AMERICA’S FUTURE: GLOBAL AGENDA
AMERICA’S FUTURE: GLOBAL AGENDA
Published by Julianna Petite at Shakespir
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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זָקֵן זָהָב ®
P.O. Box 28
Asher, OK 74826
Copyright©2016 Paula Pettit Skender
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living-or-dead, business, establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have control over and does not have any responsibility for author or third party websites or their content.
All rights reserved.
Forrester watched from his hiding place under wreckage that smelled of melted iron. He waited. Sweat slid into his eye. He heard a child whimper.
A man speaking harsh words in Arabic directed someone to walk forward. A small girl crept around the corner. She looked no more than five. But Forrester didn’t have a handle on children’s ages. He had no children. He had no wife. He had no home; even if he made it back to America, which looked doubtful. His best friend lay dead behind him in the corner of this rubble called Iraq.
The black robed man pushed the child. Forrester clinched his fist. He waited. He slowly turned his radio on silence. He would not rise to signal his location. Patience. He heard more Arabic words from other voices.
The roar of plane engines sounded in the distance
Now other black cloaks scurried in front of Forrester’s hazy vision, they followed their leader into this smoking tomb.
Forrester pieced together the words he knew. The Arab ordered the little girl to go to the market. Forrester frowned. Bombs that he had called in were coming. She needed to stay here. But away she scampered, no longer whimpering.
The black robes grew in number. Forrester smoothed the side of his machine gun, he focused his sights, broadening his range to target the entire group.
Rapid pitter-patters of small feet made Forrester pause. The little girl raced back into the enclosure, and the leader reacted with a violent scream.
“Go back!” the commander yelled in Arabic. By the leader’s reaction, Forrester knew the small child carried bombs.
Forrester’s anger took precedence over common sense. He lunged out of his makeshift grave. With his heavy machine gun strapped over one shoulder and his pistol pointed at the leader, he stepped over the wreckage. The group turned in wide-eyed confusion toward the noise of moving rubble.
Forrester yelled in broken Arabic, “Remove the bombs.”
His enemies stepped as one body toward him, and then paused abruptly. Through the smoke and dust, they recognized the weapon hanging from his shoulder. It moved in a sweeping action. The leader reached for a remote activator.
“Allahu Ak….” The war cry stopped at the blast of a pistol. The Arab looked down at the smashed remote, covered with his own blood.
Stepping over the ruins, Forrester spoke to the child in Arabic, “Come to me.”
The child’s expression looked horrified, but she came quickly.
Forrester motioned with his pistol at the closest terrorist. “Unstrap the child.”
Forrester continued the wide sweep of the machine gun as the bombs on her back fell to the dirt floor.
When the little girl stepped away from the burden, Forrester spoke to her again in Arabic, “Run away from the planes, understand?”
Her wide eyes blinked up at him in relief. Then she turned and ran from the ruins, away from the noise of exploding bombs. A knife came barreling toward Forrester. He ducked. One terrorist jerked a hidden rifle up and aimed. Forrester fired on him. The man crashed backwards, pushing others behind him. The black robes then surged for Forrester.
With the child safe, Forrester placed his finger on the trigger, stepping backward with each sweep and leveling terrorists in their dash for him. The Arabic leader grabbed a fallen rifle, and pointed it at the bombs. Forrester jumped behind a crumbled wall propped up by dismantled tank wreckage.
“Allahu Akbar!” The ground rocked beneath Forrester as he hit the dirt and debris flew overhead.
“Mr. Forrester, Mr. Forrester?”
Marine Captain Forrester pulled out of the ten-year-old memory. He had been a sergeant then and had not relived that day in a long time. His men had cleared Iraq. But now ISIS ruled in the Middle East. He turned his attention to this new threat—the world of higher learning, professors, tests—and the questionable safety of this large American city, New York. It held too many Mosques where men trained followers in Jihad and implemented Sharia law.
He looked at the slender professor now calling his name. Clear skin, black hair, and snapping, angry black eyes. He could fall in love with those eyes.
“Yes, Professor Zayas, could I hear your question one more time?” The younger college students snickered. The question had already been asked three times.
Professor Maria Zayas sat uneasily behind her desk. She eyed the handsome Marine with his clear aqua eyes, black hair, and striking looks. He held the room captive. He wore the uniform required by the cadre of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, which meant that he already held a degree. He served as ROTC staff. Maria wondered why this cadre member enrolled in her freshman speech class. Since his arrival two weeks ago at the semester’s beginning, Maria resented her own appreciation of his vocabulary and the way he pronounced each word. She guessed that her grudge rested in the fact that she would have a much easier semester as the speech instructor if her students weren’t in awe of the man.
His presence insured that the young women learned absolutely nothing about public speaking. And the young men hung onto every word he spoke, like it was law. Maria wondered about his rank. She didn’t recognize it. She knew that some military ranks held the same nomenclature as the police force. Her Dad was killed just months before, shot in open fire on these streets of New York. He had served as a police investigator.
“Well, Mister Forrester, what type of speeches do you like to give? Persuasive? Informative? Do I call you Mister Forrester?”
“Captain Forrester, Ma’am.”
His title ‘Ma’am’ made her cringe. This year heralded her thirty-fifth birthday. She was not getting any younger.
While Ma’am was a show of respect, and while this man always exhibited the manners of a real gentleman, something about him radiated danger. Maria stood cautiously up from her desk, “Captain? All right, Captain Forrester, please don’t call me Ma’am, it makes me feel like I’m my mother.”
The class chuckled. Forrester’s expression remained passive, not commenting. Maria guessed his age was around her own and his title for her disturbed her. She felt annoyed that his presence generally disrupted her classroom procedures, his comments on politics plagued her, and his back-row seat insured that the young females constantly dropped an item or two for his attention.
Obviously, they appreciated a handsome man in uniform much more than training for public speaking. His presence in that far corner also reminded Maria, as she looked high over his head, that the university ignored the work order to remove those unsightly and no longer useful water pipes protruding like a shelf from the ceiling. The administration’s negligence in remodeling her classroom clearly proved her complaint that the English department was not as important as the technology division.
“And I see that you want to debate the cause of the Second Amendment to the Constitution,” Maria frowned and held the paper that the Captain turned in. She placed it far away from her. She hated guns. “That is really an old argument, Captain.” Maria disagreed with the right to carry weapons. And this Marine carried a pistol under his jacket. She discovered that last week when someone slammed her against him in a crowded elevator and there she felt hard steel against her softness. “We really do not need guns carried about anywhere,” she knowingly eyed him with a raised eyebrow.
Forrester remained silent. She turned away from the class to move the lectern. Forrester watched her thick black hair, which she kept tied in a low ponytail. It dusted her tan jacket to her waist.
Maria turned, “We have three presenters, so let’s get started. Jared? You ready?”
Jared rose from his desk and stood behind the lectern, “Today my speech is on Jihadist warfare.” He introduced his topic.
Maria withheld the urge to roll her eyes. These students had the right to discuss any topic they chose. However, she considered that the silent Captain Forrester, sitting innocently on the back row, deliberately influenced most of the young men in her class to focus on the Middle East. And that was the reason for Jared’s attention on Jihadist warfare today.
Maria felt more frustration. While the young women in her class acted fascinated with Captain Forrester’s uniform, the young men listened much too closely when he spoke. She didn’t like this fixation for her students. She knew that love for icons led to a broken heart. The image of her father in uniform appeared in her mind’s eye. And now, this was the sixth speech on the Middle East. Because of her students’ focus, Maria considered herself a master on the topic of jihad and Sharia Law—a reluctant expert. She heaved a slow sigh of resignation. She had hoped for a lighter topic, maybe even muddling through the Obama Care taxpayer extortion. But she received no such mercy—a terrorist topic—again.
The speaker continued. “Americans have seen ISIS as an enemy; we have fought this enemy, and we know that it can be defeated. The names that this enemy uses are many: al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas. And then, of course, ISIS, or some call ISIL. This is only a few of the names they use.”
