What most impressed Calder but also rankled the most was that these conspirators had chosen the weakest point in the electoral process. They were relying on the apathy and ignorance of normal citizens. At precisely the time when no one thought to look at what was going on—indeed when most thought the election was already settled—a small group had struck at the very heart of the process.
Fear ebbed slightly, as he was overwhelmed by indignation at the hubris of the criminals. Politics was a dirty pursuit, of course. Everyone knew that politicians twist the truth even when they’re not telling outright lies. But this wasn’t some cynical exchange of rhetoric and trumped up statistics to do with denying unemployment assistance in favor of funding something else; it wasn’t about gutting environmental law for private gain. Those debates, however full of trickery and spin, were nevertheless just that—debates—and they were more or less overt, carried out before the public and in the public’s name.
This plot, though, was covert, a nationally organized threat to the integrity of the office of the President. It was secret, precise in its economy, and deadly in pursuit of its goal. If the plot succeeded, the government would not legitimately derive its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Calder had spent more than twenty years studying and teaching about elections; and while his primary interest was academic, and despite his stated ambivalence about the “real world,” that theory and practice was underpinned by an abiding, visceral connection to what was it was all for—people: their rights, their lives and livelihoods; the just, lawful application and use of power. He found himself filled with outrage.
He wondered again about who the conspirators were. Calder couldn’t see the either party’s leadership doing something like this. It was too risky, far beyond the normal kinds of “dirty tricks” a party would be likely to countenance.
Did they know at the top level, like Watergate, and so would neither help nor hinder the conspirators? Or had some private, well-heeled and well-connected set of ideologues seen this dirty plot as a means to get their way, abetted by the confusion wealth in American politics affords?
Hours later, Calder was no nearer figuring out who was doing the killing and manipulation than when he sat down.
Publishers Weekly says Faithless Elector is a “fast-moving topical thriller.” Its “surprising twists add up to a highly suspenseful read.” A timely, compelling novel for our turbulent times.
"The pleasure of Faithless Elector lies not just its smooth evocative prose, but in the author's justified confidence that good writing can make chases through recognizable locales sufficiently exciting without a Navy SEAL or a terrorist plot." Review, Plattsburgh Press-Republican
"Taut and well-paced, but for readers reading between the lines it also works on a moral level." Book Viral Review
"Be prepared to read this book in a very short period of time—it’s that intriguing There are mysterious deaths, a hint of romance, amateur detective work, and a plot that will have you wondering who done it right up until the end…and maybe afterwards. Florence Osmund (author/reviewer)
5-Stars on Amazon!
For the full text of all reviews, and more see http://faithlesselector.com
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As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
AFRICA. Where corruption often rules and human life can be the most worthless commodity. Read the story of Sierra Leone and its people in this bloody, harrowing, and heart breaking suspense thriller.
This is a work of fiction, except for the parts that really happened.
Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp. (MEO).
To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander - General Icechi Walker, known as 'Body Chop' - a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.
As the battle for control of the land unravels, stories spread of horrific bloody massacres and mutilations in towns and villages, many of them by child soldiers. The capital, Freetown, is threatened by a full-blown mindless rebellion led by the RUF.
To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army. But control will not be handed to him so easily.
Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway, is a major part of the mercenary brigade. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander's involvement.
His personal life in shambles, Dalloway and his troop goes against Body Chop and his supporters, to avenge the death of his men and all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the RUF.
His arm came off, and along with it, the sword. Maezy spun on her heel and jammed her blade into the next attacker. She wasn’t in the mood to dance around as they tried to grab her and instead, resorted to ending the conflict as soon as possible.
He crashed to the ground as Maezy yanked out the sword. “There's too many! We have to fall back!”
The world was a frenzy of armor and swords. Metal flashed in the bright sunlight. Elves preferred their swords, bows, and arrows to guns. Keeping to the rules of war etiquette, Maezy used the sword to deflect another attacker. This one, like the last, made a concentrated effort to pull her along with him. Refusing to be kidnapped, which she could only guess was his intention as he deflected her blows and tried to grab her, Maezy took the first opportunity to smash him over the head.
“FALL BACK!” The trumpet sounded as the Captain gave the order.
“Maezy!” The voice calling blended with the sound of another sword thwack!
“Hold on!” Maezy returned, as she parried, thrust, spun, and blocked again.
