U.S. Coalition Intelligence agencies covering Northern Afghanistan strongly suspected the small village nestled high in the mountains, just a stone’s throw from the main road linking Pakistan and Afghanistan, as being a stronghold for Al Qaeda. On the ground information was verified by satellite images and drone video. Sources confirmed at least 100 heavily armed men were camped inside and nearby the village. Lookouts were posted strategically around their perimeter with increased manpower near the only trail leading into the village.
Shaun’s team of 25 needed to be inserted by high altitude parachutes. Once on the ground, they would link up with a four man marine recon unit who were already manning their observation post, and had been for the last 24 hours. Before leaving their base, Shaun and his chain of command decided to split the team into three squads, two squads with nine men and Shaun’s with seven counting himself. All the team members knew their assignments. At precisely 03:00 hours, Shaun’s team was standing in position near the ramp of the aircraft ready for the signal to jump. There was no moon to speak of that night and it fit perfectly into their stealth plan to approach the enemy without warning.
Once landed, they met up with the recon unit at their base camp near the foot of a mountain on the other side of the village where they were briefed in real time detail. The mountain was almost vertical granite and rose 5,000 feet above the camp. The enemy count was definitely in the 100 range. According to the senior marine, the enemy was armed with small arms, RPGs, a stash of IEDs, mortars and shoulder held surface to air weapons. It appeared the suspected enemy commanders placed half the men in the village under one commander while the others, under another commander, were in the wooded mountains around the perimeter. After receiving the green light from Shaun, they launched their mission. The recon unit set up on the trail covering their rear as the SEALs advanced on the village. Utilizing silenced weapons and survival knives, the team slowly advanced with night vision to locate and kill targets. It took a little over two hours to take out the enemy sentries along the heavily protected trail. The first stage of the op was rolling smoothly as Shaun and his team neared the village.
The recon unit had pinpointed four buildings made of stone that housed the village commander and his men. As more sentries were taken out and the village was almost under the control of the teams, all hell broke loose. Suddenly a loud scream from a lookout cut through the calm night air amplified by the walls of the nearby mountain. Like stepping on an anthill, the enemy streamed out of the buildings firing on the main trail toward Shaun’s team. The exchange was instantaneous. The overwhelming fire power of the teams focused on the enemy buildings against those attempting to defend the ground was no contest. They piled up like a cord of wood outside each building. With the use of silenced weapons and enhanced night vision, the team simultaneously assaulted those camped in the wooded area. The battle lasted approximately 30 minutes until all the enemy were killed, wounded or surrendered. Gunshots sounded sporadically as the teams mopped up the defeated snipers isolated outside the main camp taking pot shots at Shaun’s men.
As Shaun’s squad approached the building suspected of storing weapons and ammunition, everything flashed white. There was total silence while the air filled with dust and smoke blocked everyone’s vision. Shaun’s point man, Patrick Gross, and his number two man, Charlie Simmons, lay on the ground moaning in pain. Shaun crawled to them and called for first aid. Charlie Simmons’ left lower leg was missing and he was losing a lot of blood. Shaun administered field dressing and quickly sedated Charlie with pain meds. When the IED detonated, Patrick was standing just outside the door of the building. The blast slammed him through the door into the room of ammo breaking both his arms along with several ribs. He now sat upright being treated by the teammates. Shaun ordered com to call for Medevac for the injured. It was a miracle the ammo bunker did not ignite.
Shaun knew not all of the enemy was taken out. He ordered his teams to search the entire area again. Moments later a RPG impacted several feet from Shaun and his communications guy. The round lifted them off the ground and tossed them several yards down the trail. Thanks to their body armor and helmets, they only received moderate injuries. Shaun had a laceration across the left side of his left upper leg and both of his eardrums were ruptured. His commutations guy received a broken leg and several cuts.
When Shaun was released from the hospital, he went to his quarters and wrote his father the last letter he would ever write from a combat zone. He was finished with war, killing, fighting and seeing his friends blown up for a bunch of worthless politicians back in D.C. He had served 12 years in the Navy and nine tours in combat. He was not angry; he just had enough. He had family and a home back in Louisiana and he intended to spend the rest of his life there.
Cold and hurting, he roused from his shallow sleep and sat up in the soft pure sand beneath him. Scanning all directions for danger, he surveyed with his eyes, nose and ears as his right hand tightened on the leather handle of his flat, black survival knife. Through the darkness, he caught the familiar scent of water and fish. The stars were fading as the first hint of morning sun creased the clear sky. He looked across the water at the bright lights of the new parkway following the banks of the Red River that divides the cities of Shreveport and Bossier.
