In the 1880s, Luke Middleton is the brave sheriff of Custer City, South Dakota. While stopping some robbers, he’s shot in the line of duty. Dying in the dirt, he makes a plea for divine intervention. He’s not ready to die, and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be killed at the hands of such cowardly criminals. Imagine his surprise when he wakes up … later.
Present-day Custer City deputy Jenna Reynolds patrols the town during the Sturgis motorcycle rally. She’s on the prowl for bikers causing trouble when she discovers a body with fresh gunshot wounds by the local church. Is the mysterious man a victim or perpetrator? Jenna soon starts to unravel a mystery that gives her more questions than answers.
It seems her victim’s name is Luke, and he’s a time traveler. Shot over a century ago, Luke wakes to the modern world and must adjust to his new surroundings. With Jenna’s help, he searches for the robber’s lost treasure, rights a wrong done to his family, and finds unexpected love in the woman who saved him. His deeds done, will Luke return to his own time or remain at Jenna’s side to become a lawman of the future?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.43(d)|
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Custer City, South Dakota, Present Day
Jenna Reynolds pedaled her eighteen-speed Trek mountain bike up the hill on Main Street past dozens of Harleys and custom-built bikes. She was scanning the crowd of noon bikers, looking for familiar faces and those who might cause trouble. Today was the first weekend of the Sturgis Rally. Every year, hundreds of thousands of bikers from all over the world converged on the Black Hills in South Dakota to show off their bikes, eat, listen to music, and shop.
Businesses in the Black Hills area loved that time of year. Campgrounds and hotels were filled for miles around. Jenna really enjoyed the rally. She usually had to put in long hours at the sheriff 's department during this week, but she didn't mind. She'd become acquainted with many of the same bikers who stayed in Custer City each year during the rally. The streets in most Black Hills towns had special bike parking. The center of the road was blocked off with dozens of orange traffic cones so that motorcycles could park right down the middle of the road. There was still some auto and truck traffic but not as much as during other weeks of summer. There were always a few tourists without motorcycles who ventured to the Black Hills during the Sturgis Rally.
Today, Jenna was looking for one particular face in the crowd. It was lunchtime, and she figured most people tended to eat in the same places. As she rode past dozens of people milling about in the shade of the noontime sun, she drew looks from many. Jenna knew that some of the curious stares were because she was a female sheriff 's deputy riding a bicycle through a town filled with motorcycles. Many of the glances toward her were because of her long auburn plait sticking out of her bike helmet, hanging down her back, her sleekly firm body and long shapely legs showing beneath department-issue shorts that fell just above her knees. She ignored the stares and waved at familiar faces from previous rallies as she searched for one specific biker. She pulled her mountain bike onto the sidewalk, dismounted, and let down the kickstand.
"Hey, Jenna, when you gonna turn those training wheels in for a real bike, huh?" a voice rang out, dripping with the twang of the Deep South.
Jenna turned and grinned, just the person she was looking for. "Hi, Dutch. I'll be back tonight after my shift is over around eight. I can't wait to show you my new paint job. I did it myself," Jenna replied with a grin. She had been rebuilding and working on the vintage Harley for the past few years.
Dutch enveloped her in a great big bear hug. "And that young officer of yours?"
"Oh, not bad. And he's a colonel now. He just got transferred as the base commander here at Ellsworth. How have you been?" Jenna looked over Dutch with a critical eye. She kept up with only a few bikers through e-mail and Facebook and knew that Dutch had suffered a heart attack since last year. She had a special place in her heart for the balding, aging, overweight investment banker from Atlanta. He had been one of the first people she met after earning her deputy's badge. She was breaking up a fight between two young bikers and some of Dutch's friends. Dutch hadn't helped her, which she was grateful for. He did tell her later that he was watching the "new little law lady" just to make sure she could handle herself. Jenna had arrested four men during the incident that night, earning Dutch's respect and that of other bystanders. Her reputation spread fast. However, every year, there were always a few macho men who either tried challenging her authority or tried to date her.
Dutch said, "I'm just fine, good as new. I'm eating better and exercising. Hey, can't you tell I've lost a few pounds?" He spread his arms wide and pirouetted on the spot.
Jenna laughed. "Dutch, you never cease to amaze me. I'm glad you're doing better. Your e-mails have been reassuring, but I wanted to see for myself that you're recovering well. Facebook pictures don't do your new physique justice."
"In fact, I'm so fine that I was hoping for a spot of horseback riding this year. Do you think your brother could set us up with a few mounts at that fancy horse farm of his?"
"I'm sure he'd be happy to help you out. Just don't let him hear you calling his ranch a farm." She smiled at him, pulled out a pad, wrote down a number, and handed it to Dutch.
"So, are you just on patrol — or are you looking for someone in particular?" Dutch asked shrewdly, noticing that Jenna's eyes were constantly moving, always looking for any trouble appearing unexpectedly.
"You don't miss a thing, do you?" she asked, looking at him directly and grinning sheepishly. "Yeah, I figured Ted Sorenson might be in town by now, and I just wanted to have a chat with him."
