September 2018: The Object
November 2018: In the Shade of the Cross
January 2019: Second Thoughts
March 2019: The End
May 2019: The Op
Hello out there to my fellow authors and reading enthusiasts. My name is Nathan Bush, and I’m an Indie author. And right about now you’re probably asking yourself, “Nathan who?” I’m the one that you maybe have never heard of, or you’re undoubtedly trying to figure out why anyone would even consider allowing me to infringe upon your time with my writing, rambling, and drivel for a magazine. Me too!
If you’re like me, and if you’re looking forward to reading this issue of the RAC Magazine you must be, then you have a love of reading, and maybe writing, as well. So, let’s get acquainted. I’m the author of The Foley Chronicles: Files from the 8th District. A faith-based crime series with an edgy attitude. I also have a short story series, The Foley Chronicles: Dark Side of Foley, which offers background information on some of my characters not necessarily found elsewhere, or just a story I felt needed telling.
I have been writing since high school, where I contributed to the school newspaper and literary magazine, but I let life get in the way for many, many years before taking up the pen, uh, I mean laptop, and pursuing my dream of authorship once more. I write in multiple genres, like a lot of authors, to include sci-fi, fantasy, horror, Christian fiction, crime, some poetry thrown in for good measure, and for the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of the RAC Mag, romance(?). But I find the small niche of Christian-crime to be the one I prefer.
I published the first three books of my series: Written in Blood (2016), Root of Evil (2017), and Twisted Christian (2018), as well as my first short story, Dark Blue Rising (2018). I have also published an article in Indie Author Monthly (April 2018), a short story and poem in Sept/Oct & Nov/Dec 2018 issues of the RAC Magazine, as well as work in the Jan/Feb 2019 RAC Mag.
I may not write what everybody prefers to read, but that’s what writing is all about, giving everyone a chance to explore new, and decidedly different, options. And, of course, to entertain the reader by running them around the emotional roller coaster. I hope you enjoy your reading experience, both in the RAC Magazine and whatever genre of book you choose.
A gut-wrenching flash of memory flooded Louis’ head; powerful enough that it forced him to reach for the wall of the nearest building, or risk collapsing onto the sidewalk.
The throng of pedestrians ambling by gave him a wide berth, most picking up their pace. Some carried looks of worry on their faces, as if he were a free freak show right there on the street. A few showed pity, while others still wore expressions of wonder.
The flash of memory turned to visions of haunting eyes. Eyes he hadn’t looked upon since childhood. A childhood he had tried unsuccessfully to forget.
Even now the cascading ash filled his memory, along with the echoing cries, and whispers of the gas chambers; all as fresh as the breakfast from just a few hours earlier.
He straightened himself, looking back over his shoulder for the cause of the attack. There, standing not twenty feet away, waiting patiently and oblivious to Louis’ presence, was the man he could never, ever forget.
He slowly turned and took several tentative steps, testing the strength of his legs. Once assured he could, he retraced his steps, heading toward his nightmare rather than fleeing.
Questions assailed him, too rapid for his mind to give even the hint of answers. More memories interspersed with the questions. Sights and sounds he hadn’t cared to remember continued to invade his consciousness.
Family, friends and loved one’s long dead began to haunt his thoughts. He easily called to mind the long, cruel years he and his family had endured so long ago. Some directly from the hands of the man he was moving towards.
How would he deal with it now? Would these images set him back? Or would he have the strength to push on? He wasn’t sure.
As he neared the man from his past, the light changed, allowing the haunting form a short respite from the words Louis now felt an urge to vomit out.
Though at least ten to fifteen years his senior, the man seemed spry and easily kept a rapid, even pace. Louis was content to follow a few yards behind.
How many years had Louis been hoping that such a moment would occur? Although he’d never dreamt it would ever happen. His hand slid inside his outer coat pocket, fingers grasping the cool, metal object resting inside; squeezing it tightly for comfort.
