2 Seconds…

2 Seconds Cover
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Two Seconds… 

 

 

 

T-Minus 5.4×10¹² seconds

 

Near the core of the stellar object in a later age called Sol, eight-hundred billion tons of hydrogen reacted in the pressure and the heat fused the nuclei to create helium and gamma rays. The high energy photons created began the random walk to the surface. Absorbed and re-emitted at a lower energy each time, the photons made the slow walk to the surface of the sun.

In the times before the creations of humankind orbited the earth, flew the sky or rolled along roads. Long before any human ever walked along a river and pressed their footprint into the mud along a shoreline. The energy packets as gamma rays began the travel through the dense core of the star that would become known as Sol.

 

T-Minus 4,162,752,000 Seconds

 

Late one night in the year 1880, a woman moaned in pain. midwives walked about as the birth pains continued. William Harley paced outside the door. Few times he dared to pull on the handle to peek inside, then had his life threatened by the women inside.

One of the three men that stood watch with the soon-to-be father, Rev. Frances Knight patted William on the shoulder. “Will be over soon, by the sound of it. The babe is almost here.”

“It was a good Christmas, this will top the holidays.”

Robert Valance joked, “She’ll never let you back in the bedchambers Will, less than twelve years and five children. She will do you such harm as to make a new chapter in the Good Book.”

Frances laughed. “I doubt that, Robert, she is a good church woman.”

The sound of a baby’s cries announced the arrival of a new life to the men outside the door.

“Congratulations William.” Francis smiled. A moment more…

The door opened and interrupted the Reverend as a woman stepped out with the newborn.

“It’s a boy.”

William smiled wide. “William Sylvester will be his name. I have named him after myself and Mary’s father.”

As the boy-child grew, he met another young man with a curious mind and an active imagination with the talent to design and build what he had in his mind.

Inventions of fish-line winders were always in the young Arthur’s mind. They loved to fish and laugh, the two boys were best of friends always. Even the times they argued, it would always end in respect and laughter as they shared their lives and secrets between each other.

One spring afternoon, Author and William ran out to watch a man rode up and down the street on a noisy contraption, a “motor cycle” he called it. The excitement grew in their souls and sounds of the two-wheeled infernal machine inspired the boys with a passion for things to come.

In years of college that came, the younger William impressed his professors and teachers of his knack with the mechanical talent above many of his peers. The dream from what he had seen with his best friend, Arthur, still lived in his heart.

Together the boys grew into intelligent and courageous men who started a company that would inspire heroes and villains alike on the way to become legend.

 

T-Minus 3,437,424,000 Seconds

 

Harley-Davidson Motorcycles was born of little more than a handshake, and a gentleman’s honor between two best friends, then business partners. To this end, they achieved both respect and honors of those that worked for them through the years, two world wars and into the future.

In the war with Pancho Villa, the military purchased some of the boys’ (Now grown to men.) Machines. A colonel who rode with his troops was very impressed by possible uses of the motor-powered bikes to get messages from one site to another in a hurry.

World War I — the Great War, came to the fore. The military with its long memory ordered thousands, and by the close of the war, numbered more than fifteen-thousand of William and Arthur’s motorcycles with the new V-twin arranged engines.

Life improved as the employees respected the owners and the employees worked the best that they could to build products that they would want to own themselves.

World War II, the war that followed the War-To-End-All-Wars and the government called upon Harley-Davidson once again to produce the legend they had before.

William and Arthur were more than capable and happy to oblige. They increased the power of the V-twin time and again, the iron horse was no longer on rails, but rubber tires and now could be ridden.

However, William did not live to see the end of the war. A conflict that both saddened him and made his company famous.

After a long hard year of contract negotiations and sure that they filled all their obligations. William played golf to relax after a very stressful day that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor. William never returned, his time ended with sudden cardiac arrest.

William Harley was 1,996,444,800 seconds old.

 

T-Minus 2,175,984,000 seconds.

 

The company’s reputation spread as the power of the engines grew and the nickname of “Hog” that had begun as a race team now became a common reference to the large motorcycles.

Discharged soldiers found that the freedom of the road was ever more pleasant with the powerful and dependable motorcycle from the once best of friends that dreamed of machines were best of friends as business partners. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles were the most desired of all the big machines by a generation that had lived through horrors of death and destruction unmatched in history.

 

T-Minus 1,923,696,000 seconds

 

For years, after Bill passed away from a heart attack, Arthur had stayed the course of his motorcycle company on the same business track as he, William and the rest of the Davidson crew chosen years before, together. Bill lived to honor his best friend and increased the depth and breadth of the company that they had started so long ago.

Five days after Christmas 1950, Arthur and his wife, Clara, left the house in the car. Ice on the roads had melted, in the shadows of trees, water refroze into a surface smoother than glass. While Arthur was a careful driver, not so the driver of the pickup truck that slid around the corner on the icy pavement and hit them, driver side headlight to driver side headlight at less than twenty-five miles-per-hour. Arthur’s car careened off the road and came to rest against a tree. Hard interior surfaces with sharp corners did more damage to the human occupants than the impact of the accident and the unexpected death of Arthur Davidson was felt throughout the motorcycle community.

Arthur was 2,201,904,000 seconds old.

In 2008, Harley-Davidson produced motorcycle number 1HD1DJV131Y 584344, the skills of the company were not wasted on the powerful machine. It was perfect only when the thirty-year veteran inspector, David Oliver “Papa DOK” Kraig deemed it so. On the computerized display, the power curves that the engine put out were not just within limits, but perfect.

After a brake check and this newest of additions to the H-D family received the pronouncement “Perfect” by Chris “Eliminator” Thanatos. A six-foot four-inch frame that was always in a dark mood, he was without mercy as he placed a red-tag of rejection on any product that was marginal in test limits. A strict personal need and a meticulous eye for flaws made for many employees on the assembly line to flinch. When it came to this OCD employee’s inspections – It was perfect or it never saw the light of day.

One-hundred-percent pass score, one of the names that the employees labeled this new iron horse “P.H.” or “Perfect Hog”.

Shipped with care out west. It sat on the sales lot until a young man who William would have been proud of sat astride it and smiled. Russell Fletcher’s dark eyes looked over the chrome that William and Arthur’s old company had given birth to.

Before the hour was up, Russell was on the road with his prized new possession.

A life of glory on the most glorious machine of the year, Russell laughed every night he rode.

And Russell rode a lot.

 

T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and died right there from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California where her aunt Lewellyn suggested where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

He tried to farm crops, but Joshua Sprecks failed and was now stuck with the land in hills of the southern bay area, they struggled for years until a builder made an offer to buy some land so a home could be built.

Joshua paused, pondered, then refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into construction of three houses which sold for a large profit.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made life comfortable for his family. He chose schools that the children would attend as father blazed the trail and returned to school himself. Joshua graduated and, in time, became an architect of some renown in the area.

Soon after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem first decade’s prescription of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium class of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school with chores finished. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Lessons that he took to heart, always.

However, the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered after they buried four of her five children. The sole survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred-acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growth around their orchards. It seemed unfair to Joshua Sprecks who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid just a month’s worth of salary in fines.

 

T-Minus 1,608,336,000 Seconds

 

Russell Fletcher, born to James “Fletch” Fletcher and his wife, Mitsu, in Tokyo, Japan.

A young life that started with his father’s business in full operation. Fletch had a knack to turn companies on the verge of failure into successful enterprises and would then sell them. All his life, he was a fixer.

Russell learned much under his father’s tutelage. After he Graduated college, the young Fletcher started a business of food delivery to community elders after he had cooked for his grandparents in the last few years of their lives. The growth in the food system was explosive, soon outpaced Russell’s ability to hire new employees and get them trained.

Russell became known to have his father’s golden touch. He developed a skill to negotiate a fair price on services for the company, he expanded into other communities and got concessions of tax credits for the good will he had created in the company as his “Wheels of Hope” brought smiles to those that could not go to the stores and buy food items.

In the end-of-year holidays, Russell’s company delivered Christmas dinners to lists of families, food donated by local businesses, drivers dressed as elves and Russell made his mark on how business ran in the state. It was his personality and his father’s lessons that taught other companies to conduct themselves and not be ruthless.

Never could he teach the political parties the same lesson, in time even Russell gave up on politicians with back-room deals.

He turned his back on the games that are politics. He found that his amount of goodwill was ignored in large part and he began to feel the weight of taxes that politicians crafted for his style of business and stringent rules that became law that governed his delivery vehicles.

After a legal challenge, and a judge who found that such restrictions unconstitutional, Russell sold his stake in the company he had founded a few years before and moved on and started a new company that excelled in performance once again.

Freedom became his greatest business, taught inner-city kids and kept them from prisons. Once again he built a business with the power of goodwill that spread beyond his dreams and expectations.

Still, he felt he needed more. In the world of success and parties, there was one problem.

He was alone.

 

T-Minus 1,545,264,000 Seconds

 

Lluvia “Lulu” was born to Roberto and Delores De Soto while the most intense storm of the season thundered outside. Descended from Hernandez De Soto, she inherited a soul for exploration.

Never one to back down from a challenge she met each one with a quick wit and a laugh. Beauty sparkled in her eyes as she looked upon the world. As a child she would be found in trees she climbed – much to the chagrin of mother Delores who tried to teach this girl how to behave like a girl.

But with Lulu, it was all futile.

Once when teased by the boys, Roberto heard screams of fury and knew, Lulu was beyond angry. The father of eight put down his tools, and walked around the house. There, Roberto found that his Lulu of the sonrisas, pushed beyond her limit of temper by her brothers.

She had her four brothers treed.

Roberto laughed in spite of himself.

The four older brothers had pelted Lulu with fruit as she had come home from school in her new dress that her Mama made.

The result:

A temper that never broke without reason, this day did. Fury, like the tornadoes that could scour the earth clean of soil and asphalt across the middle of America, she had bloodied the nose of one brother and all had climbed the tree they had picked fruit from.

Lulu had pushed the ladder onto its side and now carried an ax to where her brothers sat trapped. The girl with the pretty smile, had tears and murder in her eyes.

The elder De Soto called Lulu over and calmed her. Mother De Soto would be furious when she got into the house, Lulu cried on her papa’s arms.

“Mi bebé, I shall take care of that now, your brothers will pay that penalty. Just do not cut down this tree, please? It produces fruit for our crops and it would be years before a new one I would plant to reach a productive age.”

In the weeks that followed, Lulu laughed as the brothers learned how to sew and created for her and her three sisters dresses that matched. Sewn to the microscopic standards of Delores De Soto, it took the four boys a year to get it right.

The brothers received brutal teases from their friends that lasted longer than the year that they learned to sew “Like a girl”.

In years to come, Carlos, the middle brother, became a well-known clothier and influential designer of fashion as he grew up. He incorporated with his name on a high rise in New York at the age of 630,720,000 seconds, his name was soon a desired label.

 

T-minus 950,354,000 seconds.

 

Lulu entered college, the first of the De Soto siblings, with some challenges in her grades she did not get into the colleges she wished for. She learned to learn at the local college, she met a girl who would become one of her closest friends. CarlaAnn was a dreamer, planner and rule-bender. A girl who was fun to do things with.

Together they got in occasional trouble but never serious enough for the police to ever press charges. Just once did the girls have to sit in the police station and wait for their parents to come pick them up.

CarlaAnn laughed as she whispered to Lulu.

“That was awesome!”

Lulu laughed, A month grounded? They had set off the fire alarm at the hotel and people ran out in various stages of undress. It was so worth it.

Lulu and Carla began a business together of rodeo outfits until CarlaAnn met Jack, an older boy who CarlaAnn was in love with, who convinced her to buy Lulu out and expanded the business into motorcycle competition instead of just rodeo outfits. CarlaAnn allowed Jack to run the company with CarlaAnn and Lulu became sales representatives.

Lulu met with many of the race teams and promoted her friend’s company.

After several months Jack became the head of the company and would direct all day-to-day operations. Sometimes it seemed the company shorted Lulu or would be very late to pay Lulu her salary, but CarlaAnn just made excuses. As weeks went by, CarlaAnn  lost her ability to people in the eyes, even more so her best friend, Lulu.

Then it began. A slight discoloration of CarlaAnn’s face that could not be covered by make-up would worry Lulu, but her best friend would never let on what happened.