"Now, Jenna girl, don't get your badge all ruff led. He's not gonna cause too much trouble this year."
"Okay, big man. What have you heard?"
"Yeah, he's looking for you too. I don't know if he's still the jerk he was last year or if he wants to apologize."
Jenna snorted. "Please. There's no way he's going to apologize. I'll eat my hat if he does. Come on, Dutch. We've both seen it every year since we met. There's always some hotshot biker who thinks I shouldn't be a deputy — or they should try to get me in bed. It's always the same thing. I don't mind so much anymore. I just put them in their place and move on."
"Hey, speaking of bed." Dutch cocked one eye.
"You're so funny. What would your wife say? You've been married what ... thirty years now?"
"Thirty-seven. She's even thinking of stopping by this year. She might fly in with our son. He just got his private pilot's license. Besides, she wants to meet the girl I keep talking about."
"Surely she doesn't suspect us." Jenna grinned. She was quite a knockout, working out to maintain fitness for her job by biking, lifting weights, running, rock climbing, and swimming. She and Dutch laughed hard at her words. He had never tried to come on to her as many other men — young and old — had. He was a real friend during the rally and during the rest of the year. Besides, they were both devout Christians, doing charitable work in their respective communities, but neither one was afraid of a bit of teasing. They were both comfortable with who they were spiritually and with their own sexuality. When he was at the rally, Dutch was like a substitute father figure.
"Okay, business. Do you know where Ted is staying? I want to get this over with and have a good week." Jenna unconsciously straightened her back, standing taller. Dutch had noticed that she did this whenever she was bracing herself for something unpleasant.
"I'm pretty sure he's in the house next to the old church. There's a bunch staying there this year," Dutch replied. "Be careful, Jenna."
"Now, Dad." She f lashed a wide grin. "You know I can take care of myself."
"I know, sweetie. I've just come to think of you as another daughter, so watch your six."
"I will," she said. She knew that Dutch cared for her and wanted her to be safe. Jenna had been an army MP stationed in Iraq, and Dutch had been a marine toward the end of Vietnam. They both definitely knew how to watch their "six." Dutch was telling her to glance around, be aware of her surroundings, and know who was near at all times. That's how people stayed alive in the field. Although neither Jenna nor Dutch expected her to be seriously harmed during the rally, nobody ever knew what kind of trouble could be waiting.
Jenna gave Dutch a good-bye hug and told him she'd be along later. She took the handlebars of her Trek, kicked the kickstand up, mounted the bicycle, and took off down the road toward the bank. Hopping the sidewalk and returning to the road, Jenna made the proper hand signals and turned right at the corner next to the bank, which had been built in 1880. Touted as one of the most secure banks in the area, it hadn't been robbed, although many had tried. Now the beautiful structure had been restored and housed an ice-cream parlor and coffee house. The wallpaper, tin ceiling, paneling, teller station, and vault had all been cleaned and polished as close to their original state as was possible. The beautiful bank had just reopened last year after decades of neglect.
Jenna passed the bank, an alley, and a few houses. Turning right again, she came upon a house next to a church that had been built a year before the bank. The church had been restored to its original condition and held Baptist services on Sundays, which Jenna attended regularly when she wasn't on duty. She also participated as a volunteer with the youth group to help kids learn about Jesus. She was planning to use some of her vacation time to chaperone the youth group over Christmas break on their mission trip to Ecuador.
Just as Jenna was pedaling up to the house, a voice said, "Jenna, I'm so glad you're here." Ted Sorenson was crouched by the side of the house near the church and had glanced up when he heard Jenna approach. "There's a body here. It looks like a man's been shot."
Those words galvanized Jenna into action. In one f luid, graceful motion, she was off her bike and rapidly unhooking her first aid kit. She rushed over to Sorenson at the side of the house. She noticed the boots first: intricately carved leather, old and worn, with real spurs hanging off the boot heels. Her eyes took in the blue jeans f laring at the boots, a carved leather gun belt, vest that had fallen open, and worn Stetson next to him. She filed that information for later and bent down next to Ted.
"We already called for an ambulance," he said. "I'm trying to slow the bleeding. His pulse is weak, and his breathing is shallow. It looks like he's lost a lot of blood. Do you have anything with you?"
Jenna wondered if he was the same way back in the operating room in New York City. "Yeah, I have a full field kit with pressure bandages and blood expanders. We can hook up an IV. I have a very small amount of morphine with me for emergencies, but I have to file a ton of paperwork if we need to use it." Jenna started taking the items out of her kit. "Here, put these on first." She handed Ted a pair of rubber gloves as she was donning a pair on her own hands. They worked quickly together, cutting away the chambray shirt to expose the wound. It looked pretty fresh. Jenna's investigative instincts kicked in. "Have you been here long? Did you hear any shots?"
"No, we didn't hear any shots or anything. We were finishing lunch. I came out on the porch to relax for a moment before we went uptown. When I looked over the porch railing and spied boots on a man, I called out to Ellie. She came to the door, and I told her to call for an ambulance and bring out the first aid kit as I tended to him," Ted responded in a calm, yet authoritative voice.
