
“I figured that might happen. What is that thing that you used to tell me?” Jennifer asked.
“Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
“I love you, Dad, sorry if I caused you any trouble.” Jennifer said.
“We go into harm’s way because that’s the oath we took, but being in the military and law enforcement was never supposed to be a suicide mission. If we’re lucky, we get to choose our battles, but most of time, they choose us. They made a serious mistake when they chose you,”
Jennifer held her emotions in check, “I’ll be in touch… don’t know when.”
Jennifer and Steve traveled to Montanita a village on Ecuador’s Santa Elena Peninsula, known for its beaches and strong surf breaks. One of the main reasons Steve chose this area is because travelers from far and wide would stay here for months at a time, taking advantage of the community’s sense of free-spirited nature to assimilate. It was a great place to go un-noticed. There was one other thing, just in case someone found out where they were, Ecuador had very weak extradition laws.
Six months had passed and Jennifer and Steve were having lunch at a local restaurant called Papillon. Steve was having Lapingachos, one of Ecuador’s most famous dishes. They are fried potato omelets stuffed with cheese, cooked on a hot griddle until crispy and commonly served with a fried egg, avocado, meat and peanut sauce. Jennifer was enjoying churrasco, a plate of thinly sliced grilled steak topped with a fried egg, rice, plantains, chips, sliced avocado, salad, and spicy garlic aji sauce.
Jennifer said, “I love this place, the people, the food and I’m very grateful that you’ve allowed me to live down here. There is no doubt I’d be in jail right now if I had stayed in California.”
“But you’re not cut now to be an ex-patriot. I get it.” Steve said, “I’ve seen it coming for a while.”
Jennifer explained, “I need to be doing something productive with my life. This is the kind of lifestyle that you give yourself after and not before. I’m too young to make this my final destination.”
“Even though I’m older than you I’m feeling the same way…got a plan? I’m open for suggestions.”
Jennifer said, “A lot of our brothers and sisters in law enforcement are going through some rough times. We could help them if we went back, but we’d also be going back into harm’s way. I’m willing to take the risk.”
Gerald Garbon was the District Attorney of Los Angeles. His radical ‘no bail’ policies and verbal attacks against the police department endangered the public and law enforcement. There was a recall and Garbon vowed to fight it. His supporters were pumping millions into defending him.
The room was dark when he entered his house. Before Gerald could turn on the light, a paper bag was placed over his head and his hands were tied behind him.
“Who are you, what’s going on?” Garbon pleaded.
There was no reply as he felt a noose tighten around his neck. He was placed on a stool and the rope tightened to the point where Garbon was standing on his tiptoes. He pleaded for his life, but there was no answer. The rope tightened and Garbon struggled to stop from falling. His legs quivered and eventually he fell off the stool. The rope wasn’t secured and Garbon fell face forward on the floor.
Someone cut the rope on his wrists, but he was frozen in fear and laid motionless for a minute before pulling the bag off his head. He stared at the note taped to the wall, Resign or Die.
The next morning, the distraught district attorney made a public announcement about his decision to leave public service.
The North Side Boys of Las Vegas were one of the most violent gangs in America. They were involved in drug and human trafficking as well as getting into numerous altercations with the police. Two gang members were given low bail after shooting two officers during a traffic stop and immediately went back to their criminal activities. They came out of their gang hideout and were shot dead. Several Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window and the building burst into flames.
Just west of the Otay Mesa border crossing, a group of human traffickers were ambushed and robbed by two masked individuals and their captives were released. Over the next six months, attacks and robberies against habitual criminals and corrupt bureaucrats increased dramatically throughout the Southwest.
Jennifer and Steve were staying at the Cape Rey Resort and Spa in Carlsbad and had adjoining rooms. There was a knock at her door and Jennifer walked over and opened it. Steve walked in and said, “Since we’re in the area…are you going to see your family?”
“I’m conflicted, I’m afraid if I do then I might be inclined to stay.”