Slowly easing up and relaxing a little now that he was certain danger was not present, he rubbed his bloodshot eyes and began to realize how he got to where he was this morning.
The day before on old highway 80 just west of Longview, Texas, he caught his last ride. He had walked a good 20 miles that day and was starting to feel it when he heard the blast of air brakes and the pings of gravel on the undercarriage of the big 18 wheeler.
He looked over his shoulder and realized the driver of the big, black Peterbuilt was a merciful man who would save him a few miles in the hot summer sun. Climbing into the cab, his eyes met those of a very big man. The driver smiled, extended his right hand and gave a pumping handshake as his name rolled off his tongue in a clipped southern drawl.
“Glenn Schach is the name and jamming gears is my game,” he said with a laugh that shook his entire frame.
“Shaun McVeigh, thanks very much for the ride.”
“Where you heading?”
“Shreveport, or as close as you can take me in that direction.” Shaun reached into his backpack and took out a bottle of water as he glanced at the big truck driver. He noticed the U.S.M.C. tat on his right forearm as he sipped.
“I thought company drivers weren’t allowed to pick up hikers?”
“Yup, that’s right. I won’t tell if you don’t,” he said with an easy grin as he reached down and grabbed a higher gear.
“What made you risk getting yourself into hot water with your company by giving me a ride?”
“I noticed that big bag attached to your back and knew you didn’t buy or take it from someone. I also noticed the way you walk, and though your back was to me, I saw you position yourself in a manner that said volumes about who you are. I spent two tours in the sand box and was assigned to a support unit who worked hand in hand with SEAL teams. I know one when I see one.” He paused a moment as he lit a cigarette and inhaled a deep breath of smoke. He let it stream out the corner of his mouth and out the side window. “My life depended on knowing who was real and who wasn’t. You home on leave?”
“Nope, I’m out for good. Had all I want and I’m heading home. Thanks again for giving me a lift. What was your MOS?”
“03, grunt all the way from boot to recon. What are your plans once you get home?”
“Haven’t seen my Dad or brother and sister in over two years. I plan to spend time catching up on everything I missed while I was taking care of business. No plans on the horizon at this point. Just want to be with my family and relax.”
Shaun was always slow to open up to strangers. For that matter, he was slow to open up to most people, unless they fought, ate and slept next to one another. He took another look at the driver and relied on his instinct. His gut told him the driver was not blowing smoke. He saw something deep in his eyes he recognized as a mixture of violence and confidence a man acquires being in combat. Shaun noted the sign that marked Shreveport 75 miles down the road and leaned back in the seat as he pulled the dirty desert cap over his eyes.
Glenn took Shaun all the way to the heart of Shreveport and pulled over at the exit ramp for Hwy 1 South. He gave Shaun his card and told him to give him a ring if he ever wanted to have a beer in town. He added he lived in Bossier Parish not far from the river.
“When I get settled Glenn, I will call, and not only buy you a beer but a big steak to go with it. Take care and I’ll catch ya later,” he said as he stepped down to the shoulder of the road and hoisted the big pack on his back.
Several miles later, he came upon a Wal-Mart on the highway and decided it was time to freshen up before he made the final leg of his trip to his home. Never carrying more than a hundred dollars on him at a time, he walked into the store and headed to the men’s clothing section. Fifteen minutes later, he crossed Hwy 1 heading to the river a short distance away. Raised on the river he knew exactly where he was going. He worked his way down a narrow trail through the thick woods to the sand bar just south of the Jimmy Davis Bridge. As boys, he and his brother fished and camped on the bar almost every weekend during summer breaks from school.
He opened his pack as he sat beneath a giant cypress tree and dined on the last pack of MREs he ever wanted to eat. Washing everything down with a large bottle of water, he got up to gather a few dead tree limbs to make a fire.
He kneeled and struck the match just as the first stars appeared in the clear night sky. He pulled out the new pint of Jack Daniels stored in his pack, sat next to the fire and looked out over the surface of the river. He could hear catfish sucking down bugs and bullfrogs bellowing all along both banks. The fire crackled as he unscrewed the cap of the whiskey bottle. He had not had a drink since he left California. Landing in San Diego a month earlier, he was deeply conflicted. He wanted to get home and see his loved ones but he knew he was in no frame of mind to do so. At least not until he had a handle on the last nine years he had served in war. He shipped all his belongings, along with a letter, to his father. The letter explained he was back stateside and would make his way home in a few weeks. He need to see some friends along the way and was looking forward to seeing him again very soon. Then Shaun more or less drifted across southern California with his loaded pack. Every five to six days he would rent a room at a cheap motel.