He trailed the man several blocks where he entered a corner deli. Louis easily slid into the interior of the building, eyes quickly adjusting to the dim lighting, despite his age. He watched the man from a distance as he ordered, received his food, and took a seat in a corner booth.
Louis waited patiently, wondering how to approach, when the man’s gaze fell on his face, eyes ever so slightly widening for a split second before passing on.
Was that a knowing look in the man’s eyes? Recognition of who he was? Had he remembered Louis?
Before he could run out in fear, Louis settled himself and made his way to the man’s table. As he stopped before the memory from his past, he looked steadily into the man’s upturned face, locking onto his eyes.
Surely, he saw recognition in his tormentor’s eyes.
“Can I help you?” a feeble, shaky voice asked.
Louis remained silent, still grasping the object which gave him comfort and strength.
The man looked impatiently toward his quiet guest, slowly chewing a bite from his sandwich.
“Well,” he said after swallowing the mouthful of food.
Louis found his voice, stronger than he’d expected it to be, under the circumstance.
“Are you Deidrick? Deidrick Bonhoffer?”
The grizzled hands holding onto the sandwich shook almost imperceptibly as he replied to the query.
“You must have me mistaken for someone else, friend.”
Louis shook his head, grey hair falling across his forehead. He was positive, now that he’d heard the voice, that this man was who he thought him to be.
“No,” he challenged. “I don’t think I have. I could never forget those eyes, or that voice.”
Both men remained silent for a short time. The noise from the deli crowd filled the gap.
“My name,” Louis went on, “is Louis Roth. You might remember me better as Leibke Rothman, number 270145.”
As he finished speaking he slid up the sleeve of his jacket, revealing a series of numbers tattooed on his inner forearm.
The man dropped the remains of his forgotten sandwich onto the paper plate sitting on the table before him. As he read and reread the numbers inscribed on the arm held out in front of his now visibly shaken face, Louis returned his right hand into his jacket pocket, grasping the object of his strength once again.
The man turned his gaze upward to catch Louis’ expression. What did he see? Was it anger? Fear? Loathing? Louis surely felt all those emotions, and more. But, above all, he felt peace.
As Deidrick sat in stunned silenced, tears slowly running down his cheeks, Louis pulled out a chair opposite him and sat down. He let out a deep breath, unsure now what to say. He had rehearsed his well thought out lines many times, but being face to face with this visage was so much different than speaking into a mirror.
Finally, Louis found the words and spoke.
“I have wanted so many times through the years to speak to you, wondering time and again if it would ever happen. Now that it’s here, I’m unsure how to proceed.”
Deidrick opened his mouth but was cut off when Louis held up his left hand.
“Please,” Louis interjected, “before my courage runs out.” He exhaled slowly. “The pain and suffering I endured, though a lifetime ago, can never be undone. The lost family and friends cannot be regained. Memories cannot be forgotten.”
He slowly pulled his right hand from concealment, grasping a dull metal object; fingers clenched tightly.
Deidrick’s gaze travelled from Louis’ eyes down to his outstretched hand, face showing visible concern now.
“I want to do so much more for all I endured at yours and other’s hands, but God has shown me the true path to freedom.”
Opening his hand, the metal object dropped out, dangling from a chain wrapped securely around withered fingers. As the cross swung pendulum-like, Louis asserted, “I forgive you.”
The words fell from his mouth like the tears from his tormentor’s eyes. As soon as the words were swallowed by a second silence, Louis stood and left the deli, completely engulfed in peace.
The Cross is a reminder
Of the mercy and love,
Given to us all,
By our God from above.
It stands tall and proud,
Majestic in our sight.
The Lamb bled upon it,
To make all our wrongs right.
There will be rest
For the weary and weak,
When the Lord Jesus Christ
You ask for, you seek.
There will be rest,
When you are in need.
You can sit with the Lord,
Shaded by the Tree.
