True to his word, Buddy kept Clay up most of the night, asking questions
about their mother and some of the incidents mentioned in the journals.
As a result, both twins slept most of the way to San Antonio while Jake
drove. Gary and Polly sat and talked with Kwai Chang. The Shaolin
tried to teach the younger man meditation techniques. In this way,
he hoped to help Gary control the flood of images that threatened, at times,
to overwhelm him.
“Close your eyes,” he told the man seated on the floor. “Relax, and
let the air flow, in and out Slowly. Good. Keep your mind
clear. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing, of the sound of
your heart beating.”
Gary sat with his legs crossed in the classic ‘lotus’ position, arms resting
loosely on his thighs. The soothing cadence of the priest’s voice
was making him drowsy in spite of the discomfort of his injuries.
After a few minutes, his head began to nod as he started to slip from meditation
and into sleep. A gentle touch on his shoulder snapped him out of
“Oh, hell,” he murmured, his voice still slurred with sleep. “Did
it again, didn’t I? I’m never gonna get the hang of this. Every
time I relax, I fall asleep.”
“That is only because you have never learned to relax before,” Kwai Chang
told him. “If there were time, I would start with the most basic lessons.
However, time is something in which we are of short supply. We have
no drugs to help you achieve the proper level. You must reach it on
“I just don’t think I can do this,” Gary sighed. “I can’t . . . focus
that sharply. I’m either shutting everything out completely, or it
hits me like an avalanche.”
“You’ve only been tryin’ for a coupla hours, sugar,” Polly reminded him.
“Did you think it was gonna be easy?”
“Think? No,” Gary replied. “Hoped? Yes. Just once,
I’d like for something to be simple. Cut and dried. Black and
white. Pick your cliché. I know ‘em all. How ‘m
I supposed to talk to Great Granddad if I can’t get to that ‘room,’ or whatever?
The last time I did this, I was already so close to death it was . . . I’d
rather not wait ‘til things get to that point this time.”
“No offense, guys, but I’m still having trouble getting a handle on this,”
Jake murmured from his place behind the wheel. “I can’t even believe
I’m having this conversation! Is this even the same situation?
That Greco fella was still alive when he latched onto you. Chandler
. . . great-great granddad, or whatever, is . . . well, I guess you could
call him a free spirit. He’s not attached to a dying body.”
“With my luck,” Gary grumbled, “it just means it’ll be harder to get him
out of my head.”
At that moment, there was a crackling noise, followed by Walker’s voice
over the radio. “You guys okay? Over.” The Ranger’s truck
was following them a little over a mile back. Not far behind them was
the van carrying the sophisticated surveillance equipment needed to track
the ‘bugs’ that had been planted on the four look-alikes.
“Just dandy,” Jake replied. “K. C.’s just teaching Gary a few tricks.
How about you? Over.”
“No problems,” the Ranger reported back. “You should be ready to
turn left in a few minutes.” He rattled off a county road number.
“Stay alert,” he added. “These guys love ambushes. Over.”
“Thanks,” was Jake’s laconic reply. “Ever a fount of wisdom, C. W.
Over and out.” He placed the mike back on the hook just as the their
turnoff came into view. “Almost there, folks. Better go wake
“I’ll do it,” Polly volunteered. She pushed herself up from her seat
beside Gary with some effort and disappeared into the back of the vehicle.
A moment later, she returned, saying that the twins would be out shortly.
“They looked so cute, lyin’ there together,” she chuckled, “I hated to wake
‘em up. They didn’t go to bed ‘til almost dawn.”
“They had a lot to talk over,” Gary sighed, as he struggled up from his
place on the floor. He slumped into the recliner with a muffled curse.
He’d forgotten about his back. Again.
“Keep it up,” Polly warned him, “and you’ll need more stitches.”
“I’ll be careful,” he sighed. “I’ve had more needlework over the
last coupla years than one of Grandmother’s quilts. Do you think we
can make it back to Chicago without visiting every emergency room along the
“We might manage to miss one or two,” Polly replied with a grin.
“I wouldn’t bet on all of ‘em, though. Your luck just ain’t that good,
David Taggart wiped at a film of dust coating the antique wooden chest
before throwing back the lid.
“Everything of your ancestor’s that we could find is right here,” he said.
The history teacher pulled out two large bundles wrapped in oilskin.
The first proved to be a long, leather greatcoat. The kind referred
to in most ‘dime novels’ as a ‘duster.’ It had been cleaned and treated
to keep the leather from drying out. With it was a tan colored Stetson
with a band covered in dark colored beadwork. Both looked worn, but
in excellent repair. “His horse and saddle were sold to pay for his
burial,” he added.
The other bundle was a pair of leather saddlebags. They, too, had
been treated to preserve them from the ravages of time and weather.
The bags contained only a leather wallet with a few bills of paper currency
and a letter inside, and half a dozen five dollar gold pieces.
Gary took the letter off to one side, to read it, while the others continued
to search for anything that would help in their quest.
“No wonder he kept this,” he murmured in awe. “It’s a letter of commendation.
Written and signed by President Abraham Lincoln, and dated the same day
he was assassinated. This could be one of the last documents he ever
“Are you joshin’ me?” Taggart exclaimed. “Let me see that.”
Gingerly, he took the fragile pages from Gary’s hands. His own hands
trembled as he quickly read over the age-yellowed paper. “My God!” he
whispered. “If I’d known this was here, I’d ‘ve had it authenticated
and in a museum years ago. This is an incredible find!”
“It says he helped to free his unit and several other prisoners,” Gary
murmured, “to escape from a prison camp. That he also uncovered a
team of . . . not exactly spies. Instigators? They were stirring
up trouble on both sides, trying to keep the war going as long as possible.
According to this, our great-great granddad was a hero many times over.
The value to the museums can’t touch what this could mean to our families.”
“Still as an historical document,” Taggart told him, “and one dated for
the day a president died, you could start a bidding war that would knock your
“These gold pieces could fetch a hefty price, too,” Polly observed.
“And this paper currency, as well. Every bit of it is dated from before,
or during, the Civil War. Look. He even had a Confederate ten
dollar bill in here. The man was a pack rat. I’d auction off
some of this before I’d touch that letter. Aside from that picture
you gave us, though, I don’t see anything about his family.”
Buddy was still rooting around in the saddlebags while Jake and Clay were
kidding around, trying on the hat and coat. Gary looked up from his
perusal of the letter to see Clay decked out in their ancestor’s attire,
and his breath caught in his throat. For just a second, he was back
in that room above the saloon, catching a glimpse of himself in a full length
mirror as he tossed his things on the bed. Nervously, he cleared a
lump from his throat as he quickly turned away.
“W-would you mind putting that away?” he asked in a small voice, keeping
his eyes averted. “Please?” He busied himself putting the letter
back in its envelope, not wanting to see their reaction to his stammered
request. He handed the document back to Taggart. “C-could you
take care of this for us?” he asked the teacher. “Our situation is
a little . . . iffy . . . right now. If you know anyone you can trust
to authenticate it . . .?”
“Once I put the word out,” Taggart assured him, “every history museum in
the country will be sending people they can trust. This treasure won’t
be out of my sight until it’s under a glass display case. It’s not
the Constitution, mind you, or the Declaration of Independence, but it’s
got to be extremely rare. Perhaps one of a kind.”
“All the more reason to keep it somewhere it can be appreciated for what
it is,” Clay spoke up from behind them. He clapped a hand on Gary’s
left shoulder, careful to avoid the stitches that still ran across his back.
“Sorry, Gary,” the wrangler murmured. “Didn’t mean to give you heart
failure. We sorta . . . forgot.”
“S’okay,” Gary sighed, his gaze still downcast. “I-I don’t mean to
be a wet blanket, guys. It . . . it just rattled me. A little.
Um, M-Mr. Taggart, do you have something of Amanda Chandler’s? A ring,
letter, anything that might give us a clue about what happened to her?”
“Not much, I’m afraid,” was the teacher’s sad reply. “Her children
kept anything of any value. The only thing they refused to take was
this packet of letters from their daddy.” He dug out a thick stack
of papers sealed in waxed parchment. “By the time Canfield found them,
that woman, that so called ’friend’ of Mrs. Chandler, had poisoned their
minds against them so bad, they didn’t even want to hear his name mentioned.”
He held the papers out to Gary.
Wiping suddenly moist palms on his jeans, Gary reached for the packet,
only to have Clay beat him to it. Instead of being offended, he felt
relieved. He watched as the other man peeled back the top flap, breaking
the watertight seal for the first time in how many years?
“I never opened them, myself,” Taggart explained. “My dad said that
Canfield looked through them once, then sealed ‘em this way. He figured
that, someday, some of Chandler’s kin would want to know the truth.
Those are letters he wrote to his wife before they were married, and while
he was away during the war.”
“Did he read all of them?” Jake asked, frowning at the idea of such personal
items being handled by a stranger.
Taggart shook his head. “Just a few lines of each one,” he replied.
“He wasn’t interested in what Chandler had to say,” the teacher explained.
“He already knew what had happened to him. He was more interested
in why she ran, and all of the letters were dated from before that time.”
Clay had pulled out the first letter, doing pretty much as the Marshal
had done. Merely check the date and put it back. This he did
a few more times, until he came to one dated for some time in 1863.
The month and day were obscured by a dark stain.
“Maybe he should’ve read a few of these,” Clay murmured. “Listen.