He did not mind sleeping on the ground but occasionally enjoyed a hot shower and decent bed. It really did not matter where he bedded down because the nightmares always paid him a visit. He walked as much as he rode. Never taking a bus or plane, he wanted to take his time coming home. He worked odd jobs, even washed cars in Vegas for a week. He took pleasure in sweating and keeping his body in shape. Nine years of combat pay and he rarely left the base. He did not take leave the last two and a half years he served. His team wanted him to stay and finish his career but he could not take it any longer. He was offered no more combat unless it was what he wanted and he could stay in the U.S. to train the newbies. However, he knew he would blame himself if he learned one of his trainees was ever lost in battle. It was time to move on and find something new to do back home.
Every night he prayed to God before he drifted off to an uneasy sleep. He was thankful he survived so many battles. He also carried guilt for the lost friends who were taken from this world. He knew each of their names and loved them as much as his own brother. Every night he saw their faces, heard their voices and even sometimes their laughter. He knew their wives, girlfriends, brothers, sisters and parents. They shared letters and photos of their families with one another when they were in the sand box. There was nothing to do but share and prepare to go out again to battle the cowards wherever they could be found.
Even though he was now less than ten miles from home, he needed one more night alone to deal with his demons. He took two long pulls from the bottle and re-capped it. He laid down in the clothes he had been wearing for the last few days and smelled himself. He remembered the faces of the shoppers he encountered in the store, the frowns and turned up noses they gave him as he passed. With a slight smile on his face, he drifted away.
Fighting his way out of the nightmare and back to the sandy river bank, he sat up and clenched the leather handle survival knife he held next to his right leg. He did a quick 360, using all of his senses, and took in a slow breath of country air. He filled his lungs several times to relax and clear his head.
A blue jay was singing to his love as he sat on the old plank fence across the road to his right. Beyond the fence was the largest cotton field in south Caddo Parish. It was owned by the Fireside Plantation. He was raised with Justin and Alex Fireside from the time he started school all the way through L.S.U. He wondered what they had made of themselves. He wondered what he had made of himself as well. When it came down to it, all he knew how to do well was kill people. He also knew he hated his job and wanted a change in life.
The river was just over the levee to his left as he strolled south passed the big antebellum home where the Firesides resided for the last one hundred years.
Five miles north of the McVeigh Plantation, Shaun strolled along Highway 1 between the K.C.S. railroad tracks and the river levee. The road was built during the time Huey P. Long was governor of Louisiana. Shaun suspected it had not been repaired since being built in the 1930’s. In the distance, he recognized the distinct sound of a crop duster working a morning routine. He could hear the deep sound of the big radial engine as it made its passes across the cotton fields. He thought of his Dad who learned to fly around the time of the Vietnam War. He started flying Stearmans, then two Ag Cats and a Bonanza A-36. He wondered if the pilot he heard was his father. Just like him to be on the stick at sunrise letting one of their two pilots sleep in for the morning.
Traffic on the highway was typical for this time of day. Nine out of ten vehicles that passed were pickup trucks. Most were heading north to town. The southbound vehicles were probably men who worked the night shift heading to their homes in the country. Several slowed as they approached Shaun to offer him a ride. He turned and looked over his shoulder as he smiled waving them on. He was thankful but wanted to walk. Sweat beaded on his forehead and trickled down the center of his back as the temperature rose to 85 degrees by mid-morning.
She drove down the dusty, gravel road at an easy pace following the river bank to the locking dam. The white car was coated with a thick layer of tan dust. Stopping her car, she got out and stood in the open door and gazed down at the river’s glassy surface. Two bass fishermen stood in each end of their boat as they casted top water baits under the branches of the cypress trees. She sipped her coffee as she rested her arm on the top of her car door. She was tall and slender with her blonde hair in a tight bun pinned up in her cap. She was still angry after attending the early morning meeting with Sergeant D. E. Stevens. She could still hear the disappointment in his voice as he informed her she once again was passed over for the promotion to investigator. He held her personnel file in his hands as he read the long list of departmental commendations and awards she had received in her five years on the road as a Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Deputy.
