The Lodge

The Lodge

by David H. Brandin

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440172083
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/15/2009
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

David H. Brandin is a retired computer scientist. His first novel, The Horns of Moses, earned iUniverse's Editor's, Publisher's, and Reader's Choice awards in 2007. He published The Miracle of Alvito, a collection of short stories, in 2008. Brandin resides in Northern California, studies classical piano and writes fiction and nonfiction.

Read an Excerpt

The Lodge

A Tale of Corruption
By David H. Brandin

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 David H. Brandin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4401-7210-6


Chapter One

FIJI

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The tiger charged! Harry Warrener's first instinct was to shout and his regulator popped out of his mouth; water flooded in. He wanted to race for the surface forty-five feet above his head. He turned right looking for his dive buddy and the regulator whipped behind him, trailing bubbles as it rotated and free-flowed. No buddy! Turn more, he thought, present the tank to the shark-but air, he needed air. His left hand instinctively located his backup regulator and he jammed it into his mouth. As he turned farther, he purged the mouthpiece and sucked in air. Unable to decide to flee or fight, Harry prepared to die. His mind raced; thirty years after Vietnam and he was still a coward!

He clenched his jaw and hunched over. Suddenly, he sensed a black shape shoot by his left shoulder. He turned left and saw Randy Lismore, his dive buddy, jam a knife into the tiger's snout. The shark jerked, ripping Randy's knife from his hand. Randy slammed his underwater light into the shark's eye. Unaccustomed to aggressive prey, the tiger turned and raced away. Tiger sharks move in bursts of twenty miles per hour, and it quicklyreceded.

Randy reached behind Harry's head and retrieved his regulator. He placed his thumb and forefinger together in a circle and waved the "okay?" diver's sign in Harry's face. Harry nodded. He spat out the backup and Randy pushed his regulator into his mouth. Harry purged again and took a breath, then another, and another. Bubbles flooded his field of view as he looked toward the surface. Randy grabbed his shoulder, and made the sign again. "Okay? Okay?" Harry nodded, checked his air supply on his dive computer, and took a slow, deep breath. As the bubbles cleared around his mask and his breathing stabilized, he repeated the "okay" sign. He pointed up and the men ascended to a depth of fifteen feet, where they hovered, arm in arm, in a decompression safety stop for five minutes. Fish, which had deserted the waters when the tiger appeared, began to re-populate the sea around the men. Schools of blue and yellow fusiliers and yellow long nose butterfly fish hovered nearby.

As they maintained buoyancy Harry scanned the sea for more predators. A few non-threatening white-tip sharks swam by. Visibility was good in Fijian waters, perhaps one hundred fifty feet. Harry could see a leatherback turtle some distance off. The waters were warm but Harry shivered. Damn, he thought, that was one big shark-at least fourteen feet; it was probably an adolescent, with its pronounced stripes.

On the surface, they pushed their masks down. Randy barked, "Jeez, Harry, what were you thinking? An ex-Navy SEAL doesn't panic in front of sharks."

"I lost my reg and locked up. I couldn't decide what to do, run or breathe. Thanks."

Randy touched Harry's cheek, smiled, and turned away. "Aw, c'mon, Harry. Forget it. You owe me for the knife."

The men swam to their dive boat, Fiji Dream Dives. The other divers had already returned and the boat's dive master waved them over. On deck, Harry stripped off his gear, leaned over the railing and threw up-a long stream of yellow bile. Retching, he stared at the sandy beaches that lined Beqa Lagoon. They reminded him of North Vietnam-dense tropical jungle, a jumble of tall palm trees, and random coconuts scattered across a wide expanse of golden sand; inviting yet barren and ominous. Harry hated the memory. That was the second time Randy had saved his life. Thank God, he'd never learned what had happened on that North Vietnamese beach. How would Harry ever repay Randy?

Chapter Two

CAYUCOS

Sunday, February 10th, 2008, 4:30 PM

Tears streaked Harry Warrener's handsome face. His nose, which Harry always thought was too small, was running. His shoulders drooped, and his stomach was in knots. He clenched his fists as he stared down at the fresh grave. Randy Lismore was dead! They'd been on Fiji only eight weeks ago, in December. Now, his friend was dead and Harry hadn't been there when Randy needed him. He'd even missed Randy's funeral services and military burial.