Then CarlaAnn began to slip rolls of hundred-dollar bills into Lulu’s purse and whisper.

“Don’t tell Jack. Please.”

At one rodeo, Lulu sat with a horse owner while they talked about equipment that his company sought to purchase. Barrels, saddles. Many saddle-makers had lined up when the rumor (started by Lulu herself to test the waters) that CarlaAnn’s company moved into distribution of more equipment at a reasonable price.

Lulu met Russell at one autumn car show.

She met with a horse owner, Harold Stepkin, invited a handsome young man and introduced him to Lulu. With ebony eyes that sparkled with humor, an exotic look and a brilliant mind, Russell Fletcher attracted Lulu right away. In turn, when he looked at her, the world went silent.

Dark of eye and quick of wit. She enthralled him in an instant.

Well on her way to make an impact in alternate power sources for big vehicles. She promoted her best friend’s company then lost the subject while she talked with him.

Two weeks later Russell bought Lulu dinner and they talked long hours after the sun set. The restaurant closed around them and they left with the employees.

In the months that followed, Jack’s mismanagement took a toll on CarlaAnn. No longer did the two women travel together or were known as the party girls to known to sell needed equipment.

Lulu was paid in full by CarlaAnn’s company while Jack failed to make other payments required by the government. Instead Jake spent money on other dubious activities.

Quietly, Lulu returned the rolls of hundred-dollar bills from the accumulated pile to CarlaAnn after Jack went to prison and CarlaAnn’s acquittal. The court found Jack had used the resources of the company and had a role in corrupt activities in the local community.

After CarlaAnn’s business dissolved, Lulu and Russell were never apart more than an afternoon in the years that followed.

The spring that followed, Lulu’s father, Roberto passed away hours after he watched his bebé marry the boy with almond eyes and an honest heart. The bittersweet day would be remembered by both families for generations.

Seven years later, Mama Delores married a green-eyed Celt with quick wit and a voice like distant thunder.

While they settled in, children were born to the newlyweds while they started their next generation. Russell moved his growing family to the high desert area south of Reno. They loved to visit, but not live in, the snows of Tahoe to the west. He took Lulu often to ride around the jewel the mountains.

 

T-Minus 14,400 seconds

 

One summers day, on his beloved Harley-Davidson, Mister and Missus Fletcher enjoyed the weather that midsummer offered. The neighbors watched the children as they spent their anniversary on the back of an iron horse and freedom in their hearts.

At the dwarf-yellow star that humans now call Sol, photon packets that spent the last thousand-centuries in the slow random walk from the core of the sun was now a lot less energetic.

Photons, randomized now into what had become known as visible light began to move faster as the hot gasses thinned enough to allow the photons to reach speeds associated with light. Ten-percent, then twenty, fifty-percent of the speed of light in a vacuum the EM radiation began to move to the universal speed limit.

 

T-minus 10,800 seconds.

 

On earth, the eighty-cubic inch V-twin engine rumbled in good tune. A header pipe that Russell had plumbed into a high-efficiency muffler improved the fuel consumption, gave more power— and less noise— was the song of freedom for the couple that rode on the full-dressed motorcycle.

The sounds of the wind, the intercom they used to talk with while they wore their helmets. All the details that represented their closeness.

It also gave Lulu, the beautiful wife, teacher and mother, a titan in a tiny body, reason to hold onto the man that she called “Husband”.

Not that she ever needed a reason to hold him, it was a perk while she rode on the back of their favorite steed.

The midnight-blue of the paint glittered with faint scratches that were long earned with thousands of laps around the blue mountain lake.

Russell once estimated they had driven the circumference of the earth on the mountain roads that circumnavigated the twenty-two-mile long lake. It was a trip the happy-camper couple made often. They slept on the shores of the lake in the many campgrounds maintained by the Federal and State Agencies.

The sky was blue with broken clouds, the chill of the mountain air tickled the hearts of the couple that escaped life’s grind and pain of the wife-come-teacher and the businessman-husband that was their work week.

They wound their way through the forest as they followed the black strip of asphalt and the dashed lines, Russell told a joke about a mason and his union, who got stonewalled.

Lulu laughed into the intercom like a dutiful wife while she rolled her eyes at the stupid joke.

Lunch at their favorite stop, “Ian’s”, seafood grilled over an open fire, the perfect break for the mid-day meal. They sat on a balcony and overlooked lake waters so clear, that it could give cause a fear of heights if one looked down to the bottom of the jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

An hour and a quarter of fresh bread, fish, grilled red baby potatoes and wine by Ian Mehretu, the owner and cook in the tiny, lakeside eatery.

Russell paid the bill and the two walked out of the restaurant and held hands as they headed to where Harrison the Hog waited for them with the patience of machines.

Helmets on, the intercom plugged in, the big engine rumbled to life and the day held fewer clouds in the sky as they merged into traffic of the high-mountain community main road.

They had a long trip ahead of them to their favorite mountain lookout and then back home.

 

T-Minus 500 Seconds

 

Energy.

It boils and seethes on the surface of Sol, the gas heated by the high energy photons that kept the plasma illuminated with the glow of unimaginable heat from the core of the sun. Energy generated a hundred-thousand years before this day, radiated out towards the surface of the sun in the slow, random walk, and transferred heat to the material along the way.

On the surface of the sun, photons were freed from the surface traveled unfettered through space at lights natural speed. A blue, green and white marble that orbited Sol was just a small speck at this distance as the photons sped away from the star that had given them birth. The electromagnetic packets of energy reached three-hundred thousand kilometers-per-second an instant after they passed through the photosphere.

While the photons traveled towards the single planet in the system known to harbor life and a couple rumbled down the road on their motorcycle, Lucy Sprecks got into her car. She was now 2,840,122,800 seconds old. Joshua, her brilliant star of her life, had passed away years before. And at this time of her life, Lucy just went and donated time to charity work and her church.

To share her love of the good book became the one reason she left the house these days. Her own child visited on rare occasions, busy with his own life.

Long passed her addictions of prescription medications, Lucy now drank her bottle of wine each lunch time and she looked forward to today’s lunch with her friends. Edna supplied more wine than any of the Society of Lady Druids.

Lucy was certain she would convert the heart of Edna to the true path of Christian religion. Then a sudden memory!

“I forgot my bible!” Sighed Lucy. She pulled over and double checked in her oversized purse. It was not there, nor was the passage she had copied out for Edna to read. She needed to turn around and go back home. She loved her big car, the Mercedes made her feel safe, but it was difficult to perform tight maneuvers with Lucy just able to look over the dashboard of the powerful German-built car.

In space, waves of EM radiation, the photons given birth tens of thousands of years before, now closed the distance at the cosmic speed limit and sped to their destination on earth.

 

T-Minus 300 Seconds

 

They rode along at the speed limit, Russell and Lulu talked about lunch at the North shore of the lake, Ian had done an extra good job this time.

Russell had his open-faced helmet on so the conversation was easier for him. Lulu wore a full face helmet with a stout chin guard with a gem-light just above the eye line. The light allowed Lulu to read map sections taped to the back of his helmet at night. Lulu’s helmet was very expensive and lightweight, made from such materials that would make a NASA test pilot envious.

They laughed together at a joke, they passed a state patrol car that sat on the side the of the road, the officer inside did paperwork of a recent citation. Russell, like everyone else on that section of road, checked his speed at that moment. Lulu laughed at her husband, he was just at the speed limit anyway, and yet he still backed off the throttle a little.

“No need to slow down old man!” A Jab in the side with her thumb. “You drive like a grampa anyway!” Her voice clear in the electronic mini-earbud built into the helmet that then in turn connected to the motorcycle’s audio system.

Two miles ahead, Lucy found her bible. She had tucked it into her blouse pocket. She did not have to make the ten-mile trip back home and be late for lunch after all! Now, Edna would not have wait to have her soul saved.

Or at least Lucy would try to save Edna’s soul –again.

Lucy pulled over and let the big trucks pass. The next place to turn was another three-miles, this spot would be good enough for a U-turn if she just did it quick.

Traffic was a pestilence as Lucy waited, she remembered the days when her husband would drive them in their old car – then itself was a jewel, a Kaiser Darrin, sporty, windy with the top down and it was the most expensive purchase Joshua made.

She brought herself back from distraction of the thought as the wine was waited for her in large enough amounts to improve the day for even the dour Katarina Kurk, the German woman who was face-hurt-from-laughter funny when she had a half-bottle of wine in her.

Katarina, once an actress and comedian in her old country, she had retired first to California, then to the Nevada side of the lake. She hated everyone that were not her friends, it would take her several meet-ups to warm up to any person.

Katarina would not even crack a smile, even when she watched reruns of Abbott and Costello on the newest television she could afford. Although the woman had long retired, she would buy new household items every-other year. None of the furniture in her house was more than two years old. Kat never batted an eye for spills on her sofa or chairs, she just replaced it.

Rumor was that her most loved furniture remained in a house in Los Angeles for when she wanted to entertain her old friends in Hollywood.

Here, in the high-mountains, she was a party animal from the old-school ways. Able to drink many men under the table.

Few tried, most were frightened of Kat, she was a happy drunk, but her temper flared like a volcanic blast if she was ever annoyed. Katarina was famous in the local community as a senior who beat a would-be armed robber that raided a grocery store while she shopped. One of the two ruffians held a machete in her face and she proceeded to cudgel the young man unconscious with a stick of dry salami. His partner ran up to assist, Kat used the same salami stick to crush the second guy’s testicles with a blow that security cameras recorded that the shop owner released online.

A late night talk-show host invited Katarina to sit and talk, which led to more movie offers, most of which she turned down.

And then, there was the rogue-ish secretary that worked for Katarina.

Tall, rugged, the ginger-haired assistant played winemaster when the ladies met, and had arms that both Edna and Lucy loved to touch. He never complained and always kept their glasses and bottles fresh and full.

If ever he complained about sexual harrassment, Kat never said.

The women’s coffee klatch was Lucy’s favorite time of the week.

All five of them.

And then Sunday, too!

It was a great day, Lucy thought and smiled.

 

 T-Minus 60 Seconds

 

Lucy became impatient, traffic lined up and unbroken for a few minutes — too many. She was impatient and irritable. Not for the first time she swore at the numbers of people around the lake that Joshua loved, and died in while he fished. She longed for the days where you could drive for an hour and not see a single soul.

A break in the traffic in the opposite direction showed itself. Lucy would take it. Traffic came at her from in front, she timed the arrival of no cars in the direction she wanted to go.

In space, the photons crossed the orbit of Venus, sped on at the speed of light on the way to Earth. Many of the photons would be absorbed by dust, debris and even reflected away by satellites before they entered the atmosphere of the sole planet to have been absolute in the discovery of life on its surface.

One-thousand one-hundred meters away from Lucy and her new Mercedes that all the women were jealous of, Russell and Lulu laughed over the intercom when she slid her hands under his jacket and over the chest she knew so well and always enjoyed her husband’s body, and any chance she could touch him? She would.

Even more so if it was an inappropriate time and place, she enjoyed his reactions ever the more.

As a wife, she would walk arm in arm with her husband, often with her hand in his back pocket just so she could squeeze anytime her hand had a need.

As a mother, she loved her children more than life itself. Lulu was known to run over rattlesnakes with her truck if there were any in the areas of the hundred-acre desert backyard that served as the children’s playground.

Russell had his own fun with the girl of the dark eyes and black hair that moved in with him, took his last name and gave him children that he loved most in this world.

Even more than his big v-twin motorcycle that he bought before they were married. It was the ride, he felt, that Lulu fell in love with him for.

Lulu had other ideas, most involved how Russell’s jeans fit around his hips.

But whatever the causes of the two soul mates to find each other, neighbors and family knew it was a love affair of legends.

Just a thousand yards ahead, LucyMay clenched her teeth in frustration, she hated traffic. Unable to admit that to drive the car had become more difficult for her, she would argue with everyone and anyone over the subject that her mind was as sharp as ever. Which was true, but age diminished her reflexes.

It was times like this that she never thought about the size and speed of highway traffic. She felt that her car was the speediest and safest on the road for a hundred miles in any direction.