Officer of the year two consecutive years, six commendations for arresting rapists, murderers, burglary and robbery suspects while patrolling the rural portion of south Caddo Parish in a single person patrol unit. She received a lifesaving award for saving a family who slept while their home filled with heavy smoke and flames licking the eves and roof line. She was patrolling between South Shreveport and the Parish line when she saw the fire consuming the small sharecropper’s house. She bailed from her unit and kicked in the front door. She rendered first aid to the family of three while she waited for the ambulance and fire rescue units. She received minor burns to her back, was treated and sent home for a couple of days to recover. During her second year on the job, she was the first officer on the scene at a rough, redneck bar in the backwoods of her beat. She was to wait outside in her unit until her backup officers arrived. As she pulled into the pothole filled parking lot, the front door burst open and several customers ran out with fear on their faces. She ran to the front door. Inside she saw two men struggling on the floor. One on top of the other with his hand wrapped tightly around the other’s neck. The man on the floor was about to pass out. His eyes bulged and he clearly could not take a breath. She stepped in, and with a swift field goal style kick from the rear, connected between the legs of the man on top. Air gushed from his lungs as he rolled to the side of the other man. As he did, he reached between his legs and cupped his throbbing privates. His eyes closed as he took up a fetal position. She helped the victim on the floor to stand as she kept her eyes on the aggressor.
Now the man holding his privates was moaning and cursing under his breath. Suddenly, the man she helped up flicked out a buck knife and lunged for the man on the floor. Without hesitation, she used her open hand and slammed the heel and palm into the right ear of the man with the knife. As he was stumbling to the floor, he swung his arm behind him and slashed a six inch slice down her left forearm. By the time he was pushing himself off the floor, he was looking down the wrong end of her Glock automatic handgun. His eyes widened as did the man holding on to his manhood. With a gritted teeth whisper she said, “Get up and I will put you down for good!” Sergeant Stevens was the first backup to arrive and observed her burst the man’s eardrum, knock him to the floor and draw her weapon in a flash.
She received her Purple Heart award with valor. She is now the highest decorated female officer in the history of the department. She would never boast about her honors. But she was confused and angered she was passed over for a promotion again. The position was given to a man whose only attributes was his wealthy Daddy supported the Sheriff plus his unashamed ass kissing abilities he used on everyone with higher rank than himself. Stevens ended the meeting and walked her to the door with his hand resting on her shoulder. He promised he would speak to the Sheriff directly and guarantee her the next slot in investigations.
The radio in her unit crackled as she took another sip of cold coffee. The broadcast went out to all officers on duty. An armed robbery had taken place in Shreveport and the suspect was described as a tall, white male, in his 30s, short light brown hair and green eyes. He was reportedly armed with a handgun. The suspect had robbed a convenience store and beaten the female clerk with his pistol before fleeing the scene. She got back into her unit and headed to the highway. She drove north and spotted the old oak tree that stood at the corner of the highway and a gravel farm road. The sun was blasting down heat as she pulled beneath the shaded canopy and turned off her engine. Rolling down all the windows she aimed her radar unit to capture south bound motorists. Heat waves danced on the distant horizon and a small breeze was a breath of fresh air as it drifted through her windows.
At first she thought her eyes were playing tricks. She saw a man walking toward her about a mile up the road. Then he disappeared. She strained her eyes until they began to water. Gently she rubbed her eyes and shook her head from side to side. He was there I know. I know I saw a man. She kept studying the same area where she had seen him but he was not there now.
She took another sip of coffee when her radar unit picked up a vehicle speeding her way. It indicated clocked speed to be 70 in a 55 mph zone. She waited until the truck was within a hundred yards from her location before she flipped on her overhead lights. The truck slowed and pulled over next to her. Smiling, he bailed out of the truck before she could exit her unit with ticket book in hand. She recognized him instantly. Bubba Easterly was one year older than her and had pestered her as long as she could remember. He was the high school bully at Captain Shreve. He played football and baseball throughout his years there. He earned a scholarship to L.S.U. and made the first year without any major problems. During his second year, he was kicked off the team and off the campus for hazing another student. Now he farmed and raised cows on his family’s ranch several miles into Desoto Parish. Still cocky, he strolled around the rear of the truck with a big grin on his face and his hands shoved down into the rear pockets of his jeans.
“Well, hello honey! It’s been a long time since I had the pleasure of a one on one visit with you. How did you know it was me when you signaled me to pull over?”