Sweat drip, drip, dripped into her eyes. The salty sting had her blinking double-time as she predicted her attacker's next move. His other hand reached out to grab her wrist and yank her off balance. With another parry, arm straining above her head, she reached for her belt, grabbed, and shoved her dagger into the heart of the warrior in front of her.
He collapsed without a sound.
Turning and leaping over fallen bodies, Maezy charged into another opponent who was about to strike one of her own down. Stabbing him through the heart, she leapt over his body and runs forward.
“MOTHER!” Screaming and pointing, she rushed to her mother's defense. Striking the new threat over the head with her sword handle, Maezy shoved him out of the way. His sword missed her mother by a breath.
Exhaling her own breath in a long wisp, Maezy helped block a sword thrust from the warrior attempting to behead her mother. “Why isn't your spell working?” Maezy cried.
“I don't know! There must be a counter spell blocking my own. They keep trickling in!”
“We need to fall back to the castle! You’re too exposed out here!” Maezy slashed and skewered several who charged at her and tried to surround her.
More men met their maker.
“Whose men are they?” she called.
“Your father's,” her mother returned.
That explained it. The king wanted her. They should have known he would resort to all out war. Her mother had told her this day might come. Tucked in their own realm, several dimensions away, Maezy hadn’t thought it would be possible for him to find out about her.
“RETREAT! FALL BACK!” The Captain's cries surrounded them and were repeated.
“FALL BACK TO THE CASTLE!” Maezy added her own cry.
Maezy's sword blocked, sliced, and rang out as the troops fell back and surrounded her and her mother. Soon, they were encased in a shield of men and armor. Their men continued to fight and block the Elf King’s men as they retreated.
At the bridge, they crossed as quickly as possible. Shields covered their heads as the enemy realized they were losing ground and resorted to arrows to take them out. Maezy noticed none of the arrows came too close to her.
They want me alive, she thought. Wouldn't father be angry if I was accidentally killed?
“WHAT DO WE DO?” Maezy shouted.
“I'M UNSURE! I NEED TO GET TO A QUIET PLACE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION!” Her mother tossed another fighter away with the flick of her wrist.
“TO THE CASTLE, MEN!” Maezy shouted to the nearest warrior.
They were inside the gates, doors closing even as the last few of their men streamed through. The doors stood open as long as they could before each steel-enforced structure slammed shut in the face of the intruders.
“Inside!” Maezy and her mother scrambled to the front doors, and launched them open. Servants scuttled back, and guards followed. “Keep them out as long as you can. We're going to find out how they came through.”
The Captain nodded and hurried back out the open doors as others took up their posts inside and out.
“Mother, what happened to the protection spell? How was he able to break through?”
“I don't know. I don't know! It's one of my most powerful spells. It should have worked against anything he threw at it. There must be someone else.”
Closing the doors to the library, Maezy returned her sword to her belt and began pacing. “I wonder how he even found us? We're within a whole other dimension! We need to reinforce the spell.”
Her mother sat on the edge of a chair and closed her eyes. Hands out at her sides, she took deep breaths in and out. Maezy watched her, eyes darted back to the door, and tried not to scream.
What can I do?
Spells were her mother's domain. Hers was fighting. She had grown up learning to defend herself for a day like this. The Elf King was a collector. Anyone with a special power he could possess was captured and added to his collection. Maezy didn’t want to be the one he caught next.
“Bring me the book, Maezy, and stop wearing a hole in the carpet.”
Doing as asked, she found the Book of Ancient Sorcery and ran it to her mother. “Should I call the others in?” Maezy wanted to know.
“No, we need them fighting with everything they have while I search for a solution. There’s only one-- No! It can’t be.”
“Mother, what’s going on? What do we do?”
“I have an idea. I don't know if it will work. I may need your assistance.”
Looking up, her mother's blood red lips smiled. “I'm glad you said that.”
A phone call at 9:05 on the first day back from holiday break can never bring good news, especially when it comes from the newly appointed, heavily coiffed, senior executive vice president Susan Thornton-Smith, dubbed STS by her corporate minions, who longed to create a sense of intimacy where none had previously existed. This, however, would not be the case for me. I was ready for my promotion; in fact, I had been at my desk for an hour already making sure everything was 100% perfect for today. My new hot pink crocodile iPad case was lined up with its office accessory family. The iPad itself was just one of the many things I was going to buy to celebrate my promotion to Publicity Director.