An intersection on the highway almost nine-hundred yards away, a dozen Harley-Davidson motorcycles waited to turn and merge with the flow of traffic. Riders waved at the couple and Russell waved back in the common show of solidarity of two-wheeled riders have everywhere.

Destiny awaited the players who were in play.

In space, from the photon point of view, the earth separated from a bluish speck to two specks of the moon and earth.

 

T-Minus 15 Seconds

 

“Next time we come, let’s stay the night at the village?” Lulu asked. Russell knew the place she and nodded. A bed and breakfast house with a claw-footed tub in the room. A huge fireplace with wood stacked by the workers and an expansive view of the lake.

A hot tub on the balcony to watch the sunset over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was the perfect spot to spend time away and to themselves.

The memory of days past at that lakeview room made him smile.

In space, photons left the orbit of Venus behind and approached the orbit of the moon. At this distance, the moon little more than a bright spot near the blue disk of the earth, but the definition of the shape and distance became apparent as time ticked by.

Four-hundred meters ahead, a quarter-mile away, Lucy Sprecks, irritated and frustrated with the traffic, moved her right foot off the brake and moved it to the gas pedal, while she did the trick that her husband showed her years before, to use the left foot on the brake for a quick dash if she needed.

Lucy had picked up a few tricks over the years, she was an expert driver, no matter what the Motor Vehicle Nazi’s said. She had driven more years than the testers had been on this earth. She was not about to listen to the young’uns about changes in rules that had worked for years.

Seat belts! Heaven’s sakes. She never had seat belts as a child and she lived. But now, even that kind State Patrolman who talked to her at length, even if it seemed that he and his girlfriend partner camped out at the corner down from her gated driveway. He would pull her over before she even got to the stop sign down at the end of the street and lecture her.

Once again, she would put the seatbelt on. Even the cute little girl that carried more equipment than Lucy felt was needed, lectured her on a few occasions when her man-partner was not there.

“Are you two married?” Lucy asked once, “You should be, you make a cute couple.” She added when the young lady answered “No.”

One late afternoon after Lucy got another lecture from Officer Karen, Lucy sat at the stop sign an extra hundred feet down the street with the police car right behind her when a man from the place she had fled long ago with Joshua after the death of her children, had a seizure at the wheel when he entered the intersection that Lucy waited at.

He drifted over the line, the pickup truck with the big camper on the back went through the intersection and hit Lucy head-on as she sat still.

With airbags and seatbelts, Lucy walked away from the wreck with no more than a skinned nose.

Ran was more like it! The smoke from the airbags made her think that the car was on fire, her knees hurt, but she would have walked barefoot over children’s toy blocks rather than to burn to death.

Ever since that day, she had panicked and froze when she was startled. She even became unable to watch the news when it showed car crashes on the TV.

Ten times the moon’s distance away, photons closed the distance to the earth and moon had separated into two points of light, the brightest points at this distance, other than the sun almost one AU behind.

On the back of big motorcycle, Lulu talked into the microphone of plans with the children and a weekend on the lake with the entire family as they cruised along.

“Ugh!” A complaint from Russell interrupted Lulu, Russell suffered a direct hit by a butterfly to his shoulder that spread to his chest and cheek. He would need a shower.

Lulu offered to help, after the children went to bed, the tip of her finger played with the back of his neck, below the helmet.

Nevada Douglas County Fire Department Station 2315, Engineer Hank Kettleman stood up and looked at the Captain.

“That will not leak again this summer. All new parts.” Hank smiled as he pulled off the rubber-nitrile gloves and threw them into the can in the corner.

Captain Thomas nodded and looked down the drive as it opened out onto the highway, the sounds of a deep rumble, like an earthquake, but constant and it grew louder by the moment.

A group of motorcycles, Robert Thomas owned his fair share of iron horses and would never miss an opportunity to watch a club ride by.

As Bob watched the highway, he noted a late-model Mercedes to the right of the fog-line with its turn flasher on, but it was not in a turn lane, nor was there an intersection.

Bob had seen this before, a triple-fatality accident a few years before, teenagers in an old VW Bus pulled an illegal U-turn in the highway after a missed corner, the broad-side impact from the delivery truck split the teen’s car in half and spilled bodies out onto the pavement.

Two died at the scene, and the third, the driver, willed himself to death a few days later. No amount of medicine would save the soul who felt such guilt for the death of his own brother and girlfriend.

The length of a football field away, Russell and Lulu enjoyed their conversation while they drove the hour’s ride home with plans about dinner and a shower later.

The fun kind of shower, between two lovers. It was Saturday night, after all!

 

T-Minus 5 Seconds

 

Photons were less than four-times the distance from the moon as the moon was from the Earth. Raced at full speed in space, the fates guided the energy packets that were visible light.

On the highway, Russell had thoughts of dinner on the back patio of burgers that he would cook on the wood-fired grill outside. The smell of smoke was light in the air from the wildfires seventy-miles away mixed with pine scent of the forest filled the senses as they rode on the thunder-voiced Hog.

While on the motorcycle that Russell had named after an adventurous water-bird “Gertrude”, Lulu’s arms around him, she looked around at the mountains that gave her such joy to be among trees that dwarfed everything alive. She could see the bare stone above north shore where an avalanche stripped the mountainside clear of vegetation down to bare rock decades before and had not yet recovered.

Lulu leaned back, smiled and looked out over the sapphire-blue water of the twenty-two-mile long lake. Water so pure, even as it sat in the lake, open to the sky it would pass any health and any purity tests that a government body could perform. As pure and natural as it could be without chemicals to treat it.

Those that sailed on the waters of the lake were known to have occasional attacks of acrophobia, a fear of heights when they would look over the edge of the boats into the water. Such was the lake called Tahoe.

In some winters, parts the big lake would freeze and then the ice would make large piles on shore when storm winds blew. In summers the big lake was known to have waterspouts that danced on the water that would be featured in local headlines.

Over the lake, Lulu pointed out and began to fumble for her camera, a white-headed raptor circled on the hunt.

*Maybe* She thought. *If I get just a little lucky, I might get a shot of the eagle in a dive to catch a fish.*

Less than two football fields ahead, Lucy turned the wheel of the car as far as it would go and inched forward and began her turn. A big truck rumbled down the highway and blocked part of her view, but it looked clear behind the trailer so she could do her illegal U-turn.

Captain Thomas stood at the end of the ramp to the garage that housed his engine, watched for the thunderous group of Harley’s ride past. A curiosity of who rode through interested him. A few clubs were at constant odds and, on occasion, murdered each other.

Engineer Thomas cussed as he dropped a socket and it rolled under the wheeled tool-box he maintained at the garage for light maintenance of the fire equipment.

A break in the traffic in the direction that Lucy wanted to turn was a treasure that God had sent her and she would take it.

Russell slowed Gertrude the Hog and increased his distance from a semi-truck that had “Eat Organic” in a graphic painted on the back of the trailer and remembered to make a call later in the week on an investment that would boost a local organic farmer’s business.

“Honey, make a note to call Charlene tomorrow? I want to meet with her on a distribution idea.”

Lulu was focused on the eagle as the big bird circled as it searched for its next meal.

“Okay.” She sighed. “I can’t get the picture anyway.” As they approached a wide spot in the road, she saw a sedan on the shoulder of the highway.

Stonn “Hammer” Erikssen rolled on his custom-extreme modified motorcycle. A Harley-Davidson by heritage, but the engine that powered this two-wheeled fury, an engine built by the company named Orca Cycle Dominator, the second largest in the line, more horsepower than many cars generated and an enormous rear tire to put power to the ground kept his soul happy. Third in command of the small group of riders and watched the rider and passenger about a half-mile ahead as they closed on the pair.

From the photon’s point of view, the continents on the earth could be identified. At the universal speed limit, the ETA now?

A little four heartbeats.

 

T-Minus 3 Seconds

 

Twice the distance from the earth as the moon, photons closed the distance to the blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated quantum debris that flew around the photons that remained, approached the crossroads of fate.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the gap in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her luxury car and pressed on the throttle and she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

And stopped! She jammed her foot down onto the brake pedal, and avoided an accident by the narrowest of margins with a car that turned left – she had not seen the turn signal on the old junker driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began forward again more slowly and crossed into the lanes midway and tried to figure out if she still had enough space to merge into the lane of traffic, then when she looked back Lucy realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Fire Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines stocked with first aid equipment, now warmed up with the vehicle checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank! Hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer who sat in the driver’s seat. “We have an accident!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed where the captain’s pointed as his hand moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button without a pause to switch the control button.

A hundred-yards behind, “Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady who was supposed to command the rubber and steel cage.

He yelled at the rider and his passenger, but it was futile. No matter how loud he could yell, it was not possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

The entire collection of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn watched helpless what was to come.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude and turned the signal on to prepare a lane change while he checked his mirror and glanced over his shoulder to make sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of motorcycles in his mirror. He counted at least ten riders as he judged from the headlights. His eyes then moved to his lane to see…

Car!

T-Minus 2 Seconds

 

Photons passed through the atmosphere and interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who sat at the wheel of her car, frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car and redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in the vacuum of space. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the color of dark blue to the eyes of a man and woman on a motorcycle that closed the distance.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped their tools and ran towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waved and yelled while the siren blared. The Engineer was already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew that an accident was about to occur in seconds and called for paramedic units to be dispatched.

“Copy, medics Code-3 to your location.” Dispatch responded.

The ancient energy traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — struck the light-sensitive membrane in the back of Russell’s eyes. Neural pathways reacted to the absorbed photons and processed it to his occipital lobe in the back of Russell’s cranium.

T-1.9999955 seconds. Photons streaked past Russell’s head and entered the lens of Lulu’s eyes. The nervous system transmitted the image at two-hundred miles-per-hour to the brain of Mrs. Fletcher.

Russell’s brain transmitted the image to the frontal cortex. One-point-six seconds it took to have the one-hundred billion axioms to recognize the threat, the mind of the skilled rider tried to organize a reflex action.

T-1.99925 seconds. Fifty-miles per hour they traveled towards the immobile car. More than seventy-three feet per second — Already they had covered more than a third of an American football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the headlight, her eyes processed the motorcycle approach and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the imminent collision was move her foot to the gas. But in that moment, she did not know what to do. There were no answers for the panicked soul that only wanted a glass of wine and to save the soul of a lady Druid.

Russell’s brain processed information at the speed of three supercomputers.The most intelligent man on earth was not needed to know that the exit routes were:

Head-on traffic in front of the car — rejected. Death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcomes could be as bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for a safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time to evade the disaster. He had to stop.

T- 1.25 seconds. Brakes! The mind yelled. 

T- 1.20 seconds. Brakes! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, Russell’s soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute except the sounds of his scream.

T- 1.1 seconds. BRAKES! The mind commanded. No bumps, no sound of wind. Silence was louder than a rock-concert in a steel warehouse.

T- 0.9 seconds. BRAKES! The mind ordered. The engine was inaudible.

T- 0.8 seconds. A plaintive voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“Noooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot now responded and jammed down on the rear brake and the hands grabbed for the front brake lever.

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of ridership passion of the life, he closed his hand and crushed the front brake lever.

T- 0.15 seconds. The friction pads moved into contact with the rotational mass of the brake disc and began to engage at fifty-one feet away.

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimated he needed an extra twenty-feet to complete a full emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

T- 0.10 seconds. Russell tensed up. Impact was imminent. Pressure in rear brake built up enough to stop rotation of the rear tire. Seventy-percent of the weight of the motorcycle shifted to the front tire.

The shock absorbers on the motorcycle compressed as the big bike did a nosedive. On two tires, patches of rubber the size of a hand of a large man tried to stop a half-ton of steel, rubber, human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and rubber melted from friction with the highway, liquefied and vaporized rubber now lubricated the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowed faster than the rear with the weight of the motorcycle that pressed down and prevented the front from lock-up on the dry pavement. Lulu, as she sat on the back of Gertrude, farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell in a valiant but futile effort to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, the thousand-pounds of metal, plastic, and bodies careened towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu made prayers, begged that it would be all right.

“Please don’t let it be bad, Lord, please let it be all right.”

It would not be all right.

T- 0.05 seconds. Russell could see over the top of the car, his mind processed information at a phenomenal rate, he could see the road was clear on the far side of the obstruction.