‘The man is the very soul of evil. Beware of him. He betrayed
our unit and murdered Major Sheldon in his sleep. If I had been able
to find him upon my escape, I would have ended his sorry existence with
my bare hands. I can only take solace in having marred his features,
of which he was so proud, with my saber. If only my strength had held
a moment longer! The world would be a much better place without the
likes of Captain John T. Marley. Again, I must warn you to be wary
of this villain. Although the act of betrayal was his, he has sworn
vengeance upon all I hold dear for his disfigurement.’ Marley,” Clay
repeated. “You hollered out that name a time or two during your fever
dream, Gary. But he wasn’t part of the gang. How do you know
“You don’t wanna know,” Gary mumbled as he groped blindly for someplace
to sit. All the blood had drained from his face and his knees had gone
weak. God! How many generations had that name been haunting
his family? He finally sank onto an old crate, fighting to keep his
breathing, and his nerves, under control. “Let’s just say his genes
ran true. Um, d-do you have any idea where Amanda Chandler might be
buried? What cemetery would her friend ‘ve used?”
“No cemetery,” Taggart replied with a shake of his head. “She was
buried somewhere on her ‘friend’s’ homestead. Only that woman, and maybe
the children, knew where. I have some old maps that show where the spread
was. We can use ‘em to help narrow down your search. But, what
can you learn from a hundred and thirty year old corpse?”
“How she died, for one thing,” Jake told him. “Maybe even who killed
her, if it proves to be foul play. Forensics has come a long way since
Kwai Chang had been standing off to one side, feeling that enough hands
were sorting through the treasures of the past. His concern was only
for the young man seated on the wooden crate, trying very hard to conceal
his distress. The name ‘Marley’ had evidently stirred painful memories
for his ‘student.’
“Perhaps you should rest, Gary,” he suggested quietly. “You have
yet to recover your full measure of strength.”
Taggart looked up from his search to eye the younger man more closely.
“You do look a little pale, son,” he observed. “Let’s take these maps
downstairs, and we can look at ‘em there.”
“Sounds good,” Gary nodded, grateful to get out of this place where the
past kept intruding on the present. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt me to
lie down for a minute.”
A few minutes later, Gary was stretched out on the sofa while the others
poured over the old survey maps Taggart had turned up. It didn’t take
them long to pinpoint where the forty-acre spread had been located.
Gary tried to take an interest at this point, still feeling oddly tense.
Expectant. He looked at the maps, listening as Taggart explained where
the house and barn had been situated, the placement of the well, and the
corrals where livestock was kept. He pointed out boundary markers that
would probably still be in existence, and a few he knew that weren’t.
Still, he told them, traces might be found to indicate where they had been.
“The only thing we know for sure,” the teacher concluded, “is that Amanda
Chandler is buried on this homestead. The bank took possession of
it after the owner died without heirs. They tried to sell it several
times, but no one would stay there for more than a month. That was
about as long as they could stand it.”
“Stand what?” Gary murmured. He was finding it hard to concentrate
for some reason. Rubbing his hands over his face and blinking several
times, he tried to appear more alert than he felt.
“The noises,” Taggart explained in a conspiratorial whisper. “Horrible
screeching noises. Every night about an hour or so before dawn.
Lots of people tried, but no one has ever found the source of the sound.
No holes in the rocks, nests of owls, or any other ‘natural’ cause for it.
Some have come to believe,” he added, “that it’s the last utterance Amanda
Chandler ever made. Her dyin’ curse on the woman who murdered her
and stole her children.” He sat back with a grin. “At least,
that’s how local legend has it.”
Gary gave the teacher a rueful look. “You must’ve been loads of fun
around the campfire,” he grumbled. He rubbed briskly at the nape of his
neck, trying to erase the tension he could feel building in his muscles.
“S-so I take it this place is still empty?”
“Most likely,” Taggart shrugged. “It was ten years ago, which is
the only time I set foot on the property. Everything’s gone to ruin,
though. You okay? You’re lookin’ about as bad as you did
“J-just a headache,” Gary sighed, pushing himself up from the table.
“I’ve got something for it out in the RV.”
“Let me get it,” Polly said, starting to rise. “You shouldn’t . .
“I have that . . . tracker thingie,” he reminded her. “We all do.
Peter and the others are right outside. I couldn’t be safer.
B-besides, maybe some fresh air will help me clear my head. I’ll only
be a minute.”
With obvious reluctance, Polly sat back down. “All right,” she murmured.
“Just stay alert. We’ve gone through too much to chance losing you
“Thank you,” Gary sighed. “Y-you guys go ahead with . . . with whatever
. . . and I’ll be right back. Okay?”
Without waiting for an answer, Gary turned and almost ran from the oppressive
atmosphere of the house. He decided he would have to ask David Taggart
about the history of this homestead someday. Was he tuning in on even
more restless spirits? Or was it Gary Chandler’s ghost goading him
into action? Whatever, it was giving him a killer headache.
Gary stepped out into the mid-afternoon sunlight with a relieved sigh.
Already, he could feel the pain starting to ease. Stepping up to the
huge vehicle, he was reaching for the door handle when he heard a faint
noise directly behind him. Angry, thinking that one of the others
had followed him ‘for his own good,’ he started to turn around, a cutting
remark ready for his intruder.
Blinding pain shot through his already throbbing head as something struck
him just behind the right ear. Stunned, Gary felt beefy arms catch
him as his knees buckled, dragging him away from the RV. Dimly, he
heard voices crying out his name, sounds of a struggle. A wet cloth
was pressed over his mouth and nose. He tried to hold his breath, keep
out the pungent fumes, but it was too late. His senses were already
growing numb as he was thrown onto the floorboards of another vehicle.
Struggling to stay alert, Gary tried to raise his head only to let it fall
back as the strength ebbed from his body. The last thing he heard was
the screech of tires as his abductors sped from the scene, and a deep, gravely
voice close to his ear.
“I told you, Treyton,” the voice said with a throaty chuckle. “No
one crosses me.”
“How could this happen?” Clay shouted at the three men. “I thought
you were watching us!”
“What was he doing out here alone?” Peter countered. “You guys were
supposed to stick together!”
“Cut it out!” Polly snapped. “Gary came out here alone by his choice!
He . . . he wasn’t feeling well and wanted some air. I-I think he
was suffocating in there. He was tryin’ to hide it, but . . . I think
he felt . . . trapped. Look, we can stand here and argue blame all
day, or we can get him back. Make up your minds quick, ‘cause the
longer we stand here, the farther they get.”
Polly looked over to where Jake and Buddy were talking with one of the
techs monitoring their tracking devices. The officer was shaking his
head, his face grim. Not what she wanted to see. Neither was
the look on Jake’s face as he and Buddy rejoined them.
“They’re already out of range,” Jake told her. “The last signal had
them going north on State Road 83. This isn’t good, people.
I mean, h-how long does it take to . . . to kill a man?”
“If it’s Jaggs,” Clay told him dismally, “it depends on his mood.
If he’s feelin’ ‘charitable,’ it could already be too late.”
“If not?” Polly asked, figuring that someone had to. The fearful,
pitying look Clay gave her said more than she wanted to hear.
She turned to where the local police were struggling to put a shackled
Hicks into the back of a squad car. They weren’t having much success.
It had taken both Walker and Sammo to subdue the escaped con, while Peter
tried to get close enough to retrieve Gary. The younger Shaolin had
been just half a second too slow, grabbing Sykes by the hair just as the
felon threw a weakly struggling Gary into the back of a late model van.
The escaped con had then spun around to do battle as the vehicle took off
with an ear-shattering shriek of peeling rubber. The fight that had ensued
was more than enough to give the kidnappers their chance to escape, with
Sykes winding up in a heap on the ground, unconscious.
Angrily, the tech strode up and grabbed Hicks by his earlobe, earring and
all, giving it a vicious twist. With a howl of agony, the big man
sank to his knees.
“You are gonna tell me where they’re takin’ my friend,” she hissed, “or
you ‘n’ I are gonna take a little trip to the vet. You’ll be the darlin’
o’ the cell block when I get through with you!”
Gary jerked awake with a strangled curse, snorting and coughing to clear
the icy water from his breathing passages. Blinking rapidly, he looked
up to see the blurred image of a lean, narrow faced man standing over him,
an empty bucket hanging from one hand.
“Time to wake up, Treyton,” the sepulchral voice commanded. “We got
a long day ahead of us.”
“N-not T-Treyton,” Gary told him through chattering teeth. Struggling
to sit up, he found that his arms were bound behind his back, and that he
was bare to the waist. “N-name’s H-Hobson. G-Gary H-Hobson.
Wh-who . . .?”
“Nice try,” the lean-faced man chuckled grimly. He tossed the bucket
aside as he knelt next to his prisoner. “You seriously think that
I believed all that ‘double/triple’ sh-- you tried to pull on those two
idiots? I don’t know how you managed it, or why, and I don’t really
care. The only thing keepin’ you alive right now, is somethin’ they
overheard you and that schoolteacher talkin’ about. Some hidden treasure
up around Lubbock.” He pulled a wicked looking stiletto from his boot,
using it to trace a scar on Gary’s right shoulder. “Impressive collection
you have,” he murmured. “Is that a bullet wound?”
“J-jealous b-boyfriend,” Gary stammered, unable to suppress a shudder of
revulsion at the almost seductive tone in the other man’s voice. “L-look,
you have . . . have the wrong guy. I-I’ve never seen you before in
my life. Honest!” As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Gary was
able to make out where he was. He seemed to be on the dirt floor of
a barn, or a shed. “A-and I don’t know anything a-about any t-treasure,
A stinging backhand rocked his head back, knocking him off the precarious
support of his right elbow and onto his back. He sucked his breath
in with a hiss as he felt one or two of the sutures give. He also tasted
blood from a cut on the inside of his cheek.