Jenna looked up questioningly at the name Ellie. She didn't say anything though. She and Ted worked for a few moments in the kind of silence two professionals who knew their jobs well. Jenna had trauma training from her time as an MP. They weren't tense with each other, but they weren't comfortable either. Jenna handed Ted a pressure bandage, which he applied to the wound and tied tightly. She noticed a blood-soaked bandanna on the ground. "Where'd that come from?"
"I took it off his thigh. It didn't help stop the bleeding. He's wounded in the thigh, and it looks like he took two rounds in the chest. There are entry and very nasty exit wounds for the thigh and chest."
As they applied bandages and started an IV for fluids and painkillers, Jenna scrutinized the body. Tall, broad shouldered, lean, and muscular. His dirty blond hair hung long on his shoulders. A shadow of a beard showed on his square jaw. The battered Stetson set crookedly against the top of his head, half on and half off. She removed his boots as Ted checked his legs for further injury.
Luke felt like he was floating between two worlds: one known and one unknown. He heard a distant voice. He thought it was the voice of angels, but he didn't believe in angels anymore. Soft and smooth and delicate — with a hint of firmness. He smelled lavender. If this was what dying was like, he'd be okay. If only he could open his eyes and see the angel. He moaned in his state of unconsciousness. He tried to move, but he couldn't get his body parts to function the way he wanted. He thought his hands might have responded a bit, but then he drifted off to another world.
Jenna asked, "Is he trying to say something? Look at his hands. Are his fingers moving?"
"Seems like he's fighting his injuries. That's good, but I really don't want him to move his body too much. The bleeding might get worse. Right now, we're getting it under control. If he does move too much, we may need to restrain him."
"So what do you think?" Jenna asked.
"I think he's been shot three times — from not too close or too far. The spacing of the wounds and the entry patterns indicate about twenty to fifty feet away. He knew the shooter."
"How do you know that?" Jenna asked, checking to see how much he could tell from the wounds. She knew from other shooting investigations and training how to discover a lot about a perpetrator just from looking at gunshot wounds.
"When you've seen as many gunshot wounds as I have, you come to learn certain things ... items that help the investigating officer. For instance, you can tell by the angle of entry of the chest wound that he was turning into the shooter, not away from him, which indicates that he may have known who was shooting at him. That type of information might help you find the perpetrator." He checked the wounded man's pulse and adjusted the IV line. "I hope that ambulance gets here soon."
The door to the house opened and a woman rushed out with towels and sheets. "I thought you might need these, Ted." The woman had a faintly Eastern accent.
Ted took a towel, rolled it, and placed it gently around the wounded man's head in case he started moving again, removing his Stetson in the process. "Jenna, this is Ellie Sorenson, my wife and a great pediatrician."
Jenna smiled and nodded to Ellie as she held the pressure bandage on the wounded man's thigh.
"Nice to meet you, ma'am," she finally replied. "I'm sure there's an interesting story here, but we don't have time right now."
"You're right on both counts," he said. "For now, I apologize for last year, and I'll explain the rest later."
"Guess I'll have to eat my hat after all," Jenna mumbled. The other two glanced at her but didn't comment as she clicked the microphone attached to her lapel. "Dispatch, this is Reynolds." As Jenna spoke into her mic, she noticed a crowd starting to gather. She shouted to the people to stay on the sidewalk and leave room for the ambulance.
A voice over the radio said, "Reynolds, this is dispatch. How ya doing, Jenna?"
"No time, Adele. I have a gunshot wound: white male, late twenties or early thirties. An ambulance was called for, but I was just checking to see where it, oh never mind, I hear it coming. Could you send another unit over here by the First Baptist Church for crowd control? I'll check back with you in a few minutes." Jenna clicked off the microphone and jumped up to meet the emergency medical technicians.
The crowd of about twenty people parted to allow the ambulance through.
Jenna told them to move farther away as the EMTs hopped out of the ambulance, grabbed their gear, and hurried over to where the three were working on the wounded man. The two doctors moved aside, and the EMTs asked Ted a few questions before checking the wounded man's vital signs. When they found out Ted was a doctor, they had him help. He tried to control the bleeding as the EMTs went back to the ambulance to get a gurney.
A sheriff 's department squad car pulled up, and the deputy began controlling the crowd.
"He needs to be transported immediately to a hospital with surgical facilities," Ted said to the closest EMT.
"Yes, sir, but is he stable?"
"If he isn't operated on soon, he won't make it," Ted said. "Stability isn't an issue at this point. I'll go with you and watch his vitals as best as I can while we're moving. What do you have inside?"
The EMT responded, "We have state-of-the-art equipment, heart monitors, and just about anything else you'd need. You could do surgery in there if absolutely necessary. We try to avoid that, but we have to be ready for anything in these wide-open spaces."
"Yeah, especially this week," the other EMT replied.
They carefully lifted the gurney, and a vintage army-issued Peacemaker fell to the ground.
Excerpted from "Luke's Journey Home"
Copyright © 2017 Yvonne Audi.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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