Steve added, “We’ve confiscated about $600,000 dollars. We’ve been pushing pretty hard lately, we can take a break.”
“I like the term confiscated,” Jennifer said, “It almost sounds official.”
Steve smiled, “Confiscated…re-appropriated. They stole it and we took it back. We’re just using it for operating expenses. If you’ve got regrets, we can stop anytime.”
“I’ve got no regrets, just wish that things had turned out differently,” Jennifer sighed.
Before leaving San Diego North County, Jennifer decided to see her father so that he would know that she was alright. Colonel Salter was pumping gas at the station on Douglas Drive in Oceanside. He heard a honk and looked to his left and caught a glimpse of Jennifer as she drove by. She waved and was gone. Colonel Salter thought about following, but realized that if his daughter wanted to stop, she would have. He knew his daughter was a warrior, but until now he didn’t fully comprehend how selfless and truly courageous she was.
While driving to Interstate Five, Steve asked, “Are you alright?”
Jennifer cleared her throat, “I’m fine.”
Three days later, Jennifer and Steve engaged in a gunfight with gang members of MS-13 near the docks in Long Beach. A dozen men went down in a hail of gunfire. Steve took one bullet to his shoulder and another to his right thigh. Jennifer helped him to the car and they quickly left the area. When the Long Beach Police arrived on scene, they found a thousand pounds of Chinese fentanyl in one of the shipping containers.
The duo made it to San Clemente where Jennifer went into a CVS Pharmacy to buy some medical supplies. After a few minutes of working on his wounds she told Steve, “I’ve stopped the bleeding, but you’re going to need surgery.”
Steve grimaced, “I know a doctor in Tijuana.”
They made it across the border and Steve received the treatment that he needed. Three days later, Jennifer told her partner, “It’s going to take you a while to recover. Why don’t you go back to Ecuador, I can handle it from here.”
Steve hated to admit it, but he knew Jennifer was right. It was time for them to go their separate ways. “It’s been a pleasure working with you. You know where to find me.”
Jennifer responded, “I do, I learned a lot from you…thanks.”
“I wish I could take credit, but you were born for this.” Steve said.
For the next few months, Jennifer disappeared off the radar and went back to a normal lifestyle. She found a part-time job at the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido and rented a room from a divorced woman who had a house in San Marcos. The time eventually came for her to reconnect with her father and they met at the Brengle Terrace Botanical Gardens in Vista.
Colonel Salter said, “Your brothers and I miss you.”
“As a career Marine you know that every mission requires some level of sacrifice,” Jennifer responded.
“True…so true, but is a life on the run really your style?”
Jennifer sighed as she looked out over the pond with in a fountain in the middle of it, “Style is an interesting choice of words. I don’t know what my style is anymore. I’m just doing what I think needs to be done and I’ll leave it up to history to determine if I was right or wrong.”
“There’s someone I want you to meet.” Colonel Salter said.
Jennifer responded, “I don’t think so.”
“I haven’t been sitting idly by while you’ve been away. You need to trust me on this,” Colonel Salter persisted.
The palatial estate in Rancho Santa Fe was the residence of Patrick Van Pelt, a multi-billionaire. The place was heavily guarded and Colonel Salter was questioned by one of the guards when he drove up to the massive steel gate. “May I help you?”
Colonel Salter responded, “Mr. Van Pelt is expecting us. I’m Robert Salter.”
The guard went into the stone guardhouse and made a call then returned, “Pull in and park to the right. I’ll give you a ride to the main house.”
Patrick was in his mid-sixties and a graduate of the Naval Academy. He made his massive fortune in computer chip manufacturing and being a visionary when it came to the internet. He was extremely concerned about the direction our country was headed. He was a patriot and extremely angry about how biased and politicalized that government agencies had become and saw it as a serious threat to national security. Patrick greeted Jennifer at the front door with a smile and a firm handshake, “It is a pleasure and honor to meet you. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about you.”
Jennifer responded, “You have me at a disadvantage, sir. I know next to nothing about you except that my father wanted me to meet you. Your name is…?