If only… Was his thought.

He could see the eyes of the little old lady, they were wide like a deer in the headlights, with plate-sized pupils.

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground that merged as the front tire braked as hard as it could be without the slide like the rear wheel did. Speed reduced rapidly, if someone plotted it on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as almost vertical on a second by second scale.

T- 0.01 seconds. Russell could calculate his speed was still greater than…

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! Blocked photons which made shadows, now just made one shadow as the front tire hit ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the collision ripped the big bikes grips from Russell’s hands and his body became a missile, launched by the impact of the vehicles at twelve miles-per-hour, about the speed of a moderate run.

T+ 0.2 seconds. After Russell hit, he bounced and flew over the top of the car and broke the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and struck his face on the asphalt. The open-faced helmet afforded him little protection, he slid and rolled down the rough road surface. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Russell lay there on his back, took stock of his limbs. Pain didn’t overpower him but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The car drove away! He could see tail lights grow smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was very still.

Too still.

Still as death.

T+ 15.0 seconds.

“Lulu…” He whispered a plea. “Lulu, move.”

She was under the motorcycle, pinned. Still, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in an unnatural way. He tried to crawl on his arms and left a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay.

Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where his skin had abraded away by the highway blacktop.

T+ 125.0 seconds.

Feet pounded on approach and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulled up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looked down at him through goggles. An 82nd Airborne division tattoo on Hammer’s forearm stood out in odd sharp focus to Russell’s vision.

“We caught her, brother. We caught that old lady before she got very far. Hang in there, help is on the way.”

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

“Your old lady’s alive, bro. Hurt bad, but alive.”

“Call 9-1-1.” Russel grunted in pain.

“Station is right there, they’re on their way now.” The giant biker told Russell. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two-seconds!

If only he had seen the car just two seconds sooner.

Finis

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Married by Mistake Chapter 58. Thomas Harrison Harte

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Chapter 58. Thomas Harrison Harte 

‟Well, Miss Grant and Miss Grant,” Beyron nodded to Melanie . ‟We will try to find Mr. Harte. And get him out of the system in Singapore. If there is any luck at all, we might be able to have him released to us before the investigation into his situation is complete.”

‟The State Department has limited influence in Singapore, the Singapore government has taken great pride in numbers of convicted drug smugglers for minor amounts of drugs, and has hanged many others. In the event they convict him he for the amount that you describe and what they say they have found, he faces a maximum sentence of a decade in prison, or he could be caned a maximum of two-dozen times. To be honest, they may give him a reduced sentence because of his age and his popularity in that part of the world.” Max said. ‟He might be able to find a legal way out, or have help of someone of influence in the political structure there.”

Max pulled at his earlobe for a few moments in thought.

“Australia has attempted more than once to recover Australian nationals with limited success. Our influence is less than Australia.” He said at last.

‟So he’s punished for my stash.” Tears welled up in Kaylee’s eyes.

‟Yes. And you are sure it is less than two-ounces?”

‟Yes. I stressed out to the max when he was in the hospital.” Kaylee admitted. “I smoked quite a lot of it.”

‟We will make a press release, but your request for a passport to go to Singapore will not happen. The process will be too long for you make reasonable plans to go to Singapore, and my advice on this?” Max coached Kaylee gently. “It is a bad idea in the extreme. Do not attempt to rescue him by confession to the government in a Singapore court that the drugs are yours.”

Max Silverham pondered a minute more. Never a person to comment without deep thought.

‟I have to let your lawyer here say his part and ask the questions. But, I have one now. I look around your apartment, I do not see indications of the financial base to pay the salary that Mister Ferguson, and this master of law that has brought me out of where I belong to come here. Yet, you said you married Mister Harte?”

‟Excuse me, the financial base for the young lady is not relevant to the situation.” Beyron advised. ‟We decline to answer that.”

‟I’m not a judge.” Max said.

‟Just so you remember that.” Beyron said. ‟I am her advisor, not yours, you have your own. But the advice you have given is good advice so far. Just the question is inappropriate in this context.”

‟I withdraw it. I do have further questions on where he stored his aircraft. He flew from one part of the world and landed in their waters? You said he has a float-plane?”

‟Yacht, flying yacht.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Or flying-boat. Sorry, he gave too many corrections on that detail and I picked up the habit, but you have to see it to understand. It is a glorious home.”

‟We have to look into this, this airborne palace might have contaminated our harbor with exotic marine species.” Max sat up and began to write. ‟Where did he have his plane hauled out.” Pause. ‟Yacht.” Pause. “Er… Craft.”

‟A couple miles down the road at Harbor Bay Airport.”

‟Care to join us in an excursion to the airport?” Max Silverham asked. ‟You can show me where he serviced his plane at.”

Kaylee puzzled.

‟Don’t you have staff for that?”

Max smiled.

‟Perhaps you don’t know my rank, or it’s just misstated by Mister Ferguson here. I am the staff. I just rank a little higher and liaise between the civilian and military sides of the same mission, but I am still the staff, I answer to the real politicians.”

A half-hour later, with Kaylee ’s car in the lead, Beyron sat in the front passenger seat the group drove into the car lot of the private plane owners.

‟That hanger there, is where he had the Pacific Wizard serviced and kept when it was out of the water.”

‟You have been here of late?” Maxwell Silverham asked. ‟You mentioned that you came back to look for him?”

‟Yes. But they wouldn’t tell me any information.” Kaylee said with a sag to her shoulders. ‟I couldn’t get them to tell me the time of day. Only the lead tech would to talk to me.”

‟Well, let me see if I can loosen some lips.” Max smiled and his eyes sparkled with determination when they walked towards the office.

‟I don’t know him very well, but I know the type.” Beyron whispered in a conspiratorial voice to the sisters . ‟Loves the hunt.”

With an air of importance, Max stepped up to the counter in the office, flanked by the two uniformed Marines. Max got immediate attention.

‟I will help you, my manager’s indisposed with a potential client.” A petite First-Nation’s woman said.

‟I need access to your records on one Mister Harte, Thomas. When he was here and if he has an address out of the country.”

‟You need to wait, then. I cannot access the history of our clients without cause.”

‟The cause is because I told you.” Max said firmly. ‟Do you know who I am?”

‟No, and I don’t care. You need a few forms filled out first.”

‟Ma’am, I have identification, two marines and I carry the authority of the United States Government. I do not need to fill out forms for this.”

‟Then you don’t need what I have.” She looked at him with black eyes without so much as a blink of fear. ‟Warrant, police, and my faith that you are not some asshat that thinks you can walk in here with two weapons on each hip.” She pointed at the marines.

One marine broke character and gave a small smile for the briefest of moments but never deviated his eyes from the straight forward.

‟Now, you sit down, shut up or leave.” She hissed. ‟White man, black man, marines, you think you can still push my people around. Guess again.”

Then to Kaylee and Melanie, she smiled.

‟What can I do for you ladies?” The eyes softened and she became helpful.

‟We are just here to do some business for Tom Harte, the author? He had his plane here for service. I would like to pay any balance on a bill.” Kaylee presented the shiny black card with her married name engraved on it.

‟Oh!” She looked at the card with Kaylee’s image on it. ‟Just a minute.”

She handed the card back to Kaylee, she nodded, smiled and walked down a hallway then disappeared out of sight.

Two minutes later, she returned.

At first Kaylee noticed the cowboy-hatted male who walked down the hallway and sported a hideous scar on his forearm, recently healed.

Then the familiar smile, a sparkle of an emerald eye, she knew that face. It was one she had kissed more than once and made her heart dance.

It was Thomas Harrison Harte.

Kaylee ‘s once and future husband.

Married by Mistake Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

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Chapter 46. A Husband’s Terror

The familiar car pulled into his driveway and Glenn finished his chores around town at the request of his mother. After he took the silver platter to the Grant’s house and tackled by Kaylee who nearly gave him a heart attack. He did not look forward to the conversation about his sudden life change that he invited no one to attend.

Sam and he dated on and off. Two months after they had a weekend trip to Canada, Sam began to get sick at every smell there could be.

Eggs, she got sick.

Soup. Any flavor. She got sick.

Pasta. (Pasta!?) Sick.

Toast. (Well, smoke, he did not clean his toaster.) Sick.

So Glenn went with his ill friend with benefits to the doctor, sudden movements sometimes made her nauseated, so he drove.

The doctor smiled and sat down with them, explained that the hyperemesis gravidarum would pass after a few weeks and in the interim they would put her in a hospital and give her some IV fluids and keep her hydrated.

Glenn had to ask the doctor to define the of the name of this arcane illness. His mind refused to accept what the doctor tried to say.

In a moment, the doctor congratulated the couple. It was no virus, it was morning sickness, Sam was pregnant.

Glenn could not believe it at first. He could only see his career  fall into a smokey ruin like his toaster.

Samantha was also a poli-sci major and after hours of tears, they decided to get married. Neither one of them needed to have a scandal.

In his panic he had forgotten his home town while he was in the big-city. He had fixed a flaw in his life.

“So I’m a flaw?”  Sam became furious. No one called her a flaw, she threatened to tell everyone that he would leave her when she needed him most.

It evolved into a scream fest and rash words exchanged. They did not see each other during that week or part of the next. Two-weeks later, while they attended a study group together and sat across the table in awkward silence while they studied with the group.

Glenn finally brought her a glass of water and some saltines, seeing that she was pale and had developed a sheen of sweat on her forehead.

This singular awareness and his effort to keep her nausea under control had gone a long way to get Sam to smile at him again.

By the end of the homework jam session, people got up and went back to their apartments and lives.

Except for Glenn Schroder and Samantha Walshe who talked far into the night and they married in secret the next day in a civil ceremony. Shortly after that, they went off to Washington State and had a small ceremony for her family.

In those panic filled days, the childhood promise he had with Kaylee evaporated.  He forgot the depth and breadth of the years invested and he did not remember any moments of paper cigar rings and motorcycles.

He began to think about his childhood sweetheart about a week after he had done the deed with Sam, when she was changing her name to Schroder while he stood there.

Glenn practiced and readied for weeks to have a long talk and try to keep things on the down-low with Kaylee. Then when she showed up early at her mom’s house and surprised him, all practiced words left him.

But! He told himself, life changes and he and Kaylee readied for each other to have separate lives.

He walked up the steps to his parent’s house unaware of the new car parked on the street. Glenn’s focus consumed with all his thoughts that raced in circles in his mind. He wanted to make things smooth with his best friend, who he had replaced with a new, pregnant wife. When he would get to talk to Kaylee, he would make it sound reasonable that they stay close friends.

*Yeah! That was the way. If I could do what the Senator Mumy did in Washington, who talked his wife out of a divorce and still kept his girlfriend.* He smiled. 

And no one knew but for Glenn who ran errands for them. And the girlfriend began to come on to Glenn.

*Senators and Congressmen shared a lively trade in girlfriends and boyfriends. Congress members would grow tired of their trysts with one and move onto the next. The women in Congress are as bad or worse than the men in Congress.*

The one thing that Glenn looked forward to, have enough petty cash to keep an apartment in D.C. on the side.

He nodded. *This is one thing I have it dialed in, I know Kaylee and I can pull strings with her.* 

He opened the door and stepped through, he had weathered the worst part of the storms, but with any luck? He would still come out with a little fun with a bong and Kaylee and Sam would never have to know about the local party-girl he had on the side.

Then he stopped at a sight that made his heart drop into the pit of his stomach.

In all the world’s history, the things would fill a man with terror and fear for his life.

The Great Chicago Fire…

Terror of being consumed by a wall of flames.

The Great Quake of 1909…

Terror of the very ground that shook without reason.

The Stupid Husband Bust…

Terror? Terror is to stand in the doorway while your girlfriend and pregnant wife sipped coffee, looked at you and invite you to sit.

In the kitchen.

Near knives and other sharp objects.

And boiling hot liquid.

That is terror.

Married by Mistake Chapter 40. This Girl Loves Her Sharp Dressed Man

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Chapter 40. This Girl Loves Her Sharp Dressed Man

Smiling, Kaylee climbed out of the pool and padded around on the concrete walk, the water glistened on her bare skin. She spread out a towel and Stretched in the sun at Tom’s side, while he soaked his feet in the pool.

Sitting next to his left, she touched his bandaged arm.

