By nature, people are not prone to change, but rather apt to maintain consistency. The town of Summit, Colorado, a quaint, tight knit community tucked nicely away in the Rocky Mountains is the same way. Although it offers its year round residents and annual tourists a piece of serenity, it prefers things to stay the same.
Kevin Sanders, one of the year-round residents, local business owner, military pilot, loving husband and father, feels the same way about life. The problem with this is that things do sometimes change and forces those effected to also change.
Fate is at times harsh, forcing us to make decisions that affect the rest of our lives and the lives of those around us.
|Publisher:||Erik P. Feldmanis|
|File size:||470 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Freedom of Choice
By Erik P. Feldmanis
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Erik P. Feldmanis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt's a sunny winter afternoon in the small town of Summit, a quaint community nestled in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, not too far from Vail. With a fresh blanket added to the three feet of recently plowed snow already covering the area, folks are going about their leisurely personal affairs. Snowmobiles, SUVs, and people walking—some dressed in their preppy winter attire—were plentiful as you looked around. Summit is one of those small rural towns where everybody knows everybody, with the exception of course of the annual tourists that flock there during the spring and winter months, but even the visitors feel and are treated as residents and friends. There are never any problems, and any real crime is literally non-existent.
Being in the mountains, breathing the crisp clean air is almost therapeutic. Couple that with the warm sun, bright clear skies and the typical festive attitude, you feel as though this is the only place in the world one would want to be, which explains the tourism and why family trees here can be traced back to 1801—three years before the town of Summit was even officially established.
As with any town, businesses are a plenty. Summit has its bank, gas station, realty office, post office, grocery store and its local restaurant and tavern—– "Meggie's" and "Jake's Saloon". But it also has a very unique store that stays busy from opening to closing. Not necessarily unique to mountain towns but unique in how the business operates and what it offers. This is the Mountain People Outfitters Store.
Rustically designed from the outer structure—constructed from the very trees that once stood on the store site, with the exception of a dozen or so aspen and pine trees that have been strategically left to create a path of sorts leading from the street to the entrance—to the cedar shingles, hand-blown glass windows, and huge wood-burning fireplace, the store looks and feels as though released from a time capsule buried for nearly two hundred years. The store's interior, however, is anything but. Modern equipment—GPS navigation systems; satellite telephones; ski equipment, ATVs; archery, hunting, fishing, survival, and camping equipment; and apparel for all four seasons—can be purchased. In the lower level of the store, a wide hallway divides two large areas, the perimeters of each protected by bulletproof glass. One area houses an archery range, the other a firing range. Kevin wants to give his customers the opportunity to try out and compare the equipment before they actually buy it.
Walking to the rear of the store on the large cedar-and-pine deck that wraps around the entire building, you find yourself overlooking a stream. Walking down to a lower-level deck you find a large rack. On those racks are a dozen or so of fly rods, spinning reels and rods, and a large variety of tackle. This is a place to try out different fishing equipment. The stream is full of trout. A sign posted on the rail asks that any fish caught be gently released back into the stream. Back on the upper deck, overlooking the fishing area, umbrella tables and chairs are positioned so as to allow onlookers to watch the activity below them. Tower propane heaters provide warmth to the onlookers, as do the two counters that are stocked with fresh hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and cider. All of this is provided of course, for free; and there is never any pressure to go into the store. Everybody does though. If not to buy gear, ski lift passes for many of the area ski resorts, book a guide for a hunting or fishing trip, at least to stop and say hi to Kevin Sanders, the owner.
Kevin, a young, good-looking man in his early thirties is typically dressed in blue jeans, mountain boots, and a cotton turtleneck worn under a flannel shirt. Although always well-groomed, educated, and articulate, folks are never intimidated by him. His communication skills and quick perception of people allow him to seamlessly adjust his presentation to any level. Always friendly and available, he is the perfect businessman.
Chapter TwoIt is late afternoon, and Kevin is at the handgun counter, helping one of the regular customers. Handing the customer a Black Six .357 Magnum he looks the customer in the eyes, as he always does.
"Tom, I think this .357 might be what you're looking for. It's only a six-shot, but it carries a hell of a lot more punch that the 9 mm you were looking at last week. You're not a cop. You're only wanting a backup weapon for your hunting and fishing trips. The 9 mm just doesn't carry the punch."
Looking at the gun and studying the frame and ergonomic design, the customer grins and looks up at Kevin.
"You know Kevin, I think you might be right. The 9 mm carries more rounds, but I guess you need more rounds when you're shooting something with a 9 mm."
"Tom, you got it my friend. If you ever decide to hunt with this, I can set you up with a scope."
"Okay buddy, I'll take it," Tom replies.
"Good choice! You'll need some rounds as well," Kevin says as he turns around toward the rear counter and pulls out five boxes of 185-grain .357 hollow-point rounds.
"Kevin, I don't think I can afford to buy five boxes right now. How about if I only buy one for now?" he hesitantly asks.