A girl’s shrill voice interrupted from the doorway, “You can’t say that all these groups are terrorists.” She wore the standard Burka of a female Muslim but she spoke with an American accent. Certain students wore this type of dress, but generally not black, like this, and not with an American accent.
Maria paused to identify the new student. She didn’t recognize this girl who covered half her face.
“Please don’t disrupt the class. Your name, Miss….” Maria waited for the girl to supply her name. She didn’t. Several seconds ticked by.
Maria frowned. “Miss, are you enrolled in this class?”
“No, I am not enrolled in this stupid class. I am only observing the lies that your students place upon the Muslim religion. I am going to turn a complaint into the university administration.”
Maria paused, not wanting to embarrass the girl, but seeing no other choice.
“The speaker has not mentioned the word Muslim in this introduction. You need to listen. He has mentioned known, legally identified, terrorist groups that call themselves Islamic and who claim they are Muslim. Every label that was cited is a known Islamic terrorist group. Again, I say, he did not mention the word Muslim. Are you identifying the different groups of the Islamic world as one entity—the terrorists versus those who worship peacefully and support legal sanctions against terrorism?”
“You play with words. This ridiculous class brain-washes students into blaming the peaceful Muslim religion for promoting terrorism.”
This girl would be argumentative. “You must leave, Miss.” Instead of leaving, the girl walked with rapid steps to the middle of the room and stood. Maria frowned at the woman and spoke with a patience that she didn’t feel, “Do I have to call campus security?”
The heavily robed woman began to fidget with something under her abaya. The woman’s quick furtive movements frightened Maria. Outwardly, Maria remained calm, but inside she felt compelled to yell, Get down! But she restrained this overwhelming reaction. Then, Maria attempted a furtive look toward Captain Forrester’s seat. His chair was vacant. Maria scanned the room. She had not seen him leave.
Down the hall, she could hear the rapid tap of boots race toward her classroom door.
At that moment, two campus security guards barreled into her classroom. Maria scanned the students again for Captain Forrester. He was gone. But who had called the officers?
The two men approached the woman, apparently relieved that this one woman was the only problem. But as they turned to escort the heavily clad woman out, she turned back toward the classroom and pulled a gun.
“Get down!” Captain Forrester yelled from the ceiling.
All eyes riveted up. There Captain Forrester lay parallel to the ceiling, prone on water pipes protruding out of the wall, his pistol targeted on the woman’s gun.
The class collapsed like a wave into a prone position. Maria clumsily fell less gracefully as Jared’s weight pushed her to the floor. She heard two shots.
The woman yelped. Then the immediate bounce of metal against the wooden floor sounded. Maria lifted her upper body on her forearms to check on Captain Forrester as he sat high in the corner, his pistol still pointed at the woman, and there the woman stood with a bloodied hand, the gun lay on the floor. The two security guards jumped up and grabbed her arms, causing an awkward struggle from the woman.
Jared covered most of Maria’s body and she looked around the room at the awe-struck students.
“Is anyone hurt?” No one responded. “If not, then please rise and move out quickly. I hope to meet peacefully next time.” The class cautiously rose and then quickly scattered for the door.
The siren blast in the distance indicated that the downtown police had been called, also.
“Thanks Captain,” Jared nodded as he left the room.
“You will not be thanking the Captain too long, you Islamophobe,” the woman screamed after Jared. “After we are finished here, you will be very sorry! Your Captain has tried to cripple me. You will regret this!”
Maria frowned at the yelling woman. The campus police scowled at one another. A group of city police officers entered, and the leader said, “We’re the bomb squad, please leave the room.”
“Bomb Squad?” Maria gasped.
After being searched, the Burka clad woman, now led by two officers, bellowed and struggled down the hallway. Only as Maria stood in the hallway, with Captain Forrester following, did she feel the trembling in her legs. She wouldn’t be able to make it out of the building.
She turned and looked up at the Captain, “I need to stay here for a while. You go on.”
“It’s not safe. They’re still dismantling the bomb,” he replied. He didn’t budge. For some vague reason, his decision to stay with her made Maria feel protected. Maria’s eyes followed his as he looked toward the end of the hall to see the police still struggling with the woman down the steps. As they disappeared, Maria leaned against the wall for support. The Captain guided her weight gently to a seated position and then he sat beside her. For several moments while her hands shook out of control, Captain Forrester didn’t speak. He looked straight ahead.
Finally, upset with her own continuous trembling, she said in frustration, “Why don’t you leave, Captain Forrester?”
“You won’t get your balance until the shaking stops.”
“Whew!” came the exclamation from the direction of the bomb squad, but Maria was glad that none of them could see her sitting on the hallway floor, quaking.
“Why aren’t you shaking, Captain,” Maria asked, envious of Forrester’s calm.
“You just can’t see me shake, Professor. It comes with practice. It will pass. Hopefully, everyone will come out of this alive. Now, stand up, we’re getting out of here. You need one of those French vanilla lattes that you order all the time.”
Maria looked at him quizzically, but his comment distracted her from her fearful shaking. He helped her up. She didn’t remember ordering any lattes in front of him.
“How do you know I like French vanilla lattes?”
“Professor, you’ve been my assignment for the past sixty days. We’ve known of a terrorist cell here since your father uncovered it. The girl was just a local recruit. They were coming after you because your father uncovered terrorist training in their mosque.”
“My father? A local recruit?”
She followed his eyes as he looked ahead toward the staircase, “French vanilla lattes, that’s the first thing I noticed. But the professor that went with them,” he looked down at her, “I wanted to find out about her. Do you think you can accommodate me?”
Maria liked the calm ocean-blue of his eyes right now, much different than the cold blue-steel as he held a gun. She tried not to smile, but a small tugging forced her lips into a smile. The unfamiliar feeling that now overwhelmed her had long been secondary to work, classes, books, and students. She hoped he wouldn’t guess the rapid increase of her pulse.
“Captain Forrester, I’ll let you humor me. And you need to withdraw from my class, anyway. I think my female students will make much better scores on their presentations.”
The Captain frowned, “I hope you don’t think that my presence was disrupting your classroom.”
Maria paused at his oblivion to all the hero worship.
She had to clarify, “Captain Forrester, a handsome man in uniform, a Marine, no less, who saves the lives of an entire classroom, maybe an entire building of students, yes, your continued presence will definitely be an absolute disruption.”
The Captain frowned harder, “It could have been a lot more than disruptive, Ma’am.” He ignored her flattery and remained dead serious.
Maria straightened at his light rebuke, “Well . . . yes, you are right, Captain. And thank you for your presence and your…” Maria swallowed hard at her next admission, “…your gun.”
Regardless of her opinion on guns, the day’s outcome could have been much different without his.
Maria tried for a lighter note, “I might even accept the title of Ma’am as long as I’m not mistaken for my mother,” she restated her earlier complaint.
Forrester placed his forearm out for her to accept. She paused in confusion, but then slowly and tentatively took his arm. An overpowering shield of protection surrounded her.
He looked down at her with the first brief smile that she had glimpsed from him, “I won’t get confused on that Ma’am.”
From the aura that surrounded her, she felt certain this man kept his promises.
Her husband’s death, two years ago, on the battlefield of Afghanistan, changed Sally Ann’s life forever. She knew that the childcare center served to entertain their son, young Eric, much better than she could.
But now, she usually arrived two hours early, dropping Eric off, and picking him up late. The workload here at Lawrence, Lawrence, and Associates, demanded more and more hours of the day. She was wondering if Eric would ever know the solid security of a mother and father.
“Sally Ann, where is my coffee?” The breathy voice with no body came accompanied by the staccato click of high-heels. The sounds echoed from the office kitchenette.
The recently hired female lawyer, Miss Overton, who spoke the words, finally looked around the doorframe and critically eyed Sally Ann, the easily replaced secretary of Lawrence, Lawrence, and Associates, the top law firm in the city.
“Mr. Lawrence hasn’t started it yet? He usually….”
“Mr. Lawrence? Sally Ann, you will not allow Mr. Lawrence to fix his own coffee. You have time to start the coffee in the morning.”
