Try out my SciFi/Fantasy series Tasks of the Nakairi!
Find Valbore and Nexus of Change on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Book Three, The Shurshu coming soon. Update: Shurshu is all done except final formatting. But I have developed a serious medical issue –surgery is in my immediate future, so things will be delayed for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that.
And my Thriller Series, ATF Agent Charley Rogers
Books in the Charley Rogers Series, Trace of Madness and The Death God are available on Kindle Unlimited also.
Sample the first chapters from book one of each series below
Valbore introduces you to the world in which the Aria Atlani are refugees from another universe which was destroyed. This world, called Eperu, is but one of the sanctuaries in different universes to which they have escaped. Now, faced with the horror one group of the world’s natives have conjured up, Sara from Earth was brought to this universe to battle the thing known as a valbore.
Sara: 14 years ago
I gave him a hug when I entered. I was careful, but I could see it hurt him anyway. He was nothing but skin and bones now. Nobody would tell me how he was doing anymore. Their expressions told me he didn’t have long. I didn’t want to lose my dad, but I was only nine. I couldn’t do anything about cancer and wishing wouldn’t fix this.
“Hey, Sunshine!” His voice was rough and whispery. He looked tired. His fingers idly picked at a new bandage on his arm.
“Hi, Daddy. The nurses keep waking you up all night again?”
His smile was wry. “Yeah. They tried a different painkiller, but it made me all itchy. I scratched until I bled before they noticed. They got a little upset over it. How’s your mother handling things?”
I looked over my shoulder. Mom was talking to the doctor. She was crying again. “Not very good. She got fired from the bar she was working at. Maureen told me some guy hit on her and she started crying. Fell apart right there in front of everybody. She’s not eating enough either. I have to remind her to eat. Maybe she just doesn’t like my cooking. I’m not real good at it.”
He looked sad. “This has been tough on her. Thanks for taking care of her. I know it’s not right. You’re nine. She should take care of you, not the other way around. I want you to understand that it’s not her fault. She never really learned how to handle adversity.”
At my puzzled expression, he gave a coughing laugh and patted my hand. “I know your mom hasn’t talked about her family at all. She has her reasons. When she was growing up, your mom lived in an extremely strict household. Her grandparents told her what to wear, what to do, what to say, what to think. They never allowed her to be herself, to be strong. They also didn’t allow her to make decisions, so she’s not real good at it. We loved each other, and I felt sorry for her so I wanted to rescue her from that. You can’t force people to change though. I tried to do better with you.”
I gently gripped his frail hand. “Do better how?”
“She never had choices. I made sure you did. I made sure you knew you could be the person you choose to be. Our choices make us who we are. If you want to be strong, you will be. If you want to be happy, you will be. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. Be who you choose to be, not what others would have you be. If you’re strong in here,” he weakly tapped his temple, “you can do anything. Never forget that sunshine.”
“I won’t, Daddy.”
“Sara, could you to go out to the waiting room, sweetie? I need to talk to your father.” Mom’s voice broke on the last word.
I didn’t want to leave. She promised I could spend more time than this with him. I loved him too! Why did she have to hog all the visiting time for herself?
“Now, Sara!” Her voice was sharp this time.
My shoulders slumped in defeat and I turned back to my father with a forced smile. “I gotta go. I love you, Daddy.”
He cupped my cheek. “I love you too, Sunshine.”
It was the last time I ever saw him. The funeral was eight days later.
Sara: Present Day
I carefully guided my wheelchair through the tombstones looking for my father’s grave. The ground was uneven, and the loss of my eye meant I lacked depth perception so it was slow going.
I finally found the right one and sat staring at it for a long while as the clouds overhead darkened with the promise of rain. “Sorry, Daddy. I can’t do it anymore. You told me if I was strong I could do anything, but that’s not true.” I sobbed. “When I was little, I wanted to have a happy life, but that didn’t happen. Then I just hoped that there would come a day when I could get away from the ugliness and I thought I had. Then Carlos happened and… I can’t take it anymore.”
Tears blinded me and I awkwardly wiped them away with my half-hand. “I’m sorry, Daddy. The sunshine died when you did.”
The clouds rumbled as I slowly started back to the entrance to the cemetery. It would be a long bus ride home with a pill bottle at the end of it. There was nothing left for me and it wouldn’t ever get any better. I was so tired of pain. It was time to make it stop. Forever.