“Mr. Easterly, I need to see your driver license and registration please,” she said in a dry and professional tone.
“Now baby, you don’t need to go to all that waste of time and effort to see my picture. I’m standing here now and you can look at me for as long as you wish.” His grin grew as he continued toward her.
“Mr. Easterly, I clocked your vehicle doing 70 in a 55 speed zone. Driver license and registration, now!”
His smile took on a nasty twist as he spun his head around looking up and down the road. He took two more steps and was bumping her chest with his before she realized it. He quickly reached out and wrapped his arms around her, pinning her arms to her side. His breath blasted into her face and she smelled the stale odor of cheap whiskey. Her eyes began to water and her mind raced back to her mistake by not getting on the radio and calling the traffic violation information to headquarters. She felt her own anger on the verge of exploding. She knew she had dropped her guard because she knew the driver. He was on her before it was too late.
As he began to lean his head down, his eyes focused on her lips. He said, “I’ve wanted to do this with you for as long as I can remember.”
The moment his dirty mouth touched her lips, she lunged her head forward, opened her mouth and bit through his lower lip. Dazed, he started to draw back but she head-butted him with her forehead smashing his big, ugly nose causing blood to gush down his chin. At the same moment, her right knee made contact between his legs. The kick was so powerful it raised his 200 pound, 6’2” mass off the ground with only the toes of his boots touching. The three simple actions took him to the ground in less than three seconds. She yanked out her handcuffs and had his hands locked behind his back before he knew what was happening.
She stood, caught her breath and tucked several strands of her long, blonde hair back under her cap. She straightened her uniform and reached down to pick up her ticket book as she spotted the dirty combat boots next to her unit.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the tall man leaning against the front fender of her unit with his arms and legs crossed and a big smile on his face. She quickly studied him and realized he matched the description of the robbery suspect wanted in Shreveport. Lightning was no match for her as she drew her weapon and leveled it on his chest.
“Hands up on your head, lace your fingers, down on your knees, now!”
Not knowing what possessed her, he knew without a doubt he needed to comply at that very second or be blasted by this woman. The smile on his face vanished as he comprehended her words. She saw him lace his hands and kneel as she directed.
She walked around him keeping a safe distance and swiftly cuffed his right wrist. He had never felt such strength in a woman as she twisted his arm around to his back and pinned it there. With firm pressure applied and pain shooting through his shoulder, she ordered him to send his left hand to his back. There was no man alive who could overpower her at this moment so he did as he was told.
He felt her hand patting all over his body. She did not pause when she reached between his legs in search of weapons. She drew his knife from its sleeve and tossed it on the hood of her unit. She yanked him to his feet and walked him to the rear door of her car. She opened it, shoved him in the back seat and slammed the door closed before he could ask why in the hell he was being arrested. She reached to her gun belt and pulled out a handy talkie and placed it to her mouth. He could not hear her words but suspected she was calling for more officers. She walked to the big brute who was still cursing at the top of his lungs and patted him down in the same manner. She jerked him to his feet by the cuffs attached to his wrists. She raised the cuffs causing him to lower his head level with his waist. He screamed in agony as she shoved him into the other side of the rear seat next to Shaun. Dried blood was caked to his skin beneath his nose down to his chin. His eyes were bloodshot and he smelled like a brewery. He glared at Shaun and asked what he was looking at.
“I really thought you would grow up one day, Bubba. Looks like I was wrong. You always bullied little boys and girls. I enjoyed watching her kick your fat ass.”
“Who the hell are you? When I get out of these cuffs, I’m gonna wipe that little smirk off your pretty little face!”
“Well, I will say this, your mouth is as big as ever. I look forward to seeing you again, anywhere, anytime.”
“I know your face, can’t call your name, but I never forget a face. It will be changed when I am finished with you.”
“You will have plenty of time to think of my name and where to find me after you spend the next few months in the Parish jail. If I see you picking up beer cans on the side of the road with the other inmates, I will just smile and wave as I pass by. When you get out, you should just get on with your sorry life and leave me alone. However, if you are as dumb as you seem to be, I will be happy to put you in your place once and for all.”
Just as Bubba was about to respond, another unit pulled under the oak tree. The sergeant was graying around the edges and stood just under six feet. He had well defined arms and no fat at all on his frame. He pulled his cap to the back of his head as he listened to the animated explanation he was receiving from the pretty, blonde deputy.