“Miss Overton, Mr. Lawrence has never asked me to fix his coffee. But I will.”
At that moment, an old client entered. He wore the long robes of the Middle East. Sally Ann buzzed Mr. Lawrence.
“Sheikh Buhadur is here, Sir,”
Mr. Lawrence’s voice came low over the intercom, “Send him in.”
The Sheikh entered Mr. Lawrence’s office and Sally Ann stood from her typing to fix coffee. She slid her elastic ponytail band from her wrist and pulled her wild auburn locks back into a high ponytail. On her path to the kitchenette, Sally Ann walked passed the wall mirror and as usual, she noticed the flaw of light freckles dusting her nose. She frowned as she compared her green eyes against Miss Overton’s blue ones. Sally Ann realized that her crush on Mr. Lawrence was foolish, but it made Sally Ann jealous of the beautiful new staff member. As Sally Ann continued her walk toward the kitchenette where the empty pot sat, she hoped that her guess at how to fix coffee would suffice. She dipped five heaping teaspoons into the strainer and then added twelve cups of water. She decided that six heaping teaspoons would be better. She flipped the pot on.
Suddenly, she heard an angry man’s words, all in a foreign language, coming from Mr. Lawrence’s room. She paused. Then the words changed to English. A heavy accent laced the pronunciation.
“I am a United States citizen. I have paid for that privilege. I only follow my Muslim religion. Honor demands it. I have paid your organization, but I didn’t agree with the lawyer you assigned me. I have money to meet this charge. I can pay off the judge. Your associate, Mr. Landry, said American laws would not recognize Sharia law. Sharia law is my deeply held religious belief that your so-called constitution protects. I had every legal right under Sharia to kill my wife without prosecution. Your American constitution does not apply to me except to support my religious beliefs.”
Through the door, Sally Ann heard Mr. Lawrence’s low rumbled reply, a habit that Sally Ann knew he used when he wanted to control the situation. But as she listened she noticed the edge in Mr. Lawrence’s voice as it rose, causing Sally Ann to walk to the kitchenette entry and look worriedly down the hallway at the closed door.
Miss Overton walked passed Sally Ann and raised her arm to knock, but Sally Ann rushed to block her.
She whispered, “Miss Overton, you don’t know Mr. Lawrence. Never disturb him when he’s with a client.”
Miss Overton frowned as she stood there next to the door, with Sally Ann guarding it. But then, Miss Overton quickly opened the door and pushed it wide, “Is anything wrong, Peter?
Sally Ann turned to see the heavily robed Sheikh. He sat in front of Mr. Lawrence’s desk. She also saw the warning in Peter Lawrence’s steel gray eyes that prompted Miss Overton to close the door. But either Miss Overton didn’t see the warning, or she ignored it.
“Your other clients can hear your conversation, Peter,” Miss Overton gushed, with the apparent expectation that her interference would be appreciated.
Peter Lawrence stood and came to the door, but he didn’t look at Miss Overton, instead, he looked at Sally Ann Jones.
“Please explain to Miss Overton that I will not be interrupted.” He slammed the door.
Miss Overton gave a crippled laugh that revealed that she considered Mr. Lawrence’s reaction rude and stupid. She turned and walked quickly to the kitchenette and poured a cup of coffee.
Sally Ann wanted Miss Overton’s comments on how the coffee tasted. But before tasting it, Miss Overton placed several spoons of sugar substitute and cream in the mix. She walked quickly to her room, her heels clicking in frustration.
Sally Ann heaved a quick breath of relief as she realized that she wouldn’t have to explain Mr. Lawrence’s orders, again.
Just at that moment, the Sheikh exited Mr. Lawrence’s room, moving angrily toward the outer door. When Sally Ann stood to ask if he needed another appointment, he shoved her out of the way. He stepped hurriedly passed her desk, slamming the door as he left.
Sally Ann looked at the other waiting clientele, and centered her attention on the next client, “Mr. Lawrence will be with you shortly.”
She turned back to see Mr. Lawrence step out of his office.
“Do I need to call him about another appointment?” She whispered.
In a lowered voice, he said, “Apparently he didn’t appreciate my legal counsel on his case. So, I don’t think that he’ll be back. I don’t see how our state is going to approve Sharia Law any time soon. However, there are some state legislators that are stupid enough to approve it. I think that there are lots of monies exchanging hands to get it approved. Sharia Law is in complete violation to the constitution.”
Miss Overton clicked down the hallway, “Whew, am I happy that you’re all in one piece, Peter.”
Mr. Lawrence turned to address her, “Yes, Miss Overton. But Sally Ann should have told you that you are not to open my door when I’m in counsel.”
Sally Ann looked at Miss Overton who didn’t acknowledge her or admit that she had been warned.
Mr. Lawrence turned back to Sally Ann, “We need you here again tonight. You’re going to have to look up some old cases over oil rights.”
“Eric will have to come again.” Sally Ann stated worriedly, watching for any pause to Mr. Lawrence’s step at the mention of Eric, her four-year-old son.
Miss Overton clasped her forehead, “That means that I definitely lock my door from any little brats.” She turned and stepped back into her office.
Sally Ann continued to watch Mr. Lawrence’s retreating back, remembering how Eric had gotten into Miss Overton’s chocolates and had rubbed her cherry-wood desk with smudges. But he hadn’t stopped with Miss Overton’s chocolates. Mr. Lawrence’s crystal candy bowl with its high-priced butterscotch sweets had also been overturned. Each goody inside had been stuck together from Eric’s temporary sampling of each morsel.
Finally, Mr. Lawrence turned toward her from his doorway, “Kids will be kids, Mrs. Jones, but I need you here.”
He stepped into his office with his next client.
Sally Ann narrowed her gaze on Miss Overton’s closed door. Mr. Lawrence hadn’t asked Miss Overton to volunteer her spare time. Apparently, Miss Overton had a life beyond her work. Another stab of loss ran through Sally Ann.
The evening stretched out in length, but finally the old mineral right privileges were located by Sally Ann and then analyzed by Mr. Lawrence. He gave oral dictation to Sally Ann as she typed up a legal document. Finally, the work was done, and Mr. Lawrence picked up a sleeping Eric from the couch.
Mr. Lawrence followed Sally Ann down the hallway and entered the elevator behind her. She turned to see that Peter’s gray eyes strayed from the elevator buttons to meet hers. But then his gaze drifted to her parted lips and lingered.
Eric raised his head from Mr. Lawrence’s shoulder, “Mommy, do we get to come again tomorrow? I like to work.”
Eric’s voice broke the spell that seemed to hold her gaze on Peter. The activities of the evening seemed magical, and not like work at all. She felt like a team. She stepped away from her boss as her cheeks burned and she pushed her hair back from her face feeling Peter’s penetrating gaze still on her. But she wouldn’t look at Mr. Lawrence. She had read only what she wanted to find in his eyes. And hopefully, he could not read her vivid thoughts.
Traveling home, Sally Ann wondered how she was going to sleep after the sweet feelings that she experienced while being with Mr. Lawrence. His presence also brought poignant memories of how precious it was to have someone to love. She sadly realized that while Mr. Lawrence could never replace the wild-abandonment of the love that she held for Eric’s father, she had grown to love Peter Lawrence in a different way. Not less than her Eric’s father. But different.
This would never do. She must find a new job soon. She knew that she would never be able to hide her feelings long. She struggled with these thoughts and couldn’t fall asleep.
The wild drums kept beating an uneven rhythm. When Sally Ann heard her name being called, she started running toward the voice. The voice was urgent. Demanding. Angry. The voice was….
Sally Ann awoke.
But the drums kept beating. She rolled over in bed. The sun shone brightly through the window. The clock showed a blank screen. The day was….Tuesday?
She had overslept.
Sally Ann jumped out of bed and looked down at her oversized T-shirt, her only nightgown. Her house socks were gathered sloppily around her ankles. And her red-locks curled even wilder than usual. She ran to the front door where it sounded like a very angry Mr. Lawrence. He called her name, again.