I hadn’t even reached gates when lightning struck and the world ended.
Chapter 1: Beginnings
Torin: 5th of Harvest, 3837
Torin made his way through the brush. He had seen lightning come from the area of the stone ring and the dragonlords had tasked him with watching for such occurrences. He was also to send whatever interesting things came through the old portal to them in the capital. Usually, it was a dead animal, strange rocks, plants, or twisted wreckage, but he knew every once in a great while a portal brought a Nakairu. It had never happened here in his lifetime so he wasn’t expecting much.
The Nakairi were the real prize, brought here by that foreign Goddess to fulfill an unknown duty. They always brought change, but it was always for the good as far as he could see, though others disagreed. Their actions riddled the histories, sometimes large, sometimes small, but always important.
Some argued that the Aria Atlani didn’t belong here but the priests claimed the God welcomed them and gave them a home. It was hard to argue with a God. Torin didn’t bother trying.
He slipped through the last of the brush and stepped into the clearing housing the stone ring. Silvery stone pylons thirty feet tall, surrounding a disk of polished black stone. The black stone was uncanny. If you looked straight down you could see silvery shimmers deep down as if it was water. Neither snow nor dust stuck to it, and it never got hot even if you built a fire on it.
It was well it didn’t. It saved the woman slumped in the middle from burning. Today was one of those scorching hot, sunny days before the rains hit and the stones of the path were almost hot enough to blister.
She was a pretty, little thing, slender and graceful with long wavy dark brown hair. Her big, amber eyes fixed on the hand she held up to her face as if she had never seen it before. The poor girl looked confused and more than a little stunned. There was a dark blue cloth haversack beside her.
He approached her with care so he didn’t frighten her. She babbled something and he held his hands up and said, “Sorry, miss. I don’t understand.” Then he touched his chest. “Torin.”
She blinked and dipped her head while babbling something that included his name then touched her own chest and said, “Sara.”
She had pretty manners and seemed properly submissive. Torin smiled and motioned her to rise. This engendered another bout of confusion on her part as she stared at her feet for a moment and wiggled them before she got to her feet. She was wearing soft trousers and a shirt. Her feet were bare.
He’d have to do something about that. It wasn’t proper wear for a female. As soon as she gained her feet, she grabbed the haversack and turned to Torin. She was taller than he had expected, taller than he was in fact.
As he led her to the village, Torin realized he would have trouble getting her to the capital in safety. The girl was prettier than his granddaughter was and would catch the eye of every man who saw her. He would need to share his finder’s fee with a guard or two. The dragonlords were explicit. Torin’s orders specified that he deliver Nakairi intact and unharmed to the capital.
Sara: 6th thru 9th of Harvest, 3837
Torin led me across scrubland and fields to his village. It was late afternoon and sweltering. The path burned my feet but it felt wonderful walking again. I didn’t understand how it had happened, but I intended to enjoy it while I could.
When we arrived at the village, Torin took me into his house and introduced me to his family. After dinner, I shared a bed with a girl who might be his granddaughter. His family tried to ignore me as best they could though. It hurt, but I couldn’t blame them. Nobody ever wanted to get to know me. The next morning, Torin’s wife gave me a loose dress to wear and a pair of socks with tar painted soles, stuffed my old clothes into my backpack, and then led me outside. Torin and two other tough looking older men were puttering with some animals that looked like horses with horns and a split lip like a springbok. I liked their stripes.
I was scared. It felt too much like when they shuffled me from one foster family to another, except this was worse because I understood nothing that had happened. How had I gotten here? What happened to all my scars? How could I walk? The bits the doctors had amputated were back and I’m sure that can’t happen! Did God exist after all? Was God giving me a second chance?
A dim, tenuous hope lodged in my heart. I wanted a second chance so bad I could taste it. However, it was too soon to tell if this was the second chance I wanted or a new hell. It was more likely the lightning in the cemetery hit me and all of this was the hallucination of a dying mind. I hadn’t worn sweats to the cemetery, but I was definitely wearing them when I awoke in this place.
After the first night on the road, I tried to retrieve my sweatpants. The saddle was chafing the skin of my inner thighs and I thought they would help relieve the problem. Torin got upset. Really, really upset. Torin yelled. This was my first clue the situation wasn’t as friendly as I hoped.
