ABOUT THE BOOK
Glen's quiet and peaceful retirement is rudely interrupted when he interferes with the torture of an innocent victim by three assailants. His involvement casts him into an adventure of intrigue and treasure, along with Lily, the Sheriff, that will test their faith and character and lead them into a relationship that is as surprising as it is wonderful. Their response to a call of duty will place not only themselves in danger but also all of those who they care for. Walk with them and see how ordinary people may be called upon to perform extraordinary events!
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(d)|
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The Drake Odyssey
By James G Ralls
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 James G Ralls
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE AMBIANCE
Dragonflies and hummingbirds skim and dart around the flowers of my garden, not unlike the children of our county fair who rush to the corn dog and cotton candy vendors. All want the sweetness and flavor of tastes that satisfy and quench all of our insatiable desires.
And indeed, I am not unlike the children and dragonflies and humming birds, for I desire the cool sweet, snow-melted waters that pour over my hot and worn-out feet that have taken me over miles of hard terrain to reach this almost cathedral place in the high Sierras. It has been a long and difficult trek to reach this point. I enjoy this sensation! A sensation of aches and pain earned by the toil and sweat of exploring sights and scenes that some may only ever see in travel magazines and documentary films. And why not enjoy these sensations? I am old, by most of today's standards. But it is good that I am now retired and have the time to enjoy these long treks that I once made as a young man in the mountains of New Mexico. These young people's ideas of fun and adventure run contrary to mine. I find my personal achievements and goals of mind over body to be greater than mind over a computer game or contest of wit and skill.
Well, for the moment, the cool waters of the high Sierras are cooling my feet; my camp is ready for the night. And I have prepared the canned chunk white chicken, mustard, crackers and canned mandarin oranges for my evening meal. The sun setting in the west has prepared the perfect evening with scarlet skies and a cool breeze to chill my tent. Ahh! The ambiance! I have a good life!
Evening falls, my vision of the skies are almost blurred by older eyes that see the stars in duplicate. But, instead of a five-star hotel tonight, I enjoy a room with at least a million stars. And, indeed, I have a good life.
Sleep, deep wonderful sleep, so uncommon to many of us. Shameful that it escapes us so often. But on that one and so infrequent occasion that it does happen to us, it is so wonderful. We have to get away from all that bothers us to enjoy it. And here, in that almost magical, almost elusive, and almost impossible moment, it happened to me. A quiet wonderful night of sleep! But the awakening was horrid!
No! I did not light a fire! But I smell smoke! And voices, loud voices, unfriendly voices! Quickly, I reach for the zipper of my bag and reach for my boots and pants! My experiences in the military and Viet Nam still cause me to prepare to be ready to go at a moment's notice! All that I need is ready and by my side! Clothing, boots, knife, and that unused and untested Colt 45 that I carry to ward off that very old mountain lion or bear—too old to hunt for its usual quarry and may want an unsavory and unusual human being for lunch! I am ready in just moments! But this is not wild animals that I am concerned about! Animals do not light a fire! And, as for humans? Who in their right mind would light a fire here in the high Sierras with the fire danger so high?
I listen, and I wait. Those sounds and scents are coming from over the granite rocks that I slept underneath last night! And the sounds—are those of anger and torture. I have heard those sounds before in Viet Nam. The interrogation of prisoners! Damn! Memories blocked out for years are suddenly flooding over me as I listen to behavior and violence that is incomprehensible. I dare to look over the granite and witness the scene. Three men are looking down on the prostate figure of an old man! Cursing and kicking him, they are exhorting him to talk! But talk about what?
"Screw you, you old man! You are not faking a heart attack on me! Get up and keep going or you'll die right here!" Words spoken by a tall blonde-haired man who is stepped back, but apparently in control of the other two men who are with him.
Another man, shorter than the tall blonde, but of significant size and stature, looks over the tortured body of the old man on the ground. He is stout, shaved head, and every bit the look of someone you would not want to encounter. Perhaps a retired boxer or professional wrestler that took an easier job than performing for the public. His fists are clinched. Fists of stone! And then he reaches down, grabs the old man by the throat, lifts him, and, yes! The fists of stone resonate against the Sierras as he drives them into the old man's body! Oh, God!
I cringe, and drop to my knees behind the granite. A coward I am! What can I do? So, I listen. The torture goes on. Suddenly, I stand and with that untested Colt 45, walk suddenly toward the trio of torturers! What in hell am I doing? One lesson of combat is that you never go into combat with an untested weapon. This old 45 has not been fired in decades! After Viet Nam, I swore that I would never raise a weapon against any living thing again. But suddenly I find myself raising that weapon in the air and pulling the trigger! It fired! And just as suddenly and surprisingly to the trio of torturers, I have the muzzle of that old reliable Colt 45 in the face of the tall blonde man.
They are more stunned than I am! Here in the high country of the Sierras, they thought they were alone in their misdeeds and torture of this old man lying at their feet.