‟You got this damp. We will need to change it before you get dressed and we go out.” She observed. Her skin puckered in the breeze that blew over the open area on the roof of the penthouse.

She helped Tom to his feet and they walked down the stairs to the breakfast nook where the bag with bandages sat.

Slowly unwrapping the arm, exposing the ugly suture line, Kaylee smiled softly.

‟The color is better than when we got to the hospital. How does it feel.” She stroked his hand with her fingers.

*She is caregiver who is breathtakingly beautiful, shy as a hammer and cares for me, a partner who can’t swim with her.* He moved his fingers. “It doesn’t hurt at all, at the moment.”

‟It is not leaking at all right now. The bandages are still clean underneath.”

Tom looked away, he did not want to look at it since the doctor cut off the bandages, the bluish color at the hospital had alarmed and frightened the author of books. In his head, he got too close to losing the arm.

‟That’s good. Just make sure its clean and cover it up, I don’t want to look at it at all, it makes me a little… Well, a lot… worried.”

Kissing his fingers, she looked in his eyes.

‟You feel that?”

‟Yes. How could I not?”

‟Sensation for soft touch is normal.” She smiled. Then biting his thumb lightly. ‟Feel that.”

‟Oh, yeah.” He gasped and his eyes got big. ‟This is a tease?”

‟You’ll never know.” She slowly wrapped his arm with a roll bandage wearing a slight smile.

‟What do you mean? “I’ll never know”.”

Her creative muse of art and sensation awoke, she stood up, reached in the bag and took out a blood-red short-sleeve silk cocktail-dress and pulled it over her head, laughing at Tom’s eyes.

‟Like I said, you will never know.”

‟Do you have anything in that for me?” Tom grinned. “Is this part of the surprise?”

‟Well, now. She turned on her phone and ordered a black tuxedo. We have the obvious out-of-the-way. I had the tux set up for my call.” She took his hand and pulled him to his feet.

‟Follow me.” She took him by the hand, pulling Tom out of the kitchen chair.

‟Where are we…”

‟Shush and follow my lead, brat.”

‟Brat?”

‟Hush. Close your eyes.” She pulled him firmly. “We have something to fix before you get dressed. Follow.”

Playfully resisting, he followed her slowly across the suite, a pause as she picked up a bag tickled his imagination of what was about to happen.

Pushing him to a large, padded cushion, it took Tom a moment to realize he was sitting on a bed.

A big bed.

Tom bounced a bit, but no spring, it settled. Memory foam.

It was comfortable and somewhat firm. The bed felt large, king-sized.

A sound of a small ratchet echoed in his dark world, she had picked up something.

‟What…” He felt a metallic clamp on his right thumb.

‟Move to the head of the bed, lay down and let me lift your hands up over your head, so they are above your heart a little.”

Stretching out on the bed, he found a pillow, and she laughed lightly at his efforts. She knelt next to him and gently guided his wounded arm over his head.

The clicks of a ratchet sound and sensations of a clamp on his other thumb through the slats of the headboard alarmed him and he tugged at his arms.

He was trapped.

‟Kaylee ?” His eyes opened wide.

‟You will call me Mistress.”

Tom started to laugh and found that he had a most definite bound and helpless sensation, his hands held in place by the thumb-cuffs.

For the first time in his adult life, he was afraid of a woman in the bedroom.

Thomas Harte, writer of steam-pirate stories, survivor of near disasters and surgery gave a nervous giggle.

“Be gentle?” he whispered.

Kaylee gave the most wicked laugh she could muster.

For twenty-minutes while they waited for his tuxedo to arrive, she taught him the reason about why she was not an ex-wife.

Kaylee was pulling her dress back over her head when the doorbell rang and she left to answer it.

“Um. Thumbs?” Tom’s voice came out as a whine.

“Don’t go away.” Kaylee laughed when she left the room.

*Like I have a choice.* He tugged at the thumb-cuff. He could hear her talking with another woman at the door. *It sounds like she just gave my number to Erika.*

She returned to the bedroom with a black tuxedo, carefully hanging it on the bar in the closet.

“Now mister.” She turned to the helpless non-husband. “We dress you, cuz there isn’t any date I like better than have my men dressed in formal clothes. Tonight, you wear a stick-pin, cufflinks, and there are gloves, a hat and a cane at the door.”

“A hat?”
“Silk shirt, hat, cane, gloves. Mister, then you’ll be one sharp dressed man.” She waved two brand-new mirror-shined black dress shoes for him to wear.

When they finished getting him dressed to the nines, they stood in front of the doors of the elevator.

She could not take her eyes from him and was humming a tune.

When the doors closed behind them, she whispered-sang in his ear while holding his hand and stepped off the elevator car to the stares of the staff women at the lobby desk.

“Every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man.” And kissed him on the earlobe. “I love you in your tux and black tie.”

*I love you, too.* Floated through his mind.

Married by Mistake Chapter 29. Georgia off His Mind

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Chapter 29. Georgia Off His Mind

Lettie sat in the driver’s seat of the limousine, and explained that Kaikane was off the clock, by state law.

They rode in the limo quietly for a few minutes, while Tom looked out the window.

Finally he spoke.

‟First time I have ever fired someone.” He pulled at his earlobe as he thought. “Georgia has been with me for three years as an agent, she was assistant to Fred Granger for seven years before that.”

‟Why not call Fred and talk with him about being your agent.”

‟That’d be a long distance call.” Tom gave a wistful smile. ‟He passed away a few years ago. That’s how Georgia got my account. Originally, she called me her “minimal account” and rarely took my calls. She wanted little to do with me and getting events scheduled was difficult at best.”

‟Then the first of the children’s books were finally published at a startup Aussie book publisher and put in limited circulation in the south. They didn’t sell well in the first few months. Then Christmas hit.” Tom chuckled with the memory of it. “Someone’s grandmother or dad or maybe even a child picked one up in Melbourne and after that they vanished off shelves like bread-crumbs to ducks.”

“It was a good Christmas right at that point. The stats began to pick up before Thanksgiving.” He smiled.

“A second printing went forward and it sold out in less than a week. I had the second book written and it sat in Georgia’s email for so long that the system purged the email. I had to send a second file and she said she never got it. I found it in her junk file folder when I helped her with a few files.” Tom smiled wryly. ‟I’m kind of adept at computer networks.”

‟She had me listed as junk and spam until the first check arrived with more than two figures on it.” Tom stroked Kaylee ’s hand as he walked her through his memories. “The first few checks were less than a c-note. The next? I think it was around two-grand, then she said I got lucky and not to get used to it.”

“But,” Tom laughed out loud. “The next book sold out again, same with the fourth and fifth. I suggested that we make a set, she resisted and I insisted.” Tom’s confession to the relationship was one of strain. ‟The sales were geometric, I expanded my scope of subjects — against her advice — and Steamland the movie is one of that results.”

“One subject I like to write about is steampunk. The other is the children’s books. So, it is time for her to depart,” Tom had a look of a beaten dog who had just been freed. “I didn’t realize I was so far under her control. I’ve assumed it was a kind of partnership and I was just one of many clients.”

‟Honey, you might be only one of a group, but she is the one that got you to this point. Good or bad.” Kaylee stroked a stray hair out of his face. ‟The reason I reacted, I didn’t know book agents got paid so well. I mean, she spends a few minutes a day on your business and you pay her thousands.”

“Well, she takes her cut, then pays me. She cashes the check.”

Kaylee thought a minute with her mouth hanging open. 

“No, that is so not a good idea. She gets a check, cashes it and then pays you?‟ She tried to process this upside down information. “AND! If you sold more stories? She could make millions from you by only a few minutes work per day and you’d never know it. Who is to say she is not skimming more than she’s allowed? I’m saying she could be ripping you off.”

‟I don’t think that it works like that.”

‟Maybe not, business is not my major. Art is. But I can balance a checkbook. You should have a cap on the commission you pay, in my opinion.”

‟Like keep it below ten-percent?”

‟Like keep it to a flat fee. If an agent makes a quarter-million dollars a year from you, you could be their only client, exclusively.”

‟Well,” Tom slipped back into thought. “That’s all well and good, but honestly. You don’t know the business.”

‟No, I don’t.” Kaylee admitted with grumble under her breath. *That irritates me for him, and I’m irritated at him, too! He is paying out a huge amount of money and he is okay with it.* ‟Do you know how the business works?”

‟Not really. I have had a tax accountant handle that. Two years ago he suggested change agents or renegotiate the contract, anyway.” Tom said and shook his head. ‟That means I have to hire a lawyer or some such and I am not sure I want to deal with those people after my last run-in with them.”

‟I think you should call someone from all the friends you have made. Doctor Manga might even know a few good experts.” Kaylee the wife said in a thoughtful tone.

Tom pondered a moment as Lettie piloted the limo through the Bay Area traffic.

‟Lettie is driving, she owns the limo business here in the state.” Tom said. “Sometimes I talk to her, she has a lot of friends in Los Angeles that are attorneys. She has an uncle who is a judge in Sacramento.”

‟I have talked with Lettie, she has wisdom.” Kaylee smiled.

‟She has learned a lot from her contacts.” Tom nodded. ‟She was one of those that said it was time to change from Georgia a few months ago.”

‟She’s right.” Kaylee stroked his arm. ‟Tom, you can get like an advance before you finish. I have heard of that.”

‟Well, I figure it would come in time. It is not free money, it comes out of the back-end of royalties.”

‟Well, that comes to a lawyer then.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Right.” Tom nodded as they pulled into the parking area of the hanger. ‟Oh, it looks like they have finished working on the Dragon.”

“I had to ask someone to clean up where you got cut, honey.” Kaylee said. The term of endearment coming out without her meaning to say it. “You left quite a mess, it had all dried and turned black and glass. No one had gotten the idea to clean up where you bled. You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yikes, that had to be nasty, good idea for getting that clean-up ordered.”

Another limousine sat parked near the Sea Dragon, the tall Hawai’an Kaikane stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for them to arrive.

“I called ahead to help us get Tom settled in.” Lettie smiled. “Kaikane can help Tom get up the steps and into the plane, the more bodies to help, the better.”

“I can walk.” Tom protested weakly.

“She’s right.” Kaylee poked at her husband. “Right now, I bet my grandmother could push you down.”

“She’s right. You are in need of help this time, Tom. Just go with it.” Lettie nodded, standing by her sister of soul and spirit.

Tom was a little woozy still, getting out of limo and moved unsteadily to the jet with Kaikane helping Tom walk. For the first time, Kaylee noticed that Kaikane’s hands. Long fingers and finely boned like a musicians, but exerting a grip on Tom’s shoulders, he was not about to let Tom fall to the ground.

Sitting Tom at his desk, on the arm-rest of the seat, Kaikane let Tom lay his arm gently on the padded support.

‟Brudda, this works for you? You let me know what you need. You have done me well, and I always take care of ohana.”

From the door, Lettie leaned in and smiled.

‟Is this the spot where you got hurt?” Lettie asked, Kaylee nodding.

“It was hideous, there was blood caked on the floor and broken glass everywhere.” Kaylee pointed out the new flooring and carpet was.

“Well, at least he is home where he belongs.” Lettie nodded.

“He can get some work done.” Kaikane agreed. “Mister Tom, you are keeping my little sister eight-years-old at home in Kōloa, is excited with all the books. She tells me to call you ohana and if you come to the islands you must stop by for meals. So keep on writing, you have one fan that would miss it if you stopped.”

Tom grimaced as he tried to wiggle fingers.

‟No matter what, the fingers hurt and it will be a challenge to write.” Tom groaned.

‟I have access to voice to text, if you like.” Lettie said. ‟I used to date the coder for that program. He is still sweet on me, I bet I can get you his latest code.”

‟Maybe, I don’t work like that. I get lost in the sound of my voice, I like to pause my fingers. Even backspace is my best friend and gives me time to review what I was writing.” Tom smiled. “I sound like an idiot when dictating.”

‟I can type for you anytime, Brah. I have to type my papers all the time.” Kaikane said. ‟Plus you have your lady here to help you.”

Kaylee laughed.

*For a loner who traveled so much in his jet to avoid people, he draws a lot of attention from friends that will do things for him.* Kaylee laughed. *It is hard to think that Tom thinks of himself as unfriendly with so many friends that would go out of their way to help him out.*

Kaikane and Lettie bid their farewells, her black limousine followed by Kaikane’s blue limousine disappeared out the big doors of the hangar.

Kaylee closed the door of the big plane and sat down. Alone for the first time in weeks with the sparkling green-eyes that occupied such a large chunk of her summer.

‟Tom, do you want any pain-medication now? The discharge instructions read that you should take them as needed, but no more than every four-hours.”

‟No,” He sounded tired. ‟I’m okay for now. Just glad being home. But, you know what I would like? PIZZA!”

Kaylee laughed.

*They say hospital food was never as good as the real world. But this stay,* she noted, *The hospital food was not just good, but great. Chef-restaurant great. And then he goes and orders pizza for the entire floor, eight nurses stations, eight pizza’s each. I do not feel like arguing with him about his food choices. And now Tom wants a pizza, again. A San Francisco pizza from the Italian district.*

She started looking up pizza on her phone.

After she ordered the pizza delivery, Kaylee hung up the phone and turned, looking him in the eye.

‟Tom, I have to talk to you.”

‟Uh-oh. That sounds like THE TALK.”

‟Yeah. I guess I can talk about it now.” She sat and held his good hand, taking a deep breath.

She began to talk to her husband about annulment papers.

Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 23. Realization

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Chapter 23. Realization

She sat in the window seat while Tom slept. It was a strange emotion. She felt empowered, Kaylee looked out the window while Tom slept. He was unaware of the conflict that had just happened between her and the publisher, she needed to tell him that his agent came in and she chased the woman and her broom out of the hospital.

Kaylee ’s heart raced with the adrenalin rush of the collision between her and the business woman who drove Tom to write while in bed and at all waking hours.

Between the machines that beeped and sterile smells, she realized that Tom would not come home from the hospital in time to sign the annulment, she would be married when she went home in the next two weeks.

*Maybe.* She shook her head. *Drat!*

*Why is it, it seems that the world wants me with Tom?* She bit her nails for a moment. Falling back on a bad habit. *In my dreams, I’ve always painted a life with Glenn, I imagined it with all the glitter and hues of happiness. A life of birds, forests, even nights were adventures. Now it is going to pieces faster than I can think, this past three weeks has been fun, but it has been a blur. I don’t know what else to do.*

She ran the memories through her head like a movie, looking for something that she had done right for a change.

All of the memories ended in a rough landing in a river, then Tom’s injury while he carried a large piece of glass out of the plane, alone like a foolish human male when service crews surrounded him after she left and went back to Ocean Bay. It became apparent that he was fortunate that people were there. If he had been alone?

*I could be his widow.* She blocked that out. *I don’t want to think about that.*

As soon as she found about his accident, she felt compelled to come be by his side, to answer questions and sign papers and protect him, this man who lived his life as a bachelor-hermit and would-be-hero.

She laughed even though she felt tears in hear heart. He was a hero.

All from that Friday. That one day that was the domino that caused other pieces to fall in a pattern that now made her focus on how she walked through her life.

Cut tires on her car, those could not be avoided and if it were not for Tom, her tires would still be flat. Then the attack on the beach later that same day.

*Then! OMG! That professor!* If ever she wanted to have a list of people she wanted to break, he was number one.

Kaylee longed for some peace and quiet.

*I just want to paint and have time to sculpt. This is a summer that tops all summers, even when I hitchhiked across Europe and lived in those hostels when I could afford it.*

That was a summer of adventure and excitement that she had sought out, this summer, all the adventure and craziness came at her.

Now, she sat in a hospital room with someone who was her husband with a serious injury, a man she did not know just a few weeks before.

And she was protective of him.

*Like a wife.*

That word again. Wife.

It haunted her, maybe even make her re-think her use of pharmaceuticals and mixing them all to party with people. Sometimes she did not know who she partied with.

She needed to finish college, that much was certain, two years left to go, plus grad school if dad would pay… At least part… of it.

Melanie , her sister and confidant would to go to school at the same time and their parents were always on the verge of not paying the bills. Tuition for school was expensive with the costs of two apartments, they groaned under the costs while running their businesses.

But as a wife, this would have consequences that she could not even dream of. Tom might help, he was that kind of person. But even if his hair was not gray, he was still older than she would normally date.

Covering her eyes in a flash of almost-laughing.

*Date? I’m was married to the man.*

He could even be a wife-beater like the tabloids said.

*No.* She shook her head. *If anything he is the most kind, gentle and generous person that ever tapped a keyboard. Tom is a man who someone could care about.*

He was someone who walked alone after the death of his family, some would say the his experiences broke him, but Tom healed with the writing children books and the novels of passion for the adults.

If anything Tom had, it was heart.

And a good one at that. Kaylee smiled softly to herself.

Slowly stroking his hand, Randy the Nurse came in and checked the pump next to Tom’s bed.

“Tom’s temperature has gone up a little, the Doctor has ordered an antibiotic in his IV pump.” Randy said it as if he it tickled him to do his job. “We got the pizza by the way, everyone did! It was amazing to see so many deliveries at the same time. Tom, thank you.”

Tom, heavily dosed a half-hour earlier mumbled then drifted away again into his narcotic dream world.

Randy leaned over to Kaylee .

“Would you like a slice of pizza? Mister Harte is sleeping, I’ll slip you some before he wakes up.”

“Pissa?” A mumbled voice from the bed. “I sshmeell peet- sa.”

“Shhh, Tom.” Kaylee whispered to his ear. “You need to rest.”

“Oh bull! Someone has pizza!” he was more awake now. “You are sneaky, I thought you were nice.”

“I have a permanent spot on Santa’s naughty list.”

Tom laughed, then moaned.

“Please, no jokes, it hurts when I laugh.”

Kaylee took her turn to laugh and left to get a slice of pizza.

“How long did it take to get here?” Tom asked Randy as the nurse tinkered around the room, setting up the IV pump on a strange-looking pole with wheels. Resembling a metal spider at the bottom with the eight-wheeled suspension that held up the chrome-plated T-topped pole.

“It took a little while, the pizza store called to verify that it was really you. A couple of hours after that, it took five delivery guys nearly an hour to bring it all in. They had to make ten trips!”

“More than 30 minutes, it’s free.” Tom tried to laugh, and groaned in pain again as he moved his wounded arm.

“I don’t think this counts.” Randy laughed as he went about his job.

“Can Tom have a slice of pizza?” Kaylee asked as she came back into the room.

“Yes, no problem about that, he has technically been eating since yesterday.” Randy nodded, a bit of marinara sauce on his upper lip, while he chewed. “Technically, I’m not supposed to eat outside of the back-room, but the Doctor insisted that we get this piggyback set up.”

“I’d buy him a pizza, too. Say, what is his office’s address?” Tom asked.

“They are closed by now, try it tomorrow if you like.” Randy said. “I”ll be back, I have to go to attend to another room.”

“Hey, naughty girl, would you give me a bite or three of that pizza slice?” Tom smiled, he was getting stronger, despite the drugs.

Not for the first time, as Kaylee chewed her pizza slice, Tom made her smile.

Naughty girl?

When the doctor released him, she would show him a new definition of naughty.

Married by Mistake Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

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Chapter 18. Frantic Flight

“Hello,” The woman behind the counter said as Kaylee walked in. “You shouldn’t come in that way. Just so’s you know, that is access to the airplanes only. It is dangerous to cross that way and if the security were to catch you, they are a serious pain in the neck. They can arrest you or make you walk around.”

“Yeah, I have had a run-in with one on the way over here from the Pacific Wizard across the way.” She had learned that sometimes the dropping of the name would open doors for her in some cases. “So I just ran across.”

“Oh! You’re Kaylee .” The counter-woman did not make it a question. ”I just received a call from a limo company in Sacramento that you needed a flight. I must say, that was a surprise to hear about Tom being married.”

“I thought I was meeting a driver here? And… We are not supposed to be married, it was one of those things that happened when drinking. We are getting annulled in a few days.” She laughed as she said it. “We are just good friends that partied too much and did a bit of a dare game that went out of control.”

“Of course.” Counter-Woman said it in a way that it was something she could not quite swallow. “Considering who it is for and that the flight is an emergency need, our only wait is the crew. No on the driver, I have a plane that is ready to depart when you are.”

From The back room, walked a muscular, petite woman with more stripes on her sleeve than anyone else Kaylee had seen.

“My bird ready for flight?” The pilot asked Counter-Woman. “Fueled and serviced?”

“Yes ma’am.” Counter-Woman seemed to shrink a little. Even if the Captain was smaller than she was, the Captain carried the air of unquestioned authority with her.

“What is the ETA of my right seat?” The Captain said in a matter-of-fact way that she expected an immediate answer. “We leave as soon as they arrive.”

“Your first officer will be Rome Oldman today. He is driving time from his home. He called as he pulled out of the garage of his house.”

“Thank you, advise me when he arrives, leave when he walks in. We have a bonus for getting our VIP to destination in less than an hour.” The Captain looked at the clock. “We are going to push the envelope. Where is my VIP?”

“Right behind you.” The flight agent said.

“Oh. Hello.” The Captain extended her hand in a business like handshake. “I’m Captain R. M. Watson. We will be flying as soon as possible. I’ll walk you to my aircraft.”

As they walked through the door, the Captain continued talking as if she was giving a report. “Follow me, please, let’s step on board while I wait for my right seat driver. I received a call from Lettie Nesmith of the Discrete Limo service in Sacramento, Tom’s been in an accident and I’m hired to fly you to Hayward Executive and have you there to meet her limo at the top of the hour. I trust you packed light, you can store your carry-on where the signs indicate there and there.”

“Yes, I packed light, I brought nothing except my purse.”

“Perfect.” Captain Watson said. “Take a seat and settle in, you don’t need to use the seatbelt just yet and I am going to finish my pre-flight checks.”

Kaylee settled in to the closest seat, someone placed the seat belts for convenience to clip on and she did not wait for instruction to do so. She was impatient to fly out and arrive at the airport in the north and the snap of the clip satisfied her need for action. Kaylee could not recall the name of her destination, other than Lettie had set everything up and she wished they were already in the air when she heard Captain Watson’s voice raise while she verbally mauled her copilot.

“DAMMIT ROME! Stopping for a foo-foo coffee on a mission is not acceptable, we’re scheduled to arrive at our destination in fifty-minutes. We are going to push the envelope as it is.”

Kaylee could hear a male voice asking if the package had arrived.

“Package”? She was a package, not a passenger.

“The package is Thomas Harte’s wife.”

“Bullcrap, he’s not married. We would have heard about that.”

“Let’s go, we can talk on the way.”

“No way Mister Harte’s married.” Rome said as he stepped into the sleek jet. “Oh! Hello. You are a passenger, not a package. I’m Captain Oldman, I’ll be your co-captain in the right seat next to Captain Watson.”

“I’m Kaylee , Tom’s wife. Tom’s has had some kind of an accident and is in the hospital in San Francisco.”

“What happened to Mr. Harte?”

“I don’t know, something with his hand. Lettie, the owner of the limousine company called me and told me that he cut off his hand.”

“Oh no.” Captain Watson said, showing emotion for the first time. “Okay Missus Harte, strapped in? Good, hang on, we are pushing the limits of this jet. Our maximum rated speed is mach zero point eight-one, we will be doing all that.”

Moments later, the business jet taxied out to the runway and lined up. Kaylee could not hear what the pilots were saying, but moments later, it was as if someone pulled a trigger and shot them out of a gun, the chartered jet accelerated faster than either the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon. The wheels came off the ground quickly and it seemed as if the diminutive jet sat back on its tail and climbed steeply into the sky. This was a race car compared to Tom’s sky-yacht.

As the ground fell away, Captain Watson turned and spoke loudly for Kaylee to hear.

“Missus Harte, you have a phone call. The phone is on the wall next to you on a magnet mount so you just need to push the gold button next to it.”

“Thank you.” Kaylee said loudly back. Captain Watson nodded and turned back to her guidance of the winged missile as it banked and headed to a northerly course.

“Hello?”

“Kaylee ! You made it, good. I have Kaikane, one of our newest drivers waiting for you. He’s a tall Hawaiian and is well-trained. He will drive you to the California Pacific Medical Center.” It was Lettie, her voice was uniquely embedded in Kaylee’s memory these days.

“The hospital will tell me nothing of Tom’s injury, but the rumor has it that he was carrying a tv out of the plane when he fell. The tv landed on his arm and broke, the glass cut him up.”

“Lettie?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you like Tom’s personal assistant or something?”

“Oh heck no, he can’t afford me. But we are good friends, and he is one of my best customers. Probably the best customer we have. All my family thinks the world of him.”

“But how do you spend his money like the chartered plane?”

“Get-Jet, the company that owns the plane you are on, also thinks highly of Tom. I know the company president and I just gave him a call. It seems weird, but we are all pretty friendly, so we watch out for each other. Tom has had a hand in getting more than a few of us in business, so we all owe him.”

“Wow. You are all friends and do this for each other?”

“Kaylee, Tom’s a tremendous person who spends far too much time alone. Even a philanthropist needs to have friends, even if he doesn’t think he does.”

“Lettie, I don’t know him like you do.”

“You will learn about him.” She could almost hear Lettie smile at the other end of the phone. ”He is someone who had his heart torn out and his soul shattered at one time. I don’t know his history except for what he has told me. But I know what he is like now. When we started the company, we had one limousine, he contracted and invested with us and allowed us to buy our next two limo’s in less than a year. We’ll buy out his investment in eighteen months. Not that we want to distance our company from him, but we, my family and me, we want the company to ourselves.”

“Understandable.”

“You have Tom.” Lettie said softly. ”Kaylee . Keep him. Like it or not I’ll put some pressure on you. He is going to self-destruct if he has no muse to show the world he builds.”

“Lettie, you are a meddler.”

“Yes, I always have been, according to my sister.” Lettie laughed. “I’m not proud of it, but I will always do what is right.”

“Everyone’s mother?” Kaylee asked with a laugh.

“Hah! Yeah, but I can’t have my own kids. So I adopt everyone.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh no, not that there is anything wrong. I don’t date men.” Lettie laughed. “You’re a good person, too. Compassionate. You match Tom’s spirit, you both are like eagles. You fly together in your souls.”

“I’m not as good as you would think.”

“Well, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes.” Then Lettie broke the connection and Kaylee put the phone back in its cradle.

Moments passed while Kaylee looked out the window watching the green of the long state pass by.

*Do I have what it takes to fill the shoes of a wife? The annulment, that’s my goal.*

Then again. There was something about how people stood up to help Tom.

*Maybe.* She pulled at some lint on her shirt. *Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong.*

Married by Mistake Chapter 14. At The Wizard

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Chapter 14. At The Wizard

Bumps and sounds from the flaps and landing gear extending gave her thoughts that the flying hunk of metal was falling apart. She hated this part of any flight, it always felt like a semi-controlled crash. The sound of air rushing over the flaps unnerved her, the drift of the executive commuter on each little puff of wind was sharp and sudden.

Profanity was on the tip of her tongue every moment. When the shriek of tires touched the runway, she matched the tone for a split second with a small scream of her own.

As the speedy jet slowed down, she let go of the arms of the seat and noticed her knuckles had gone white. Not that Captain Adanna was a poor pilot, but the diminutive airplane was not a comfortable as the Pacific Wizard or the Flying Sea Dragon, the jet was all business like the pilot.

Under the expert guidance of Adanna, the winged race-car taxied near the hangar where the Pacific Wizard sat while service techs milled about, the Olympic-swimming-pool sized doors of the huge structure were open and she could see the size differences between the jet she rode in and the Pacific Wizard.

The great plane’s engine hatches were open and technicians and mechanics climbed up and down ladders as they worked on the flying yacht. Kaylee worried that the workers might stop her from going into the Pacific Wizard to retrieve her belongings she had left when she went north with Tom.

The Captain opened the door and stepped out on to the asphalt-concrete of the airport. “Missus Harte, you may deplane now. Please watch your step, the Pacific Wizard is over there and the employees are expecting you.”

“They’re expecting…?” Kaylee suddenly felt like she was in a spy movie and big brother, in the name of Tom was watching.

“Yes, it is your home they are working on, is it not? I radioed ahead while we were in the air and notified them of our impending arrival. The service crew is returning with us to assess the damage to the Sea Dragon.” Adanna nodded. “Have a pleasant day, ma’am. Stephen here will take you to your plane.”

“But it’s not my plane, it belongs to Tom.”

“You are married to him, and as this is a community property state, so it is yours, too.”

Kaylee let out a long breath. *This married  crap is not what I want.*

But as she thought further on it, he was a considerate, kind, thoughtful and caring man. Not at all like Glenn, not that Glenn was uncaring.

But in relative terms, he was as if he was a bear wearing boxing gloves trying to open a jar. Awkward, clumsy and did not have a clue what to do.

Kaylee smiled at that thought of Glenn. She wondered if he would change his last name to hers?

*It isn’t tradition.* She smiled, *But I’m anything but traditional.*

This made her laugh at herself. She had proven that beyond a doubt in the last week. Still, if he changed his name it would be Glenn Greggory Grant. His house was on Amber-Elm Boulevard in her home town, elm trees in the yard. He could be an ass, but she enjoyed his company after all these years.

Often talking in the night about getting married after they graduated, they had grown up together and would spend all their lives with each other. Her with a PhD. in fine arts and him with a degrees in political sciences. He wanted to serve in Congress.

But now, as she walked towards the Pacific Wizard in its odd paint job with a wizard flying on a broom on the engine cover. A touch of whimsy that showed the heart of the man who wrote children’s books, then used the premise to live his life.

And yet she was so angry at him on so many levels. Not the least of which, he was making her fond of him. She liked the way he smiled, his view of the world. The quirky jokes he made now and again. She loved his smell, how his kisses tasted and his attentiveness when they were together.

And the sights she had seen? The excitement and passion of discovery that Tom had? They had sparked her artistic imagination and tickled her heart, maybe she could…

That thought made her pause, was she falling in love with him? Married first and love second?

*No! It. Can. Not. Be! I need that annulment when it comes time to go home!* Her heart belonged to Glenn!

She loved Glenn, not this man who was an accidental husband from a night of – okay, that was a blank, but a wonderful weekend – of party.

Sadly, she could not remember the one important part of it.

The wedding.

She still was angry over that. He could have said no. She would have never been married and then not worry about Glenn finding out.

*Oh Glenn!* She let out a heavy sigh.

*He will never accept this if he ever finds out. But we agreed that we would be free to date other people, so there would be no cheating.* She rubbed her eyes. *But getting married is so wrong.*

Kaylee climbed the steps into the Pacific Wizard, although it felt like a wonderful sky-palace, she felt odd. It was like…

*No, it can’t be. It’s like…* She gritted her teeth against the emotion.

She was home.

This made her angry again. Her home and life was with the blond, slightly arrogant boy that snorted when he laughed and became embarrassed by the sound when he did, she laughed at the memory of that laugh.

*And then there’s Tom. A special kind of man, but not someone I planned on. He is… Just not in my plans.*

*This is just horrid. The drinking, that ugly Friday, a few hits off a bong and I have a new husband who is so kind and irritating at the same time.*

*It could have been much worse, I suppose.* She sat in a seat and pulled her legs up. *I have awakened in beds that I’ve had no clue where I was, like at Gramma’s house when I was ten.* She sat and pondered for a moment, looking around.

*And this is mine? I could attend school, not need to work forty-hours a week. Instead I could study and practice my art.*

*I could find happiness here… Wait! NO!*

No. She wanted Glenn.

*Maybe.* A sigh.

She was angry with Tom again. He was more caring about her than any other man she had dated or been with. He never tried to force her to do anything, she volunteered.

She remembered that one of his rules as far as her body went.

“No means no.”

This was unusual among her friends. Kris and Crystal had often made demands of each others attentions, even at parties. Thinking back, it was disrespectful to each other. When Crystal told people what she was going to do to Kristoph, even if he would try to say he would be getting ready for work or school. This would not deter the wife.

Kristoph of course, would brag about what he did with Crystal if she passed out after a party.

Both ways, Kaylee laughed at them when they talked about it.

Now?

Now, she found it offensive. She would tease Tom, but never tell him “Or else” or dismiss his objections.

*Dang, I’m getting spoiled.* Tom treated her with respect, it felt proper and good.

Tom cared for her and she liked it.

*That’s irritating, too.* She huffed to herself.

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

Excerpt: Children of Fury, Chapter 20. Old School Medicine

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(Setup: Beli O’Danu, shot with an arrow and is bleeding to death. The knowledge of the Draoithe (Irish Druid) are what stands between him and death.)

20. Old School Medicine

Donal continued to help his old friend down the path to the river. Conn with his father’s arm around his neck helped to partly carry and partly drag the elder O’Danu to where the two men directed.

“Here! Put me down, here.” Beli grunted painfully, as they came to a clearing.

Beli’s shirt was sticky with clotted blood and matted with a paste of moss and herbs he had smeared on his own chest. Putting the poultice where the arrow protruded, the herbs had slowed the bleeding.

“Conn, collect some wide-flat rocks and build a small fire.” Said Donal as he went down to the riverside and began selecting plants with a critical eye. “Clean and heat the rocks over the fire until the water cooks off.” The High-Priest directed while he searched for those plants needed to save his friend’s life.

Beli wheezed out orders to Conn on what rocks to look for. Donal returned with an armful of roots, twigs and herbs with fleshy leaves, setting them down on the ground, he began to wash his hands in the clear water of the stream, cleaning the mud off his fingers.

Conn collected several large, flat rocks, about the size of his two spread hands, he cleaned them well with clean water and placed them near the pile of twigs and leaves.

While Donal was sweating from his exertions of grinding the leaves and the moisture from the herbs had mixed with the bark that he had collected in a small mortar and pestle into a smooth dough like texture. Time was short and his friend’s life hung in the balance. The longer they took, the weaker Beli was getting.

Conn started the fire with the use of flints, gently blew on the ember that he had been able to spark. With the growing fire. Conn began to wash two stones near the stream, cleaning the stones with a soapwort rub, then washed with water until it was clear. Then, with the fire burning hotly, Conn put the two stones near the flames to dry.

Conn’s father-in-law made himself as comfortable as possible, kneeling near the fire, putting a collection of bark and herbs on one of the rocks that had a concave surface, then began to press the medicines together with a small well used silver rolling-pin.

As Donal pressed the juices from the succulent greens he had just picked, chosen with an expert eye, Conn watched closely as the elder Draoi crushed and mixed the ingredients with the experience that would let him watch for the proper texture and color of ingredients.

Placing more herbs, Donal continued to grind the organic bits together on the hot rock, the mixture sizzled and put off a strong smoke that made him blink and cough.

“It is better at an alter, the smoke does not drift into my face so I can use it for bandages and not choke or blind me.” Donal coughed again. His voice quavered slightly and he cleared his throat, getting back to his task.

Conn suspected, however, that not all the tears were from the smoke.

Conn helped Donal by slowly pouring water over the tops of the rocks with a small silver cup that the elder Draoi handed him. While Donal tore a leaf apart and began to mix it with water, heating it until it bubbled.

Donal touched a branch taken from a willow tree to the mixture, the thick, hot viscous liquor coated it cooled on the smoothed carved twig.

Beli, who had been watching this turned his eyes down the path, Gael, Conn’s mother and teacher walked towards them from the ocean where they had taken refuge from the advancing armies of Parliament.

Several of the women burst out in tears at the sight of the wounded Beli laying on his back, only to have the Gael silence them with a wave of her hand.

“Time now is not for tears! Now is the time to repair and save a life. We need the finest, clean linen that anyone has.”

Gael invoked her title as a High Priestess, the Ard-Draoi. The Baker family who were Druid Priests and Priestesses of the Scots, the name of Baker had a huge influence wherever they walked and Gael was not to trifle with when it came to her knowledge of the Draoithe.

From within a pouch she carried at all times, Gael produced smaller bags of salts and knelt by Donal who looked up and nodded. Taking several small bags laid them next to the fresh herbs that Donal had collected.

Niamh, Conn’s mother-in-law and High Priestess in her own right, directed the women to gather strips of clothing to prepare for dressings. Setting down her own bag of collected medicinal herbs that exceeded Gael’s in the form of infection control herbs.

Niamh took a handful of linen from Anne MacNamara, who had grabbed anything she could while running from the advancing troops. The clothing was the best she had, giving it up to the priestess who had the intense look and a sense of urgency not seen before. Anne was not about to cross Niamh the healer.

Walking with the armful of dresses, Niamh stopped and pulled up some roots of a nearby plant. At the stream, tearing strips out of the clothing that Anne had given her, Niamh began to wash the makeshift bandages in the clear water of the river while she ordered the other women to build a fire nearby.

Gael nodded to herself as she directed what kinds of plants to use for the fire. The three Draoi worked together with intensity to save the life of their friend and mate, for what was about to come was the hardest and most difficult part for them to do.

Beating the strips furiously with a stick over one of the rocks that Conn had gathered, the plants and cloth formed a thick lather that Niamh instructed the helping women, including her friend Gael to rinse out in the flowing clear water for some minutes until all the water flowed clear of the strips. One after another Gael and Niamh inspected the linen strips carefully. Those that passed inspection were hung to dry in the smoke of the slow fire that they built using bundles of incense gathered by the remaining women and children. The smoke of the herbs, they explained, prevented infection later.

These treated linens Gael handed Conn, instructing her son to hold them by the corners and not to interrupt her while she was explaining how to do what he needed to do.

Detached from the activities that would save his life, Beli laughed silently, no matter how old her son was, he was still Gael’s child and would follow her directions.

Conn, used to giving orders and being in charge  bowed to his mothers sharp tongue and the father-in-law’s orders of what to do and how to do it.

As Beli lay on the ground, weakly moving his hands as if to guide the operation. A dozen of the villagers that had found refuge among the bluffs of the shore worked furiously to gather herbs under the directions of Donal and the Priestesses. Few had time to stand and watch, praying for the injured elder while they foraged for the needed herbs. So many had died that day, no one wanted to watch another one of their own also pass at the hands of the Parliament’s Agents.

“By the stones!” Beli wheezed out, his agitation growing with the pain. “This is beginning to seriously hurt!”

“It is going to hurt more before it gets better old friend, “Donal knelt next to Beli, “this might have been easier if I had the Spoon of Diokles with me, but that all burned with the village.”

Beli tried to interrupt but Donal shushed him.

“Yes, I have the Saultis Ominus nearly ready. Yes, our wives have the dressings nearly dry over the fire and clear of bad airs. Yes, we have the proper herbs.” Donal pressed a finger to the wounded man’s lips. “Shut up and rest.” There was no appeal to Donal’s command.

Then Donal’s tone softened as he touched his friend on the shoulder.

“Beli, to take this spike out of your chest will be difficult and the wound is deep.”

“I have made it this far,” Beli looked slowly around at the mountains and then the sky. “I’m ready to do this. This is hurting more with each breath. But I am not coughing up blood, my fingers are not white at the nails, if it has caused a hole where the blood flows, it is plugging it up now. When you pull it out, it will unplug the hole like a bung from a barrel. Then I would be dead before you could stop the bleeding.” Beli wheezed painfully.

“Beli,” Donal said softly.

“I know…” Grimacing against the pain he interrupted as he grabbed at his old friend’s chest, “I cannot live with this in and every moment it is in me, the more damage and the more pain it causes. It must come out, one way or another. It is good that it is you, you have the best knowledge to do this. You have pulled these out of men before during battles.”

Donal nodded, mixing the dried and powdered herbal potion with the smallest amount of water to mix a paste on the cleaned linens. Conn brought some powdered leaf over on the warm rock with the willow branch, now cut by Gael who carefully heated the twig over the fire until it turned color, she was careful as not to burn the wood as it would be ruined, and Gael did not have time to prepare a new branch.

Taking the remaining uncooked paste, Donal smeared the pungent mixture over his hands. Donal who wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“It tingles my hands and burns my nose — Aye, it is a strong mix. This will either cure you or kill you old friend!”

“Where is my bite rag?” Beli groaned. “Be good and sure it has the medicine in it.”

Conn brought the linen pouches that they made up for the procedure. One, moist but light in weight and green, the other that was heavier but dry and colored tan. Careful to kneel next to his mother as he held them out to Gael on a cleaned rock, who took the light one and handed the larger, heavier tan wrap to Donal who set it along on the edge of the heated rock.

Donal nodded at Gael and Beli, everything was ready.

“Put it in your mouth. Beli, bite down a few times.”. Gael gave no room for debate as she looked down at her husband, holding the thumb sized green rag to his lips.

“I know what to do!” Said Beli, with his voice muffled by the green linen bag.

“Shush and chew, husband.” She kissed his forehead. “Before I thump you.” The threat was without weight of malice. The only emotion she let be obvious, sharp she might be, he was the love of her life.

Donal looked at Conn, “I will need you to pack the wound with the flat of the willow-branch there. Scoop up the powder and dump it in and around the hole after I remove the spike until the bleeding stops or there is a pile over it. If he bleeds too much, your father will not stand a chance. But I venture an opinion that it has missed his vitals.”

One last breath Donal braced himself, wrapping his hand around the iron neck of the arrow-bolt, he held it for a moment, looking into the eyes of his friend and son-in-law’s father. Beli had become quiet. He had a familiar, dreamy look on his face and an odd glazed look in his eye that showed that he was already in an induced sleep.

“No pulsations from the shaft, this is a promising sign. Okay, straight out and easy.” Donal said quietly.

“Niamh, Conn hold on to his arms. Gael, keep him calm.” Drawing a deep breath, he looked at his old friend. “Beli, see you on the other side my brother.”

A gentle pull and Beli became wide-eyed with a grunt as the pain exploded through him. Gripping the green grass underneath him tightly.

“Keegan! Keegan! Tá brón orm! Fill ar ais go dom mo garmhac! Tar ar ais chugam!*” Beli screamed.

(*Keegan! Keegan! I am sorry! Return to me my grandson! Come back to me!)

Gael, kneeling at Beli’s head squeezed red juice from a cloth with bark and berries into her husband’s mouth, the extra plant extract calming him further. Taking care that Beli would not stop breathing under the narcotic effects of the herbal medicines, the effects were rapid and predictable.

Donal kept pulling, not letting up and not letting go for worry that it would do more damage as it returned to its resting place. But, if he pulled too hard it would cause a suction that could kill his patient.

Moments passed and the shaft did not move. Then slowly as Donal applied a little more pull on the arrow, it began to back out. Imperceptibly at first as sweat beaded on Donal’s forehead, then the arrow shaft started to move steadily backwards out of the chest of his best friend and family member.

It was out the length of a fingernail. Dried blood on the shaft was the marker how deep it had been.

“Pour some powder around the base of the shaft.” Donal told Conn.

“Keep him from moving his head as much, he flexes his muscles here and in his back when he moves. It is making it difficult and more painful.” Donal admonished Gael as he kept the tension on the shaft.

Width of a finger out.

The dart began to slide out of the wound more easily, the tapered shaft, Donal thanked the Gods it was not a broad head. Built with socket-fitted tip on the wooden arrow.  They forged the tip to penetrate armor and then wedge in the metal skin with the wood fibers, made for piercing armor and disabling but it was not efficient at killing.

Wisdom held that it took more men of the enemy to remove the wounded from the field of battle than to tend the dead. Those that were left then would have the archers come down and the killing would be done with knife, sword or ax on the battlefield.

Two fingers width of arrow withdrawn.

“More powder, get the cloth ready to staunch the bleeding.” A small trickle of blood was visible. Donal had one hand on the patients chest, pushing while the other hand pulled on the iron neck of the arrowhead.

With a wet sucking sound, the needle sharp arrowhead came out of Beli’s chest.

“Now, pour some powder in the hole and cover it up with the cloth and press firmly, until I tell you to stop.” Donal told Conn, “Not TO hard! Don’t break your father’s ribs. He won’t like that.”

His hand firmly over the hole and watching the blood soak into the cloth as he pressed directly on the wound, Conn was now sure that the old man was going to live. Donal carefully put down the blood-slicked spike. It was well made, fortune was with them, no barbs or splinters anywhere on the edges and no bleeding salts had been on the shaft. Donal did not cause more damage with the removal. The arrow did all the insult to the body at the moment when it entered his chest.

Turning back, “You can take your hand away,” Donal covered Conn’s hands and smiled. “apprentice, you have done well! You teach us how to build ships, we will teach you, yet, about herbs, medicines and how to heal.” Donal said as he dressed the wound with the bandages prepared by the women.

Conn chuckled, it had been a long time since anyone dared call him an apprentice, but here? Here he was well outside of his normal circles. Looking at his mother, she smiled at him, making him feel young again.

“You did well, Conn.” Croaked Beli, “Don’t you agree, Gael?”

“Shush, you old shoe.” Gael looked down at him. “You made me a near widow, when you are fit I will make you fear me more than death, enough to step away from any arrow. I will not do this again with you! I’ll find me a handsome young man and toss you out!”

Tears were in her eyes as she spoke, there was no conviction in the words. He might be an old shoe, but he was hers and she took care of all her belongings. She was the queen of collecting in the family and her family was her prize collection, Conn her only child and Beli her only mate. They taught and treated together many children and people, every day it was another family that needed to help a child born into the world or a negotiation between clans. Gael’s family was her soul.

Donal opened a pouch withdrew a couple of stones, setting one aside, then another.

“No, wrong effect. This one is wrong, too. There! This one.” Then with a skilled touch, Donal began to grind a small chip into a powder.

Conn looked and recognized a few of the stones in the pouch, many he did not.

“Bloodstone, feldspar, rubháid bairestone. What is this?”

“That, my son, is ‘Sruthfola’, it can cause severe bleeding. Only used in scant amounts to keep blood thin to promote healing on some injuries.” Beli whispered, “Or stuck into someone to cause them bleed for a long, long time without stopping.”

Conn looked at his father, he was still glassy-eyed from the herbal cloth that Gael pushed into his mouth, but he was still awake and able to talk.

“Dittany, is a plant that stops bleeding and promotes healing. I’ll be well enough in a day.” Moaned Beli, his voice a bit stronger now.

“NO! Beli! I will thump you!” Growled Gael, pulling her husband of so many seasons down to his back by an ear. “You will heal and rest.”

“She’s right. No herb or magic can take the place of healing. Magic can fix the problem, but the body must go back in balance.” Donal said to Beli, he would not dare oppose Gael now in any case.

“Then catch up with my son. He is walking with that look in his eye again. He is thinking of something.”

2 Seconds… T-Minus 500 Seconds

Standard

T-Minus 500 Seconds

Energy.

It boils and seethes on the surface of Sol, the solid calcium ferrite surface heated by the energy of the high energy photons that kept the oceans if neon plasma lit with the glow of seething heat from the core of the sun. Energy generated a hundred-thousand years before this day, slowly making way outward in the slow, random walk, transferring heat to the surrounding material along the way.

On the surface of the sun, photons finally freed from the surface traveled through space at full speed. A blue/green and white marble that orbited Sol was just a small speck at this distance as the photons sped away from the star that had given them birth. The electromagnetic packets of energy quickly reached full speed of nearly three-hundred thousand kilometers-per-second after passing through the photosphere.

While the photons sped their way towards the only planet with life and a loving couple on the back of a rumbling motorcycle, Lucy Sprecks got into her car. She was now approaching ninety-years of age. Joshua, her shining star of her life, had passed away years before. These days, Lucy just went and donated time to charity work and her church.

Sharing the love of the good book became the only reason she left the house these days. Her own child rarely visited, busy with his own life.

Long passed her addictions of prescription medications, Lucy now drank her bottle of wine each lunch time and was looking forward to today’s lunch with her friends. Edna supplied more wine than any of the Society of Lady Druids.

Lucy was certain she would convert the heart of Edna to the true path of Christian religion. Then a sudden memory!

“I forgot my bible!” Sighed Lucy. She pulled over and double checked in her oversized purse. It was not there, nor was the passage she had copied out for Edna to read. She neededd to turn around and go back home. She loved her big car, the Mercedes made her feel safe, but it was difficult to do tight maneuvers with Lucy barely able to look over the steering wheel of the powerful turbo-diesel German-built car.

In space, waves of EM radiation, the photons given birth tens of thousands of years before, now closed the distance at the cosmic speed limit speeding to the destination on earth.