Patrick Van Pelt. You can call me Pat, Patrick, Van or anything you want. I’m into accountability not titles. My basic philosophy is; Honor never takes a day off.”
Jennifer said, “Why am I here?”
Colonel Salter interjected, “He wants to show you something.”
Everyone sat down and Van Pelt started a video on his big screen television hanging on the wall. Jennifer immediately recognized it as the bodycam footage from the altercation at Leo’s Liquors. She asked, “I thought this was lost or destroyed?”
Patrick smiled, “Let’s say it was politically misplaced.”
“How did you get it?”
“Most things and people have a price. I deal in all forms of currency. This footage will exonerate you and Officer Steve Gregson. Since you left before there was a trial, it makes things very simple. I’ll release this video to the media, flood the internet with it and before you know it, you’ll be back on duty.”
“That shipped has sailed,” Jennifer said, “Time is a river, not a lake, it moves on.”
Patrick asked, “Then what are your plans?”
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, but I’m grateful for your efforts. It will be nice to be able to tell my friend that he can come back now.”
Patrick made an offer, “Work for me…you can see what we do firsthand. It might be just what you’re looking for.”
Jennifer stood up, “Once my name is cleared, we’ll talk.”
Patrick stood up, “In a world of chaos and mayhem, character is a very effective weapon. Your God given talent is standing up to the evil in this world. Let me help you maximize your gift.”
It was a clear sunny afternoon in San Diego and corrupt FBI agent Earl Kleiner was walking toward the Broadway Pier along North Harbor Drive. Jennifer exited an SUV that was parked nearby and began walking toward him. Waiting on the pier were two Chinese agents with a briefcase filled with cash.
When Jennifer got within arm’s reach, she quickly stabbed Kleiner in the heart with an ice pick. Before he could fall, Jennifer pulled the limp body to a bench and set it down. She searched Kleiner’s pockets and found what she was looking for. It was a flash-drive with sensitive military information. Jennifer waved to several men on the pier who engaged the Chinese agents, killed them and took the briefcase.
Jennifer walked back to the SUV with the darkly tinted windows, opened the back door and got in. She handed the flashdrive to Patrick Van Pelt, who asked, “Any problems?”
“Your Intel was right on…went just like you planned,” Jennifer said.
Patrick turned to the driver and said, “Take us home, Johnny. Oh, one more thing, just on the slim chance that things went well, I invited your father over for dinner, care to join us?”
“You know that I’ll never turn down an invitation if the Colonel is going to be there.”
Jennifer Salter was a warrior, a patriot, but most of all, she was the tip of the spear and always made her point when it counted.
Van Pelt was the George Soros of the far right.
Jennifer was his far-right DA. no bail, no jail, just justice
Thoroughly enjoyable. Keep them coming.
Another page turner
Good story, Tom
An exciting story and adventure by Mr. Thomas Calabrese in this Sunday’s Vista Press. This story is about some of the problems of today. People have misunderstanding about law enforcement making a tough job even tougher. Mr. Calabese is astute and some of the problem we are experiencing in our society. If we have no rules or laws we we all suffer at the hands of law breaker’s and criminals. Fortunately, Mr. Calabrese points some of these problems in today’s story. True, Police Officer’s are accountable but should not be railroaded because of presumptions. We as residents and citizens should attempt to assist our law enforcement personnel in any manner possible and help make their jobs easier.
It serves all our interests. Stay safe and stay alert.
Great story Tom.
There was a time in this country where a person was innocent until proven guilty….proven…not accused guilty. We better start standing up for our police before its too late. Right now departments are under-staffed before of this woke culture.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Great story and great ending.
Loved the story. You need to get an agent to sell your stories for cable movie companies. The gray man and 355 were no better than what you write and they were very good.
Thank you for writing another great story with a strong heroine (Jennifer). Congratulations on your 327th weekly story in a row. I think Joe Dimaggio would be proud of you. Thanks again, Tom.