You did it, Robert, I congratulated myself, stoked beyond measure. You finally did it. You didn’t think you had it in you, but you did.
Even now, mere moments after the fact, I could still hardly believe it. But I knew it to be true. I took the plunge and went all in, even though I didn’t know exactly how things would turn out. My hands continued to shake violently from the effort. My pulse raced, and a cold sweat ran down my back, soaking into my dress shirt.
I could feel my heartbeat throbbing in my ears, in my temples. The booming sound echoed through my head, threatening to drown out every other noise, and I felt sure that everyone witnessing the spectacle could hear the pounding reverberating within me. It made me wonder if my feelings were exclusive. Or was this the reality for everyone who had ever attempted this same feat?
I knew I wasn’t special or unique, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I did it, and I couldn’t take it back, even if I wanted. It was out there now, floating on the air like a feather tossed about by the air currents. No power on earth or in Heaven could bring it back.
My face began to burn with intensity and I knew the redness had to be setting in, too, as the crowd of onlookers waited with bated breath for a conclusion to my undertaking. And the longer they waited, the more I began to wonder about it myself.
I hadn’t gone all out for the occasion not like I probably should have done. And the longer it hung out there, unresolved, and the silence engulfed it, the more I began to have second thoughts about my decision. The more I began to question my sanity. Had I been crazy to think that my action was warranted? That it would be received with gladness? With open arms? Or even received at all?
I questioned my logic, over and over. Had I jumped the gun? Had I been mistaken in my evaluation of the whole situation? Had I seen something that wasn’t really there? Had everything I felt been solely one-sided? And not mutual? I couldn’t be sure, and the unknown began to nag at me.
I diligently searched my memory for any telltale sign but couldn’t recall anything to represent the negative vibes I was now getting in response to my act of bravery. And it was bravery, wasn’t it? It had to be. I was positive that anytime you went beyond yourself, and faced down your fear, regardless of the consequences, it had to be considered bravery. In fact, that was the very definition of bravery, wasn’t it? Forging ahead, despite your fear?
But now, starring into the blackness of this silent abyss, I had to wonder if it wasn’t an act of foolishness, instead. An act of rashness. An act of stupidity in the guise of courageousness.
My body began to ache. My back stung from the effort of remaining motionless for what seemed an eternity. My arms tingled from being extended beyond their normal range. I could feel a stab of pain in one leg, quivering in the other. My head began to swim. My breath came out in staccato bursts, threatening to cause unconsciousness at any moment.
Finally, when I felt I couldn’t go on another second, I witnessed a solitary tear excavate itself from the corner of Jamie’s pale blue eye and slide down her unblemished, rose–frosted cheek. Then I saw her trademark crooked smile, that never failed to turn my insides into mush, push her glossy lips apart. Her headed bobbed, even as the single, most important word she would ever utter escaped shakily from her mouth.
The once silent crowd erupted with cheers and clapping as I struggled up from my position on the pavement and then slipped the ring on my soon-to-be-bride’s quaking, delicate finger.
“I remember it like it was yesterday…” I began, before being rudely interrupted by a snot-nosed reporter who didn’t look a day over nineteen. I felt I at least deserved a top-rated reporter. And by the look on the kids face, he felt he deserved a better story to sharpen his pencil on.
“Uh, Mister Farnsworth?”
“Yeah?” I replied, exhaling sharply from a sudden burst of pain, despite my medication.
“Actually, it was just yesterday.”
“Huh? Oh yeah,” I returned sheepishly. “Must be the meds. And I told you to call me Dusty.”
The boy nodded and poised his pencil over his notepad once again.
“You sure you don’t want to record this, instead?” I asked him for the second time.
“Nope. Please continue.”
“Sure,” I said, then downed the remainder of my glass of soothing, brown liquid.
To his credit, the boy didn’t question the contents, and I didn’t offer it up freely. I’m sure neither of us thought it wise to mix prescription meds with booze, but I was beyond caring. My life, as I knew it, was over, anyway. So what did it matter to me?
