The Trail of the Prodigal: An Adventure in Time and Faith

The Trail of the Prodigal: An Adventure in Time and Faith

by Kermit L. Krueger

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Overview

It is 1888, and for Jesse Riddle, time has already brought too much change. Caught between the excitement of life on Harrison Avenue in Leadville, Colorado, and his commitment to the Lord, he must now make some big decisions.

Work in the mines has exposed him to a new world of hard living and reckless self-indulgence, and Jesse knows that the direction his life is taking is hurting his preacher father. The church has always been the center of the young man's life, but now more worldly temptations are pulling him away. He tries to resist the lure of the saloons, with mixed success. His reputation as a man to be feared troubles him. But despite it all-the temptations, the accolades, the power-he could not ignore the commitment he had made to the Lord.

Jesse needs to get away for a while. The mountains have always been his place of sanctuary, and it is to their high reaches that he runs in times of doubt. He could not have imagined what God had in store for him-a mystery beyond his ability to understand. Strange new people and machines have slipped through time, but for what purpose? The choices he must make now will determine the course of the rest of his life. The stakes are high, and the time to decide is short.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491717509
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/28/2013
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE TRAIL OF THE PRODIGAL

An Adventure in Time and Faith


By Kermit L. Krueger

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2014 Kermit L. Krueger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-1750-9


CHAPTER 1

A warm breeze blew across the land, and the tall grasses moved rhythmically to the gentle sounds of an unknown melody. Since time began, it had danced to the same tune and covered the land with a golden glow that stretched to the distant horizon. It was a peaceful land. It had stood the ravages of the bitter winter winds that came from the north to cover the earth with a glistening blanket of snow. It had thrived in the scorching blaze of the summer sun until the cooling breezes of fall brought change. When the winter came again, it transformed the land into a world where only the strong could survive.

To the west, the land rose abruptly from the plains, giving way to the sagebrush and pinion that covered the foothills. With the gain of elevation, the slopes were covered with a wide diversity of flowers and plants that blanketed the hills with a kaleidoscope of color. Finally, the pine and spruce forests mantled the hills in a majestic display of mystery and intrigue as they rose to the heights where few plants could survive the blasts of the bitter winter winds. In the far distance, rock and snow covered the peaks of the high mountains, reigning over a world of beauty that was repeated in range after range of mountains stretching as far as the eye could see.

For thousands of years, the land had risen, driven by the powerful tectonic forces that thrust an underlying vein of coal to the surface. In those ancient days, the change in the land was slow. Millenniums passed by with little change. Year after year, the land was assaulted with winds and rains that wore down the banks of the streams until finally, small ledges of coal appeared in some of the canyons along the Front Range. These veins lay undisturbed until 1867 when William Jackson Palmer discovered the coal and recognized the value it would be to the railroads that were making their way west. It was his time to shine. He was not going to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. Soon, a small canyon on the edge of the prairie was bustling with a mining operation that gave birth to the settlement of Ludlow. As the mines developed, the peace and serenity of the land gave way to the demands that the new industry placed upon it. Now, it was the mine operators that called the tune, forcing the people of the new town into a world of feudal lords and serfs.

Over the years, the situation worsened. Fueled by the greed and avarice of the mine owners, there was little hope that the situation would improve. Conditions in the mines became more dangerous until they became a prison that offered no escape. There was a constant danger of explosions from the ever-present coal dust and gas that filled the mines. Roof collapse was a constant threat to the miners, who were expected to timber the unstable rock at their own expense. Their pay came in the form of company script that could only be redeemed in the company stores.

For years, the unions had tried to get a toe hold in the mines, but all of their efforts were rejected by the mine owners. By 1913, the situation had become so unbearable the miners went on strike. The company's response was to hire "scab" labor to replace them. Those that went on strike were evicted from their company owned homes. With the help of the union, tent villages were set up. To keep an eye on the village, an armored car was built. Mounted with a search light and machine gun, it kept constant surveillance over the families that were now forced to endure this new invasion of privacy. This 'Death Special' was soon patrolling the perimeters of the villages, shining the lights into the tents, and firing indiscriminately into the small colony. In desperation, the miners dug pits under the tent platforms where they could protect their families.

As the situation worsened, stronger measures were needed. Governor Ammons called in the National Guard to bring peace to the settlement. When one of the scabs was found murdered along the railroad tracks, the order was given to destroy the colony. The situation was ripe for disaster.


April 20, 1914

To the east of town, the prairie remained undisturbed. The tall grass and brush that was scattered across the land had remained untouched since the days the buffalo had roamed the land. It was a place of peace and seclusion that had escaped the developments of the mining operation.

Suddenly, a low whine broke the silence, causing the air to vibrate with a sound that rose to a high pitch. As the sound died away, the image of a strange machine began to appear. Quickly, the image stabilized several feet above the ground. Slowly, it settled quietly into the tall grass and was still. The strange machine seemed out of place in this pristine landscape. For a few minutes, it sat in silence as if it were a living thing studying its new surroundings. Finally, a large panel slid back and a man stepped out.