"Hey, you've been a longtime customer, Tom. The rounds are on the house. I'll get Sam to ring you out if that's okay. I've got some paperwork I have to finish."
"That's fine Kevin. Thanks for helping me out," Tom graciously says. "Are you coming to drill next month?"
"Yeah, I think. I've got to give B Company's XO a Huey checkride that weekend," Kevin replies.
"Oh, that piece of work Lieutenant Grimes huh? Lucky you! Okay Kevin, I'll see you there."
Kevin walks over to his firearms counter manager, Sam, and quietly says something to him. Sam acknowledged by nodding his head yes.
"Let me know how that gun works for you," Kevin says as he turns and waves to Tom. He then starts for the back room staircase.
Walking into his upstairs office, Kevin sits down to do his paperwork. His office is beautifully decorated with two dark-brown leather couches separated by a large hand-carved oak coffee table. Above the table hangs a large chandelier made from the antlers of white-tailed bucks that reside in the region. Both walls adjacent to the couches provide a home for his trophies. These trophies include wild boar, elk, moose, deer, brown trout, bass, walleye, and muskie. In the far corner stands his prized possession though—a grizzly bear, standing almost twelve feet high, poised on its hind legs, front paws frozen in a decapitating thrust. His desk, also oak, is almost six feet wide. A beautiful deerskin lamp provides just the right amount of light.
As he sits, he momentarily glances outside toward the lower deck at a few customers that are trying out the fishing equipment. He then turns his attention back to his desk and the stack of invoices lying there. With a slight sigh, he picks up the stack and begins going through them.
Chapter ThreeFive miles away, a Jeep Cherokee is traveling down a snow-covered road. Behind the wheel is Kevin's wife Jennifer, a beautiful ash blonde in her early thirties, listening to Phil Collins and thumbing the beat of the drums on the steering wheel. She looks into the rearview mirror and smiles at her bundled-up six-year-old son strapped securely in his car seat in the middle of the bench seat.
"Are you warm enough, David?" she asks.
"Yes Mom, I'm warm enough," he answers as he fights to keep his winter hat from falling into his eyes with one hand while holding tightly onto his favorite stuffed bear with the other.
"We'll be home in a few minutes. Dad will be home in a couple of hours or so. What would you like for dinner tonight?" she asks him.
"How about peanut butter, pizza, and jelly?"
"For dinner?" she asks, laughing.
"Sure! Dad likes that stuff!"
"Well, yes, he does. But I don't think he'd like that for dinner."
"Yes he would. Call him and ask him."
Picking up her cell phone, she presses speed dial 2.
"Hello?" Kevin asks as he answers his private phone line.
"Hi sweetheart. David and I are just heading home from the grocery and were wondering what you'd like for dinner."
"Honey, you know I don't care. Whatever the two of you decide is just fine."
"Peanut butter, pizza, and jelly!" David yells from the backseat.
"Did I hear him right?" Kevin asks.
"Yep. You heard your son right!" she replies.
"Well, that sounds wonderful!" Kevin jokingly exclaims.
"I'll put some steaks on the grill," she whispers.
"Okay sweetie, that's fine. I'll be leaving here in an hour or so, so I'll see you guys at around five thirty. Oh, just so you know, I called the phone company again about the house phone issue and they said they would send out a technician to check the lines sometime tomorrow afternoon. I told them I didn't think the problem was with the phones themselves. The phones were just replaced, and we still get what sounds like an open line every once in a while". Turning his attention outside the window, "Hey, looks like it's snowing again, so be careful."
"Okay, love you."
"Love you, Daddy!" David yells from the backseat.
"Love you too kiddo!" Kevin replies, smiling as he hangs up the phone.
About five minutes later, the Jeep pulls into a long uphill driveway. At the top of the driveway sits a beautiful log home, the entire front lined with large vertical windows. Hidden by the five-foot-high snow pile from the plowed driveway, the lower half of the house isn't visible.
As the Jeep reaches the house, Jennifer notices, sitting in front of the four-car garage, an older beat up Chevy pickup truck. Snow hasn't yet accumulated on the truck, so it hasn't been there long. Pulling up in front of the second garage door, Jennifer parks her Jeep and turned off the engine.
"Who's this?" Jennifer rhetorically asks.
She gets out and walks to the rear of the Jeep and grabs a couple of bags of groceries. David unbuckles himself from his seat and climbs out as well, clutching onto his bear.
"Who's here?" he asks.
"I don't know David. Maybe Daddy's having some work done. I know he was going to have some of the fireplace stones replaced."
As they enter the house and make their way to the kitchen, Jennifer lays the bags of groceries and car keys on the counter.
"Hello?" she calls out, walking into the large great room.
Next to the great room, in the den, is a thin Hispanic male with medium-length hair and a mustache, wearing worn work boots and dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. The shirt is embroidered with "Mountain People Outfitters" logo. He's rummaging through the desk drawers but rushes to close the drawers when he is startled by Jennifer's voice. He quickly but quietly makes his way to the open den door and hides behind it.