I readjusted my position to alleviate my discomfort and began again.
“As I was saying, I was laid back on the gurney, in that depressingly sterile emergency room. I could hear the sound of a respirator behind the curtain to my right. I knew it was a respirator because I’ve spent many a night in the ER during my lifetime. Comes with the territory, you know?”
Boy wonder remained silent but nodded in agreement once more.
“I could hear the faint murmurs of someone down the line crying out. Begging for something, anything, to stop their pain. I was in wholehearted agreement. Simply because if they got it, then they’d shut up and leave the rest of us in peace.
“So, there I was, laid up, thinking over what the doctor had said, and removing the remainder of my make up with a handy wipe. The remainder that the blood, sweat and tears hadn’t.
“Why the blood, sweat and tears, you ask? Simple. The blood was from the cuts, bruises and abrasions from the accident. The sweat came from the high temperatures outside. And the tears came from me when I learned my life was over.”
I paused for a refill on my drink, offering once again to share, but got the same head shake as before. I didn’t know if I trusted a fellow who refused an offering from my private stash. Well, to each his own, as they say.
He leaned over, elbows resting on his knees, keen interest showing in his bright eyes.
“Tell me about the bruises and abrasions.”
“Hang on. I’m getting’ to it. The doc had just left me, after slapping me into the dirt with his analysis of my situation. Which I didn’t care for, by the way. Nor chose to believe. At first, anyway. But the longer we talked, the more depressed I got.
“He explained to me how, at my age, broken bones take a lot longer to heal, than, say, someone your age. And it might never heal properly, either. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘ain’t that a kick in the pants.’”
“And just how did the broken bone happen?”
“From a short flight, followed by a hard, awkward landing. Apparently, I’m not as quick as I used to be. Time was I could move faster’n a greased pig at a county fair. ‘Course those days are long gone.”
The boy smiled again, totally in agreement with my self-assessment of my agility. If I was able, I’d lean over and knock that grin right off his face. But, in my condition, and with my luck, I’d fall over and break my other leg. Then where would I be?
“There I was, doin’ what I loved doing. Which I’ve been doing for a long time. The crowd was cheering me on. I’m out there dancin’, hoppin’ and jumpin’ around. And I’m hootin’ and hollerin’, anything to get Billy Bob’s attention.
“Well, it finally worked. That mean cuss charged my direction, so I head for the barrel, like always. I got one leg over the lip when I felt some pressure in the nether region, which is never a good feeling, mind you. Next thing I know, I’m Superman.”
“I’m flying. It certainly wasn’t first class. And it was short-lived. Painfully short.”
“I bet,” he chuckled. He was nodding again, without even looking my way. But instead, scribbled furiously in his pad.
I swallowed half of my drink, set the glass on the table beside me, and fired up a cigarette. I inhaled deeply and then blew the smoke toward the ceiling, in deference to my visitor. Because that’s just the kind of guy I am.
After a brief silence, during which I continued my slow suicide by tobacco, I continued with my story.
“When my flight ended, I felt a crunch in my left leg, and nearly passed out from the pain. Lucky for me, Billy Bob bores easily, or I would have been a sittin’ duck. He ran off, went through the gate and outta my sight. An eerie silence fell over the crowd, as they waited to see if I was gettin’ back up.”
Tears began to run down my face, dripping from my chin like the June rain off the broken section of gutter over my front door. Just talking about the end of my life sent fresh pain tearing though my chest.
“Well, I raised my hand to show I was okay, then just passed out. When I came to, the doc gave me the bad news. I could be nothing but an observer from the stands from that moment on. I know that’ll never happen, though.”
“Because I could never watch rodeo clowns working, not if I can’t be out there myself.”
I finished off my drink and closed my eyes.