Fifty-six, trim but with large shoulders, a full head of sandy curly hair framing large brown watery eyes, Harry wondered how he'd get by without Randy. He felt alone despite the dog at his side. He bent his five foot eleven inch frame to hug his eight month old pup. He'd just retrieved Thor, a German shepherd, from the kennel. The dog looked mournful, but Harry knew the dog couldn't help. Harry felt worse than after his parents had died. Randy Lismore had been Harry's best friend since Vietnam. Harry had been assigned to Randy's SEALS unit in Vietnam; the men had experienced combat together-they'd forged an unbreakable bond and now it was broken.

The wind off the ocean swept through the stark, treeless Cayucos-Morro Bay Cemetery, northwest of San Luis Obispo, scattering the flowers placed at some graves. Most of the markers were flat but a cluster of vertical stones stood like watchmen on the northwest corner of the cemetery. Some of the graves had plastic flowers but Harry had no flowers-natural or plastic; from the airport, he'd picked up Thor, made a brief stop at home to rummage in his desk, and then he'd driven directly to the cemetery. Harry scrounged around and assembled a bouquet of random flowers, placed it on the grave, and resolved to bring real flowers routinely to the grave. Thor mimicked him playfully and grabbed a flower with his mouth. Harry shook his head. "Thanks, but this won't do, buddy. Randy deserves better."

"Excuse me," said a voice behind Harry. "Are you a Stag?"

Harry stumbled to his feet. "Say again? Who are you?"

"Oh, hey, I've seen you with Randy Lismore, at the pipe shop. You're Harry, right? I didn't mean to startle you. I'm Larry Yates and the Stags are having a graveside ceremony for Randy in ten minutes."

Yates was a short, bald man with large, muscular arms. He had a sad smile and seemed friendly. Harry guessed he was in his fifties. Harry also knew that Randy had been a Stag; in fact, Randy had been a member of the Los Osos Stags Lodge Board of Trustees and used to bug Harry to join. But Harry, until recently a professor of economics and computer science at Cal Poly, the state university in San Luis Obispo, had always pleaded he was too busy. His excuse when Randy, after the shark dive, had made his latest suggestion that he join the charitable order was that training his dog took all his time.

"I was his best friend," he said. "I just learned about it; I've been traveling. What happened?"

"It was an accident. He slipped and fell backwards. He broke his neck. At least that's what the cops said. There's an inquest tomorrow at City Hall, if you want more detail."

Slipped? No way, thought Harry. Randy was not the kind of guy who lost his balance. He'd been trained by the SEALS and had maintained his conditioning.

"Slipped how?" asked Harry.

"It happened in the Madonna Inn restroom."

"The Madonna Inn?" Harry knew the motel. It had over one hundred rooms decorated in unique themes, with quaint names such as Buffalo, Caveman and Fabulous Fifties. Because of the decor, it had a bar that rocked-with locals, and tourists attracted to the outlandish rooms. The men's room was outfitted like a cave, with rough brown granite slabs on the walls and floor. The sinks were carved out of white granite and looked like giant clams. Harry took a deep breath. He'd visited the toilet on more than one occasion; it was difficult to imagine how one could slip. Despite the cave decor, the room was narrow and not conducive to quick movements.

"They say he slipped on the wet floor, fell backwards, and must've smashed his neck on the urinal."

Harry's eyes narrowed. It didn't sound plausible. Bullshit, he thought. He turned back to the grave.

"His neck broke?" said Harry. "You must be kidding. I've been in there. How the hell can you hit your neck-the cave wall comes down to your waist in there. The water flushes below that."

"I also thought it was weird," said Yates. "But that's what they told us."

Harry pursed his lips and nodded. "Is it okay if I stick around for your ceremony? I know you guys are secretive."

"Sure. No problem." Larry extended his hand and Harry shook it. "I'm sorry we have to meet under these-well, you know what I mean. I'm a trustee, like Randy was. I miss him."

Yates looked at the dog and raised his eyebrows.

"This is Thor, just a pup."

The dog made a slight growl and looked at the road. Several cars had pulled up on the gravel access road. A tall, thin, gray-haired man climbed out of a blue Hummer. A sporty red Mazda Miata delivered a surprisingly large, husky man.

"That's Ted Granger, our Exalted Ruler, and the big guy is Jerry Sloane, the chairman of the board of trustees," said Yates.

Granger's eyes were narrow across a hooked pointy nose-more like a beak. He made a gray picture with an off-the-rack gray suit, no tie, gray thinning hair, a pale complexion; he struck Harry as nondescript. Harry watched as Granger rubbed his eyes and turned to say something to Sloane. Sloane wore beige trousers and a black windbreaker that sported the logo of a Las Vegas casino. Sloane was handsome and more interesting; he had the body of a professional athlete, like a football or hockey player.