“Don’t f--- with me, Treyton!” the other man roared. “Sykes was right
outside the attic door while you and your friends were rooting through that
trash, looking for clues! He couldn’t hear everything, but he clearly
heard the word ‘treasure’ several times. Fool had enough brains to
tell me about it before he killed you right there. As I said, that’s
the only reason I haven’t ripped your head off and used it for a hood ornament!”
Gary quickly decided this guy wasn’t playing with a full deck. It
might be better to play along for a while, stall for time. A chill shivered
its way up his spine as he realized who he was dealing with. “Okay
. . . Jaggs,” he murmured around his rapidly swelling lip. “You’ve
got me. Now what? If you kill me, you’ll never find it.”
His enraged visage relaxing into a malicious grin, Jaggs stroked the tip
of the blade along the angle of Gary’s jaw. He chuckled evilly as
the younger man shivered in fear, or revulsion.
“I don’t have to kill you,” he whispered. “Yet.” Jaggs moved
the knife blade up, pressing the point into the skin below Gary’s right
eye until a bead of blood welled up to cover the tip. “Before I’m
through, you’ll be begging for it, Treyton. On your knees and crying,
pleading for me to end your pitiful existence. Now, tell me where
“I don’t even know where we are, right now,” Gary murmured, being very
careful not to move any more than he had to. “You may not’ve noticed,
but I was unconscious when you brought me here.”
His grin broadening into a reptilian smile, Jaggs sat back on his heels.
More importantly, he withdrew the knife. “See? Now, you’re thinking!”
he said. “Once you know where you are, you’ll lead us to the treasure,
and we’ll let you go. Simple.” He started to put the stiletto
away, then noticed the bead of blood staining the tip. Bringing the
blade up to his mouth, he closed his eyes and licked it off with a low,
rumbling moan, as if savoring the salty, metallic taste.
“You really expect me to believe that?” Gary snorted, trying to play it
as he thought Clay would. Inside, he was trying not to scream in fear
and revulsion. “The minute you have what you want, my only value is
as a hostage. Just how far will that get me? As far as the border?
No thank you. You want that treasure, I’ll take you to it, but only
to a point. After that, you turn me loose, and I tell you where to
look. The rest is up to you.”
The cold, venomous look Jaggs gave him made Gary worry that he had already
pushed the felon too far. “You might want to think that over, boy,”
he growled. “Think about what happened the last time you held out
on me. And Weston isn’t here to save your a-- this time.” He
rose to his feet with a sinuous grace that reminded Gary of a cobra, raising
its head from a snake charmer’s basket. “I’ll give you a little time
alone,” Jaggs snarled, “then we’ll ‘talk’ some more. Until then, here’s
a little something to think about.”
Gary barely had time to register the words before a booted foot impacted
with his lower ribs. It was quickly followed by another to his right kidney
as he tried to roll away from the attack. A third blow grazed his
temple, sending his senses reeling, before Jaggs was satisfied that his
‘message’ had been delivered. He smiled as he strode away, leaving
Gary to deal with his pain.
Stifling a groan, Gary rolled onto his left side, praying that no more
ribs were broken, but almost certain he’d felt one crack. “God,” he
murmured, “I hope Dr. Griner can clear his schedule. If I get out of this
alive, I’m gonna need a lot of therapy.”
“They’re not talking,” Walker sighed, frustrated. “They know that,
no matter what, it’s back to prison. We’ve got nothing to bargain
“So don’t bargain,” Peter grumbled. “Scare it out of ‘em.”
“How?” the Ranger asked. “You heard me. I threatened those
apes with everything short of slow torture. They’re more afraid of
Jaggs Neff than they are of dying.”
“Well, we better come up with something,” the young Shaolin sighed.
“It’s been almost twelve hours. They could’ve crossed the border last
“But they haven‘t,” Walker assured him. “Border Patrol was alerted
minutes after it happened, and Alex is on the phone with the Mexican authorities
right now. Besides, they were heading north, not south. And that van
wasn’t made for backcountry. No, they’ve gone to ground somewhere,
and I really don’t want to think about what they could be doing.”
Peter’s face grew very thoughtful as he recalled the scene at the house.
“Why did they grab him?” he asked. “Why not kill Gary right there
and run for it?”
“I can think of one reason,” the Ranger shuddered. “You ever been
in a POW camp?”
Gary had finally settled into a fitful doze when Jaggs returned.
He awakened the younger man with a kick to the hip, then another.
“Time to talk, Treyton,” he growled. Stepping back, the crime boss
motioned to two men behind him.
They strode forward and, grabbing him roughly by the arms, yanked Gary
to his feet. He was then half dragged, half carried into a larger
space. It appeared to be the open bay of an old barn. Through
a missing board in one wall, he could see the sun touching the horizon.
Rising or setting, Gary wondered? How long had he been out?
Gary was marched to the center of the cavernous space, where a rusty chain
dangled from a crossbeam. At the end was a wicked looking hook.
Images flashed through Gary’s mind. The dark, torch lit mineshaft.
A smooth, silken voice urging him to talk, to spare himself . . . Gary kicked
out at one of the men, trying to fight free of their hold! No way
was he going to let . . !
Pain blinded him as he felt the sutures in his back give, felt the fluid
warmth as blood oozed down his back. Jaggs, or someone, had slammed
him across his shoulders, reopening his wound. By the time Gary could
focus again, his wrists had been untied and fastened to the chain by a pair
of handcuffs. This left his arms stretched painfully above his head
. . . just like in his dream.
“You ready to tell me where it is?” Jaggs asked as he stepped around to
face his victim.
“You’ll kill me if I do,” Gary grated out through the pain.
“I’ll kill you either way,” Jaggs told him calmly, running a narrow length
of rusty chain through his hands. “It’s just a question of when .
. . and how long it’ll take.”
‘Oh, God,’ Gary prayed. ‘Why haven’t they found us, yet? Did
I get a dead ‘bug’?’
“Now,” Jaggs continued, slapping the chain suggestively against his left
palm, “we know it’s on some old homestead around Lubbock. I need you
to tell me which one, and exactly where it’s hidden. And what it is.
Are we talking bullion, here? Or gold coins? What?”
“Go to hell,” Gary hissed.
The look that crossed the killer’s face sent a chill down Gary’s spine,
making his skin crawl.
“You shouldn’t ‘ve pulled me off that goon,” Polly grumbled. “Five
more seconds and he woulda talked.”
“Five more seconds,” Clay told her, “and he wouldn’t ‘ve been able to talk.
Polly, you almost tore that guy’s ear off!”
They were walking down the corridor toward the interrogation room in the
local police station. Sammo Law was leading them to where the others
waited. “They tell me,” he said, “that his earring was deeply imbedded
into his earlobe. It took a long time to find all of the pieces.
This man fears you, Miss Gannon. Perhaps as much as he fears his boss.”
“Let me have him for five minutes,” Polly promised grimly, “and we’ll see.
Gary’s still alive. I can feel it! These bozos know where Jaggs
is headed, and why he hasn’t killed him, yet. They . . .” She
broke off her grumbling tirade, stumbling against the wall.
Clay caught her by the elbow, steadying her as she regained her balance.
“Are you okay?” he asked, concerned by her shocked look.
“They’ve hurt him,” she whispered. Her jaw clenched in determination
and anger. “Those sons of b-----s are hurting him!”
“You know this?” Sammo marveled. “You can feel his pain?”
“Oh, yes,” Polly hissed, wincing as she rubbed a hand on her back.
“Thing is, what I’m feeling is only a shadow of what he’s feeling.”
She directed a heated gaze toward the door of the interrogation room.
“C’mon, guys. I feel like sharing the experience.”
Shaking her arm loose from Clay’s grasp, Polly stalked into the middle
of Walker’s latest attempt to gain information from the two hoods.
He broke off his question in mid-sentence, moving to cut her off.
“Polly,” he warned her, “now isn’t the time.”
“Time is running out,” she hissed, her eyes flashing in anger. “They’re
torturing Gary, and I want to know why. Give me five minutes.
Just five. Please!”
The moment she had entered the room, Hicks had leapt back from the table,
knocking his chair over as one hand covered his bandaged left ear.
The look of fear on his face decided the Ranger’s course of action.
Stepping back, he waved her in.
“Go for it,” he shrugged.
Biting her lip to keep from wincing with each shock of pain, Polly strode
up to the table. Looking past Sykes as if he didn’t exist, she fixed
a fiery glare on the man backed into the corner.
“Sit down,” she commanded through clenched teeth. “Now.”
“You keep her away from me!” the convict demanded. “I know my rights!
You can’t let her . . .”
“Let her what?” Walker asked, feigning innocence. “She just wants
to ask you a few questions.”
“Sh-she wants to . . . Did you hear her?” Hicks was keeping
a watchful eye on the irate woman. “She’s was gonna rip my . . .”
“With my bare hands,” Polly growled. “Sit . . . down . . . now.”
She met his fearful look with one that would have melted glaciers.
Hicks finally gave in and resumed his seat at the table. His friend
Sykes shot him a disdainful look. “Wuss,” he snickered.
“Shut up!” Polly snapped. “I’ll get to you in a minute.” She
fixed her hottest glare on Hicks. “You are going to tell me where
your boss is taking my friend,” she told him, gritting her teeth from the
pain. “Then you’re going to tell me why.” She then looked at
Sykes. “And, if you open you mouth before I tell you, it better be
to fill in the blanks. Otherwise, I will rip your lungs out through
your nostrils and feed them to you. Are we clear on that?”
“You stupid b----,” Sykes sneered, rocking his chair on its back legs.
“Why should I . . .”
Polly shoved hard on one end of the narrow table, knocking it into the
big man and causing him to lose his balance. Before he could untangle
himself, she had grabbed his foot and yanked him to her side of the table.
A half second later, she had her fingers deeply intertwined in his thick
beard, and her knee on his chest.
“It hurts a lot less to shave,” she hissed. “Open your mouth again,
and it comes off the hard way. I repeat: Are we clear on that?”
“Y-yes, ma’am,” he stammered. “Wh-whatever you say, ma’am.”
Sykes was a believer.
The four men standing near the door shivered in unison. Walker, glanced
up at Peter, a pained look on his face as he rubbed at his own beard.
“And you really think she needs lessons?”
Gary was never sure, afterwards, how many times Jaggs struck him with the
chain before he lost consciousness. He was too busy, at the time,
trying to remain calm, to buy as much time as he could for the others to
pick up the signal from his tracer. He knew that he would not be able
to hold out much longer.
“Wh-what?” Dazed, Gary opened his eyes and looked around in puzzled
amazement. He was no longer in the dimly lit barn. He was in
a well lighted . . . parlor was the only word he could come up with to describe
it. It was decorated in something like a Victorian style.
“Tell him where to find what he wants.”
Gary looked up from his place on the floor to see another version of himself
standing by the window. He was dressed in a Civil War uniform of Union
blue, but wore no hat to hide the slightly longish hair.
“C-Captain Chandler?” Gary murmured respectfully. “A-are you really
my great-great grandfather?
The figure smiled and stepped forward, helping Gary to his feet and guiding
him to the sofa.
“I am,” he admitted. “And you have no idea how delighted I was when
you first set foot on that hill. You were the answer to a very old
“Wh-what sorta prayer?” Gary asked hesitantly. He rolled his shoulders
experimentally. As before, the damage was only to his physical body.
“A-are you the reason so many of us look alike? Like a . . . a password
“Yes,” he said. “I’m sorry to have dragged you into this. It
was not my intent to bring harm to you or the others. My only desire
was to reunite my family.”
“I know,” Gary sighed. “And I can sympathize. But . . . why me?
Why latch onto my . . . psyche, or whatever? Why not Clay when he
lived right there for years?”
Captain Chandler looked away, shaking his head sadly. “He was never
open to me,” he explained. “He carried his own anger and bitterness
like a shield. None of the others could feel me, either. In
over one hundred years, you were the first to see through my eyes.
To feel my sorrow, and my pain. You are uniquely gifted for such a
task. Why do you resent it so much?”
“Because I’m afraid,” Gary admitted truthfully. “This is all so new
to me! First my whole life gets turned upside down, then I start getting
tomorrows newspaper today, then . . . then, just when I’m getting used to
that . . . I died. Several times. N-now I s-seem to have this
. . . link with the dead o-or dying. The last guy . . . he took over
for . . . for a few seconds. Just shoved me right out of my own .
. . Wh-what if the next one decides to . . . to stay? T-to take over
for good? I-I guess what I’m most afraid of losing is . . .is me.”
“That’s not going to happen, Gary,” Captain Chandler assured him.
“Not with me. Once Amanda, your great-great grandmother, and I are reunited,
we’ll both be gone from this plane of existence. We are both long past
our time for moving on.”
Leaning his elbows on his knees, Gary cupped both hands over his nose and
mouth, giving vent to a great sigh of weariness. “So, what do I do
now?” he asked.
“You take them to the place where Amanda is buried,” Chandler told his
descendant. “Once united, we can reach into the living world, through
you, and protect you . . . for a time.”
Gary turned his head to give the other man a questioning glance.
“For a time?” he asked. “You two have hung in there for a hundred
and thirty years. Then, when you can actually help me, when I can
finally learn something . . . you have to run off? What’s the rush?”
“What ties us to this world,” the officer sighed, “is the pain we can not
leave behind. Through you, I have learned that my children lived to
have families of their own. I can only pray that their lives were
full and, ultimately, happy. My wife is in torment because she has
no such knowledge. And I still don’t know what drove her to run as
she did. Once all our questions are answered, all our tasks are done,
we’ll have only a brief time before we must cross beyond the veil.
God willing, it will be time enough to see you out of harm’s way.”
“If it isn’t?” Gary asked.
Captain Chandler averted his troubled gaze. “That is all I can say,
Gary couldn’t stifle a sharp cry of pain as the icy water was dashed onto
his raw, bleeding flesh. It stung horribly as it drizzled down his
body, seeping into every gash or abrasion left by the rusty chain.
There were a lot of them.
“Time to wake up, boy,” Jaggs said with a throaty chuckle. “Are you
ready to tell me where it is?”
“C-can’t t-tell you,” Gary stammered weakly. He choked back another
cry as Jaggs slammed the chain across his ribs. “I have to show you!”
he grated out between clenched teeth. “God! Let a man finish,
would you? I have to . . . to see the landmarks. A lot of things
have change since those maps I saw were . . . were drawn. Roads.
Rivers and s-streams ‘ve been dammed up or changed course. There are
. . . are other things . . . th-they don’t change, b-but you won’t find
‘em on a road map.”
The escaped killer paced back and forth behind Gary, out of his line of
sight. It made Gary nervous, not being able to see his face, gauge his
reaction. The prisoner could hear the crunch of his captor’s footsteps,
the clink of the rusty chain as he slapped it idly against his palm.
This went on for several eternities as Jaggs considered his words.
Gary bit back a cry as fire erupted across his back. Jaggs had dragged
something, a fingernail, most likely, along one of the wounds inflicted
by the chain.
“You’d recognize these . . . landmarks?” the killer asked as he stepped
around to the front. He was running the length of chain through his
hands, leaving behind stains that were not rust.
Gary had to swallow a lump in his throat before he could stammer out a
Jaggs nodded at his two nameless henchmen and stepped back. They
unlocked the cuffs, letting him drop to the dirt floor with no attempt to
stop his fall. Gary lay there a moment, biting his lower lip to keep
from crying out as the circulation returned to arms that felt useless.
Dead. Before the pins and needles effect completely faded, his arms
were pulled roughly behind his back and the cuffs fastened tightly about
his wrists. He was then tossed back into the room where he had
“I’m gonna bring you a map,” Jaggs told him. “You show me where this
place is, and we’ll be there by morning.” He stared at Gary a moment
longer with his cold, reptilian eyes. “Don’t f--- with me on this,
Treyton. If I find out this is just a stall for time, I’ll make you
think today was nothing more than a child’s tea party.”
It was late that evening when they dragged Gary from the barn and threw
him onto the back floorboard of an old Ford sedan. A rag was shoved
into his mouth and fastened in place with duct tape. He grunted in pain
as a rough blanket was thrown over him, rasping against the mass of raw flesh
Jaggs had made of his back. In this position, he was unable to see
any identifying landmarks. For the thousandth time, he wondered why
the tracer had not led the police straight to them hours ago. Had they
gotten out of range too fast? He remembered being told that it was
only readable at twenty miles. But surely, by this time, someone could
have picked it up again!
In spite of the pain of his injuries, and the discomfort of his position,
Gary drifted off to sleep after a while. For once, his dreams were
his own. Perhaps, in compensation for the hell his body was going through,
his mind sought a more restful state. For a brief time, he was back
home in Chicago, doing nothing more strenuous than dealing with the day-to-day
business of running the bar. The Paper had few ‘errands’ that needed
his attention, and he could spend the afternoon looking at houses with his
parents. He was even able to have an enjoyable evening with Brigatti,
after which they parted without once exchanging an angry word. It
was at this point that he realized it was only a dream. He and the
fiery Italian couldn’t stay five minutes in the same room without sparks
The big sedan rocked to a halt. A moment later, he heard the car
doors open and the blanket was snatched away, taking a lot of dried blood
with it. If not for the gag, Gary would have been pleased to blister
the air with language he had never heard in church, as fire raged across
his unprotected back!
Rough hands dragged him from the car and held him upright as he tried to
regain his balance. When he nodded that he could stand on his own,
Jaggs grabbed a corner of the tape and yanked it off, along with part of
Gary’s five o’clock shadow. Again, the gag muffled his response.
Mother would be so proud.
Jaggs grabbed Gary’s chin with bruising force, prying his mouth open to
pull out the gag. He then gave the younger man a hard shove, almost
knocking him off his feet. Gary staggered a few steps before regaining
his balance. He stood there for a moment, shivering as the frigid, pre-dawn
air tormented his ravaged flesh.
“Anything look familiar?”
Gary shot a baleful look back at his captors. A look that was wasted
in the darkness. “How do you expect me to find anything in this light?”
he grumbled hoarsely. “W-we have to wait. At least until sunrise.”
Jaggs mulled this over in his mind, trying to find some hint of subterfuge
on Gary’s part. He had to admit that landmarks would be hard to pick
out in the dark. Pulling a gun from his pocket, he waved the muzzle
at Gary, indicating that he should lead the way to a ramshackle building
that may once have been a house. “It’s too cold to just be standing
around out here,” he said. “We can wait inside.”
Gary looked at the hulking shadow of the old house and shivered even more.
Something about the thick shadows, the air of . . . decay . . . of death,
“I-I think I’d prefer to wait out here,” he stammered.
“What’s the matter, Treyton,” one of the goons chuckled. It was the
first time Gary had heard either of them speak. “Afraid of the dark?”
Gary refused to rise to the bait. Turning his back on the looming
structure with a shudder, he started to go back to the car. He had not
taken two steps before a rough hand grasped him by the upper arm and spun
“Where do you think you’re going?” Jaggs growled.
“B-back to the car,” Gary stammered. “I-it’ll be warmer.”
“I’m not that cold,” the killer sneered. “And I’m tired of sitting.
Get in the house.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Gary grumbled irritably, jerking loose from
the other man‘s hold. “You have all your clothes on.” Louder,
he said, “I don’t think it’s safe. These old houses a-are full of
. . . of rotting boards and such. I-I can’t lead you anywhere on a
Something slammed across his back, eliciting a strangled curse as fire
erupted across his tattered flesh. The pain knocked Gary to his knees,
stealing his breath and bringing tears to his eyes. He knelt there
on the frozen ground, trying to get his lungs to work again.
Jaggs bent down and grabbed a handful of hair, yanking back so hard on
Gary’s head that he could almost hear his neck snap.
“You’ll crawl on your belly, if I tell you to,” he hissed into the young
man’s ear. “Now, get on your feet, and into that house.”
Dragging Gary to his feet by his hair, Jaggs flung him onto the rickety
porch like a rag doll. Stumbling, Gary managed to keep from falling
flat on his face only by slamming his shoulder into the wall and sliding to
one knee, a maneuver that was almost as bad as what he had just endured.
He knelt there, trying to get his breath back . . . again, as Jaggs and
his cohorts strode onto the rotting boards. They grabbed his arms
and hauled the hapless man to his feet, leading him to the opening where
a door hung by one rotting wooden hinge.
They practically threw Gary into the two-story derelict, bouncing him painfully
off of an ancient stone fireplace. Dazed, he tried to struggle to
his feet, only to fall back with a cry when pain shot through his right
shoulder. It felt as if it had popped out of it’s socket! He
almost passed out when the larger of the two thugs, grabbed him by the injured
arm and hauled him to a seated position, his back against the rough boards
of the wall.
Gary later blamed it on the pain that clouded his mind, that blurred the
line between what was real . . . and what was not. The others didn’t
seem to hear it, that low moaning wail. It was coming from a great
distance, at first. Then it seemed to be coming closer. Closer.
Rising in pitch with every cycle, until it rang in his mind like the shrill
cry of a banshee! He tried to ignore it, at first, then to shut it
out, putting his head between his knees in a vain effort to cover his ears.
‘God!’ he prayed, ‘make it stop! Please make it stop!’
Finally he could take it no more! With a choked cry, he gathered
his legs beneath him and launched himself toward the door, only to be blocked
by one of the thugs before he could clear the opening! Ignoring his
injuries, too wired to even feel the pain, he writhed in the man’s grip,
kicking out wildly at the other one when he jumped in. It wasn’t until
Jaggs stepped up and grabbed his hair once more that they were able to subdue
“Let me out of here!” Gary grated out from between clenched teeth.
“I’ve got to get out!”
“Feeling a little claustrophobic, Treyton?” Jaggs chuckled. “A little
. . . trapped?”
“There’s something in here!” Gary hissed. “S-something . . . evil!”
“You got that right,” Jaggs sneered. “Me.” He looked around,
spying a door that seemed more solid than the half-rotted hunk of boards
which was all that was left of the front. Letting go of Gary’s hair,
he stepped over and forced it open. Unlike the front door, this one
was hung on rusty metal hinges that gave out a spine-chilling screech as
he pushed it open. Looking inside, the killer noted that it was a small
room, not much bigger than a walk-in closet, with one boarded up window.
“Perfect,” he chuckled. “Let’s give our guest a little privacy,” he
told his men. “Throw him in.”
The dark opening beckoned at Gary, freezing the very marrow of his bones.
He tried to struggle free, only to scream out as someone slapped a hand
on his ravaged flesh! Kicking out, he tried to brace his foot against
the doorframe. Jaggs slapped it down. Realistically, Gary knew
that either man, alone, could break him in half. It was only desperation
and panic that allowed him to slow their advance as much as he did.
The instant Gary’s foot touched the threshold, there was an ear-shattering
shriek as something flew by his head! Sharp talons raked his shoulder
as the biggest owl he’d ever seen, circled back, beating at his head with
powerful wings! It startled the two goons into loosening their hold
on his arms. Gary was quick to take advantage of this lapse.
Ducking to evade the owl, he spun on one heel, ramming his shoulder into
Jaggs as he dove through the front door and off the porch. By some
miracle, he kept his feet and, dodging the shrieking owl, ran as fast as
he could away from that forbidding structure! Ignoring the angry cries
behind him, Gary leapt over the remains of the corral fence and ducked around
the corner of the barn just as the first shot rang out. Wood splinters
stung his face and shoulder as he scrambled for cover!
It was reckless, running all out in the dark as he was, especially in unknown
terrain. Still the shouting voices behind him was all the encouragement
Gary needed to keep going. When he figured he that had a big enough
lead, and that damned owl had given up, Gary started looking around for
someplace to hide. Chest heaving, he leaned his shoulder against the
rough bark of a tree as he tried to get his bearings. The rashness
of his flight sank in as he realized that he now had no clue as to where
“Can’t these crates move any faster?” Polly grumbled irritably. “Gary
could be dead by the time we get there!”
“We won’t get there at all if we wreck,” Walker reasoned. “Just calm
down, Miss Gannon. We’ll be at the turn off in just a few more minutes.”
“If you’d ‘ve let me castrate that fella,” she growled, “ the other one
woulda talked faster.”
“Or been too hysterical to make sense,” the ranger argued. “Where
did you learn to talk like that? Not in parochial school, that’s for
“I have a checkered past,” Polly snapped. She winced as another spasm
of pain ripped across her back. “I swear to God, I’m gonna rip that
SOB a new one!”
Walker didn’t have to ask who was going to get a ‘new’ what.
Gary practically held his breath as he waited for his pursuers to work
their way past his hiding place. Jaggs and company had been ‘beating
the bushes’ around him, literally, for the last few minutes. At times,
they had been close enough for him to hear their muttered curses.
“He must’ve taken that other trail,” Jaggs growled. “Dugan, go back
to the car and see if there’s a flashlight. Rogers, you come with
me. When we find that piece o’ sh-- I’m gonna rip the rest o’ his
hide off and use it to wipe him off my shoes. Then I’m gonna kill
Gary waited patiently for their footsteps to fade back the way they had
come. Then he waited some more before finally taking in a deep breath
and letting it out with a ‘whoosh!’ of relief. Each minute he remained
free was another minute he stayed alive.
“Great-great granddad,” he murmured, “if you’re still there, I could sure
use some of that help you promised right about now.”
Nothing. He must not be close enough to Amanda’s grave, yet.
Gary decided he had to find better concealment before the sun rose.
If they came back and found him out in the open, he was dead meat.
Moving slowly, he tried to worm his way out of the underbrush with a minimum
of blood loss. Not an easy task with his hands still cuffed behind
his back. He had tried to work his arms over his buttocks and legs,
only to give it up when the pain almost caused him to black out. It
didn’t help matters that, every time poked his head out, that damned owl
came swooping around, trying to take it off! If Gary’s pursuers ever
figured out what the hellish bird was screeching at, it would lead them straight
to him! For some strange reason, Gary just did not see that as being
in his best interest.
Panting heavily, Gary finally extricated himself from the clump of bushes.
And the owl seemed to be gone. “Thank you, God,” he murmured, “for
small favors.” Panting from pain and exertion, Gary looked out at the
glow on the distant horizon. The sun would be up in just a few more
minutes. Once visibility improved, his chances for survival would plummet!
Still, it gave him a sense of direction, which made him feel a little less
. . . lost.
Struggling to his feet, Gary turned until he was facing roughly north.
That was the direction of the old riverbed. He had no idea why he
would want to go there, just that something compelled him to do so.
At least he could now see most of the little obstacles and pitfalls that
had tripped him up on his earlier flight. It also meant that he could
be seen, as well.
Moving as quickly as his weakened frame would allow, Gary stumbled and
ran for his mysterious goal. By the time the sun had cleared the horizon,
he could see one of the landmarks Taggart had said marked the boundary of
the homestead. An up-thrust finger of rock with a spiral pictograph
near the top. Two huge oak trees grew to either side of it.
Between him and the rock was over fifty yards of open space. Not good.
Still he felt drawn to this place. Could he be close to his goal?
Could this be where Amanda, the beloved wife of Gary Chandler, the woman
who had given birth to the children who had ultimately led to his own existence,
had lain for almost a century and a half? Hesitantly, Gary left the
copse of trees that had shielded him thus far, and began what he felt might
be the most perilous part of his escape.
He had barely covered a third of the distance when Gary heard angry shouts
behind him. Risking a backwards glance, he saw Jaggs and his thugs
emerge from the tree line. Panicked, he put everything he had into
racing for that rock.
He was never sure when it started. Gary was too busy trying to stay
alive to even care when the wind picked up. Jaggs was screaming insane
curses at him, firing one shot after another at his unprotected back!
Then Gary noticed that the air was filling with dust and debris. It
whirled around him in a rising ‘dust devil’ that began to push him even
faster toward his goal! Too fast! He was barely able to stop
in time to keep from plunging over the edge of the bluff. Teetering
on the edge of the steep drop-off, Gary looked down at the dried riverbed
more than thirty feet below! And the wind was getting stronger!
Looking back, he could barely make out the three felons who had hounded
him this far. They were being unmercifully bombarded by windswept projectiles
of every description! Jaggs was already bleeding in several places,
although he was still hanging on to that gun. Shielding his face with
one arm, he leveled the weapon at his hapless victim.
Gary could see nowhere else to run! Closing his eyes, he awaited
the impact that would end his life. He wanted to pray, but he couldn’t
think of what to pray for. He knew he was dead, that there was nowhere
for him to duck, or hide. It never even occurred to him to pray for
a miracle. The only thing on his mind . . . was failure. He had
not brought the restless spirits of his ancestors together so that they could
find release. He had failed to trap the man who might, ultimately, realize
his mistake, and manage to murder Clay somehow. Just as bad, who would
take care of the Paper, now? Lindsay was much too young! As he
heard the muffled report of the gun, all he could think to say was: “God,
please forgive me!”
The rocky bank under his foot crumbled a split second before he felt a
burning sensation on the right side of his neck. Before he even had
a chance to cry out, Gary plummeted over the edge of the bluff! The
last thing he heard was a barrage of gunfire and a woman’s voice screaming.
“Kill that son of a b----!” Jaggs growled at his two cohorts as they caught
sight of their prey. “I want his head on my trophy wall.”
The three men closed in on the lone, injured man, firing wildly into the
blinding whirlwind. Jaggs chuckled to see the man he still thought
of as Treyton looking frantically for an avenue of escape. The killer
slowed his advance, ignoring the rising wind, as he closed in on his victim.
Slowly, he raised his pistol, taking careful aim at the man who now stood
facing him. ‘Treyton’ just stood there, breathing hard, a look of
resignation on his tired features. No, not tired. Exhausted.
The man was quite literally on his last legs.
“Time to end this game,” Jaggs muttered, then gently squeezed the trigger.
As if in slow motion, he saw ‘Treyton’ close his eyes, his mouth moving
in a silent prayer.
He never had the satisfaction of seeing the bullet hit because, at that
moment, a truck burst through the underbrush, almost running him over!
Spinning around, he ran for the nearest cover, only to come face-to-face with
the man he had just shot! Startled, he squeezed off another round, not
taking time to aim. The other man ducked instinctively, but kept coming.
Shaken, Jaggs spun on one heel and tried to go back the way he’d come.
He spat a vicious curse as he was confronted by yet another ‘Treyton’ clone!
What the hell was going on here?
Jaggs raised the gun once more, taking steady aim through the rising wind.
Determined to kill the man before him. Something struck him hard on
his left side, knocking his arm up and spoiling his aim! Furious,
Jaggs squirmed in the grip of his captor . . . He froze as he found himself
nose-to-nose with a third ‘clone!’ For the first time in his life,
Jaggs knew real fear as he wondered anew, ‘What the hell is happening!’
With a panicked cry, Jaggs brought his knees up and thrust the other man
off of him.
“Who are you?” he screamed.
The other man stood up in the sudden stillness. Calmly, he turned
to face the man behind all the terrible things that had befallen his cousin.
The face that dominated his own worst nightmares.
“Don’t you recognize me?” he hissed. “You’ve been trying hard enough
to kill me, you sorry . . .”
With an inarticulate cry, Jaggs launched himself at his tormentor!
Clay stood his ground, slamming his right fist into Jaggs’s midsection as
hard as he could. He followed it with a left to the jaw. This
staggered the older man, rocking him back on his heels. Clay never
gave him a chance to recover. All the rage, frustration, and helplessness
he had felt since first seeing his cousin lying in that hospital bed, looking
more dead than alive, came boiling out of him. He lashed out with
a booted foot, knocking the wind out of his opponent. Clay then started
pummeling that hated face with a rain of blows that threatened to cave it
in! In his mind flashed images of Gary. In the hospital in ‘Vegas,
his face bruised and bloody. Staying in the saddle by sheer willpower,
blood streaming down his back. Lying in Buddy’s arms, Clay’s own shirt
soaked in blood, as they waited for the ambulance. The look on Gary’s
face as he disappeared over the edge of that bluff!
It wasn’t until he felt strong hands grip his arms, heard the voices telling
him to ‘stop it! You’re killing him!’ that Clay realized he was sitting
on Jaggs’s chest, and that the other man was no longer fighting back.
Chest heaving, Clay looked down at the bloody mess he had made of Jaggs’s
“I think he got your message, brother,” Buddy told him.
He was standing in the parlor once more. Bright sunlight pouring
through the open doorway lent golden highlights to the long blonde hair
of the woman from the picture. As she stepped into the room, Captain
Gary Chandler swept her into his arms! Their lips met, and the raging
hunger each had suffered for more than a hundred years was channeled into
a kiss that seemed to go on forever, yet was much too brief.
“God!” he whispered huskily as he pulled her tightly to his chest.
“My beloved angel, I thought I would never find you! What happened?
Why did you come to Texas? Who . . .?”
“The children!” she said, at almost the same instant. “What happened
to our babies?”
Chandler loosened his hold, craning his head back to give her a tender
smile. “Our children grew strong and healthy,” he told her.
“And they had fine families of their own.” A sad frown crossed his
handsome features as he told her the rest. “They . . . they grew up
despising my name,” he told her sadly. “They believed I had deserted
them. And you. But they always loved you, darling, and treasured
“But that is so wrong!” she cried. “I never spoke ill of you!
I always told them that you would come for us when it was safe!”
“Safe?” Chandler asked, clearly puzzled. “Safe from who? I-I
never knew why you ran all the way to Texas! What drove you to abandon
little Victoria and me? I know it had to be something horribly frightening
Amanda stepped back from his embrace, fear and shame clouding her lovely
countenance. “It was,” she told him. “That man you mentioned
in your letter. The one whose face you marred. He chanced upon
us at the inn on the road to Louisville. How he knew I was your wife,
I don’t know. Oh, Gary, he was every bit the villain you painted him!
He threatened horrible things to the children if I didn’t . . . if I told
anyone what he was doing to me. He forced me to come with him to California,
but we escaped him in Kansas City. He . . . there was . . . a child,”
she finished, turning away, tears of shame streaming down her cheeks.
“A son. H-he was stillborn. I don’t know that I could have looked
at the child and not seen the monster that had sired him. Thank God
I didn’t have to find out.”
A myriad of emotions rippled across the officer’s face as he pulled his
wife close once more. The strongest was sorrow. Sorrow at what
his beloved . . . his soul mate had suffered at the hands of his sworn enemy.
At the desperation and fear that had driven her across country, into exile.
“Damn him,” he whispered tearfully. “I curse the day that hell-spawn
was given life! If I had known that he was even still alive, I never
would have sent you away. You must believe that!”
Tears glistened in her eyes as she stroked his cheek. “I’ve always
known that,” she told him, smiling sadly. “Did you get none of my
“Not one,” he told her. “Not hearing from you, n-not knowing what
had become of you and the children . . . I was almost mad with worry!
I hunted everywhere for you! I twice came here, to this cursed place,
to look for you, knowing that . . . the you and she had been close friends
at one time. Each time, she sent me in a different direction.
If you trusted your letters to her, I fear she destroyed them, rather than
send them to me.”
“I think, now, that she must have,” Amanda sighed. “She was jealous
of my ‘good fortune.’ Many times she told me that she wished the children
and I could stay forever. I had no hint as to the depths of her jealousy
. . . until she pushed me into the ravine. Did that witch have any
hand in raising our children?”
“Only for a time,” Chandler sighed. He looked over at Gary Hobson,
a sad smile playing over his lips. “Through this one, I learned that
they despised my name so much, he is the first to bear it in over a hundred
years. It hurt to learn that . . . that they loathed me, so.
But I also learned that they lived, married, and had fine families.
I must be content with that. Wh-what they think of me, now, is of no
importance.” His smile brightened as he turned Amanda to face Gary.
“Beloved, let me introduce you to the great-grandchild of our daughter, Victoria.
His name is Gary Hobson.”
Noticing the third person in the ‘room’ for the first time, Amanda blushed
furiously, at first. Then her smile widened in delight as she took
in his features, looking first at him, then at her husband.
“My goodness! He looks just like you!” she exclaimed. “He even
has your birthmark!” Impulsively, she threw her arms around her great-great-grandchild,
pulling him close. “Thank you!” she whispered tearfully. “Thank
you so much for bringing my family back together.”
“Y-you’re welcome, ma’am,” Gary stammered, hesitantly returning the embrace.
“Th-thank you for . . . for letting me be a part of . . . of this.
Are . . . are you two gonna be okay, now? I mean, well, will you be
able to . . . you know.”
Amanda stepped back with a girlish laugh. “He even has your stutter,”
she teased her husband. “And your charm.” To Gary, she added,
“Yes, we’ll have to move on shortly. Is there anything we can do to
repay you for what you’ve done for us?”
“N-no,” Gary murmured, his ears still burning. “Well, maybe.
Wh-what about those guys who were shooting at me?”
“That’s all taken care of,” Chandler assured him. “We removed you
from the path of the bullet before you could be badly injured. You’re
friends arrived just as you fell. You’ll be safe, now. And I must
apologize for frightening you. It was the only way to direct you here,
and protect you. Anything else?”
“I’d . . . I’d like to do something . . . something more,” Gary murmured.
“How can I . . . well, clear your name? How can I let your descendants
still living today know the truth? I-I have the letter, the one written
by President Lincoln. Is there anything else lying around somewhere
that I can use to let everyone know what kind of man you really were?”
Captain Chandler shook his head sadly. “What little I left with Victoria
was only to provide for her welfare. My father was not a well man,
he was dying. I had hoped to return before he died, but . . . When
I learned that my family had . . . had vanished, I sold what I could, giving
most of the money to Mother so that she would not have that to worry about
as well. Don’t worry about my ‘good name,’ Gary. The ones whose
opinions I valued most passed over many years ago. I admit that I would
like to be remembered with kindness, by someone, but no one can change what
has already come to pass. Now, what service can I be to you?”
“Well, um, could you tell me how to get back to, um . . . God! How
do I say this?” Gary moaned.
“Once we’re gone,” Chandler chuckled, “you just have to step through that
door, and climb the steps you’ll find.” He held out his hand, taking
Gary’s in a firm grip. “Thank you, son. You’ve done more than
made us proud. You’ve given us back our souls. I have only one
more thing to ask of you. Please have our bodies exhumed and taken
home. Bury us together, if possible. We‘ve been apart much too
“We’ll see to it, I promise. And thank you,” Gary smiled, “for letting
me . . . letting me see through your eyes for even a little while.
I never knew you‘d even existed, until then. Thank you, too, for giving
me the chance to set the record straight.”
“Your medal!” Amanda exclaimed. “The one presented with the letter.
If . . . if what you said about the children is true, then what did they
do with your medal?”
“That’s not important, darling” he told her, gently stroking her cheek.
“It’s merely a reminder of darker times.”
“But it meant so much to you!” she moaned. “He pinned it onto your
chest with his own hands! Don’t let it be lost forever! It‘s
a treasure . . .”
Laying a finger across her lips to silence her, he placed a tender kiss
on the corner of her mouth. “The only treasure that matters to me now,”
he told her softly, “ is you.”
“Wait!” Gary pleaded. “What medal? Where can I find it?”
“If you think it can help,” Chandler shrugged, not taking his eyes off
his wife, “then look for my saddle. My old unit had it made for me.
It has a plate on the back, with an inscription. Look behind that
Having said that, he guided Amanda to the center of the room and, facing
her, pulled her into his arms once more. A fearful expression crossed
Amanda’s face as she gazed into the eyes of her beloved.
“I’m afraid,” she murmured timidly. “We don’t know what we’ll find
“Don’t be,” he whispered gently, as he lowered his face to hers.
“We’ve each been through Hell alone, my dearest. Anyplace we’re together
. . . is heaven.”
His lips covered hers in a deep, soul merging kiss as a soft light swelled
within them. As Gary watched in amazement, they slowly melded into
two columns of light. One an electric blue, the other pale gold.
Then, the two columns merged even further, becoming a single shaft of brilliant
white light. The radiance swelled, filling the whole room with an
all pervading sense of . . . Gary couldn’t find the words to describe it.
It was a feeling so powerful, ‘Love’ just seemed to brush the edges of it.
Whatever pain they had suffered in life, and after, they were now united
in an emotion that was too primal, too awesome, to name. It completely
transcended the physical, and came straight from the heart of creation itself.
When the light faded, Gary found himself alone. After that rush of
. . . emotion . . . energy . . . whatever, he felt oddly empty . . . and
at peace. With a sigh, he headed for the door. It was time for
him to go.
Voices. Frantic, excited, distant. They echoed through his
mind as he climbed toward the light. The higher he climbed, the harder
it was to take that next step. The pain! Oh, God! The
fire that burned across his back and shoulders! A moaning whimper
escaped his lips as he struggled up that final step.
“He’s moving!” someone shouted. “He’s alive!”
“Get that rope over here!” Was that Clay? Or Buddy? “Hang
in there, cuz! We just gotta find a way down!” Definitely Buddy.
“Just don’t try to move!”
Not moving was high on Gary’s list of priorities at that point. About
the only thing that didn’t hurt was his left big toenail. Still, he
had to consider the fact that he was still breathing as a plus. If
only he wasn’t lying halfway on his back!
It seemed to take forever before he heard the crunch of footsteps on dry
leaves. Opening one eye, he tried to see who it was without moving.
The place where he lay was still in shadow, a fact for which he was grateful.
One thing he didn’t need, right now, was more pain. Soon, there was
crunching all around him as more people descended into his leafy bower.
“This is like walkin’ on a feather bed,” a woman (Polly?) mumbled as the
crunching grew louder. “These leaves must be ten feet thick.”
“That’s probably what saved him!” another voice, that sounded like Ranger
Walker, told her. “He’s one lucky man.”
“I’m not sure I wanna be around when his luck runs out,” Peter murmured.
“God, Hobson! What did that bastard do to you?”
“Well,” Gary whispered, “I’m not . . . not real clear . . . on the d-details,
but I think . . . think he beat the crap . . . outta me. Hurts.”
“Hobson,” Peter replied, “you are a master of understatement.” Gingerly,
he placed a hand on Gary’s left shoulder and rolled him forward, just slightly,
to get a better look at his back. “Man!” he hissed. “We shoulda
let Clay kill the son of a . . . !”
“Easy, Peter,” Walker tried to calm the young Shaolin. “You’re breaking
training. All life is sacred, remember?”
“That doesn’t apply to pond scum,” Polly grumbled as she used the key Walker
handed her to remove the cuffs from Gary’s bloody wrists. Had she
been crying? “The closest that creature’s ever come to being human
was when he first crawled out of the sewer. These grafts may still
be okay, but he’s gonna need stitches. God! Your back looks like
hamburger, sweetie. I’m afraid we can’t put off callin’ your folks,
“Great,” Gary sighed. “Mom’s gonna have a cow.”
Polly shook her head with a choked laugh (and a little sniffle?).
“Hon, when she hears about this, she’s gonna corner the beef market.
Just be glad there’ll be a few thousand miles between you two when she explodes.”
It took almost an hour for the EMTs to arrive and help to extricate Gary
from his leafy cul-de-sac. As he was being loaded into the Stokes
stretcher, Gary told Buddy that he had found Amanda’s grave.
“She . . . she’s under there . . . somewhere,” he told his cousin.
Talking was made even harder by the stiff collar they had used to immobilize
his head and neck “We . . . need to give her . . . a proper burial
. . . with her h-husband. Please? W-will you . . .?”
“I’ll see to it, cuz,” Buddy promised him as they lay him on the gurney.
“You just be still and let these people help you, ya hear?”
As they were getting ready to load him into the ambulance, Gary grabbed
Buddy’s hand in a surprisingly strong grip.
“They’ve been too . . . too long apart,” he whispered. “Th-their
souls are . . . at rest. N-now . . .”
“I got the picture, Gary,” the entertainer assured his cousin. Curious,
he leaned closer. “D-did you ‘see’ them?” he whispered. “Are
“Yes,” Gary murmured in a barely audible voice. “It was . . . b-beautiful.”
“His back is a mess,” the doctor told them candidly. “There were
at least nine gashes that required stitches. I don’t know how concerned
he is about appearances, so I called in a cosmetic surgeon to minimize scarring.
He attended to those wrists while he was here, too. Mr. Hobson also
has a crease on the right side of his neck, several broken ribs, a dislocated
right shoulder, and a bruised right kidney. Other than that, he’s
in better shape than he looks. From what you’ve told me, he’s an extremely
lucky man. His captor was going more for pain than actual damage.
His biggest dangers, right now, are infection and having a rib lacerate
his liver or puncture a lung.”
Polly found that her legs had turned to Jell-O. She sank into the
nearest chair, resting her head on her hands as she fought to maintain control.
Gary didn’t need tears. He needed strength. Until his mother
arrived that afternoon, she had to be that strength.
“Does he know a good psychiatrist?” the doctor was asking. “In situations
such as this, we usually recommend extensive therapy.”
“Y-yes,” Polly sniffed. “Um, yes. He’s been . . . been treated for
. . . for a similar experience last year. Wh-when can we see him?”
“He’s being moved up to a room right now,” the physician replied, placing
a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Your friend is fine. He’s
just very tired, right now, and heavily sedated. Give him a couple
of hours, then you can go in a few at a time. Don’t expect him to make
much sense, at first,” he chuckled. “He was mumbling something about
‘bright lights’ and a ‘parlor.’ CT was negative, and there was no
outward evidence of head trauma other than a swelling behind his right ear.
We think he’s just suffering from hallucinations brought on by trauma and
dehydration. Why don’t you go get something to eat? We have your cell-phone
number. If anything changes, we’ll call you.”
“Thank you,” Buddy murmured when Polly just nodded. He took her by
the arm and helped her up from the chair. “A coupla hours? We’ll
be back before he wakes up. C’mon, Polly. We’ll go tell the
The doctor started to turn as if to go, then stopped, looking at Buddy
more closely. “You’ll probably think this is a dumb question,” he
said, “but I have ask it anyway. Are you and Mr. Hobson twins?
The resemblance is incredible.”
“Cousins,” Buddy replied with a shake of his head. “My twin is getting
his hands seen to, and another cousin is waiting out in the RV. Just
thought I’d better warn ya, we’re practically clones.”
The doctor’s eyes brightened. “Would you mind if I talk to the four
of you before you leave?” he asked.. “I’m doing a thesis on dominant
and recessive genetic traits. You guys would make a fascinating case
study. I‘ll pay you handsomely for your time.”
“Um, yeah,” Buddy murmured. “That sounds . . . interestin’.
Um, Polly, Peter, let’s not keep the others waitin’.” He turned them
toward the entrance, walking a little faster than necessary.
“Slow down,” Peter chuckled. “What’s the rush?”
“Sorry,” Buddy sighed, slowing down slightly. “I just smell a bunch
of needles and test tubes in his offer. You okay, Polly?”
“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” she stammered as they stepped through the door.
“Just give me a minute before we go in.” She wiped her hands across
her cheeks, trying to obliterate the evidence. She looked up at her
two ’escorts.’ “You tell anyone I was cryin’ and I’ll spike your coffee
with prune juice.”
Wordlessly, Peter handed her a tissue. “Your secret’s safe with us,”
he replied. “You two are pretty close, aren’t you?”
“First time I saw him,” the tech sighed, “was when he was brought in after
. . . a terrible accident. He was more dead than alive. At first,
they weren’t really holdin’ out a lot of hope for ’im. At best, he
should’ve been a vegetable. But he hung in there, and he fought, and
he woke up after just a few days. They kept telling’ ‘im not to give
up hope. That he should be able to walk again, but they were just sayin’
that for his benefit. They thought he’d run out of miracles.”
She bit her lip, taking a deep breath and letting it out. “You’ve seen
him. If you hadn’t seen that picture, you never would’ve known he’d
been stuck in a wheelchair for months,” she added, a note of pride in her
voice. “I’ve never doubted that, no matter what life threw at him,
Gary could handle it. N-not once . . . until I saw him go over that
bluff . . . saw him lyin’ there . . . so . . . still. It scared the
crap outta me. I was gonna turn around and kill that SOB right there.
Then, Walker saw him move . . .” Polly closed her eyes and took a deep
breath, trying to steady herself. “I’m beginning to think he has a
direct pipeline to God. The miracles just keep on a comin’.”
She looked up at the two solemn faces. “I wanna be there when they
put the needle to that sick piece o’ sh--. I wanna watch him die.”
“I don’t know if we can arrange it, Polly,” Peter warned her. “I’ll
talk to Alex and see what we can do, but you have to be sure about this.
It’s supposed to be humane and peaceful, but dead is dead. No matter
how you paint it, it’s never pretty.”
“Right this minute,” she replied stonily, “I’m as sure as I’ll ever be.
Check with me again after I’ve talked to Gary. Right now, I feel like
we need to celebrate a little. Jaggs and his cohorts are all in jail,
Gary’s safe and alive, and we can breathe easy for the first time since
‘Vegas. If I were a drinkin’ woman, I’d be tempted to get plastered.
Since I‘m not, how‘s about we get Clay and the others, then I’ll spring for
Gary’s first impression was of something cool on his forehead. Then
there was a dull, throbbing pain that seemed to encompass his entire body.
Did he have anywhere that didn’t hurt? With a low, throaty moan he
turned his head into that comforting touch.
“Hey, darlin’,” a familiar voice crooned. “Time to open those puppy-dog
eyes and rejoin the world.”
“P-Polly?” he murmured.
“Got it in one,” she chuckled. “How do you feel?”
“About like I look,” Gary replied in a near whisper. “Hurts like
hell. Wh-what took ya’ll s’long to find me? Di’n’ that. . .
. that tracker thing work?”
“It might have,” Peter said from behind him, “if they hadn’t found it.
I thought we told you to put it someplace they weren’t likely to look?
What’d you do? Put it in your shirt pocket?”
“N-no,” Gary mumbled, puzzled. “I taped it to the inside of my .
. . wh-where that guy suggested that I . . . God! H-how’d they find
it there w-without . . .?”
Polly hadn’t thought it was possible for Gary to lose any more color.
She was quick to assure him that, given who they were dealing with, they
had immediately had him checked over to rule out the very thing he feared
“There was no . . . assault,” she told him. “Not of that type, at
least. But they must’ve done a strip search in order to find it down
. . . down there.” She was secretly pleased to see a slow flush infuse
Gary’s pallid features. Embarrassment was a normal, healthy reaction
to such a revelation.
“Oh, God!” he moaned, covering his face with his left hand. “Just
strike me now! Please?” Then he noticed that his right arm was
strapped down. “Wh-what . . .?”
“You dislocated your shoulder,” Peter told him. “You also left behind
an impressive amount of skin.”
“H-how, umph, how many ribs . . .d-did I break . . . this time?” Gary murmured,
managing a weak smile.
“Four on the right,” Polly told him. “To match the ones you already
had on the left. They had to clean a lot of dirt and such out of the
wounds on your back. The bullet wound had reopened. Your back
looks like a crazy quilt, hon, but they assured me that you’ll hardly notice
the scars after a while. Same goes for those gashes on your shoulder.
Did Jaggs do that, too?”
“N-no.” Gary explained about the house, and the bizarre actions of
the owl. “Th-there’s something . . . wrong with that place.
S-something . . . I-I don’t know . . . dark.” He looked around, as
if just noticing that something, or someone, was missing. “Where ‘re
Jake ‘n’ the twins?” he asked. “Are they okay?”
Peter mumbled something as he handed Polly a ten-dollar bill. “You
guys ‘re spooky,” he growled, “you know that?” At Gary’s puzzled look,
Peter explained, “Polly said you’d be asking if someone was okay before
you’d been awake ten minutes.” He looked at his watch. “Seven
and a half. Not bad. I’m surprised you could restrain yourself
for that long.”
“So I’m predictable,” Gary grumbled. “Could you answer the question?
“They’re out in the hall with the others,” Polly told him. “The doctor
said to keep it down to two at a time. Think you can handle more than
“It’s a big room,” Gary murmured. “Bring ‘em on.”
Polly smiled as she rose from her seat and stepped to the door. She
poked her head out, beckoning to the people standing around in the hall.
Stepping back, she allowed the others to file in, arranging themselves around
“How ya feelin’, cuz?” Buddy asked.
“Like a sore tooth,” Gary replied with a tired smile. “Thanks for
ridin’ t’ the rescue. Wha’s wrong with your hands, Clay?”
Clay looked down at the bandages on his right hand, and the cast on the
left one. “Nothin’ much,” he murmured. “Just had to work off a
“Yeah,” Jake grinned. “He ‘vented’ all over Jaggs’s face. That
man won’t be looking in any mirrors without scaring himself. Not for
Gary studied his cousin’s grim visage and figured he could fill in the
blanks with little trouble. “D’ya break his jaw?” he asked.
The corner of Clay’s mouth twitched as he nodded, meeting Gary’s eyes for
the first time since entering the room. “In three places,” he assured
the injured man. “And three ribs.”
“Good,” Gary sighed. “That oughta shut ‘im up. He talks to
“Well,” Buddy grinned, “he won’t be doin’ much talkin’ for about a month.
And those two goons that chased us all the way from ‘Vegas? They can’t
shut up. They can’t wait to get back to prison. O’ course, that
could be because Polly told ‘em she’d be waiting outside the gate for ‘em
to get out. With a dull knife.”
Gary gave his friend a puzzled look. “Whatever for?”
Polly looked away with a shrug, biting her lower lip as she considered
how to answer that without embarrassing herself too much. “I was,
um, thinkin’ of expandin’ my resume¢,” she told him. “You know.
A little veterinary surgery?”
Blame it on his injuries. It took Gary almost a full fifteen seconds
to figure it out.
“You threatened to neuter them?” he asked incredulously. “Really?”
“Really,” Ranger Walker assured him grimly. “That’s how we knew where
they took you. She offered a free demonstration. Hicks couldn’t
talk fast enough.”
“Especially after she almost pulled Sykes beard out by the roots,” Peter
added with a shudder. “Where did you learn your technique, Polly?
“Reruns of ‘Tour Of Duty,’” Polly grumbled irritably. “I was inspired,
okay? Jaggs was beatin’ the crap outta Gary and I was not in a good
“W-wait,” Gary pleaded, holding up his good hand as if to physically silence
them. “I’m getting real confused here. How did you know Jaggs
was . . . that he . . .?”
“That doesn‘t matter,” Polly hastened to say. “The important thing
is, you’re here, you’re safe, and the danger is over. You guys can
enjoy the peace and quiet you came out here to find.” She shot Sammo
and Clay a pointed look. “Right, guys?”
Gary decided to let it drop. For the moment. He had a feeling
that it had something to do with that ‘link’ Polly had revealed to him in
‘Vegas. Just how strong was this ‘link,’ he wondered?
“The police are clearin’ away all that debris,” Buddy told him, giving
Polly a speculative glance. “They’ll let us know if there really is
a body down there . . .”
“There is,” Gary assured him. “Th-the woman who owned the place,
Amanda’s so called ‘friend,’ shoved her over at almost the exact spot where
I . . . where I fell. She wanted the kids bad enough to kill for them.
I don’t know if she was crazy, or if she had something . . . sinister in
mind. I just know that she murdered a woman who trusted her with more
than her own life.”
“And you know this . . . how?” Walker asked.
Gary glanced at Peter, who gave him a silent nod, then to the Ranger.
“Just . . . how opened minded . . . are you?” he asked.
“And that’s everything,” Gary sighed over half an hour later. “I-I
know it sounds . . . weird . . . delusional . . . whatever, b-but her body
is down there. I promised to exhume both bodies and . . . and rebury
them next to each other. In their family cemetery in Ohio, if possible.”
“It is important to them?” Kwai Chang asked.
“Very,” Gary replied, his voice husky from so much talking.
“Yet . . . you say their spirits have moved on,” the Shaolin reminded him.
Gary ran his free hand through his hair as he groped for the right words
to convey what he had felt as he’d spoken to his ancestors.
“It’s a-a symbolic thing, I think,” he told them. “Something to show
that . . . that what happened wasn’t an act of desertion by either party.
Terrible things happened on both sides that led to . . . to . . . God!
How do I . . . It’s for the kids. Their kids died thinking that their
dad had run out on ‘em. They both just wanted to set the record straight.
He was a good man who wanted nothing more in life than to have his family
whole again. H-having their graves together . . . that’s kind of a
. . . a symbol that their descendants can look at and know that . . . that
somewhere . . . they’re a family again.” He looked at the others, licking
his lips in uncertainty. “Did . . . did that make any sense, or was
I babbling again?”
Impulsively, Alex Cahill stepped up and planted a chaste kiss on Gary’s
forehead. “It made wonderful sense,” she told him, smiling gently.
“No matter if the rest of if does sound like an hallucination, for that reason,
alone, we should go ahead with your request. That had to be one of the
most romantic stories I’ve ever heard,” she sniffed, wiping a tear from her
Walker just rolled his eyes in a gesture that said, ‘I’ll be hearing about
this for a long time!’
Continue to Installment 7
Email the author: Polgana54@cs.com
Back Home to McGinty's
Stories by Title
Stories by Author