For the next three days, I rode behind Torin or one of the other two. They never tried to talk so I dubbed them Thing One and Thing Two in my mind, although Torin called them Adraf and Fors. We would leave at dawn and travel until dark. We spent the nights at inns and my dinner was in the room rather than the common room.
It was clear Torin was keeping me sequestered, but given the looks on the faces of men we passed on the road, I was glad for it. Only Torin ever spoke to me, and he kept to simple commands such as ‘come’, ‘sit’, and ‘eat’. It made me feel like a dog.
What was more alarming was that Torin kept blocking my attempts to draw them out so I could learn the language. He looked displeased every time I tried although he didn’t yell again. Things One and Two refused to acknowledge my existence. It hurt and was a little scary.
The hope that had grown in me dwindled, replaced with a vague dread. Nightmares and the pain of sore muscles interrupted my sleep and I got more and more tired over the course of the journey. The long ride had chafed the insides of my thighs almost raw.
On the third day, we came over a hill and I saw a good-sized town in the valley with a large sprawling palace on a cliff above the town. It seemed we were nearing the end of our interminable journey. I hoped it included a bath.
We took another four hours before we passed through the palace gates, the guard sending a boy running ahead. Beyond the gates were beautiful gardens and whenever I caught a stray breeze, I smelled the flowers. Unfortunately, all I could smell the rest of the time was sweaty horse-thing and Thing Two.
The palace itself was beautiful but odd, constructed of a creamy stone with the curvy organic feel of Antoni Gaudi’s work and looked as if someone had poured it from a bottle. The style didn’t match the buildings I had seen so far at all.
Torin: 9th of Harvest, 3837
Torin thanked the Lord of the Sky that this duty was almost complete. His old bones didn’t enjoy him spending all day in the saddle the way he had in his youth. He glanced at the girl and noted her exhaustion.
Her night terrors had woken them all again last night. He wondered what demons haunted her.
Sara: 9th of Harvest, 3837
There was an officious fellow with gray hair coming down the front steps as we arrived. He waved us inside with a sniff. The entry hall was an impressive rotunda with staircases spiraling up four stories leading to high arched hallways. Everything was of the same dense cream-colored stone as the exterior and appeared carved from a single piece with no seams or cracks anywhere. The single exception was a tall, thick granite pillar in the center of the rotunda with a thin crack running from the floor all the way to the ceiling.
He led us down a long hall, and after a turn or three, we entered an office. It was spacious with wide windows and wood paneling. Heavy wood furniture and a fireplace filled the space. Behind the desk was a very tall solid man with black hair, deep bronze skin, and the orangey-gold eyes of a raptor. Standing next to him was a short spare man with steel-gray hair and gray eyes.
Torin stepped forward and bowed to the tall man. They spoke for a few minutes as the tall man examined me with a thoughtful expression. When Torin wound down, the big guy grunted and stepped forward for a closer look, pacing around me as if he were examining a horse.
He stopped in front of me, pointed at himself, and said, “Dragos.” Then he pointed at the man and said, “Durra.” Finally, he pointed at me with a questioning expression.
I curtseyed and responded. “Sara.” The anxiety I had been living with since coming to this place simmered under my skin.
He grunted and nodded then turned back to Torin and asked a question and Torin held my pack out to him. Dragos squatted and looked through my backpack and examined my clothes, expressing confused curiosity at my laptop. He nodded to Durra and said something to him before straightening and turning to Torin. He counted out a stack of gold coins and handed them off with a smile and a heavy nod.
Torin sold me! My anxiety spiked into outright fear. My stomach roiled and my heart pounded. Was the new chance I had wished for and thought I had been given about to be taken from me?
Dragos stood in front of me as Torin left. I gave little notice when a servant snagged my belongings and trotted away under Durra’s whispered directions.
Dragos was intimidating. Everyone I had seen here was on the short side with blond, light brown or gray hair and pale eyes. Dragos was something else again. He felt like a predator. The only thing that kept me from panicking at this point was the kind look in his orange-gold eyes. He gave me a small smile and held his open hands up before slowly placing them on my head. His long fingers threaded through my hair and I felt static as the world went white and my ears roared. It seemed to go on for a long time as I stood frozen and numb.
I wavered as my eyes and ears cleared. Dragos caught my elbow with a gentle hand to steady me. “Are you all right?”