Larry Yates continued. "They say they're heartbroken over Randy's loss but-"

The men turned as five more cars arrived kicking up gray dust. A flurry of doors slammed and ten more people walked up to the grave.

"You were saying?" prodded Harry.

"There was bad blood between those guys and Randy."

"About what?"

"I can't talk about matters confidential to the Stags. Let's just say Randy disagreed with them over a deal. Sorry, they're getting ready." Yates smiled and walked over to the Stags.

Harry nodded. He moved to the side as the Stags lined up along the grave. He tensed as he studied the features of Granger and Sloane.

Sloane leaned over to listen as Yates joined the group of men. Granger pointed at Harry and Yates said something. The men turned to look at Harry; he figured they were talking about him.

Granger nodded and frowned. Then Harry watched Sloane make eye contact with Granger. They looked concerned. That, thought Harry, was interesting. Why would guys running a fraternal order and charitable organization give a damn about him?

Granger stepped forward to the grave. He said, "We're gathered here to honor Randy Lismore. We mourn his loss. Once more we are reminded that life and death are inseparable and that our destinies lay under His care. We hope we shall once again be united in the great beyond." Granger stepped back. "And now, I've asked the chaplain to lead us in prayer."

Another man in the group stepped to the end of the grave. He opened a small pamphlet and began to read, "Almighty God, unto thy love and mercy we commend the soul of our member ..."

Harry tuned out. His thoughts flashed back to Vietnam. It had been dark that morning. His mind reeled.

Chapter Three

VIETNAM

Friday, November 8th, 1974, 5:00 AM

Harry Warrener slid down a ladder on the port side of a NASTY class PT boat and joined three other U.S. Navy SEALS in the sea. He was laden with weapons bags, explosives, eight pounds of weights and his diving gear. As he floated near the boat, a seaman passed a fifty pound underwater propulsion vehicle (UPV) to him.

Harry was operating on adrenaline-this was his first combat operation. It was an auspicious date-just nine years earlier, to the day, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the first of U.S. armed forces rushed to Vietnam, had engaged North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Operation Hump, a search and destroy mission, as it was known, had been a bloody battle-forty-eight U.S. paratroopers had died in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Harry knew the history and apprehension flowed through his veins. Still, he noticed, his training had kicked in-his breathing was more or less normal and, as the team swam below the surface, he had no buoyancy problems.

Harry followed the team as they propelled at a depth of twenty feet, one nautical mile westerly, towards a small lagoon along the eastern shore of North Vietnam. The UPVs pulled them along at one knot, timed for arrival at daybreak. When a bale of sea turtles signaled their arrival at the outer reaches of a reef which protected the target lagoon, Harry felt his stomach cramp in anticipation. The waters were shallow on the inside of the reef, and the team stashed its vehicles and dive gear on the ocean floor. The waters around the reef teemed with fish and more sea turtles and long tailed tuna roamed around the UPVs.

The team surfaced with their weapon bags and slithered onto the eastern shore. The sun peeked out of the sea behind them. As the men unzipped their weapons bags, Randy Lismore, the chief petty officer and team leader, checked their arms. On his signal, the SEALS team rose and headed for a North Vietnamese communications tower an eighth-of-a-mile inland. Halfway across the beach gunfire exploded-an NVA patrol had stumbled upon the men. Randy put down covering fire and the team crawled into the jungle. Bullets kicked up spurts of sand around them.

Randy loaded another clip in his MAC10 submachine gun. "We're only two hundred meters from the target. We need a distraction. Harry," he commanded, "you hold this position, lay down some harassing fire-and make them keep their heads down. While they're preoccupied, we'll set the explosives."

Harry nodded, but gritted his teeth to stifle a groan. His buddies' lives depended on him. He needed to cover the rear and he'd be alone. He felt bile rising and sweat, aggravated by the Vietnamese heat and humidity, drenched his face. He gagged on the sweet, cloying scent of rotting vegetation. His wet suit felt like an oven, yet he shivered. He tensed as the team slipped away.

The NVA patrol took up skirmishing positions. Birds fluttered out of the canopy as the soldiers moved through the jungle. Harry hugged the ground. He fired a magazine of rounds into the air, reloaded and fired again, several times. It was mostly to discourage movement towards him and to distract the NVA from his team. But he knew that it was only a matter of time before the enemy outflanked him. When he heard a rustle in the bush nearby, he lost control of his bladder. The smell of his urine added to his fear; he wondered if the enemy could smell it.