She looked out the peephole and verified that, in fact, it was her boss, Mr. Lawrence. She heaved a heavy breath. It was safe to open the door. She wouldn’t need her loaded Ruger 380, a parting gift from Eric’s Daddy. However, she paused. She had forgotten her Ruger at work. She wasn’t to have the Ruger at work—orders from Mr. Lawrence.
She quickly opened her door.
Mr. Lawrence didn’t ask to come in. He stepped passed her and turned around.
“Are you OK?” He asked worriedly.
Sally Ann frowned at his anxious tone, “Yes, Mr. Lawrence. My alarm didn’t go off and now I see that Eric must have unplugged both my alarm and the phone.”
Mr. Lawrence turned to see Eric come sheepishly around the corner, dragging his small blanket behind him. When several seconds passed with Mr. Lawrence not saying a word, only staring at her son, he spoke again with his back turned to her, he sounded unsure, not like the Peter Lawrence that Sally Ann knew.
“You know, Sally Ann, that I really like you. “
Am I getting fired? She thought.
“In fact, I don’t think I wanted to like you. To tell you the truth, I have fought how I’ve liked you. I’ve wanted you since that first day you walked into my office and stumbled over the chair at the interview.”
Sally Ann frowned at the memory, but she felt confused and surprised by his comments. She remembered the chaos of that day and the elation that she felt at finally landing a job.
Peter continued, “And today, when I couldn’t reach you, just when I wanted to hear your voice or see your smile, I couldn’t take it. I was angry. I realized that I was much too angry than any employer had a right to be angry. Then I realized that I was angry at myself because I thought maybe because I kept you out late that something had happened to you. That’s when I realized how very important you’ve become.”
When several seconds passed with Mr. Lawrence’s back still toward her, Sally Ann felt compelled to walk around him and see his face. Her heart felt like singing.
“And?” She asked. Her feet planted firmly in front of him and her awe-struck eyes lifted to stare directly into his worried ones. She hadn’t heard any words of love or marriage. That would be the only offer that she would settle on.
To Sally Ann’s surprise, Mr. Lawrence bent his tall frame and rested himself on one knee.
Sally Ann stumbled in startled surprise, but then recovered like this was normal.
“I love you, Sally Ann Jones. Will you marry me?”
Sally Ann took a deep breath. She wondered if she were still in a dream. She slowly bent to get level with his beautiful square jaw. Maybe this would verify the reality.
After several moments of feeling the rays of his penetrating worry, Sally Ann replied happily, “Only if you put me in your schedule.”
His worried frown turned to a wicked smile, “That can be accomplished, since you set the schedule.”
Miss Overton stood at the hallway’s entry, holding a cup of coffee that she had made. Today was Sally Ann and Peter’s first day back after a month-long absence on their honeymoon.
Miss Overton looked different. She had changed her dress style. She even wore a scarf over her head like it was winter outside. And her dress fell to ankle length.
“My last day is today, Mrs. Lawrence, I’ve turned in my resignation. But could you send in my next client to prepare them for an alternate associate?” She asked Sally Ann.
Sally Ann sent in the next client as she looked at her two-carrot wedding ring, remembering the wonderful cruise. Peter was still interviewing secretaries that might take her place, although, Sally Ann now smiled at the memory of how he complained that she was irreplaceable.
At that moment, the heavily robed Arab, Sheikh Bahadur, opened the lobby door and stepped passed Sally Ann’s desk without a word. He walked toward Peter’s office with a younger man following, dressed in the same long robes. He never acknowledged her, so she ran to block his path.
“Mr. Lawrence must not be disturbed.”
Bahadur shoved her aside, but this time he spoke in Arabic and gave a command to the younger man. The younger man pushed her down. She fell to the floor beside her desk. He pulled a gun from his garb.
The sight of the gun caused one of the clients to scream. The young man took aim and fired at the lady. She fell to the floor.
“Sally Ann!” Peter called from his room but the Sheikh had entered his room and she then heard the scuffle of fists.
The loud voice of the Sheikh came in harsh tones from her husband’s room. She remembered her loaded pistol neatly tucked in the bottom drawer beside her hand. She cracked open the drawer and clutched the handle of the Ruger.
Miss Overton exited her office. “Join the rest of the group,” she told her client. She wore a smile on her lips that Sally Ann considered odd, since the young Arab held a gun.
But then the young man spoke as a friend to Miss Overton, “It’s all set. The plane leaves in thirty minutes, with these out of the way, we will have our revenge; my father, for having to pay a lawyer that wouldn’t do his job and obtain Sharia Law approval, and you for being abused by your supervisor.”
“Yes,” Miss Overton agreed.
Suddenly, Sally Ann understood the drastic change in Miss Overton’s wardrobe. The scarf served as the routine female Muslim’s headgear. The long dress served to declare Miss Overton’s modesty. The woman had converted to the Islamic faith.
And with her conversion, Miss Overton now revealed her traitorous intent to destroy Lawrence, Lawrence, and Associates.
Peter ran out of his office to see Sally Ann on the floor. The young Arab lifted his pistol and aimed at Peter, “Where is my father?”
The Sheik stepped out of Peter’s office, his robes askew, and his step less sure.
“Kill the Infidel! We will kill them all speedily and leave for the plane.”
As the young Arab lifted his arm to better aim at Peter’s head, Sally Ann fired her pistol. This time it was not a client that screamed.
“Ahmed, oh, Ahmed, what has she done to you?” Miss Overton shrieked as she tried to hold up the young Arab. But then she looked at Sally Ann, “You bitch!”
Sally Ann kept her aim on Miss Overton and the Sheikh as the young Arab fell to the floor.
“Peter, call an ambulance and the police,” Sally Ann prompted.
The Sheikh stepped toward her, but jerked back and grabbed his upper arm. Sally Ann shot him for simply moving.
“You will sit there beside your son until the police and ambulance get here or I swear, you are going to see your eternity today. Remember, according to your Quran, a Muslim does not obtain his eternal reward if killed by a woman. So, make my day, move one more time.” Sally Ann threatened, continuing to aim the pistol at the Sheikh’s heart.
The sirens blasted, the police came barreling into the room, followed by the ambulance personnel with gurneys.
“Get her first,” Sally Ann pointed to the female client that had been shot.
Peter watched the police leave with the suspects as the medics carried the wounded with police escort. He turned to Sally Ann, “I thought I told you not to bring that pistol to my office.” He eyed the gun as one last officer bagged it for evidence.
Sally Ann nodded with a frown, “I thought you told me that a gun wasn’t needed.”
Peter folded Sally Ann in his embrace, “See, you’re irreplaceable.”
The flare rose high before the sound rumbled passed and the blast rocked the outpost where Emily stood. Odd. From her designated lookout, the 4th of July celebration sounded more like combat.
Emily struggled to stop the rush of memories, bits of souvenirs. She remembered. Sergeant Jeffrey leapt ahead and deliberately fell on the grenade. His bravery saved a platoon of thirty men and women crawling toward the enemy. She had heard later how Sergeant Jeffrey’s wife and three sons received the news.
But today, Emily smiled sadly at the bright fireworks as she heard the loud rumble in the distance.
Several years had passed and she no longer served in the Army, but when young, she had thought that she could do anything. Her Mom was worried about her decision to enlist, but her Dad seemed proud that she chose to serve her country before college. He had no son to offer. The Army would help pay for her education, a promise that made the military sweeter.
However, as Emily signed contract to serve her country, America opened combat positions to women. Although delicate in her build, her excellent physical fitness on the farm to lift hundred pound bales of hay easily qualified her to also carry a thirty-pound combat pack on her back with a seven-pound weapon strapped to her side. Before enlisting, she never considered that she would fight along-side young men her age and younger. Men that she now would be expected to lead into combat. Men and women whose mothers might receive their son or daughter’s souvenirs back home—without their son or daughter.
But that was then.
Today, Emily kept watching the celebration flashes. She kept hearing the blasts. She kept feeling the beats. The ground vibrated. Suddenly, a screaming siren echoed from the noise.