Being Assistant Director was a big job at my company, despite the fact that there had never been a director for me to report to. It had only taken me T-E-N Y-E-A-R-S to make it from Assistant to Assistant Director. When “STS” came up on my phone screen, my heart leapt in excitement. I got it, I thought. Maybe there was even a little surprise breakfast being planned.
I dreamed of that office deliveryman bringing trays of treats to successful executives. Really successful people never sneak a bagel with a schmear at their desk, but are served mini-muffins on faux silver trays and drink their coffee out of real china cups and saucers. Finally, I thought, this would be me.
Lars instructed Eileen to stay where she was and to keep well hidden. He then worked his way to the left of the house. Not seeing anything, he moved closer to the rear of the house. Near the woodshed, Lars could see a body beside the woodpile. It was Ronald. Lars moved back around to the front of the house and took his position behind a large tree stump, which hid most of his body. Lars pulled the hammer back on his rifle and aimed at the front door. He let out another wolf howl. The three men came out again. This time the first two men out the door had guns. Lars aimed at the first man and squeezed the trigger. He quickly reloaded and fired at the second. Both men fell immediately while the third ran back inside the house. Lars hurried back toward the rear of the house and caught the third man running out the back door, heading for the woods. He made it halfway to the tree line before Lars dropped him. Lars ran up with his rifle ready to shoot again, if necessary. It wasn’t. The man was dead, blood oozing out of the hole in the center of his back. Lars hurried back around to the front of the house to check the other men. Lars had been dead on when he shot those two as well. Lars poked the bodies with the end of his rifle. There was no movement.
Lars cautiously peered inside the front door and then walked in―ready to shoot if necessary. The house was silent. There had been only three men, and Lars had taken care of them in short order. He went into the bedroom and found Sara on the bed lying face up, naked with a gunshot wound on her forehead. The pillow under her head was soaked with blood. He moved closer to the body. There was blood between Sara’s legs and she had marks on her arms and face. Bastards! Lars shook his head in disgust and covered Sara with a sheet. He then headed back to the woodshed. Ronald was lying face down in the dirt beside the wood pile. There was blood on the leg of his jeans and two blood spots on the back of his shirt. He still had the ax in his hand. Lars guessed the men had sneaked up on Ronald and shot him in the back. Then they raped and killed Sara.
Lars walked back to where he had left Eileen. She had watched Lars cut two men down in a heartbeat, and she had heard the shot ring out from the back of the house. She was crying when Lars reached her. “We need to call the police,” she said.
“And how do you suppose we do that?” he replied.
“I don’t know, but we need to call someone.” Eileen cried, as he led her all the way to the house.
“That’s not how the world works anymore,” Lars informed her. “There is no law anymore.” Her tears let up as she thought about what Lars said. Eileen was shocked at how a man who could be sweet and gentle could be so cold-blooded. But she knew Lars had done what he had to do.
Lars took Eileen into the bedroom where Sara lay. He pulled the sheet back. He wanted Eileen to see what he had seen. He wanted her to know exactly why he had done what he did to those men. When Eileen saw Sara, she became hysterical. She screamed and her whole body began to tremble. Though she only looked at the body a few seconds and then turned away, Eileen saw the bruises on the arms, legs and neck of the pale and slightly bluish body. She saw the blood and matted hair between her legs. Eileen then understood the trauma Sara had suffered through. Lars grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her toward him. He gave her a big bear hug, but a bear hug was not going to comfort her much now. They just stood there for a while and Eileen finally began to calm down and her trembling lessened. Lars pulled the sheet back over Sara’s body, and then went back outside. Eileen followed, softly crying.
Lars found a shovel and chose a nice spot to bury his friends. He began to dig. As Lars dug the graves, Eileen sat on a stump and thought about what had happened. Sara was such a beautiful woman. That could be me, she thought. Lars is right, there is no law out here to help us. We must help ourselves, and if we fail we will die just like Ronald and Sara.
Eileen got up, drew her pistol and found a target to shoot at. It was only a discolored spot on a nearby tree, but to her it was an attacker. She pulled the hammer back and fired at the spot. She fired again and again until her pistol was empty.
“What the hell are you doing?” Lars demanded.
“I’m killing an intruder,” she replied.