Shaun took in every feature with great interest. She stood at least 5’9” and most of it was due to her very long legs. She was slender with well defined cheeks. Her mouth was slightly too large for her face, but those pouty lips made her sexy. Shaun wondered how it would feel to touch them and taste her as he held her body. The sergeant glanced over to Shaun and Bubba and frowned. He pointed his finger at Bubba’s truck and appeared to give the deputy some type of instruction.
Another unit rolled up, followed by a tow truck. The sergeant walked to the unit and opened the door on Bubba’s side.
“Get out Bubba. Time to go to jail.”
“What about my truck? Y’all don’t have to tow it. My old lady can come ‘n get it.”
“No dice Bubba. You have used all the breaks you ever had with us. When you lay hands on one of ours, we don’t take kindly to it. You’re going to do time on this one, Bubba.”
The sergeant marched Bubba to his unit. They left heading for the jailhouse in a cloud of dust as Bubba stared out the back window at the female deputy.
The McVeigh plantation was built in 1845 and stood on a small hill about a quarter of a mile west of the Red River. The builder was James P. McVeigh who was born and raised in Northern Ireland. He came to America with nothing in his pockets in search of freedom and success. Spending two years in New York, he worked as a carpenter during the day and played poker at night. As time went by, he spent more time gambling than as a carpenter. He became a master at both and made a fortune. In the last big poker game he played while in New York, he won the biggest pot anyone could remember. The wealthy Frenchman finally called his bet by pledging the deed to 2000 acres of land in Caddo Parish, Louisiana and 86 African slaves.
The Frenchman lost the hand, and part of his inheritance, to the big Irishman called McVeigh. James then settled in a small house near the steamboat landing located on his newly acquired property.
With his winnings and the profit generated by the cotton harvested by his slaves, he designed his new home. The three story Acadian style mansion started out utilizing 3000 square feet of living space. Over the years, it grew to its current 20,000 square feet of heated floor space. When the War Between the States started, James was too old to fight and would not have even if he had been younger. As Louisiana fell at the end of the war, he freed his slaves. Most stayed on as contract labor and the plantation survived while many in the state failed.
Jake McVeigh became the soul surviving great-grandchild of James. He was too young to go to Vietnam and earned a business degree from Louisiana Tech. He increased the holdings of the plantation. His ability to buy land, sell the timber and minerals and then sell the land doubled his worth. Though the slaves were long gone, the cotton fields still produced. Shallow oil wells added to the earnings and dotted the land. Jake, as his friends call him, did not allow the oil companies to drill near his home. To this day, with the addition of electric lighting, heating and air-conditioning and indoor plumbing, the home stands as it did so many years ago.
Jake married his high school sweetheart, Martha. Together they had two boys and one girl. Martha died in an auto accident when Shaun was 15 years old, leaving Jake to raise his children on his own. Jake dated from time to time but never remarried. Shaun’s older brother, Ray, became a lawyer. Ray never enjoyed working the fields. Nicole, his younger sister by two years, finished college with a degree in education. She currently teaches middle school students at Youree Drive in Shreveport.
Shaun was thinking of his Dad and Nicole who had lived in the giant home alone all these years. Working from sunup to sundown, Jake loved the land and his way of life. He never spoke the words, however, it was clear to Shaun his father wanted him to take over the plantation. Instead, he joined the Navy and became the first SEAL in the history of the family. Shaun did not regret his decision to leave home and become a SEAL but he did always feel a little guilt as he followed his passion. Now things had changed in his life. He had gotten his fill of his passions, faced challenges he never dreamed possible and felt the hurt and heartache of losing his friends time and again. Now it was time for him to come home, help his family and lay down his guns. He was tired of fighting and killing for a country that did not have the guts to finish any war they started. He was sick of the death of good American men and women who had sacrificed with the ultimate price for a bunch of sorry politicians in D.C.
She walked to her car, started the engine, rolled up the windows and turned on the air-conditioning. Before he could say a word, she slammed her door shut and continued talking to the remaining tow truck driver and other deputy. She occasionally turned her head to look at Shaun as she spoke to the others. He could not see her eyes concealed behind the dark wraparound sunglasses but he suspected they were angry. He could almost feel them penetrating his brain when she looked at him. Her body language was a mixture of strength and sensual energy. When she paced back and forth while speaking, she used her hand to accent her topic. She would pause and cross her arms over her well-endowed chest. Shaun knew she was wearing a bulletproof vest. It did little to conceal her well defined body. He also noticed she did not wear any jewelry, specifically a wedding ring.