She needed to lower the music volume on her radio, and turned to walk down the embankment. The National Anthem played loud. But before reaching it, the squelch of her walky-talky squeaked, “Terrorist attack. Main and Broadway. Two officers down, condition unknown. Child hostage.”
As Emily hurried to switch off the music, she stumbled over a large rock that blocked her artificial leg. The prosthetic served as another souvenir of Afghanistan.
Unclipping her self-purchased walky-talky from her camouflage belt, she spoke, “Papa-47, this is Foxtrot-31, come in.”
“Copy, Fox, this is Papa.”
“Send in Mama July.”
“Copy, Fox. Over. Out.”
Emily labored back to her lookout site. With open borders, the militia commander had warned that America would soon have the same combat trouble as the Middle East. The citizen soldier stood as America’s last defense.
Emily spotted Mama. The drone flew over the distant attack. Emily clipped on her goggles and now saw through the drone’s camera and sights that took her within thirty feet of the terrorist. Its camera kept snapping pictures for evidence—evidence needed to stop false allegations. Souvenirs.
From her post, she focused the craft’s sights.
The terrorist fell.
The hostage ran.
Souvenirs . . .
“You were a national hero,” Doc Anderson said.
“A national hero,” Harrison repeated with a flat thread of doubt.
“Well, you weren’t around at the time to get the praise, but, yes, you and all your men had slipped out of the hand of the Order Force.”
“My men. Doc. My men. Where are they?”
Besides finding out yesterday that the doctor manipulated medical records to identify Harrison as gay, which he wasn’t, Doctor Anderson held a lot of secrets—another way to hide identities.
The doctor stood in the center of the room with an eyebrow lifted—Harrison figured this was the closest thing to a smile that Doc Anderson would ever give him.
“Just as we changed your name from Fletcher to Harrison, we had to cover your men, also.”
“Are my men OK?” Harrison felt more alert than he had since awakening from his bio-sleep. But he wondered why Doc Anderson looked worried.
“Your mother and father lived through the defeat,” the Doc frowned as he said it.
“Thank God,” Harrison said.
“But you’ve been in bio-sleep a long time, Lieutenant Harrison.”
“I would prefer that you call me Captain Fletcher, which is my real name – and when I went into bio-sleep, it would have been Commander Fletcher to you,” Harrison felt frustrated with all the unexplained secrecy and lies. “What day is it?”
“A good day, Tuesday. What month?”
“Humm. The full date?” Harrison was getting tired of pulling all the details from the Doc.
Harrison frowned harder. He would have to ask for the year, also, he ignored the urge.
“So, it’s Tuesday, February 14th, 2018,” he guessed that he had been in bio-sleep a few months. “Good old Valentine’s Day.”
“No. We don’t celebrate that pagan holiday anymore.”
“Pagan? Old Valentine was a Christian. Well, yeah, he was little too lovable for me, but pagan?”
Anderson frowned deeper, “Eat, Lieutenant Harrison. You’ve got to get your strength up.”
Harrison frowned slightly at the pronunciation of each of Doc Anderson’s words. He spoke with a different stress on certain syllables. Harrison barely understood the Doc when he spoke rapidly, like now.
“Where are you from, Doc?” Forrester asked, but he still felt that his brain sat under water.
“Good old state of California,” Harrison sipped another spoon of the chicken soup.
“Sector of California,” Doc Anderson corrected.
“Sector of California? When did that happen?”
“When you disappeared in space and the Order Force took over.”
Harrison kept staring at the small doctor.
He finally asked, “Doc, you never told me what year it was.”
Doctor Anderson sighed and nodded as though this information would be inevitable, “It is 2218, Lieutenant Harrison, almost two hundred years since you disappeared into space.”
Although she couldn’t see his most private anatomy, Captain Garrett frowned at the naked male. He sat in the soapy bath water, rapidly lathering and not knowing that she had entered the room.
“Lieutenant Harrison,” she addressed the busy man. At least she knew his name from the nameplate they just added to her door, “If we are to share baths, you’re going to have to post the times that you need the tub.”
She disliked the common practice to house gay males with females. But this Lieutenant certainly wasn’t eyeing her as though he were gay. Her masculine fatigue uniform didn’t seem to damper his male attention to her female attributes, “Quit looking at me that way.”
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he possessed the manners to finally look away, “but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a female.”
Captain Garrett frowned, “A tour in space-tower?”
Harrison would have to ask Anderson what “space-tower” meant.
He ignored her, “Since we’re going to share baths, you’re going to have to leave, Ma’am, since it’s my time to take one.”
“That’s what the schedule says,” he pointed his soapy finger toward the wall behind her.
Captain Jesse Garrett turned and read the notice on the wall with a darkening frown. She didn’t like sharing her bath with even one female. And while it was Order Force Air Command’s common practice to house the gay males with the females, she certainly didn’t like sharing her bath with a male.
Jesse felt her face flush red as she read the posted order and saw that she had made a mistake. Lieutenant Harrison was right. She had walked in on his bath time.
Jesse could hear the water splashing behind her and turned. The man started to stand. She closed her eyes at the vision of a lot of skin before she jerked away and slammed the door behind her.
She could hear the Lieutenant yell through the closed door, “Well, yes, we have a bath schedule, but you can use the bath now if you like. I’ll start using it at a different time. That is, if you prefer this time to bathe. It’s not written in stone.”
“Written in stone?” Jesse whispered his phrase. Peculiar, since any writing on any stones, to include grave monuments or statues, was outlawed.
The Lieutenant opened the door with a towel wrapped around his hips, “Yeah, you know, it’s not ground into solid rock. We can change it if we both agree.”
Jesse shook her head. She quickly looked away from the tall attractive man, “Actually Lieutenant Harrison, if the billeting officer issued this order and if we change it, we might be the ones implanted in the stone. The Order Force would definitely put an end to any further options.”
Jesse sighed with resignation and walked into the living area which doubled for both kitchenette and entertainment—entertainment of political speeches from the Supreme Commander. Two matching bunks sat across from each other.
Jesse wondered what in the world the billeting officer was thinking to house this lower- ranking officer with her. And now she spied the trainee flight insignia clipped on his uniform.
He was not only lower ranking, but she would be his flight instructor.
“Well, to tell you the truth, Doc, at first I was worried, since I didn’t recognize any of the new gadgets in the cockpit. But Captain Garrett is a good instructor and I’m completing the training on three new aircraft maneuvers for combat readiness,” Harrison gave his report to Doc Anderson.
“Yeah, me too,” one of Harrison’s old crew members seconded.
The other men from Commander Fletcher’s crew started nodding in agreement.
“Yeah, and I think Commander Fletcher is a little taken with the lovely flight instructor,” one officer observed.
Another officer whistled low, “And did you hear, they housed Captain Garrett with Lieutenant – I mean – Commander Fletcher.”
“Enough!” Harrison shouted. He frowned in surprise at his own harsh order.
The group fell silent.
Harrison analyzed his response since he and Captain Jesse Garrett argued a lot – especially about flight safety. She sided with safety and he sided with the need for risk to get the advantage in tactical flight maneuvers.
“OK, boys,” Anderson spoke, silencing the questions. “You must never call Lieutenant Harrison by the name he held in the old life. And he will give you the same courtesy.” The Doc stood in front of the men, and waited for the nods of acknowledgement. And to set the record straight, I directed the housing arrangement of Lieutenant Harrison with Captain Garrett.”
A mumble of questions rushed through the group.
Finally, Harrison spoke, “Well, Doc, I don’t know why you housed me with Captain Garrett. The little woman hates me. I would definitely have preferred a better female welcome after two hundred years.”
The group laughed.
Harrison still held questions about this assignment, “And we want to know now, since we gave our word not to speak of our past, why all the secrecy?”
Doctor Anderson looked around at the group and walked to the door. He checked the hallway for any listeners. He quietly closed it.
“Lieutenant Harrison, I think you’ve already observed why we must be secretive. If it were known that you were from Flight Crew Aries, your whole group would have been executed if identified. No one found you until historically you had been forgotten. The only reason that I did not turn in information on your crippled spacecraft when discovered is because I’m a student of history. And I recognized your craft immediately. If I had informed the administration of who you and your crew really were, then I couldn’t get what I want.”