Lars just stood there in his hole looking at Eileen as she reloaded her gun. Again, she fired at the spot on the tree. When her gun was again empty, she walked over to the tree to check on her accuracy. Lars got out of the hole he was digging and walked over to the tree as well.
“Well done,” he stated.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Eileen could see ten holes in the tree, all within the dark area she had chosen as her target.
“What brought this on?” Lars asked.
“I’m not going to end up like Sara,” she replied. “Hell no! That is not going to happen to me.”
Lars smiled, then returned to his hole digging leaving his red-faced partner to her target practice. Eileen reloaded her pistol three more times and unloaded it on the tree. She then reloaded the gun again and stuck it in her holster.
An hour later, Lars had dug two holes side by side near a large elm tree. Eileen couldn’t help Lars wrap the bodies in blankets for burial. She was still very distraught and her crying continued intermittently. As Lars placed the bodies into the makeshift graves, Eileen picked some flowers she found at the side of the house. Lars began to fill the two graves with shovelfuls of dirt. When he was finished, Eileen gently placed the flowers on top. They both just stood there for a moment. Lars mumbled some words, and then turned to Eileen again and gave her another hug.
Eileen followed Lars back into the house. He looked around and gathered all the ammunition he could find and placed it into a cloth tote. Lars also found two .357 magnum pistols, which he put into the bag. He then gathered up the guns lying beside the dead men and a couple rifles Ronald had that Lars didn’t want to carry all the way home. He hid these in the woodshed where he figured no one could find them. Then Lars went back to the dead men. One by one he dragged them out into the yard. Lars closed the doors to the house, turned to Eileen and told her it was time to get back home.
“Are you going to just leave these men out here in the yard?” she asked.
“Coyotes and buzzards need to eat too,” he said. “Now let’s get home.”
Again, Lars seemed so cold-blooded, but she did not say a word.
Lars led the way back home, and for a long time, Eileen didn’t say a word to him. Finally, about halfway home, Lars stopped. He laid his bag and gun down against a log and turned to Eileen. He took her by the arm and pulled her close to him and gave her another bear hug. Eileen still felt shocked, hurt, and sad for Sara and Ronald. “I’m sorry,” he said. Eileen began to whimper a bit, and Lars gently pushed her back and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry you had to go through this,” Lars said. “It couldn’t be helped. If I had not done what I did, the same thing might have happened to us. We could have ended up just like Ron and Sara.” Eileen nodded her understanding, but she could not help feeling the new feelings she was now experiencing.
Eileen had never seen anyone killed. She saw people killed on television and never gave it a second thought. To see two men buckle as bullets tore through their flesh, splattering blood everywhere, became very real for Eileen today. She felt their pain as she jumped from the echoing report of Lars’ rifle. She felt the pain of the man who ran out of the rear of the house as well, though she never saw the man get shot. This was something she would never forget.
The one feeling she was not having was fear though. Her stomach was in knots, but she felt safe with Lars. Lars was a gentle man, but when necessary, he transformed into a killing machine. He could take care of himself, and he could take care of her, she imagined. Or can he? Ronald couldn’t protect Sara. I can learn to shoot like Lars, Eileen thought, but can I kill another human being? I must. I don’t have a choice now, unless I want to end up like Sara. Eileen managed a small smile and pulled Lars back to give him a hug. “We had better get going,” he said, and they continued their trip home.
Lars and Eileen worked together to make dinner. They didn’t mention their ordeal throughout the meal. When they were finished, though, Lars suggested they go out on the porch. “We can talk some more while we watch the sunset,” he said. Lars refilled and handed Eileen her glass of tea, got his, and together they walked onto the porch.
Eileen was first to talk, “I know why you did what you did. It’s hard for me, but I know it was necessary.”
“We can’t take our safety for granted anymore,” Lars said. “We cannot assume everything will work out for the best around here. We need to get real serious about our safety or we may not live long.”
“Do you think we’ll have more intruders?” Eileen asked.
When an attempted hijacking rattles a sleepy California coastal town, teenage detectives Dalton Fraser and Maddy Kane spring into action. With the help of a super-smart dog and a trained U.S. Navy dolphin, the teens investigate mysterious clues that lead them to uncover a smuggling ring. After their story is declared unbelievable by the small-town sheriff, Dalton and Maddy form a daring plan to catch Nico, the notorious ringleader, and lead the sheriff to his arrest. But the plan backfires and the young teens find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for, and Nico doesn’t want witnesses!