I took a few seconds to realize he wasn’t speaking English. It was another few moments before I fumbled through the huge new vocabulary and language rules I found in my head to produce the words I needed. His brow creased with concern before I could say anything. “My head hurts and I’m having trouble thinking. I’m glad I can understand you though.”
He smiled a little and patted my shoulder. “Yes. I thought you might appreciate being able to understand those around you so I gave you the tongue used here in Therys. It may take a few hours for the new knowledge to settle in. Your headache should fade soon.” He tipped his head and looked more serious. “You needn’t fear. You are safe here. I’m making you my ward. As my ward, I will provide for your needs; quarters, clothing, tutors, and whatever else you need. We’ll talk tomorrow once you’ve settled in and I’ll explain in more detail. Durra here is the housemaster. If you need anything, ask. Meanwhile, he’ll show you to your quarters.”
I was feeling stunned and light headed. Was I going to get my second chance after all or was there a hidden cost he was keeping from me? “Thank you, sir.”
Kindness graced his expression as he patted my shoulder. “Go on now. You look as if you could use a bath and some rest.”
I nodded and meekly followed Durra. My instincts still told me Dragos was a predator and I wasn’t comfortable around him. I wasn’t truly comfortable around anyone.
I trailed Durra back to the entrance hall then up a set of stairs to the second floor and down a wide curving hallway. The hallway ended at another nexus of hallways shaped like a starfish, he turned down another, narrower hall and stopped at an arched door. Inside was a nice room that reminded me of a hotel suite with a good-sized bed, wardrobe, desk, table, shelves, and several chairs. The bed was in an alcove and a bathroom was through a curtained archway to one side. A wide bay window with a bench seat and a large deep green rug dominated the space.
He showed me the facilities and informed me a servant would bring a tray with dinner in an hour. A seamstress would arrive in the morning.
“Wait! Can you tell me something about this place? Anything?” Dragos had been nice but my panic bubbled under the surface.
He forced a thin smile. Durra was polite but not friendly and had the charm of a snake. “The High-Lord of Therys accepted you as his ward. It’s not surprising. The dragonlords worship the Goddess and she always brings the Nakairi. The High-Lord sent orders for watchers to bring anyone or anything coming through the portals here.”
“Dragonlords?” Confused images of Vikings and their dragon iconography passed through my mind.
He sighed with impatience. “Skin-changers. Some say they harbor two souls, one of a man and one of a dragon. They came to this world thousands of years ago. Now, they have an empire based on an island west of here, in the center of the Blue Sea.
“A few years ago, the King of Therys died. Poisoned. A group of commoners and merchants took advantage of the chaos and factional fighting to take over. They knew whoever the winner was, it would be bad for everyone but the nobility. Since they had neither the desire nor the skills to rule they asked the Drakken Empire for help. Everyone knows dragonlords are trustworthy, honorable, and fearsome fighters. Drakken sent Lords Gonturan, Shalatu, Haradis, Torabreth, Hanlieth, and Istanetlu. Lord Gonturan is the High-Lord.”
His head dipped briefly. “As I said, a seamstress will be here in the morning. What you have is sufficient for road travel, but this is the palace and you are a lady. The High-Lord has put his faith in you. Try not to let him down.”
As he swept out of the room, I felt like a fish out of water much as I did when I first went into a foster home and then again, when they tossed me out at age eighteen. I wasn’t just out of water this time though. I was in a desert and there wasn’t a drop of water in sight.
Dragos: 9th of Harvest, 3837
Dragos watched the poor waif follow Durra out of his office and felt sorry for her. She was a lovely, delicate creature with the dark hair and golden skin common to both Nakairi and Aria Atlani, and big amber eyes. She had the air of someone in pain, and it disturbed him. He didn’t believe being torn away from everything she had ever known by the Goddess caused her pain, but the thought didn’t comfort him. The Goddess’s Tasks were never easy and they rarely led to happiness for the Nakairu. He hoped she was one of those who found joy.
A voice came from behind. “Are you sure about this, Dragos?” Kaio sounded doubtful. “She looks to be another mouse. Are you sure the Goddess brought her here for a reason?”