The diminutive doctor looked around the group expectantly. Waiting. When no one asked what he wanted, the doctor sighed and continued, “I really liked that country that you and your crew lost almost two centuries ago—that United States of America. I think that’s what they called it. I was hoping that since you escaped into outer space so that you could come back to fight again—that’s the legend—that we might use your – what did they call it – the American way – to outsmart the current controllers – the Order Force.”
The doctor looked slowly around the group. When he got no word, he continued, “At one time you sacrificed your life for that nation. It stood for liberty. It based its laws on that old manual of full liberty which is now banned. I think they called it the Bible at that time. They now call it the Call to Arms manual. This and the Constitution of the United States are banned. Do you still stand for the values of that historical nation?”
The crew looked around at each other with a heavy frown.
Jesse Garrett sat in the passenger seat, the routine placement for flight instructors, and she wanted to yell at this man that seemed to want to drive her mad with his flight tactics.
“Lieutenant Harrison, you’re putting too much stress on the wing and your airspeed is much too slow,” the land crawled below them.
“Captain Garrett, how will I know how much stress or loss of airspeed I can handle with this ‘sheen unless I try it?”
“You do not listen! All of this maneuvering makes me crazy, and no one uses it today. What are you trying to prove? This is much too dangerous. There are no more wars to win—no causes to uphold—no nations to defend. We are at peace. Lieutenant, I am going to be forced to fail you if you do not do as I say.”
“So, little Captain Garrett is feeling her Wheaties.”
“Wheaties! My goodness, what obscene thing do you allege that I’m feeling, now?”
Harrison pulled himself out of his mindset, “I am not calling you anything profane, Captain. You get too uptight at my attempts to test an aircraft for what it can do.”
“Lieutenant, the only reason for military flight training is to escort leaders to their scheduled meetings and insure a safe flight – not place them in danger.”
Harrison felt like explaining to the little Captain that the whole world set under the Order Force. No one had ever seen this supreme leader except in hologram. While the leader of the Order Force supposedly lived in this area, no one that anyone knew had seen the real man. The authentic person never showed himself for any speaking engagement or national television display—except in hologram. It served only as a mask behind some agenda—evil. There were slaves in the fields used for food supply, but attention to their needs of food, clothing, and shelter was limited.
He could remember before the war, his mother would read about a one-world government—the same that existed today. She explained it from the Bible. He hadn’t paid much attention. When these old memories had started troubling him, Harrison had looked for a Bible, especially since the book was banned. He searched incognito in stores, he even called a local motel to ask if they stocked Gideon Bibles in their rooms. The clerk asked what a Gideon Bible might be. No one had a Bible. One library clerk finally answered his casual questions about the banning of Bibles.
Harrison decided to try another risky flight maneuver as he looked surreptitiously at Captain Garrett. But before he attempted it, he considered that he would confuse the little woman again.
“You read your Bible today?”
“You know, the book that I saw you reading the other night.”
He had not seen her read anything. He loved aggravating her to see the fire in her eyes.
Jesse kept her eyes straight ahead. The man was impossible. Those that read the Bible intended to overthrow this cancerous government, filled with bureaucrats that no one held accountable. The world lay plagued with oppression of sacred writings that proved a Creator.
Jesse would certainly not reveal any information of her habits to this maverick Lieutenant that seemed to know how to fly an aircraft even before she instructed him. She hoped that she could discourage his zeal for combat maneuvers. He might prove a vicious enemy.
She frowned harder at her wondering thoughts as she watched the Lieutenant make a hot landing to deal with the tempestuous air lifts. These men in this entire group of trainee pilots seemed to learn much faster than previous students.
The pounding came as a blast in Harrison’s head.
“Open up! Open up!”
Harrison’s eyes focused through the darkness on the edges of light that outlined the closed rectangular door. Jesse’s silhouette now drifted to block the door’s outline and then she unbolted the entrance. Two military police rushed in as Jesse switched on the light.”
“What in the world are you doing?” Jesse asked as she turned toward them.
One grabbed her arms and snapped handcuffs on her wrists behind her back.
Do they think Jesse is involved in our cover up?
One officer started pulling books out of shelves and threw open desk drawers searching for something. The officers started tapping the floor and walls. The second officer took a picture down. There a square of drywall was neatly cut and fit back into place over a clean opening in the wall. The guard pushed the reseated block back. It fell on a book inside. He grabbed it.
“Got it. Captain Garrett, you’re coming with us. And we need you to come with us, also, Lieutenant Harrison. We have questions for you to answer.”
“Questions? What do you think that I know?”
The officer slapped the well-worn book as he lifted it for Harrison to see. “With this Call to Arms manual that the Order Force bans, it is definite proof needed to separate her to the space-tower-solitary for several years.”
“Lieutenant. Stand up. You are now also under suspicion since you are housed with Captain Garrett. Your presence here makes you a suspect.”
Jesse looked sadly at Harrison, “Lieutenant Harrison knows nothing.”
“That’s what they all say, Captain. Let’s go,” the officer said.
Harrison didn’t like the way the guards jerked Jesse’s arms behind her. He didn’t like the word space-tower-solitary. And he knew now that Captain Jesse Garrett possessed a Bible—which made it clear that his crew and her group already agreed on some main values.
“I don’t think so.”
The guard started to pull his gun and Harrison kicked it out of his hand, grabbing the guard and slamming his head against the metal refrigerator. The guard fell unconscious as the other guard drew his pistol and fired, missing Harrison’s head as he ducked.
The guard aimed again, but Jesse jerked out of his grasp, causing the guard to turn the gun from Harrison to her. Harrison slammed the man’s hand down. The gun fired. The bullet buried in the floor. The pistol dropped. Harrison pulled the guard’s arm behind him.
Those billeted in neighboring rooms cautiously opened their doors. One man now stood at the opened entry.
“We had a disagreement,” Harrison offered as he held the struggling police officer’s arms behind his back. Harrison wondered if he would have to fight the man now staring at him.
Captain Jesse Garrett didn’t smile. She said no word. She picked up the fallen pistol and slammed it hard into the military policeman’s head, making him slump backward, unconscious into Harrison.
Harrison’s eyebrows rose as the officer dropped unconscious to the floor. Harrison frowned in surprise. He hadn’t been this astonished since he heard that he had been in bio-sleep over two hundred years.
Captain Garrett looked up at him with narrowed eyes, “Never admit anything in front of the enemy, Lieutenant Harrison.”
She turned to the man at the door, “It’s OK, Mark, it looks like Lieutenant Harrison is with us.”
Harrison looked at the man and then the many others that came cautiously forward.
“Are all these in agreement with you?” Harrison asked.
“Yes, Lieutenant Harrison.”
“My name is Fletcher. Not Harrison. Previous Commander of the Aries Command Flight,” he corrected, “It feels good to be back home.”
Jesse looked confused.
Mark explained from the door, “Doc Anderson thought it best not to tell any other officer except me. Commander Fletcher is the man that led the crusade against the Order Force at the beginning. He disappeared into light years. Doc Anderson is in charge of his reentry.”
Mark turned back to the group in the hallway, “Let’s escort these guards to their holding place.”
Four men entered and picked up the two downed guards. Mark took the cuffs off Captain Garrett and slipped them into his pocket. He looked at both Fletcher and Garrett and then shrugged, “Who knows, I might need them.”
When the room and hall set emptied, Jesse quit frowning and stopped looking down the hallway.
“Commander Fletcher, we’re going to really need your help now.”
Fletcher frowned, “Well, I’m no longer a Commander. And as far as helping, I’ve not been too successful as history goes.”
“There are many that will stand with us. Doc Anderson is much too secretive for me. But he keeps us safe. We have needed him. However, I have seen you fly. At this hour, we need men like you, those who can take risks.”
Fletcher frowned harder, “I said that it was good to be back home. But, I’m not back home, really. I’ve already risked a whole life. I lost a mother and father while I served in that life. I lost friends that will never be replaced. I’ve already risked a lifetime.”