Now, at close to 70 miles an hour, Rian sees more red taillights in the distance. Closing fast on the traffic, Rian makes up his mind to blow by the vehicles ahead as fast as he can. The Pontiac jounces over another hump. Too late, Rian realizes the traffic is a line of military trucks that are waiting to turn on to Skaggs Island Road.
He yanks the wheel hard left, the Pontiac slews to the tall berm on the road’s edge, then rockets off the road, soaring out into San Pablo Bay. Crashing down nose first into the water, the impact sends Rian’s head smashing into the steering wheel. Bloody and disoriented, he frantically struggles against the Bay’s water pressure in a losing battle to get the door open.
Freezing water pours in from the smashed hidden compartments, quickly climbing up his body. Completely panicked, Rian pushes himself up to gulp a bubble of air. The black water swirls past his chin, cold darkness envelopes him. Screaming, he claws at the headliner to find another bubble.
Keys’ jeep screeches to a halt; he and Larry jump out to stand at edge of the road. They can hear Rian’s muffled scream as the car goes under water. The Pontiac’s lights glow eerily in the murky water before fading from view.
Larry stands by Keys in the cold rain watching the Bay’s water consume the Pontiac. “I got the license number, Keys.”
Sean woke up from a dream, the same dream, screaming just as he had the previous three mornings. The vision of him strapped to a table and a doctor standing above him was still vivid in his mind. A bright light shone from above and everything was fuzzy. The doctor was masked and the scalpel glistened in his hand. Two masked nurses watched as the doctor made his first cut.
I’ve died and gone to hell, he thought. I’m not dead, but I’ve certainly gone to hell. The pain in his groin was not quite as bad this morning, but he still felt the lingering ache. He reached down and felt for the missing parts, and began to cry.
Why did they do this to me? What are they going to do with me next? Only questions. No answers. Then he began to remember. The men. They took my guns. I asked a question and a sharp pain in the back of my head. Then darkness. Why?
Sean got up and turned on the light. He went to wipe his brow but stopped short and looked at his hand. Blood. Not a lot, but too much. Sweat trickled down his cheek. He walked over to the sink to wash his hands and face.
A banging on his door. Sean looked over at the clock. Then he remembered Sonny, Marcia, and little Lola. Sonny had come to get him and take him to work. He felt tired, his groin ached, and he didn’t want to go to work. The blood reminded him of his sister, Debra. She was always so bitchy when she got her period. He couldn’t help but smile, but it was short lived.
He had to get dressed. Sonny was pissed yesterday and the day before because he took too long to come out. Besides, he would get no answers until he did. Sonny wouldn’t answer my questions. Will he answer them now? And what’s with Marcia? Every time I speak to her, she just gives me a dirty look then turns away. What’s the matter with these people? I’ll get some answers today.
Sean got dressed a little faster than he did yesterday. It was early, the same as the past few mornings. The clock said 4:20. He met Sonny outside and got into the back of their pickup truck. A sharp pain shot through his groin as he lifted his leg over the side. Marcia and Lola crawled into the passenger side. Sonny drove to the boat and cranked up the old diesel motor. While the engine warmed a bit, they loaded their gear onboard. Soon they were headed out to sea.
The shrimp boat slowly chugged along and exited the harbor. Sean sat on the railing around the rear deck. The gentle breeze rustled his hair and was cool on his face. The air was heavy with the smell of the bay. Sean liked the smells—the salty air, the sea water, the aroma of fish and sea grass. He focused his attention on the water quickly passing by the boat. The churning water stirred small jellyfish which glowed green when they were agitated. The luminescent creatures fascinated and mesmerized him. They took his mind off his pain.
Sean looked forward toward the cabin of the boat. He could see Sonny driving and Marcia talking to him. Sean could not hear them over the hum of the engine. He knew, however, the conversation had to be about him. Marcia would occasionally glance back at Sean. Yes, they’re definitely talking about me.
Sean turned his attention back to the water. Robbie and I came here to find wives. I can never have kids now. Can I have sex? If I can’t, what do I need a wife for? I’ll kill those bastards for what they did to me. But who are they? It wasn’t Sonny and Marcia, but who? Sean felt the tears welling up in his eyes again. Maybe I should end it all right now. Just lean over the rail. One second and I’ll be in the water. Let the fish and crabs have me. Take a deep breath of the salty water. I’ll be out like a light. No more worries . . . no more pain . . . no more problems.
