Mission Accomplished!

With only minor Collateral damage to one Elk and one Bad Guy…  But again, Senator you are but one vote…  as Hudson Mason votes, so moves the Congress?  As Atlas shrugs, so moves the world?  Maybe he is the deciding vote after all…  Maybe congress is all divided and locked up along party lines and the Ol’ Senator is going to “break ranks” and spoil the party…

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That’s right Senator, climb back on board your Gulfstream IV and return to the fetid swamp that is our nation’s capital.  Climb aboard the conveyance that relies on the fossil fuel that you refuse to see extracted from any “beautiful area” that is offered up as “exhibit A” in the continuing struggle to balance our wants with our needs…

And Anne Marie, time to get out of that ribbed turtleneck / shirt combo that all Trail women are forced to wear while in the “great outdoors…”  remember Wes ‘n’ Shelley?  She must have stolen that outfit from her…

How DOES a father tell?…

The only one shedding tears here is Anne Marie, and not for the loss of her “one and only” but for the loss of her innocence and trust.  Clearly the Senator is relieved by the fact that Johnny is at the bottom of a ravine, impaled on tine number 8 of the Bull Elk’s rack…

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Ann Marie has been crying the same single tear now for days… is it a tattoo? Like someone in the ‘hood that has either killed or lost someone in a street fight?

But really, the question the senator asks has to be the deepest thought ever to be uttered in the Trail-verse.  Indeed.  How does and father tell his daughter? Or a Mother tell her son???

And blackmail works how??

Let’s get this straight…  JOHNNY forged a name, not his own, on some “receipts,” and that implicates the forgee how?  Sounds like there was ample opportunity to prune this rotten grape off the vine without having to be dragged into his scheme, Senator.  There’s got to be more to this than that…

“So Anne Marie, just park yourself in that overstuffed chair and start setting your sights on a new beau.  Johnny did not have the mettle to last in this rough and tumble political world… and if you want to be a Senator’s daughter, you best learn from this episode,” the Senator seemed to say…

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The bluff worked, Mark.  Meanwhile, off camera, Ranger Dusty has ridden a horse with pack mules in tow… one for the forger and one for the Elk… Venison steaks tonight!!  Anyone hungry?!?

I guess Dusty will, uh, handle things here…

Is there a procedure on page 46 of the “Ranger’s Manual” on how to take care of a full grown man who goes hurtling off the side of the mountain to his death?  Is it me or is Dusty’s hand placed on the small of Mark’s back kinda creepy?  Dusty hasn’t had much of a role here, but when duty calls, it calls…

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Yeah, Mark, what WAS on that recording, that made Johnny crazy and caused his DEATH?  Clearly not an ounce of guilt or compunction from Mark…  Unless his pose in panel two, peeking over the edge at the mangled Johnny body is driven by more than morbid curiosity…

And OK, one last poke at Anne Marie’s hair.  Clearly the mountain air doesn’t help matters either…  blonde scouring pad anyone??

Johnny and the Elk? Seriously?

Well, how’s that for a crescendo?  Yup, I think this might be a first.  The evil guy dies.  How dramatic.  I love the look on Mark’s face as he peers over the ledge.  Not sure how to read that one.  Shock?  Mere interest? Oh well??

Morals in this story abound- and they are just starting to come in… the latest being don’t leave a wounded elk to its own devices… It will become enraged and be your demise!  What do you suppose the Elk and Johnny are saying to each other as the forces of gravity take hold?  They should both hit at about the same time, if the drop is long enough and what I remember about terminal velocity holds.

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No you’re not, Mark.  Not only don’t you have feelings, but Johnny embodied the evilest of all evil and you are glad to be rid of him…

Why did he run away? Because he had something to hide, Anne Marie.  As Abe Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  Johnny apparently didn’t pass that test… Anne Marie, it’s your Father who has some ‘splainin’ to do…

Well thank Heavens the phone will be saved…

Because I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that Mark did not opt for the extended warranty- the one that covers breakage, theft and dropping it over a cliff… When I suggested that Johnny was running over the hill and into the abyss, I had no idea.  I was speaking euphemistically at that point… not literally…

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And yet, there will go Johnny, over the edge.  If he doesn’t then all perspective and every law of motion will be violated.  The only question is what’s below and how far does it go?  Looks like it goes down quite a ways, enough to at least leave a mark, not to mention the broken ribs and internal bleeding that will no doubt be the result of the Elk-blow…  But have we ever seen a bad guy actually die in the Trail-verse, or do they just get their due at the end of a cold-chiseled fist and a shotgun wielding law-man?   I’d like to think that Johnny’s last words won’t be ‘NNOOO!’ But rather some weepy monologue about how he was never loved as a child and needed to prove to his cold and distant father that he, too, was capable of working the system to his advantage…

Think this through, son.

And where exactly are you running off to?  By running you only admit to the world that you have something to hide.  What is the saying?  When you are in the end zone, at least behave like you have been there before…  When confronted with an accusation, keep your cool, and don’t give your accuser the satisfaction of seeing you overload with cortisol and take flight…

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Should have seen this one coming.  The Elk, set on revenge.  Because of course, in the Trail-verse,  the Elk is a sentient creature who knows exactly what “hit him” and “who did it…”  “Aha,” it says to itself, “There’s the little sh*t that winged me with a high caliber round and didn’t have the good sense to track me down and finish me off…  so now I shall have the chance to do to him what he was going to do to me.  Except I don’t have a gun or opposable thumbs, so I shall run him through with my prodigious rack…”  He seemed to say…

And for those of us skeptical as to what an angry Bull Elk will do, here is evidence that they are not afraid to use what nature has provided…

I think Johnny played football at Yale…

Or Ran Track, or both… Look at the stiff-arm he is offering Anne Marie in Panel one!  “Get out of my way?”  What? Like she was going to stop you?  Johnny grabs the phone/ baton and he is off!  Making great time as he careens off the rocks and trees and over the hill into the abyss…

Well, if not Yale, then Brown.  The sweater vest and Khaki pants give him away… and it could not have been Harvard, since there is way too much insecurity and envy running through him.  Probably Skull and Bones… where young men are taught to be exceptional and garner expectations that all is possible and the ends justify the means…

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Poor Anne Marie.  Always the pawn in this story.  Helping Mark lure the Senator and his crooked, blackmailing aid to the woods, she will find herself without companionship and a future, at least in politics, once the whole crooked scheme is revealed and shared with the Senate Ethics Committee…

Yes, you go after him Mark.  Bring him down, beat out a confession before he realizes you have NOTHING…

It’s working! It’s actually working!!

Oh, Mark, you should be on the Big Stakes Poker Tour…  Your execution is flawless, you have them folding on your pair of deuces…  Johnny snatches the phone/tablet from Mark’s hand with a perfect circular flourish, while the Ol’ Senator is coming clean, on nothing more than a bluff.  They must’ve said a lot more to each other than we know, dear readers, judging by the level of hysteria being generated.

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Cover-up?  Wow.  Whatever could that be about??  Mark uses words like “influencing” but it would appear that words like “over a barrel” would be more in order…

Meanwhile, in panel three, Ranger Dusty is at his post, amazed by the whole thing, and yes, confused by it too…

Well, way to spoil happy hour, Mark…

As the Political Elite lounge in overstuffed chairs, highballs in hand, Mark lets loose his trickery!  And they are going for it- hook, line and sinker.  Johnny leans forward in his chair, Anne Marie places her hand over her heart “Scarlet O’Hara Style,” shocked by what may be coming next…  I understand that we need to move this story along, but clearly there is only one thing to talk about- Mark’s plan to sway the Senator’s mind into NOT casting his vote to spoil the refuge and drill for oil…

But one thing’s clear, having watched 60 Minutes last night- it was the Senator’s “Leadership PAC” that paid for the plane that flew them out of DC, and will continue to support Anne Marie well into her life, after his, since putting family members on the “payroll” seems to be all the rage these days…  Small peanuts to Johnny, who has designs on true wealth, but still, one of the perks of office that explains how these people arrive in Washington paupers and leave wealthy…

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But really, I think Johnny’s shock and awe isn’t over the fact that he and the senator have been caught red handed, but that Mark (a) knows what a cell phone is and (b) knows that he can use it to record sounds… THAT’s the real shocker here!