Dragos sat down and looked up at his friend, not surprised he had gone unnoticed until now. Kaio had a facility with shadows and illusions. It was the one bit of magic he was better at than anyone else. He could go unseen and unheard, or make you see what wasn’t there. Kaio’s bit of temper at Sara was predictable too. He had always been more volatile than his peers, allowing his dragon soul too much free rein. It alarmed the locals. All dragonlords did to a degree since people could sense the predator in them, but with Kaio, it was more obvious. Kaio’s sharp mind and sharp tongue may have had something to do with it. He had little patience.
“She always does, Kaio. Do you forget how we came to this world? It may have been a long time ago, but we know there were other survivors elsewhere. The Goddess brings them here as she needs them. This may not be the Goddess’s original home, but she cares what happens here. The Goddess requires Lady Sara’s presence and I will aid her to the best of my ability. If it helps any, she’s smarter than she appears. She may surprise you.”
Trace of Madness
Life was good for undercover ATF agent Charley Rogers. She loved her job, and she was surrounded by friends and family. She had even fully recovered from the physical damage inflicted on her by ‘The Butcher’, the serial killer who almost took her life twelve years before. The psychological scars were another matter. She had mentally put the experience in a box and closed the lid. She thought it was gone forever. Nevertheless, her new assignment, a sting operation in a pawnshop meant to bring down the mysterious Triple Six gang, brought her face to face with her demons and it awakens the past. Gradually her carefully built life is shattering. Would she become the very thing she hated the most?
I felt myself dying.
I had expected it as soon as I had realized who my assailant was. ‘The Butcher’ never left any of his victims alive. Already the blows to my body no longer resonated, the encroaching blackness heralding the relief from the pain and the terror. I welcomed it. The scream of rage coming from the throat of my attacker was the last thing my brain registered. I slipped away, grateful, into the dark void.
Time passed. I felt pain. I was dead…there should be no pain. The sound of keening, thin…incessant…. How annoying. Movement, a rustle, and the pain began to subside. I slipped back into the void.
Voices….There were voices. “I think she’s beginning to come around again. See that flutter in her eyelid?” Another voice, deeper, “Charlotte, Charlotte Jean, wake up, Charlotte Jean.”
Don’t call me Charlotte Jean. Mama calls me Charlotte Jean when I’ve been bad. I refused to answer and drift away again.
Someone squeezed my shoulder. “Come on Charley, wake up. I know you’re in there.”
Daddy. Daddy wants me to wake up. Is it time for school?
I fought to wake up. “I’m coming,” I tried to say, but it came out as a squeaky mumble. It woke me more. Pain had returned, not as bad though. I would pay attention to it later. My arm was tied down, and something was wrong with my face. I felt for my face with the free hand. Bandages. One eye would open, but not both. I blinked the fog away and looked around. My dad’s face swam into view. He had tears in his eyes, but he looked happy in spite of it. I tried to reach my hand toward him but had no strength. He took it anyway.
“You’re going to be fine, Charley. You’re going to be just fine.”
Several days later, I was fully awake and out of the coma. My jaw was wired shut, and a feeding tube snaked down my throat. Speaking was not an option. They gave me a children’s keypad, big keys that put letters and numbers onto a screen. Even that was difficult for me with my injuries, and though I am right-handed, I had to use my left hand. I was very economical with my words and I didn’t bother with punctuation, formats or spelling.
A lot had happened to me I knew nothing about. Not knowing disturbed me, made me uneasy, and I felt vulnerable. Dad was there and again I demanded he tell me. I would not rest if I didn’t know.
“WAT HE DO 2 ME”
“Charley, it’s too soon. You need to rest and get well.”
“Charley, I told you, it’s much too soon. It would only upset you.”
“The doctors told me it would be best for me not to bring it up.”
“NO REST IF NOT NO”
He had a rueful look on his face and he sat down in the chair again. “Okay, I should have known you wouldn’t let it go. You’re too much like your mother.” He sighed, giving in to my demand. “Where do you want me to start?”
Dad reluctantly explained what happened. “You were taken by Abel Reynard, ‘The Butcher.’ You knew that, didn’t you?”
I nodded. The Butcher had targeted coeds walking at night on the campus at the University of New Mexico on the other side of the city. I had foolishly felt safe because I was enrolled in a small school’s Criminal Justice program and the extent of the campus was little more in size than my family’s back yard. I should have known better than to leave the library well after dark, walking alone to my car. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
“WAT HE DO” I typed.