“Then you are not joining us?”
“I never said that,” he paused as he looked at the open window as the sun rose in the east. “There’s no where else to go.”
From Julianna Petite
I hope you enjoyed your time with Captain Forrester and Professor Zayas, and the rest . . .
Sally Ann, Peter, Emily, Commander Fletcher and Captain Jesse Garrett. Your comments and reviews on my stories would be appreciated because their stories are just the beginnings. You can contact me at my email address
Excerpt from the full length novel Down Mexico Way is enclosed.
~ coming in October ~
CHECK MY WEBSITE
Excerpt from novel
Down Mexico Way
Coming in October
Maybe it was just as well. It was only a hundred and sixty acres compared to other Texas spreads, now many owned by corporations. But all of her childhood was wrapped around the buildings, fences, hills, and trees; and even when away, she could see each clear as day, what the trees would look like in autumn with their burnish red oak leaves, what the air would smell like in spring with the honeysuckle wrapped around all the fence posts.
She paused at the door as she saw an old black pickup barrel across the pasture road. She supposed it must be Mark Landis, the real estate man that she hadn’t met yet. But his vehicle didn’t match the cost of the firm’s name or reputation. She guessed that teaching at a women’s college back east gave her a distorted perception that a lawyer with a concentration in real estate from Landis & Landis would not want to feel the hot wind and hang an arm out the lowered cab window.
As the pickup came closer, she frowned. The man behind the wheel wore a cowboy hat and his arm lay swathed in a blue plaid western shirt. The black pickup slammed to a stop, the dust lifted and danced in the sun.
The rush of a Senior Prom memory spilled into her thoughts. Then the flickering lights at the dance where he asked her to marry him in front of all the class, knowing it was only a joke between two friends. Then the shock of his entry into the Army and then to Afghanistan.
She smiled in recognition as he opened the gate to the white picket fence.
How good to see you! How did you know I was here?”
He didn’t smile. He walked up the stone path. His voice came harsh with no friendship, “Why didn’t you call for entrance to this property. It’s under surveillance.”
Well, let’s see,” she frowned in confusion. “How was I suppose to call you, Joe? It’s been over ten years since you decided to save America. How was I to know you were even in the area?”
Joseph’s eyes filled with recognition. He stepped back and frowned heavily, “Little Ava? Is that you?”
“Yes, Joe. It’s me.” She laughed and stepped toward him a pace. Then she threw her arms around his neck in a hug. “You didn’t recognize me! And who was I going to call, your Mom?”
“No,” he paused and looked down. He looked back at her sharply as though her absence betrayed a trust. “She died last spring. You could have tried to call old friends to keep contact.”
“I’m so sorry, Joe. I didn’t know. I guess I could have done that. I didn’t even know that you were back from the Middle East or from all those assignments that I heard you accepted. I also heard you got some sort of medals, bronze star – or was it silver star? Anyway, Daddy was just gushing over the telephone about your combat medals.”
“Bronze Star would be the combat medal.” Joseph frowned harder. “It’s good to see you. And it’s true. I didn’t recognize you, Ava. You look like a woman now, not a little girl. I guess I won’t be calling you ‘little Ava’ anymore.”
“But how did you know I was here even if you didn’t recognize me?”
“There is surveillance.”
“Oh, you don’t mean it.”
“Yes, and we’ve picked up activity on film at night. We’ve managed to clear them out by helicopters. But, I come out here daily to check on all those old antiques of your parents. You know that there’s a rumor that you’re selling the farm.”
It was Ava’s turn to frown, now. “My goodness. I don’t think that I’ve spoken to anyone about that. In fact, I haven’t seen any of our old friends. I . . .”
“Sam’s new real estate agency in El Paso.”
“Oh, your little brother, Sam. Yes, I called several real estate agents, but I don’t think I spoke to Sam. How is he?”
“He thinks he went into the wrong business. It’s hard to make a profit selling land with unsolved murders.”
Ava frowned as she nodded. She noticed the old sparkle never reached Joseph’s eyes.
He looked at her left hand. “You mean no special gentleman has proposed yet.”
Oh, yes, my special gentleman did.” She looked at Joseph with a teasing gleam in her eye, “but then he ran off to war and loved guns better than babies.” She shrugged lightly.
Joseph barely broke a smile as he stated, “Well that stupid guy. I hope he didn’t get killed over there.”
“Oh no,” Ava played along, “in fact he brought back medals. Many medals worth more than all the wives and babies in the world.”
Joseph looked skeptical and didn’t respond to her comment. “Well, Ava, I’m now assigned as an investigator here. Actually, it’s what the military is setting up for national defense.”
“It has something to do with the unsolved murders – your parents being two in the group.”
Ava felt the light tenor of the conversation open a hole in her heart. She felt empty. “I should have been here. I might have been able to save them.”
“If you had been here, I’m certain you would be buried with them.”
“What do you know?”
“At this point, border land is being sold. The new owners don’t want to be bothered with anyone on their property. It seems that soon the place of your parents’ murders will belong to someone else.”
“No one has told me any of this,” she frowned. “And if I don’t sell? Are you close?”
“Little questioner, Ava!” He shook his head. “You were always buzzing around the classroom with your questions. That’s why you passed through two grades in one year for two years in a row. And that’s why you graduated with my class when you should have been way behind me. But as I remember, some of the questions you asked, you really never needed to know.”
“Oh no you don’t, Joe. My questions mattered to me. I wanted to make certain that you chose the right girl.”
“Well, if you find her, call me, Ava, but right now I’ve got work to do.”
“Do you have a lead?” Ava prompted again.
“No, and it’s not looking very good. You can’t stay out here, either. These murders are unsolved. This property is considered a place where the murderers will return.”
“It’s been two years!”
“I have a hunch that the reason your parents were murdered is that someone needed more land along the border. Do you understand now? This area is not safe. Arizona has put up with this for years. But it looks like Texas is coming under the threat.”
“They aren’t bringing drugs across the border, Joe. The people coming over the border are poor and helpless.”
“Not too helpless if they murdered your parents.”
The honk of a horn brought Ava’s eyes to the sound, “My real estate agent.” She announced as she eyed the man in the red Mercedes. The sound of a helicopter chopped the air overhead. She looked back at Joseph. “Your surveillance team?” When he didn’t respond, she said, “Come on, let’s talk to Mr. Landis.”
“You mean my brother’s competition?”
Ava grabbed his arm and pulled him with her, “Come on, you might want to get pointers for your brother.”
Ava pulled Joseph with her, knowing she couldn’t budge him if he didn’t want to go. The lawyer stepped out of his car.
“Hi,” Ava called from the picket fence.
The lawyer paused and frowned, “You didn’t tell me you were married.”
Ava’s blue eyes grew wide and her black tapered brows lifted as she smiled up at Joseph. “This is a very good friend of mine. He is here to make certain I don’t make any mistakes.”
“Is that so.” The lawyer eyed the tall cowboy. “It’s good to meet you, Miss Meadows.” Mark Landis extended his hand.
Mark focused on Ava and ignored Joseph. “My client will gift you with more than the current rate for land in this area.” The lawyers eyes never left Ava’s. “The expense is already settled in my client’s mind. Now, all that is needed is for you, Miss Meadows, to sign this contract I have prepared.” He paused and pulled a slip of paper from his briefcase. “Here is the cashier’s check already issued by the bank.”
Ava’s eyes widened as she counted the zeros. Her hand shook as she lifted it to examine the check further.
Joseph clasped her other hand in his and addressed the lawyer. “You’ll have to let her lawyer look at the contract first.”
The lawyer’s eyes remained on Ava and he continued to ignore Joseph. “What do you think, Miss Meadows? You could pay off your mortgage, your car, or whatever. You could take a trip to Europe.” Ava’s eyes narrowed on the lawyer. These expenses were all the reasons why she wanted to sell the property.
“I’ve been to Europe.” Joseph said. “It lacks a lot compared to Texas. And she needs the contract reviewed by her lawyer.”