As he watched her, he realized he was fascinated with this tall, angry lady and felt something deep within him stir. Feelings he had not felt since he was in college, the yearning of intimacy with a beautiful woman in his arms. For years, all he thought of was fighting, resting and preparing to fight again. He handled his sexual needs like so many of his friends. He ran three times a day and worked out every chance he had. He went to the range and fired thousands of rounds. At the end of each day, he had pushed his body to total exhaustion and any sexual needs were squelched in the process.
Sure, he had his share of women. Any man with his appearance drew them like bees to honey. However, he never opened his heart to them. They enjoyed his company and he gave back the same. At times, he wondered if he would ever find someone who could understand him and give him children. He knew if he was going to be a father, it needed to be within the next few years. He often pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind. Watching this lady strut around men whose eyes constantly surveyed every inch of her body, he began to think, what if. She had this power thing and did not seem to be at all aware of what she did to men. She was clearly in the moment of her law enforcement career. He wondered if she had a boyfriend or just a man who was an arm’s length lover.
Bubba’s late model Chevy was connected to the impound wrecker. Shaun watched it being dragged away from the scene heading for the storage lot. He smiled as he recalled the angry look on Bubba’s face in the back seat of the sergeant’s unit. Shaun knew their business was nowhere close to being finished. He knew eventually Bubba would be released from jail and come after him or the female deputy.
The two remaining deputies turned and headed back to Shaun. She opened the door and ordered him to step out by the door. He did as directed knowing to keep his mouth shut when dealing with an angry woman. She patted him down once again, more completely this time. She said she was only looking for weapons the first time. She reached into his right front jeans pocket and pulled out his wad of cash. She laid it on the trunk of the unit as her partner stood nearby as backup. She asked if he had any ID on him as she counted his cash. He responded with a single word, no. She removed her sunglasses from her face, folded them and slid the ear piece into the ink pen slot of her upper shirt pocket. She turned and looked directly into his eyes. Shaun’s heart began to pulse stronger and his breath rate increased as he looked back into a sea of blue and green. He had never seen a mixture of color so striking. She squinted her lashes down a fraction as she asked him his name.
He caught his breath and told her. Shaun McVeigh.
Her eyes widened and her lips fell apart slightly as the color of her face changed from a light peach to pale white. She took a half step back and turned to her partner. Shaun saw confusion and perhaps even a shadow of pain when she began to speak.
“Will you go and pick up the robbery victim at the convenience store in town and bring her here for a one-on-one lineup for me?”
The male deputy nodded his head with a half grin and smirk on his face as he quickly walked to his unit.
When she turned back to him, he was able to read her name tag, L. L. Jackson.
“Are you from around here?”
“Yes, not far at all now. My home is about three miles south of here.”
Once again her eyes widened as she lifted her chin slightly, looking directly into his eyes. Then she asked, “Are you related to the McVeigh’s on the McVeigh plantation?”
“Yes I am. My father is Jake McVeigh.”
She gritted her teeth and lowered her head a little as a cursed whisper slipped from her full lips. She studied him for a full minute. Thinking to herself as she observed him, yes, I feel like a total fool. He looks just like his father and I can clearly see the kinship of his brother and sister. How could I have not noticed this the moment I saw him? Did this change things? No, he matches the description and his location and distance from the robbery scene are within reason. However, if he was the robber, he would be a fool to casually walk up and lean against my patrol unit. She took in the facts. He not only matched the general description. He looked better than the described suspect. He was tall and rangy, with long arms and hands. His shoulders were wide and his chest was full beneath the dirty tee shirt he was wearing. His light brown hair touching his lower neckline was too long to match the suspect. He had a five to six day growth of beard. He desperately needed a bath as she could even smell him when she was standing upwind. Why had he not told her up front who he was? Everyone around here knows of him. Was he playing a little game with her? Her temper began to rise as he smiled back at her. That smile could steal the heart of any woman on earth.
“Call me Shaun, if you will.”
“Shaun, I know your family but I have a job to do. It takes priority over friends and family. There was an armed robbery in town this morning and you match the description of the suspect responsible. I have to detain you until the victim is able to identify you as the suspect or indicates you are not the one who attacked her. In the meantime, please turn around and I will cuff you with your hands to the front. He smiled as he spun around and she unlocked the left wrist while securely holding his right.