Dad looked away, but saw the glisten of tears as he went through the list of my injuries. It was a daunting list, but it seemed the only door it closed for me was motherhood. “Because of the knife wounds they had to do a partial hysterectomy to save your life. You were almost dead when they rescued you, and your heart stopped twice on the table.”
I had the wires off my jaw and the feeding tube out, but I remained in the hospital for the several surgeries needed to mitigate the effects of the attack. I developed an infection at one point, which kept me in intensive care so only family members were allowed to visit. Family meant Dad and Uncle Ray. Mom had died of an aneurysm three years before.
I would have thought my fiancée counted as family too, but evidently not, because he did not come. Dad was a little evasive about it when I asked, but I assumed there was ambivalence concerning any man marrying his daughter and he was a bit slow to warm up to him.
I spent weeks in intensive care, but I was beginning to heal. Eventually I was well enough to move to a regular room and friends were allowed to drop in. David finally came to see me. David was my beloved, my future husband, and my first and sole lover. We had met there at school. He was a teaching assistant for one of my classes.
I was home schooled by my mom and when I switched to public school they tested me to find out what grade I belonged in. I ended up skipping two grades. So I was not quite eighteen then and it was almost love at first sight for me. I had pursued him with single-minded zeal. Soon we were spending every free moment together. I never even looked at another boy. By the middle of the semester, we knew we were in love.
David was the only one for me. I could face anything with David Boynton by my side. That afternoon I had dropped off for a nap. He was there when I woke, and I looked up at his dear face. He was fidgeting, not smiling. I frowned, wondering what was wrong. It was explained by his first words.
“I can’t do it!” he burst out. “I can’t marry you. Children and family are important to me. I know I’ll never get over what has happened here. It’s in my mind all the time. We have to break off the engagement. I’m sorry.”
Tears started in my eyes. I couldn’t even speak, the devastation was so great. My plans for our happy future together were falling in ruins. How could he leave me like this? He loved me! He told me so many, many times.
David fidgeted a bit more. “I don’t suppose I can have the ring back?”
Enough anger surfaced to temporarily stop the tears. “Reynard took it. I don’t know where it is,” I choked out. I turned my face away from him. “Get out, David,” I couldn’t look at him. My heart was tearing itself apart. How could he do this to me?
As soon as I heard his footsteps disappear down the hall and the elevator door had closed, I allowed myself to weep broken-hearted tears into my pillow.
Reynard had been wealthy, and Dad’s lawyer successfully sued his estate for more than enough to pay my bills, and provide continued therapy as long as needed. Evidently, those in his family who might have argued the matter were more than cooperative. They made no effort whatsoever to impede the suit. It passed rapidly through the legal system.
I was still in the hospital for my twentieth birthday. Dad brought in a big cake along with plenty of ice cream, and we had a party there in the ward. Uncle Ray and my two cousins and their families were all there. A few friends from school came too. Since the staff members who had taken such good care of me were all invited as well, it was quite a crowd. By the end of the day, I was exhausted but happy. It was so great to see everyone, and their expressions of love and support buoyed my spirits. It was my best birthday ever.
A week after my birthday they let me go home. My broken bones had healed, implants replaced my broken teeth, and the series of surgeries to reduce the effects of my injuries were all in the past. I was still getting physical therapy but I was slow regaining my strength. The psychological wounds remained as well. Driving was still a problem so my therapists all made house calls.
I was having a glass of lemonade out on my patio there at the house. The day was warm but it was comfortable under the sunshade. Dr. Evelyn Thayer, my therapist, and now my good friend sat across the table from me with her own glass. We had been discussing a direction in my therapy she wanted to take, but I was resistant.
“Charley, you can’t push all this behind you this way expecting a full recovery. You must face what has happened to you and deal with it, –all of it. Unless you do, someday the effects will damage you in ways you won’t expect. It won’t be as easy then.”
“But I’m much better now.” I turned my eyes to the backyard garden my Dad had planted. I didn’t want to look at her right now. I knew she meant well, but I was not willing to be persuaded.
“Yes, things are better than they were, and you have made real progress toward recovery, but you can’t bury what happened to you forever.”
“I don’t want to think about it anymore. I’m tired of being a victim.” There was a small grey-brown bird pecking at one of Dad’s cornstalks. Maybe it sees an insect or something. I watched it move to the adjoining stalk.