A few miles away from the Bayfront, Sean’s best friend, Robbie, lay in a bed, out cold for several days now. His breathing was slow and steady. His face was flushed and a cool damp washcloth was across his forehead. He had not moved a major muscle since he was ambushed and brought here. His eyes twitched from time to time as if he were dreaming, but that was all.
“Why won’t he wake up, Mother?”
“I don’t know. They must have hit him awful hard for him to stay out this long.”
“Is he going to die?”
“He may very well if he doesn’t wake up soon.”
The First Star has been named and claimed. Answering the call of a quest, the Master Traveler has ventured far from home to a place called the Rims. In many ways it is much like the two systems of his people; the premise of Technology in competition with the Energies is debated on many levels, with neither side able to claim and hold higher ground. Still, it is the matter of the quest that beckons him – the Star Chaser – to engage this place and find not only the source of the rising plight of humanity, but the solution which will deliver the race of the Founders. It has been several years since he came to the Rims, and the time approaches for the Traveler to remove his veil and be seen.
It is an awesome task that awaits Dungias. The final picture is not yet in frame, only the pieces that may or may not contribute to the overall scheme.
In Pieces of the Dark Eight, factors that are still beyond the comprehension of the Master Traveler are found, forged, and finalized. Though the many eyes of the Rims do not see the Master Traveler, he has indeed introduced himself to this place and the ripples of that event are being felt. What part will they play in the matters to come? Will they even play at all?! Only time will tell. In this exclusive story bonus bridging the Prelude to Book One of the BEYOND THE OUTER RIM Series, these hidden pieces of the game are marked and recorded.
Saying goodbye to the company commanders was difficult. Saying goodbye to First Sergeant Tanneyhill was especially difficult. Conor promised Chaplain Yancey that he would attend as many of his services as possible, as he had been doing, and Conor thanked him for his support and friendship. The brigade commander, Colonel Baker, agreed that Captain Willingham would be the best choice as Conor’s replacement, and the three of them met for two hours to transition the regiment.
In the late evening, Conor was walking the regimental line with Captain Willingham when three soldiers called out from their trench.
“We hear you’re leaving us, sir. Before you get away, we’d like for you to join us down here.”
Willingham and Conor jumped down into the trench with the three young soldiers. One man reached into his coat pocket and brought out a handful of shelled, roasted peanuts. He passed three of the peanuts to Conor, three to the others, and they toasted each other by tapping the shells together. “To the Thirty-eighth Georgia,” they all repeated.
The peanuts were damp and stale, but Conor didn’t care. It was the purest, most unselfish, most cherished gift he could remember.
“We’ll miss you, sir. We walked a lot of miles together, didn’t we?”
“We did. And I appreciate what you men have meant to this regiment, and to me personally. I’ll ask you to give Captain Willingham the same great support you gave me.”
“We will, sir. Good luck to you.”
Conor mentioned to Willingham as they finished the inspection of the line, “Where did we get such men as these? How could I have been so blessed to command them? To have gone into battle with them, and bled with them, and watched so many of them die? These men have carried me from the field after being wounded. I have seen them march for days on dusty roads, wade fast-flowing, rain-swollen rivers, trudge through hard rain and thick mud, and lie down on the grass and be asleep in a matter of seconds. I have looked into their eyes just before we faced an enemy of superior strength and seen their determination, and knew they would be right there with me as we moved forward each time, every time. I have watched them freezing in the cold, half-starved, homesick, lovesick, physically sick, and yet they manned their posts. I have written to their mothers of their astonishing bravery and of how proud they should be of their dead heroic sons. I have listened to their ribald humor, their cursing, their sarcasm, and their prayers. I know that no matter how long I live, no matter what else I do in this life, I will never see their equal again. Just where did we get such men as these?”
Afterwards, when he got back to his hut and thought about those young, undernourished, loyal soldiers so eagerly sharing their few remaining peanuts with him, an act of extraordinary generosity matched only by their magnificent valor, Conor sat on the ground and wept.
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Relic Tech (Crax War Chronicles) by Terry W. Ervin II Narrator: James Conlan Series: Crax War Chronicles #1 Published by Gryphonwood Press on 03-03-14 Genres: