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!

Johnny, you are an a**hole…

Seriously.  Is he going for humor and coming off as a jerk, or is he skipping the middle part and just being an ass??  I have to say, this character sort of plows new ground for “Mark Trail…”  Not physically aggressive or brutish, but mean in a sociopathic kind of way, completely self- absorbed and blatant with his motives, as if only he and they matter…  “Did you get MY elk?” he asks.   And Mark, ever obtuse (returning to form after exhibiting a glimmer of clever in the previous days’ strips) responds cheerfully to Johnny’s question… “No Johnny, but I will try again tomorrow, and every day after that until I find YOUR elk…”

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But what on Earth does Johnny have in his hands?  Such awkward gestures, even for the Trail-verse.

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And the look on Senator Hudson Mason’s face…  it’s a  look that says ‘I am getting too old for this sh*t…’ There’s going to be a slap-down coming for sure!

Mark’s phone keeps getting bigger!

The look on Ranger Dusty’s face is priceless.  As in “What the f*ck is THIS thing in my hand???”

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Should have been?  How about IS?  Mark is right up there with Mike Hammer!  He just needs to trade in Cherry for the busty blonde and keep a bottle of whiskey in his knapsack and he’s in!  Of course they will over-react!  Oh boy is this great!  Excuse me, may I have 10,000 marbles, please?? But I digress…

Looks like Mr. Chipmunk feels the impending comeuppance… Better get to high ground… Johnny Walker’s going to blow!!

Not Following you, Mark…

“I am just a simple public employee, Mark, a ‘servant’ I dare say… I am not schooled in the ways of eavesdropping and espionage…  I am not even sure what it is you are talking about.  Recording? Cell Phone?  Battery? Died?  You have lost me, Mark.”

Or maybe Mark, You just don’t know how to use the phone.  Was it turned on??

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But oh, Trail, aren’t you the wily one!  Watch Ladies and Gentleman as Mark begins to spin the biggest lie of his life- can he pull it off?  “You see this phone, Johnny? I left it behind set to record when I left you and the Senator alone (whom he had ‘put together’ for that expressed purpose…) and I have captured here, and backed up in the cloud, a very interesting conversation about what you are up to…”

Or something like that.

This is new territory, for you Mark; but really, when does the punching start?

Milking this one, or what??

And Dusty!  You’ve been furloughed!  Why are you still at your post??  You should be home with the little ones…  or maybe this place is your home.  I’ve never thought of how many people in the forest service never go to the trouble of actually buying a home…

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Thanks goodness Mark has returned to his habit of talking out loud to no one in particular.  All those thought-bubbles were starting to freak me out…

The Senator and Johnny must already be in the cabin enjoying each other’s company, and have already told Dusty lusty tales of Elk scoped and wounded…  Where is Anne Marie, though, and was it Dusty’s “job” to keep her “entertained” and “out of trouble” whilst the men folk went on their little Elk-shooting-spree??

But clearly it’s Mark’s “job” to track down wounded Elk.  He’s gotta be pissed right about now…

And where is the groom?  In the Trailverse, one never sees horses getting tacked and untacked…  they just appear, as if by magic, ready to mount…