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By Carl A. Baker
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Carl A. Baker
All rights reserved.
She leaned in closer to him. He could feel the warmth of her hot breath against his cheek as her full moist lips came in contact with his nose, and she lovingly began to lick him. Brick slowly awakened thinking he would see the red head in a scant bikini snuggling up next to him, but instead woke with a start to find his Irish setter's tongue bathing his face.
"Damn it, Red! Cut it out." He laughed as he pushed the dog's face away from his own. The smell of the dog's pungent hot breath and the feel of slimy slobber oozing down his face was not what Brick was expecting as he awoke from his dream.
"Hell, Red, you know you just ruined a beautiful dream." Red barked excitedly as if Brick had complimented him on waking him up.
"Okay, boy, we'll get up now." Brick rolled over in bed, shading his eyes from the bright, yellow sunlight streaming through the bedroom window and looked at the clock. It was a few minutes before seven. The summer sun rises early in South Texas and warms the air quickly. He could already tell it was going to be another hot day.
Red whined for Brick to get up. It was obvious the insistent dog wasn't going to let him go back to sleep. Brick sat up on the edge of his bed, put his feet on the hardwood floor, and stretched. Red impatiently pushed his nose into Brick's side trying to move him off the bed. Brick laughed and petted the big dog on the head.
"Come on, Boy. I'll let you out first." Red's tail was wagging as he followed his master to the kitchen. He could hardly wait for Brick to open the door to the backyard. Another dog was barking in the distance and when the door opened, Red broke into a gallop out into the backyard to bark back. Brick smiled and shook his head as he closed the door and went into the bathroom to get ready for the day.
He looked in the mirror as he washed his face. His rugged, angular face stared back at him. His sky blue eyes reflected the fact that he was starting to age. His sideburns were turning gray, and he had a few streaks of gray across the top. Brick thought it added a distinguished look to his overall appearance. For a man of forty-six, he was in excellent physical condition which he attributed to his daily walks with Red, and his twenty five years in the army special forces. He stood six feet two inches tall and weighed right at two hundred pounds. His body had a muscular and fit tone to it.
"Not bad for a guy of forty-six," he said to his reflection in the mirror. "I could still be playing football, if I was a few years younger." He chuckled to himself as the thought of football reminded him how he got the name of Brick. His parents named him Francis Alan Walls. Francis took a lot of teasing about his name and while growing up engaged in many fisticuff and wrestling matches because of it. Brick didn't win very many of those matches because of his scrawny stature, and he soon realized that he needed to put on some weight and learn the art of self defense if he was ever going to win any fights. So, over the course of the summer between his freshman and sophomore years in high school, Brick spent long hours exercising and training. By the time he returned to school that fall, he had a good solid body that did not go unnoticed. The football coach approached Brick about trying out for the team. Brick thought this would be a good way to keep in shape. He showed so much natural talent during tryouts that he made the team, and soon was a starter.
During one of their football games, a local sports announcer commented over the public address system, "That Walls boy oughta be called Brick, because when somebody hits him, it's like running into a brick wall." The fans in the stands laughed, but the name was picked up immediately by his classmates and from then on he was known as Brick Walls.
Brick put on his jeans and a short sleeved shirt and shuffled to the kitchen to make a strong pot of coffee. As the coffee maker was brewing, he opened the back door, whistled, and called out, "Come on, Red, time to get the paper." The big red-haired dog jumped up from where he was lying in the thick green grass and ran into the house. He put his paws up on Brick's chest, nearly knocking him over, and licked his face in anticipation of another day of running and playing with his master.
"Whoa! Down, boy! That's enough," he shouted as the dog jumped back onto the floor. "Good, dog. You're excited today. Let's go get the paper." They walked through the small kitchen and down the narrow hall to the front door. Brick stepped on to the white lattice-trimmed porch, and spotted the paper lying out by the driveway.
"Fetch, Red!" Red immediately bounded out of the door, grabbed the paper, charged back onto the porch and dropped it at his master's feet. Red knew that this trick would land him a pat on the head and a yummy dog treat. Brick laughed, picked up the paper, and handed Red his well deserved reward.
He really enjoyed having Red in his life. His friend, Dr. Bob Griffin, the local veterinarian, gave the dog to him when Brick retired from the army.