A tall man, he appeared to be in his early 50's with a full head of long white hair. His face was thin, with a strong jaw that spoke of a determination that could take on whatever lay before him. The eyes revealed a wisdom and gentleness that could only come from years of seeking the honorable path through life. The cracked leather jacket and faded Levis were old but adequate to cover his thin frame. The tennis shoes seemed out of place with the world he had entered.

The machine looked much like a large bath tub with large doughnut-shaped structures on each end. Between them was a seat divided by a consol that would accommodate two people. Protruding from it were several short levers with LED lights that indicated different positions. The instrument panel had an array of large digital displays and indicators. There was a computer monitor positioned in front of each seat that displayed maps of the surrounding landscape. Below the panel was a tiller bar that could steer the front wheel. Below that were notches that could be used to lock it in any position. The wheels appeared to have come from a car that would have been quite at home in the twenty first century.

For a moment, the man stood quietly surveying the land before him. At a distance, there was a small herd of antelope. Taking turns, they watched the new arrival but did not seem disturbed by his presence. Between the small hills, he spotted a building that appeared to be a railroad station. His eyes took in every detail of the land as he started toward it. A flock of prairie chickens flew up and glided a safe distance before they settled to earth. The man watched in silence but did not break stride as he neared the station. The boards of the platform clattered beneath his feet, waking the station agent from his nap.

"Train's running late today, Mister. They had a little trouble in Denver taking on water, but they made up most of the time they had lost. Where are you headed?"

"I don't need a ticket today. I have my own ride."

A puzzled look appeared on the man's face as he looked about for a horse. He cocked his head as he gave the man a quick appraisal. "Are you one of them fellers from the detective agency? You don't look like a miner to me."

Hans smiled. "Quite the contrary. I have come here to warn the people of the coming danger. Has there been any shooting today?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary. The National Guard has been on the move, and I suspect there is something afoot. Why do you ask?"

"That's good news. It means I am not too late."

"Too late for what."

Hans considered the distant cluster of tents. A small group of people were moving up a hill with what appeared to be a coffin. "Looks like a funeral. What happened?"

The agent stepped out onto the platform and watched the small procession. "One of the kids in the tents was killed yesterday. It was bound to happen."

"Shot by the men in the 'Death Special?'"

"Yes, how'd you know about that? They try to keep that quiet around here."

Hans turned to him and patted him on the back. "You'd be surprised at what I know. I have to go now, so, if you will excuse me ..."

"What do you know? Is something bad going to happen?"

Hans moved on. "Yes, and if I were you, I'd pull my neck in. It's not going to be safe out here."

When Hans reached the small procession, they had reached the top the hill. A small grave had been dug with a level spot next to it for the coffin. The mourners had gathered in a small circle and were singing a hymn when Hans stepped up to the coffin.

He raised his hands for silence. Glancing at his watch, his face darkened. "Folks, I hate to disturb this solemn occasion, but I must warn you that your lives are in danger."

A large, well muscled miner stepped out of the group. "Mister, I don't know what you are trying to do, but it can wait until we are done here."

Hans shook his head impatiently as he pointed across to a ridge opposite the tent village. "No it can't. Look over there."

On the ridge, the armored car was parked. Several small groups of men were busy setting up what appeared to be machine-gun nests. Tuning back to the mourners, Hans's tone was grim. "Listen to me people. In a few minutes, those machine guns are going to open fire, and you will have no place to hide. You must find a safe place away from the tents, because they will not be safe, not even under the platforms. They are going to set fire to the tents, and those pits will not protect you."

Roughly, the big miner grabbed Hans by the arm and dragged him off to the side. "Mister, I don't know where you got this wild idea of yours, but you are not going to interrupt this funeral. Now, you turn around and get out of here!"

Before he could respond, the man gave him a shove, sending him sprawling to the ground. "Mister, you've got to listen to me. Your lives are going to depend on it!"

The man's face twisted into a snarl. "We'll take care of our own business. Now you get!"

The mourners resumed their singing. Regaining his feet, Hans shouted, "This is your last chance. You have to believe me!"

There was no response, so, reluctantly, he turned and headed down the hill. Before he had gone far, he heard running steps behind him. Bracing himself for an attack, he spun around. Before him was a young woman whose face was filled with excitement.

"Excuse me, Mister, how do you know these things?"

She was an attractive woman that, at first glance, would not stand out in a crowd. But, a second look revealed a woman with a subtle beauty and a face that had a quality of innocence that was rarely seen in the world Hans had come from. Her long blond hair was braided neatly, and her features were those of a classic Greek goddess.

A quick glance at his watch confirmed what he had feared. He grabbed the girl's hand. "Miss, there is no time to talk. You are going to have to trust me. I'll explain later."