I closed the distance between them and myself purposefully! Pull your enemy up to your belt buckle as quickly as possible. If you retreat, you are in their kill zone! How did they not know I was camped so close to them? My targets are already selected. The tall blonde facing the muzzle of my Colt 45, the shaved-headed fists of stone captured in my peripheral vision, the mouse-faced man with sharp-pointed nose also in my vision. But the point of my attack is the tall blonde man who is so obviously in control of the others. 'Hope to hell I am right!! And I am constantly and continually looking into his eyes!
"Thor?" the shaved-headed man says. Obviously, awaiting a command to attack me!
"Tell your dog to stand down or your blonde-headed scalp will be scattered all over these mountains!" I say with as clear and authoritative voice as I can raise to the blonde-headed man.
I am standing in front of him. Close enough to have him fully locked in my sights, but just far enough away to avoid his swinging his arms to knock my weapon away or swinging out to attack me.
He is blonde, but not a dumb blonde. He knows this is his moment of decision!
"Lucas, do not do anything. Let's see what this man has to say," says Thor.
Thor? What kind of name is that? What kind of parent would give that name to a kid? Either he was born to a couple in the '70s or he is Scandinavian. I'll give him the latter of the two choices.
"Well, Thor, since we are playing Simon Says, Simon says to all of you to sit down and take off your boots!"
"Do it right now!!" I demand.
Damn! It is hard to keep us this tone of authority and control. My heart is on fire and racing as well as my mind!
Once again, Lucas calls out, "Thor?"
"Shut up Lucas and do as he says!"
Perhaps Thor recognizes his predicament because I had paused long enough before this assault for the morning dew and fog to collect on my Colt 45 so as to cause thin, gray wisps of steam to rise from the hot muzzle that is locked between his eyes! I see them rising, and so must he!
They sit down and as they do, I yell out, "Keep your hands out in front of you and do not, and I absolutely mean, do not, make any sudden moves!"
My eyes have been scanning the scene. Thank goodness that I have good peripheral vision. It appears that they had been so confident that they were alone in their misdeeds that their handguns had been left close to their sleeping gear, out of reach for now. Do I have good luck and good timing, or what? They were so focused on the beating and torture of the old man that they paid no attention to what was around them. The deep sleep that I had so dearly enjoyed last night could have been disastrous if they had known of my close proximity to them last night. Yeah, I must be leading a good life.
"Now, get on your feet!" I yell out to the sock-clad trio. "Okay, now, Thor, have your mouse-faced friend there gather up those boots and throw them in the fire!" Thor hesitates, and as I thrust the muzzle slightly closer to his face, he tells Ugly to do so. The mouse does so.
"Now, head down that slope, keep going, and do not look back!" Simply thought, this horrible trio's feet will be torn to shreds after a few hundred yards of granite rock and stones. If they do try to pursue me, I will be able to put yards and miles between them and me in very short time.
Thor decides to get defiant! "Are you nuts?" he yells out. "What makes you think you can get away from us? We will round back and be on you in no time!"
"Well, Thor, if you do not get away from here soon, the authorities will be here and I will not worry about you rounding back. They have been called."
"Well, Simon, or whatever your name is, your bluff is being called. No authorities have been called, for you are well out of cell phone range and no one is coming to rescue you or this old fool!" Thor is right about part of his challenge.
"Thor, you are right! There is no cell phone service up here, but I did not call them! You and your idiots did! That smoking fire you built of wet and green wood called them!"
"The forest service guards these forests like the Beefmasters of the Tower of London watch after the Queen's jewelry. Believe me, there are smoke jumpers and fire crews on their way here right now!"
And in only moments, I witness the once again stunned look in his eyes in that he knew I was right.
"So, Thor, I suggest that you and Lucas, and whatever name that shriveled up mouse you have with you is, start making your way down this mountain."
Thor, without a word in response, turned, motioned for his cohorts in torture to follow him, and started making a tender bare-footed way down the mountain.
Chapter ThreeTHE RESCUE
Oh, thank God! I was right! No sooner than they had disappeared into the forests far below than I hear the faint whoop-whoop of a helicopter's incoming flight. 'Could not tell the direction of flight, for I had not been able to look away from the trio of torturers line in flight. Although not the familiar sound of the Hueys of Viet Nam, it was definitely a helicopter coming for our rescue!
And now, I look down at the old man for whom this moment had occurred. Was I wrong in what I have just done? Perhaps the old man was the real culprit in this moment. Were Thor and his companions the ones whom I should have been supporting? Judgments made without knowledge and forethought are often wrong. No! I must rely on instinct in times like this. I think, I hope, I made the right judgment of action.