He told Brick, "You're used to having lots of friends around you. Now that you're back home, it's going to be kinda lonely, and you're going to need someone to keep you company over there by yourself." And Bob was right, life can be lonely when you don't have siblings and both of your parents have passed on. He couldn't imagine life without Red. The big mutt brought joy and comfort to Brick. Red was more than a dog, he was Brick's best friend. Brick rubbed his hand over the big dog's back, as Red finished devouring his treat.
The morning breeze blew through the big live oak trees that surrounded the old three bedroom white frame house. Along the side of the house was Mom's Garden. Brick called it that because the house was purchased by his parents in the early 50s, and his mom had planted and maintained a garden there until she passed away. His parents died within a year of each other; two years before he retired from the service. Brick had always felt a duty to his mom to keep the garden going, sort of a tribute to her and her warm, caring ways. He paid a caretaker to watch over the garden and keep up the place until he completed his last tour of duty and could get back home permanently.
The herbs and flowers in the garden were hardy varieties; they had to be in order to survive the Texas heat. Brick fondly remembered how every morning his mom would go out and water her purple cone flowers, Indian paint brush, and sunflowers. She also had rosemary, mint, and lemon balm spread throughout the flowers. The light scent of the herbs gave Mom's Garden a very special smell. Brick smiled. Those were wonderful days, and he missed them still.
Both of his parents were very special people. His dad established a very successful business as the town of Maranda's only veterinarian. He would hire local high school boys to help him with the animals, hoping that a couple of them might consider becoming veterinarians themselves. One boy, Bob Griffin, had a real gentle, caring way with animals, and he seemed more interested in the day to day operation of a vet clinic then the other boys. He was always asking questions and eager to learn more about the business of taking care of animals. Brick's dad could see that this young man needed very little encouragement to become a veterinarian. Unfortunately, he came from a family that could barely afford food, let alone a college education for their oldest son. All the money that Bob made in his part-time job at the clinic went to help pay the bills and buy groceries. College was definitely not going to be an option for the Griffin boy.
Dr. Walls knew of scholarships for underprivileged students who had high grade point averages in high school and wanted to go to veterinary college. It's called a sponsored scholarship. It required a recommendation from a currently licensed vet, and an agreement to allow the recommended student to do his internship at that clinic, as well. Dr. Walls spoke with Bob's parents regarding this idea. They were overwhelmed with the generosity of Bricks dad, and agreed with no hesitation. Dr. Walls quickly put the wheels in motion, and Bob was awarded a sponsored scholarship to the Texas A & M University School of Veterinary Medicine the night of his high school graduation.
Five years later, Bob Griffin joined Dr. Walls at the Maranda Vet Clinic, as Dr. Bob Griffin, DVM. Brick was only twelve when this happened, so he didn't understand the magnitude of his father's kindness at the time, and he was grateful to Bob for sharing the story with him many years later. Because of this, Brick was able to tell his dad how proud he was to be his son before he passed away.
When he wasn't in school, Brick would hang out at the clinic and help his dad and Bob with the animals. He and Bob became good friends over the years. For Brick, it was like having a big brother. He could talk to Bob about anything, and a couple of times Bob's advice kept Brick from making some pretty foolish blunders. Brick appreciated his relationship with Bob, and he appreciated that Bob kept the clinic going when his dad's health started to decline. So when Brick's dad died three years ago, he sold the vet clinic to Dr. Bob. Brick felt a true sense of pride for what his father had accomplished, because after all of these years, it was still the only vet clinic in town.
His parents also owned one hundred forty acres of land just outside of Maranda. When Brick moved back, he sold one hundred acres and kept the adjoining forty acres. He invested the money from the sale of the land and the vet clinic. Between his investments and his pension from the army that he had started receiving a year ago, he had enough to live a decent life. Of course, he couldn't go hog wild, as they say, but he could live a comfortable life.
Brick wasn't the wild kind anymore anyway. Those days had passed. He returned from the Iraq war a rather changed man. He was much quieter now. Probably the fact that he was wounded two times during the war had something to do with that.
He had led a fairly wild life up until the time he married Alice. That was shortly after high school. It had been a quick marriage for the two teenagers and in all probability should never have come about. They were not suited for each other and fighting was the norm during the two years of their marriage. So, at the age of twenty, Brick divorced Alice and volunteered for the army. He had enlisted just as Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada was ending. Now the army was training for another mission. His next tour of duty was in Panama; Operation Just Cause. And then, in January 1991, he was shipped to Iraq to participate in the Gulf War. After serving twenty-five years, Brick had seen enough of the horrors of war and decided to retire.