He heard the NVA searching on all sides. As they closed in, he ground his face into the dirt. Insects crawled over his face and hands and into his ears. Harry lay motionless, eyes closed, fighting a growing panic. Something was crawling in his hair. If it was a snake, he figured the hell with everything; he was headed back to the sea. He could hear the soldiers probing cautiously through the bush and shooting randomly. Suddenly, all thoughts of insects and snakes vanished and an intense pain in his right leg flooded his consciousness. An NVA soldier had plunged his bayonet into the lush jungle and slashed him. Frozen with fear, Harry held his breath and prayed he hadn't been discovered. But, when the explosives detonated, he gasped. The bayonet plunged again, into the bush beside his nose. The soldier had heard him breathe! Again the bayonet plunged. Then, he heard crack!-a gunshot-and Harry was flattened as the dead NVA soldier fell onto him.

Harry rolled the body off. He brushed the insects off and scratched furiously at his hair and one ear. As he tried to rise, his right leg collapsed. Then he saw Randy ten feet away, his weapon at the ready. Harry fell back and reached for his leg; his hand came back crimson and sticky.

"The other NVA must have taken off when they heard the explosion, Harry. We heard your fire. Good job. You okay?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Lodge by David H. Brandin Copyright © 2009 by David H. Brandin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword....................vii
Cast of Characters....................ix
One-Fiji....................1
Two-Cayucos....................3
Three-Vietnam....................6
Four-Purple Heart....................9
Five-SLO....................11
Six-Inquest....................13
Seven-Big Bear....................20
Eight-Thor....................27
Nine-Hummers....................29
Ten-Big Bubba....................31
Eleven-Rocky Point....................33
Twelve-Reporter....................38
Thirteen-Cessna....................42
Fourteen-Stags....................44
Fifteen-Pacific Heights....................47
Sixteen-Investigation....................52
Seventeen-Mendoza....................56
Eighteen-Trustees....................60
Nineteen-Janet....................69
Twenty-Kelly....................73
Twenty-one-Narrow Creek....................75
Twenty-two-Morty....................78
Twenty-three-Chicago....................81
Twenty-four-Email....................84
Twenty-five-Phone Calls....................87
Twenty-six-Beach....................90
Twenty-seven-Black Bag....................92
Twenty-eight-Indoctrination....................94
Twenty-nine-Informer....................100
Thirty-Canvas Bags....................102
Thirty-one-U.S. 101....................105
Thirty-two-Recordings....................107
Thirty-three-Black Ball....................111
Thirty-four-Due Diligence....................114
Thirty-five-Yates....................116
Thirty-six-Starbucks....................118
Thirty-seven-Asian Art....................121
Thirty-eight-UnionSquare....................125
Thirty-nine-C-4....................127
Forty-Sole-Source....................129
Forty-one-Buck....................132
Forty-two-Diary....................134
Forty-three-Letter....................138
Forty-four-Pillbox....................142
Forty-five-Santana Row....................145
Forty-six-Buena Vista....................147
Forty-seven-Pebble Beach....................149
Forty-eight-City Hall....................152
Forty-nine-Caught....................154
Fifty-Tickets....................155
Fifty-one-Sam's Grill....................157
Fifty-two-Pamela....................159
Fifty-three-SFO....................162
Fifty-four-LAX....................163
Fifty-five-Randy....................164
Fifty-six-Initiation....................168
Fifty-seven-Confession....................172
Fifty-eight-Bateman....................176
Fifty-nine-CO....................179
Sixty-Max....................181
Sixty-one-Civic Center....................184
Sixty-two-Fisherman's Wharf....................187
Sixty-three-Stow Lake....................191
Sixty-four-Vacancies....................195
Sixty-five-Election....................198
Sixty-six-Opposed....................201
Sixty-seven-Monterey....................206
Sixty-eight-Poco-Poco....................210
Sixty-nine-Good Catholics....................214
Seventy-Apollo....................216
Seventy-one-Attack....................218
Seventy-two-Arrest....................220
Seventy-three-New Balance....................222
Seventy-four-Granger....................224
Seventy-five-Interrogation....................227
Seventy-six-Message....................232
Seventy-seven-Macaroni....................234
Seventy-eight-Warehouse....................236
Seventy-nine-Caymans....................240
Eighty-Fish....................242
Eighty-one-Hansen....................245
Eighty-two-Lone Cypress....................247
Eighty-three-Mano a Mano....................249
Eighty-four-Chairman....................251
Eighty-five-Lower Level....................253
Eighty-six-Mississippi....................257
Eighty-seven-Home....................259
Eighty-eight-Kiss....................260
Eighty-nine-Son....................265
Ninety-Land....................267
Epilogue....................269
Afterword....................271

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