Derek Tawarrior jolted awake on a tide of dream-driven adrenaline. The remembered bleat of an air-raid siren forced his feet to the floor, his hand groping for his AK-47 in the semi-darkness of the tent he shared with seven of his buddies.
Between one heartbeat and the next, the scene shifted, melting like ice on a hot sidewalk; he was sitting at the edge of his bed in the cool light of morning, a breeze lapping around him from the half-open window of his bedroom.
The walls were beige plaster, not olive drab canvas and a small bedside table with a clock radio and lamp stood next to the bed. On the table, his service piece – a .40 caliber Beretta 96 Vertec – snuggled in its holster. It was this, not an army-issue AK-47 that met his questing hand.
Derek pulled his hand back as the phone bleated again. He shook himself and picked up the receiver, wondering how long he’d have to be a police detective before he stopped having a soldier’s dreams.
He looked at the clock – 7:00 AM. “Derek Tawarrior.”
“Derek, it’s me.”
As soon as he recognized the voice, Derek knew something was wrong. Richard Templeton wasn’t a morning person. As long as Derek had known Richard, a former Afrikaner police captain he had befriended long ago, the man had never awakened before nine in the morning.
Suddenly and fully awake, Derek sat up on the bed and gripped the buff-colored receiver tightly; it looked bone-white against his skin.
“What is it, Richard?”
“I want to–Derek, the thing is–you need–“
“Richard, just tell me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it on the phone. This is something that I haven’t seen before. It’s sick stuff and I need you to come to my ranch right away.”
“I’ll be there.”
Derek hung up, glancing again at the clock. Richard’s hesitation bothered him- his friend was not given evasion. He pushed himself to his feet, took a quick shower, and grabbed a fast breakfast.
His slap-dash meal completed, Derek cleared his dishes and bent to turn off the television, which he’d flipped on to catch a few minutes of the news. The news cut away to a commercial that featured a golden retriever much like Jake, the dog Derek had found as a stray pup and given to Richard. Brought swiftly back to the here and now, he flipped off the TV, straightened the holster beneath his suit coat, and left the house. On the front porch he nearly tripped over a newspaper. He tucked the beef shank from last night’s dinner that he’d wrapped for Jake under his arm. He tossed the paper back onto the porch and jogged to his car.