"Come on, Red." They went back into the house and Brick poured himself a cup of coffee, made some toast, and sat at his table to peruse the morning paper. There had been news in the paper lately that the local sheriff's department had been burglarized. A large quantity of cocaine they had kept in their property room as evidence in a smuggling investigation was missing. There were rumors in town that the sheriff's deputies had taken the cocaine themselves to try to sell it on the black market. For a number of years, there had been examples of corruption in the sheriff's department, and while the local citizens knew of it, no one felt safe enough to step forward and demand change.
The small article on the lower left part of the front page reported that Sheriff Carlos Mendez said no new leads had been forthcoming, and they were following the only leads they had at the time. Brick chuckled to himself, "Sure they are. The crooks." He finished his coffee, rinsed his dishes in the sink, and then went out to water Mom's Garden as he did every morning.
While he was watering, he stared at the old house. So many memories were made here; his first bicycle ride in the driveway, the celebration party when the team won the district championship his senior year, his parents' fiftieth anniversary party. Brick thought about how he took things for granted when he was younger. Not anymore. Life sure changed all of that ... the war ... the death of his parents. Now he treasured the moments that meant something.
While he was watering the garden, a large yellow butterfly caught his attention as it landed on one of the cone flowers. Brick now understood why this garden was so important to his mother, why she nurtured and cared for it every day all those years. This is where she found her peace ... her time to reflect ... her place to rejuvenate. He thought she would be happy to know that her garden was still doing its job. He smiled as he turned off the water and went inside.
Brick cleaned up around the house and threw a load of laundry in the washer. It was close to eleven when he finally looked at the clock.
"Come on, Red. Let's go for a run before it gets any hotter." Red immediately jumped to his feet. He loved to run in the open spaces where Brick would take him, so he could chase rabbits, or quail, or just run for the sheer joy of running.
Brick locked the front door of the house, while Red ran to the dilapidated, old truck. Brick opened the rider's side of the old truck cab, and the dog jumped in. It was obvious this was a well rehearsed ritual. Brick looked at the condition of the truck while he slid into the driver's seat. "Someday, I've got to get a better set of wheels," he said. "But it can wait. I'm not going any place right away, and I don't have a woman to impress." Red barked impatiently, while Brick fired up the old engine, and put the gear shift into drive.CHAPTER 2
Sheriff Carlos Mendez was relieved when the news conference was over, and his office was finally peaceful. The reporters had hounded him every day for information, since the disappearance of the confiscated cocaine from the evidence room. This situation was getting more attention than he wanted, and he was going to have to make his move soon.
Mendez was a slight, yet sturdy man of fifty with dark hair and a medium black moustache. He was elected sheriff fifteen years ago, and had full intentions of retiring in five more years, that is, until a Mexican drug dealer came to him with an offer for more money than he could turn down.
The dealer wanted the cocaine that his "mule" had in the trunk of his car when he was caught speeding by Deputy Jose Garcia, one of Mendez's men. The drug dealer told Mendez the cocaine had a street value of several million dollars, and he offered Mendez one million of it, if he would be a cooperating participant and bring the stash to an exchange point. This would mean that Mendez would have to stage a break-in of the evidence room. Of course, if he chose not to participate, the drug dealer implied the sheriff wouldn't need any money where he would end up.
One million dollars! He couldn't work long enough to get that kind of money. The temptation was too great, but the risk of not coming out of this alive was even greater. Drug dealers don't call up and make deals like this. They take what they want and leave dead witnesses behind. Mendez knew that. He wasn't sure he could pull this off, but he had to come up with a way to get the money and stay alive after the exchange had taken place. The phone rang while he was going over the last details in his head. He picked up the phone, "Sheriff Mendez, speaking."
"Ah ... Mendez. That was a nice interview you gave the press. I almost believed it myself." The man's voice was deep and sarcastic, and then he let out a loud unsettling laugh. Chills went down Carlos Mendez's spine. If he had any doubts as to whether this guy would follow through on his promise to get rid of him if he didn't comply, that laugh convinced Carlos Mendez he would.
"Why are you calling me here? I can't talk now."
The laughter on the phone stopped abruptly and the tone of voice quickly changed to anger. "I don't give a damn if this is an inconvenience for you. Listen up, or the deal's off. Get it?"
Mendez replied, "Ok. What is it?"
The man on the phone informed him where and when to bring the cocaine to the exchange point. The meeting was set up for later that day.
Excerpted from Brick Walls by Carl A. Baker. Copyright © 2015 Carl A. Baker. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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