I lay completely still, hardly daring to breathe. And despite continuous training, my pulse soared well above my rest rate. I could feel the pounding deep within my ears growing in volume, until it blocked out all other sounds. I swore that if it increased even just one extra beat per minute, then my heart would simply explode, ending everything I’d worked so hard for in a flash.
Finally, through a mixture of determination, breathing techniques I’d been coached on, and a silent plea toward Heaven, my blood flow slowed to a crawl, and the anxiety creeping in took a backward step.
I slowly and methodically took stock of my surroundings through strained auditory nerves and what little vision I had past the tall grass that concealed my inert form. I checked the area in quadrants, starting at my one to three position and continued til I returned back to twelve.
Thankfully, I found no presence close enough to my position to be a current threat. But how long the situation would remain in my favor was unknown. In my experience, nothing was ever assured, no matter what the powers-that-be claimed.
The more calm my nerves became, the more I was able to process of my environment. In my own silenced state, I could make out a whispered conversation some distance from my twelve o’clock. The sounds were too far away to be helpful, other than being able to note the presence of at least two warm bodies. They didn’t appear to be moving, as their voices were neither getting louder, nor diminishing.
I filed the information away, and continued my sedentary recon. Movement at my eleven brought a brief flare up of adrenaline as I felt the ground reverberate ever so slightly at the passing of another body.
I inched a hand toward the butt of the Beretta housed in its thigh holster, while I simultaneously gripped the M4A1 at my side, finger already curling around the trigger.
The third target slowly passed by and joined the position of the previous two, still conversing, and entirely oblivious to my presence. With luck, the situation would remain acceptable until such time as I could move into a more tenable position to conduct my part of the op.
Somewhere, distantly out of my sight line, on the far side of the field I currently resided in, was a walled compound. Inside said compound, according to our best intel, was my number one mission parameter. Jose Torres was known to be the head of the Droga Cartel, and currently the most wanted drug lord of Colombia. His operation was purportedly moving more than a half billion in cocaine a year across the border and into the streets of America.
The soldiers loitering outside would be nothing more than collateral damage. Though that made them no less of a menace to me or the rest of my team. Well paid soldiers, especially those that feared failing a man as callous and coldblooded as Torres, would balk at nothing in the performance of their duty. Our satellites had produced plenty of intel on the training facility run by Torres’ number one subordinate, Sami Silva. So, I knew that it would be far from a simple matter to get past the men between me and my prime target.
I did, however, take great consolation in the fact that five of my closest brothers were spread out over a quarter mile radius, with the compound being the hub. And I knew they were just as ready and eager for action as I. A couple maybe more so.
Lieutenant Doc Hallstead and Staff Sergeant Rueben Goddard were always the most vocal when it came time to pour out hell on earth, as they referred to any action against a target. And they were definitely som of the best at what they did. Not that the rest of the team members weren’t overqualified for the job. Those two just seemed a little more eager to enter a firefight as any of the others.
And this op had all the makings for exactly what they were after. Plus, this one had a special meaning for Doc. Sometime during the past year, when Torres had popped up on the intelligence radar, Doc’s younger sister had OD’d while at a high school party. Though it was accidental on her part. Some douchebag had laced a tray of cookies with cocaine, and the deadly product had been traced directly back to Jose Torres and this particular compound.
I took several minutes to painstakingly reposition myself and checked my HUD display. It was getting near our go time. In fact, mere moments separated me from engaging the enemy. A quick glance at my display screen showed me the entire team was now in position to strike at the newest head of the drug fueled hydra masquerading as human beings.
When the action started, no quarter would be asked for, nor given. Our orders were to strike fast, first, and fervently. No prisoners. No survivors. Not that I expected any of these soldiers to surrender. It was no more in their makeup than it was in ours. It would be a fight to the death. Either theirs, or ours. And I had no intention of letting it be ours.
As I prepared mentally, one last time, a COM check came through, initializing the ten second count down to the op’s final push.
I steeled my nerves, tossed up a quick supplication for a successful mission, and readied myself to transition from silent observer to hell bringer.