Oh, my! The elevation here is at least 7,000 feet and far removed from any established roads or four-wheeled drive trails. This old man is not suited for this terrain's demands. Khaki-clad with a light shirt and shoes fit only for a casual neighborhood or shopping mall stroll. Not a portly man, but certainly someone who only enjoys a good and soft life of gentle demeanor and even softer exercise. What could he be doing at such an altitude and rough demands? Not here by choice, that is for sure.
He looks up at me and is wheezing and clutching his chest. He seems to more worried about his chest than the bruising and swelling on his face. One eye is already almost fully swollen shut and the older skin on his arms is bruised. The skin on one arm is torn and bleeding. But I see no major blood loss except to his head. But even slight head wounds bleed profusely. I know they are generally are not fatal. Quickly, and with desperation, I am trying to recall the immediate care action to be given to a wounded comrade in action. Damn! Decades have passed, and all I can remember is to stop the bleeding, compress the wounds, and loosen the clothing! He is breathing, so no resuscitation of any kind is required. But what about his wheezing and clutching of his chest? Damn! He really is having a heart attack! This, I am not prepared for! He is trying to talk. I tell him to just be quiet, not to talk, and remind him that help is on the way!
The helicopter has found us and is hovering just above. I stand and wave and point down at the old man. The quiet spell of the Sierra high country is replaced with screams of man and machine!
Out of the chopper and on a dropped line is what appears to be tools and gear and suddenly behind it drops a man repelling down a line. He drops suddenly and is soon on the ground. Damn! Decades before, I had done the similar drop out of a Huey and, oh my geez! This is too vivid a memory! Damn! I've got to control my emotions now. Do not go back there! This is now, and this old man needs us in control of the moment.
I collect my thoughts and the well-muscled-toned man out of the chopper makes his way towards us. If he is a smoke jumper, surely he has been trained in first responder aid and can render better aid than I can to this old man. I hope he can, for now I feel helpless towards the care of this old man. It is obvious that the jumper is making immediate observation of the situation before him. He looks to me, then to the old man and the billowing smoke from the campfire.
I smell the scent of boots burning! Not what I should be concerned about at this moment.
The jumper walks right up to my face and nose to nose and over the noise of the chopper, says something, all of which I cannot understand, but I gather that he is asking about what the situation is here.
I respond, "I think he is having a heart attack!" I point to the old man. "And I think someone was trying to kill him."
The jumper looks to the old man and then at the campfire. Obviously his training has focused on fire control, but he seems to realize the priorities of the moment and looks skyward to the chopper hovering above. His words over his mike to the chopper are drowned out to me. The chopper begins to move towards what appears to be a more suitable landing spot on the slope. It begins to land.
The jumper is kneeled down over the old man. I look around at the campsite and begin to gather things, especially the weapons left behind by the trio of torturers.
The jumper stands, and with a note of authority and surety in his voice, tells me to help him take the old man to the chopper that has landed just beneath the campsite. Oh, thank God for someone like this jumper who seems to be so full of youth and authority, for I am not doing well at this moment.
Together, the jumper and I drag the old man to the chopper. And then I ask to go back to the campsite to gather the weapons and other gear I had assembled. It just seems foolish to leave such things behind for the trio to round back and have them once again. I get no argument from the jumper and together we gather them and threw them on the floor of the chopper. We lifted, and, oh so sweet, we left that scene of horror.
Chapter FourTHE DEPUTIES
The jumper remains kneeled over the old man and is communicating with the pilot. Their words are drowned out to me by the sound of blades and an engine that is working hard to lift and carry us through the thin air of these high peaks. I know nothing about this craft's capabilities at this altitude and I can only guess that the cool heavy air of morning is a good thing at the moment. I can only assume that the pilot and jumper are going straight to a hospital and their only concern at the moment is time, speed and distance. It is good to be in what seems to be capable and professional care. I've been doing a lot of guessing over the past few minutes! Has it only been minutes? Seems like a life time and despite one of the best nights of sleep I have enjoyed in years, I am totally exhausted!
Suddenly, I have just realized I left all my gear at my campsite!
Seems like a small loss compared to the near and still possible loss of the old man's life, I know; but, being retired, if I have to replace that gear, it's going take a big hunk out my fixed income. Damn. Suddenly I find myself feeling selfish for having these thoughts about my gear while the old man is fighting for his life.
As we rush in flight over the vast conifer forests and granite peaks, I am in awe of this magnificent view below us. Suddenly I am lost in memories of what it was like in flight over the jungles and rice paddies of South Viet Nam. Too many events this morning have caused old memories to resurface, and I absolutely do not like this day. I've got to get back to the present. This day has only begun.
Excerpted from The Drake Odyssey by James G Ralls Copyright © 2011 by James G Ralls. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
THE LONG HAUL....................57
NORMAN ROCKWELL, SAWDUST AND CAT....................74
IT IS UNCLE CLINT!....................88
RETURN TO THE MOUNTAIN....................92
ABOUT THE AUTHOR....................107
ABOUT THE BOOK....................109