“Turn around so I can move them to the front.” Once he was again secured, she told him to sit in the back seat and leave the door open. He sat with his feet on the ground outside the unit as she shifted to the left rear fender of the patrol unit. She leaned against it and released a deep sigh.
Friends and family, she had said. It seems she does know my family. She limited it to friends and family. I know she is of no relation so she considers herself a friend of someone in my family. I wonder who she is close to.
Her cell phone must have been set on vibrate instead of ring. She pulled it from the rear pocket of her khaki pants and answered with, “Jackson.”
“Yes sir, that is right. Yes, I want him charged with battery on an officer, resisting arrest and driving while under the influence. No sir, I’m fine, just caught me off guard. No, I’ve known him since middle school and we have not encountered one another until today. That’s right. They live just south of the parish line. I will. As soon as I finish here, I will drop by and check on them. Yes, I know. I’ve heard the same things about him. Ok Sarge, I’ll catch you later.”
“Throwing the book at ole Bub, are you?”
“You know him?”
“He was a year behind me in school but I knew him well enough to know how worthless he was and still seems to be. He never bullied anyone his size. From what I saw of him today, I’m convinced he’ll never stop being a bully. You handled him quite well if I must say so.”
“Oh, is that right? Did you enjoy watching him bear hug and try to grope me while you leaned against my car with the grin on your face?”
Her blood was again starting to boil as her back stiffened and her chin rose a notch. Her face flushed a darker shade and her eyes began to flash. The mixture of blue and green mingled and sparked as she tightened her lips, waiting for his response.
It took all the strength he could muster to hold the laughter about to erupt. Her temper made her the most attractive woman he had ever seen. Something inside of him moved and he wasn’t sure he liked it.
“I think you are the prettiest thing I have ever seen in my life when you’re angry.” With a smile on his face he looked up to her and continued, “I wasn’t going to let him hurt you As I came up on you two, he was about to kiss you. I was about to stop him when you exploded on him. I’ve seen many a scuffle in my day, but never seen a woman put a man on his back as fast and as hard as you did.”
The fire in her eyes calmed a little and he noticed a slight up curve of her lower lip.
Gravel splashed beneath the patrol unit carrying the robbery victim as it pulled off the highway under the shade of the old oak.
“Shaun, I want you to stand and walk with me to the front of my unit so she can have a look at you.” The deputy and victim sat in the car to observe. Shaun was then lead back and placed in the rear seat again. Jackson closed the door and went to the deputy. He rolled down his window and she leaned over to talk to him. She glanced back at Shaun and stood with her hands on her gun belt. She nodded as the unit drove away.
Jackson opened the door and told him to get out. As he complied, she removed the handcuffs and stuffed them in the small compartment on the back of her belt.
“Shaun, you are free to go. She said you were not the man who attacked her. He was about an inch taller and 30 pounds heavier. She will never forget his face and said to tell you she was sorry you were held on her account.”
“Shaun, I am sorry I had to detain you. I hope you understand why I did. I would be happy to drop you off at your home, if you would like. I adore your Dad and your brother and sister.”
“Well, Deputy Jackson, I do understand. I know you were just doing your job and I am impressed with your professionalism. However, I am heading to the river to take a bath and change clothes before I set foot in my mother’s home.”
He stepped a little closer as she offered him her hand to shake. When he touched her, he felt something shoot through every vessel in his body. Her hand was softer than he expected but he felt the strength and confidence within her. He took her hand and pressed his lips to her fingers as he looked into those blue green eyes.
With a big smile on his face he said, “Perhaps I can have a rain check on the ride with you sometime, you think?” As he released her and walked away.
She stood with her mouth open, unable to make a single word come to her voice. She was still holding her hand in front of her as she watched him walk across the cotton field heading for the river. Her mind shifted to sheer anger as she thought of his arrogance. What gives him the right to kiss me? I’m on duty! I’m in full uniform! I should have slapped the cuffs back on him and hauled him to jail to spend the night with Bubba. That…that! Then the smile came to her face as she remembered the softness of his lips on her skin, her hand and arm, for that matter her body was tingling still. She raised her hand to her cheek and felt his warmth.
She knew she needed to be careful around Shaun McVeigh. He was the kind of man who could make her do things she did not want to do. She knew if she did, he could hurt her, badly. I will not let him get that close again she promised herself. He is dangerous and I’d better keep him at a safer distance. But how? I will be living in the same house with him now. She got in her car and headed south to check on Cindy Easterly and her kids. Bubba’s truck was their only transportation.
MORE TO FOLLOW…