“But surely, Joe, can you believe that it’s for this much money?”
“Yes, I can. An easy entry from Mexico to Texas would definitely be worth a little more money.”
The real estate lawyer laughed. “Surely Sir, you don’t believe that. With the proposed building of a wall and the security systems. Surely not. All my client wants is a retreat on the Rio Grande.”
“I haven’t seen a wall yet. It looks like a lot of people that are buying up the land after unsolved murders don’t want a wall now.”
Joseph’s eyes never left the lawyer as he spoke to Ava, “It’s your parents’ murder we’re concerned with, Ava.”
The lawyer waited as Ava lowered the check and continued to frown at it in silence. She finally shook her head and spoke, “I’m sorry, I do need my lawyer to review the contract.
The lawyer heaved a sigh and placed the check back into his briefcase. “I always wonder about friends who don’t allow their friends to gain a good profit, Miss Meadows. I always think that these friends are not real friends at all.”
Ava pulled from Joseph’s grasp and reached for the lawyer’s hand, “I will have this reviewed in at least three days and get back with you on this property.”
The lawyer’s eyebrows lifted. “My client has a pending offer elsewhere today. He has already instructed me that if you refuse his generous offer, then he will have no need to pay you for this property. We will dispose of the cashier’s check.”
Ava felt her heart sink. She couldn’t maintain the taxes on both this border property and her own house in North Carolina. She looked at Joseph with a frown for him to give her some way of escape from this decision. He looked back at her like this was a challenge that he expected her to meet.
“It was your parents that got murdered, Ava. It’s time to find out who killed them.”
Mark Landis said no further words but silently stepped off the porch.
“May I call you later?”
“Only if you intend to sell, Miss Meadows. And again, it may be too late if my client follows through with what he has said.” He slammed the door to his Mercedes, the engine purred, and the gravel spewed as he turned the car around and sped down the pasture road.”
The low flying helicopter reappeared overhead and Ava gasped as Joseph clasped her hand again and jerked her toward the house.
“Joe, what are you doing!”
A bullet hit the dirt where Joseph had stood. Ava understood. She started running with him as she turned her head to see the chopper’s cab opened and a sniper focusing. Joseph lifted a plank from the porch floor. Ava frowned in confusion as Joseph pulled a large weapon from its hiding place.
“Get in the house!”
Ava frowned at the command and froze in place
Joseph pushed open the door and shoved her inside. He jumped off the porch and Ava watched through the window as he turned away so that she saw only his profile. The huge barreled weapon looked many times larger than a rifle. He placed it to rest over his shoulder. Whatever the weapon was, it held a large cartridge that Joseph aimed and released. It blasted and hurled a huge bomb toward the craft as rapidly as the explosion from its rear rushed in an opposite direction. The thrust of the weapon’s exhaust would have toppled the wall she stood behind if he hadn’t turned the back exhaust of the weapon away from the house. The chopper blew into flames and crashed into the nearby sandy field. Black smoke rose high overhead.
Ava shakily opened the door, “I’ll get my cell phone so we can call the Sheriff.”
“No need,” Joseph said. He pulled out his walkie-talkie and gave instructions as he watched the blaze in the field. He eyed it for anyone who might escape.
“Joe, I do really need to take that check and leave, don’t I?”
He looked down at her, “No Ava. What this helicopter means is that we’re going to investigate Landis and Landis.”
“Joe, you don’t mean it.”
“Yes, I mean it.”
“Then I’m in on this investigation.”
“No, you have to get back east to that women’s college.”
“No, I don’t. I took a sabbatical. You know, flora and fauna, that’s my interests. I’m to study south Texas vegetation. And this murder investigation is my business.”
Joseph frowned, “I’m certain that I don’t need your help.”
“Joe, I have just turned down more than ten million bucks for this property and as you so reminded me, it was my mother’s and father’s murder. I’m in!”
Ava saw the slow rage burn in Joseph’s eyes.
“Ava Meadows, if you are in, the whole city of El Paso will be in. They’ll know more about this investigation than me.”
“Joe, if I don’t get my money, then this investigation is mine.”
Just then, Ava saw a woman at the white picket fence. But where had she come from? There was no vehicle that she could have arrived in, only the helicopter.
Joseph didn’t turn around when the woman called.
Ava looked at the woman calling from across the yard but Joseph appeared not to hear her.
“Joe, you’re being called.”
Joseph frowned harder. “What?”
“You’re being called.”
The woman no longer stood there. Ava squinted her eyes and looked harder at the empty place.
“She’s not there anymore. My goodness. I saw her. I heard her! But, she’s gone. Oh, my! There’s no place to hide.”
Joseph frowned and straightened. He looked closely at the area. He shook his head and placed the huge caliber weapon back into its hiding place. “They call this a Law. And I don’t want you touching it.” He placed the boards back over the weapon.
“What’s the matter, Joe? You act like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He seated himself on the step and rested the weight of his forearms on his knees while Ava settled beside him.
“You sure you saw someone?” he asked.
“Oh yes, she was waving and yelling to get your attention.”
“What did she wear?”
“Wear?” Ava had to think hard. The woman’s rapid movement to get Joseph’s attention held her memory. “Well, it was a shawl. It looked like it had many colors on it.” The colors seemed to spring into her thoughts, “Oh yes, it held primarily the colors of orange and turquoise.”
Joseph took a deep breath, “Have you ever seen her before?”
Ava laughed. “Joe, she was yelling your name and you didn’t even hear her.”
Joseph heaved another breath as though he labored for the explanation. “The woman may be a ghost.”
“Oh really, Joe. She looked a little too pretty to be a ghost.”
“Can you explain what you saw?”
Ava frowned at Joseph’s attitude. He appeared too serious. She rushed to give him what he asked. “Well, she had long black hair. It looked straight. It fell past her shoulders. I couldn’t see the color of her eyes. She looked slender.”
Several seconds clicked by in silence.
“Well, does my description of the woman match this so-called ghost that you say you think it is?”
After several more seconds, he said, “Do you remember a Jolene Bancroft in school?”
Ava’s eyes widened. “It was her! But it couldn’t be her. She was killed . . .”
“She was murdered on the border. Her body left naked. But a turquoise and orange wrap was found. They assumed rape, but there was little they could find of semen since her body was well deteriorated when they found it.”
“Joe, stop!” She frowned harder. “Why would you be getting these calls from a dead person? You didn’t see her. You didn’t even hear her. I had to get your attention.”
“Goes to show you what a good actor I am.”
Ava gasped, “Don’t tell me that you were play-acting?”
“Yes, I was ‘play-acting’ like you call it. Whatever this evil is, it can’t read minds. It’s not omnipotent. It can’t tell what I am really thinking. God’s the only one that can do that. So, I’m not giving this entity any high-fives that it might be weirding me out.”
“Entity? Jolene? An entity?”
“I’m talking about occult activity, paranormal activity. It’s dangerous. And the kids around here are playing with it all the time. The thing that you saw was not Jolene.”
“Paranormal?” She laughed.
“If you choose to make fun of why you saw a woman and then she disappeared, that is exactly what I’m telling you. And the entity is not Jolene. It’s a demon.”
Ava felt the hairs on her nape rise. She definitely needed in on this investigation.
Check in at for the October publication date of. Down Mexico Way
When Captain Forrester makes it back home, the war follows him, walks the streets beside him, and aims a gun at him in a college freshmen classroom. When Sally Ann Jones lost her husband in Afghanistan, it destroyed her world. But now with her son, the same threat walks into her Dallas office. After Afghanistan, Emily will always see the real world as make believe. But when Commander Fletcher awakes, he has no need for dog tags. What happened to America? A Marine â€“ a mother â€“ a soldier â€“ a pilot â€“ all face the challenge of an America unraveling before their eyes. This four short-story series reveals the global goals of Americaâ€™s enemies, both foreign and domestic. And each central character takes steps to stop the destruction of the safe America they remember. Join Captain Forrester and Sally Ann. Join the female Army Sergeant and Commander Fletcher â€“ see the future of America. Is it too late?