Jennifer, followed closely by David walks through the great room, past the den, and into the master suite. No one is there.
"Hello?" she again calls out.
Hidden and startled, the Hispanic male behind the den door slowly reaches behind his back and under his shirt and slowly removes a large, shiny hunting knife, which is not entirely unusual for people in this region to carry. The fourteen-inch blade gleams and shimmers in the sporadic sunlight coming through the skylight above. On the head of the knife is a distinctive chrome bear head. Grasping the handle of the knife nervously, the man waits, anticipating the moment when he can quietly sneak out the house without being seen while wondering why the weapon in his now-sweaty palm is even out. He didn't plan on this happening. He just wanted to make a few extra bucks. As a general laborer in construction, he wasn't paid much and was just trying to make enough extra money to help get his extended family to America. He'd been trying the legal way, but it was just too expensive, and it was taking too long. He also had a secret that he didn't want discovered.
As Jennifer makes her way back toward the great room, somewhat confused at this point, she stops momentarily in front of the den's open doorway. She walks in and sees that there is no one there. She walks to the desk and picks up the cordless phone. She and David turn to leave but suddenly notice the man hiding behind the door. Screaming and telling David to run, she grabs his hand and heads for the door, forcing David to drop his bear. In desperate panic, the man thrusts the knife toward Jennifer, the large blade slicing through her throat and carotid artery. She stops and falls to her knees, gagging and clutching her throat out of reflex without realizing that her thumb pressed speed dial 1. Seeing the boy, now in utter shock and unable to speak or move, he thrusts the butt of the knife toward him in an attempt to push him out of his way but tragically, the butt of the knife strikes David across his temple. David falls—his eyes opened and fixed.
Six and a half miles away, Kevin is in his office when suddenly, his private line on his office phone rings. Looking at the display he sees it's his home number.
"Hello?" he answers. A faint sound can be heard but no one speaks.
"Hello? Jen?" he asks again. Again, there is no response. He presses an open line and calls home. The phone rings but no one answers. Shrugging his shoulders he places the phone back in its cradle. "Damn phone line!" Looking at the wall clock, it's four thirty. Kevin decides to call it a day and heads home.
Back at the house, the man rushes out of the house, jumping into his truck and quickly drives away. His truck tires spinning, causing the truck to slide from side to side bouncing off the snow piles on each side of the driveway. Inside the truck the man is trembling, his blood-soaked hands gripping the steering wheel. As he pulls out of the driveway and turns onto Highway 24 heading toward town he hides the knife under his seat.
Six and a half miles away, Kevin jumps into his fully restored 1975 Ford Bronco and heads for home. The Bronco is a thrill for Kevin. Thirty-three-inch wheels with oversized deep knobby tires, dual exhausts that are vented at the top rear of the cab for deepwater navigation, his Bronco is an off-roader's dream.
Meanwhile, the Hispanic male continues speeding away, the adrenaline subsiding somewhat. Looking down, he sees a newspaper on the passenger floorboard. As he reaches down for it, he suddenly loses control of his truck. The truck slides sideways across to the other side and plunges into a snow-filled ditch, causing him to hit his head and nose on the steering wheel.
Coming to an abrupt stop and stunned from the impact, he holds the newspaper up to his face, wiping the blood from his now bleeding nose and forehead. He then wipes his hands and throws the blood-soaked paper back onto the floor.
Panic once again strikes as he tries to rock the truck back and forth, shifting from reverse to drive so quickly that the transmission gears grind in a feeble attempt to get out of the ditch. The truck only sinks further and further into the snow with each attempt.
As the panicked man continues, refusing to give up, a vehicle rounds the curve, about a quarter mile from where the pickup truck is stuck. It's Kevin. As Kevin approaches he notices the truck, its tires throwing snow ten feet high.
Slowing to a stop as he reaches the truck Kevin gets out of his Bronco and makes his way toward the driver. Noticing the beat-up Texas license plate he can't help but think that this is obviously someone who wasn't accustomed to driving in snow. It was okay though; these things happen.
Kevin makes his way down into the ditch, pushing himself through the knee-deep snow toward the driver's side of the truck.
"Are you okay, mister?" he asks as he taps on the window.
"It's okay. I just slid off the road," the driver states in broken English.
Noticing the blood on the man's hands and forehead, Kevin becomes concerned.
"You're hurt. I need to get you an ambulance," Kevin says.
"No, I'm okay! Just help me get out. That's all I need!" the man says angrily.
"I noticed the Texas plates. Are you visiting? Is there someone that I can call for you?" Kevin then asks, hoping to calm the man.
"No sir," he replies, a little calmer. "I moved here a few months ago to work. I have no family here. My family is still in Mexico. Could you just help me get out?"
Excerpted from Freedom of Choice by Erik P. Feldmanis Copyright © 2011 by Erik P. Feldmanis. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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