“I’m not asking you to be a victim, I’m asking you to face what happened to you, or it will keep you a victim. Stuffing your trauma away in a box will likely cause it to emerge in some other negative form.”
I muttered something sounding like agreement, but I didn’t mean it. This was an old argument by now. I knew I needed to put the ghost of Abel Reynard away, out of my nightmares and gone from my brain. Stuffing it away in a box—I liked the image. She had me doing visualization exercises before. I would visualize that box. Then I would stuff Reynard and everything associated with him in and fasten down the lid.
I wanted to change the subject for now. I was having trouble getting my strength back, even with the daily physical therapy. My dreams of being a police officer like my father and grandfather would be unfulfilled. Perhaps it was for the best anyway. I used to fear nothing. Now, everything made me anxious.
“I’m thinking of changing my major when I can get back to school. I need to study something different.”
From the expressions on her face, Evelyn was clearly getting frustrated with me today. “Why can’t you stay in Criminal Justice? You are almost through school. You need one more semester to get your degree. That’s all. Why change now?” she asked.
“I don’t think I have what it takes anymore. I get nervous walking through the park. How would it be walking a beat? I don’t have the guts to do the job.”
“Criminal Justice isn’t always being a police officer. You know that. There are plenty of jobs without regular exposure to criminals. Many are sitting behind a desk.”
“My family has a tradition. If I can’t be a peace officer, I would be better off doing something completely different.”
“Well, at least finish getting the degree. Then you can get a Masters in something else without having to start from the beginning.”
That made sense to me. It would give me a little time to decide what I wanted to do afterward anyway. “Okay, I’ll do it your way. Besides, I doubt I would be able to be a police officer anyway. I don’t think I would pass the physical anymore.”
She studied my face for a few moments, frowning in thought. “You should take martial arts lessons, Judo or Karate. It would always be useful to you, it’s good exercise for your recovery, and it would raise your self-confidence.”
I took Evelyn’s advice and I threw myself into martial arts. It eased something inside me. It gave me discipline, increased self-confidence, and physical well-being. I finally felt in charge of my life again. I didn’t need to look back anymore.
And the lid stayed firmly on the box.
I finished my degree in Criminal Justice and decided I was able to be a police officer after all. A job opened up as a patrol officer in the same department as my sergeant father, although in a different precinct. It became mine. I was actually living the life I had once planned. All the pain of the past was put behind me, closing it away to let it die from lack of attention.
Though I still occasionally felt the loss of my ex-fiancée, those occasions happened less and less frequently, especially after I started dating again. But I was more wary of men. I wasn’t looking for a husband. I could take care of myself.
For my twenty-fourth birthday, my sensei gave me a letter of introduction to a Krav Maga teacher in Los Angeles, and my black belt in Judo. I already had one in Karate. Martial arts had come easily to me as a sport, but Sensei had advised me, quite privately, that for a police officer Krav Maga would prove much more useful. He was right.
I took a job as a police officer in a small city east of Los Angeles. However, the ATF soon recruited me from there, and I settled easily into the work with them. It was a nice change from patrol. Things were pretty quiet for me as a city cop in the suburbs. I was new so I got the night shift. Most of what I did was write tickets or check for locked doors in the business district. Things were different with the ATF. The crimes we dealt with were bigger—gun smugglers instead of driving too fast in a residential area.
I had taken emergency leave two weeks ago when my dad was hurt. He was handcuffing a man in a domestic disturbance call he shouldn’t have been on when the man’s nine-year old son shot Dad in the back with a .22 varmint gun. The bullet managed to hit the main nerve trunk to his right leg, leaving his leg completely paralyzed.
I had come into headquarters prepared to resign. I needed to return to Albuquerque and my father. Dad was there for me when I needed him, now it was my turn to be there for him. My boss had tried to convince me to stay, which was flattering, but I was determined.
Then he brought up another argument. “If I can get you a transfer to the ATF unit there, would you consider that instead? It’s hard to get good agents, and I hate to see you leave the service when you’re doing so well with us.”
It was true. I did enjoy the job, and I felt good doing the work I did. “If you can arrange the transfer, I’ll do it. But I have to go back to Albuquerque,”
Check out the book page for more information on the titles in the K.E. Young book list.