Pulling her along, they headed down the hill. Caught by surprise, the woman opened her mouth to speak, but before she could utter a sound, the machine guns opened fire. Diving behind some wooden barrels, the couple huddled together while bullets ripped through the tents. The group on the hill scattered. Several were hit, knocking them to the ground. Others made an attempt to crawl to safety behind the coffin or the dirt from the grave. Some headed for the tents. Below them, people were bursting from the tents, seeking safety in the pits below.

The machine guns continued to rattle on the ridge. Several bullets slammed into the barrels, showering the couple with splinters. "This is no good." Hans burst out. "Let's make a run for the tents."

He grabbed the girl's hand, pulling her to her feet. "I thought you said the tents would not be safe!"

"They're not; follow me." Reaching the tents, Hans pulled her down below a platform just as a volley of bullets shredded the canvas above them.

Crouching down, they ran along the perimeter of the colony until another volley of shots forced them to hit the dirt once again. Inching their way forward, they reached the last tent. After a quick look up the hill, Hans turned to the woman. "We've got to get to the train station. You will be safe there. Then I'm going to have to leave you."

Hans turned, but before he could move, the woman grabbed his arm and jerked him to the ground. "Wait a minute. You can't just leave like this without an explanation. I want to know how you knew about this."

Hans looked down the line of tents. Some of the miners had gotten to their guns and were returning fire. Outclassed by the machine guns, they could only get off an occasional shot before they were pinned down by the wilting fire from the ridge. He was quiet for a moment before he turned to the woman.

"I can't take you with me. I'm going someplace where you can't go."

"Where, Denver? There's nothing keeping me here. I can go with you."

Hans shifted uncomfortably. "You don't understand. It's not necessarily the place I'm going, it's a time."

A puzzled look appeared on her face. "I don't understand. What do you mean; it's a time?"

She had him cornered. How could he explain the time machine, and how could she believe him if he did? On the other hand, what harm could it do if she knew? No one would believe her story anyway. Yet, he owed her an explanation of some sort. He would just have to take a chance.

"What I am going to tell you might be very hard for you to understand. I am not from here. I am from a time in the future. I have come here to try to stop some of the bloodshed that is going to happen today. There's nothing more I can do here, so I am going back to my time. Does that make any sense to you?"

A puzzled look appeared on her face. "You can't be serious."

"I'm as serious as a heart attack. My machine is over there beyond the train station. As soon as I get there, I'm gone."

The girl's face brightened. "If what you say is true, I want to go with you."

A burst of fire from the hill tore into the tent behind them and showered them with splinters of wood. The couple hit the dirt and put their hands on top of their heads. Leaping to his feet, Hans grabbed the girl's hand and ran for the train station.

"This is not the time to discuss it. Let's go."

When they had covered half the ground, they spotted a man running toward them. When he reached them, he stopped. Panic and shock were in his eyes and he took a minute to catch his breath before he spoke.

"What's going on? I was in a meeting and missed it all."

"You'd better go back to your meeting." Hans advised, "It's not safe down there and especially for you."

Caught by surprise, the man gave him a questioning glance. "What do you mean; especially me? Do I know you, sir?"

"No, but I know of you. You are Louis Tikas. I recognize you from a photograph I have. You are one of the leaders of the camp. You must take my word for it; if you go down there, you will be killed."

"What makes you think that?"

Hans spoke quietly. "I'm afraid I can't share that information with you, but you must take my word for it. Your life depends on it."

For a long moment, he stared at Hans. There was something in the man's tone that carried a note of authority, but what he said was something he could not know. He was needed in the camp, and there was not time to sort this out. He smiled at Hans. "Mister, I appreciate your concern, but I'm needed down there. I can't stand here and talk about this right now."

When he turned to go, the woman grabbed his arm. "Louis, you have to listen to this man. I don't know how he knows the things he does, but they come true. I don't know how he does it, but he is telling you the truth."

Gently, the man took her hand and removed it from his arm. Then he smiled. "Sally, I appreciate your concern, but I haven't got time for this. We will talk about it later."

Turning toward the camp, he sped off while the couple watched him go. Quietly, they walked toward the station. The feeling of failure was upon them, but they had done what they could. Hans looked to the woman. When their eyes met, there was a communication of shared sorrow that needed no words.

"I appreciate you not mentioning the time machine. That would probably have taken away any credibility that we might have had."

Sally turned toward the station. A number of men had gathered on the platform and were watching the firefight that was now in full swing in the camp. "That wasn't hard. I remembered what I thought when you told me that, and I know Louis. He wouldn't have laughed at you because he is too nice a man to do that, but He would not have believed you either."

"So, your name is Sally. Tell me about yourself."

She shot him a sideways glance. "There's not much to tell, really. I was living in Denver when I heard of the trouble in Ludlow. Things were pretty boring there, so I decided to come down here and see what was going on."

"Surely you knew it was dangerous here. Does that sort of thing appeal to you?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from THE TRAIL OF THE PRODIGAL by Kermit L. Krueger. Copyright © 2014 Kermit L. Krueger. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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.

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