Chapter One - The Memory
I didn’t intentionally choose a life of violence and murder. My life kind of chose me.
That’s what I tell myself anyway. Believing as I do, diminishes my regrets and makes me feel less responsible. After all, what choice had I really had?
My childhood, or the lack of it, was without warm fuzzies and, ultimately, funneled me into service with the U.S. Navy. Granted, it was a path I readily embraced, but the military wasn’t big on warm fuzzies either. Instead, it honed my innate talents.
I learned many valuable things during my time in the service. Among them was the foundational lesson that good intentions, in and of themselves, are a dead end. The only way you arrive at a destination is to act on a plan.
The Navy was good to me, probably better than I deserved, but I grew tired of taking orders from people whose skills were inferior to mine. Oh sure, maybe when they were my age, they were the best of the best. But I was in my prime and, as much as I loved the military for giving purpose to my less than stellar start in life, I was tired of taking orders.
In addition to being dissatisfied on a personal level, I wasn’t happy with military pay. When I found myself looking ahead fifteen or twenty years, I couldn’t see the military providing the life I wanted. Not only would a military pension fail to fund my desired future, it would have stood between me and my lofty goals.
No way was I willing to settle for less than my highest aspirations. So, based on lessons learned, I knew it was time for a change and it was up to me to make it happen.
Ultimately, I know how to do one thing well: be a soldier. I did as I was taught and put my plan in motion. I marketed my only skill, selling it to the highest bidder. That decision was truly the beginning for me. It’s a beginning without regret and one which put me right on track for the life I envisioned. I was fine with that.
Not once did I consider my work as a mercenary the end all, be all, of my life. I wanted more. I deserved more. While I had superior skills and a desire for a new future, my long-range plan had to include provision for one unyielding aspect of my personality; a severe dislike for the unexpected.
Surprises simply aren’t my thing. I don’t relish the unavoidable damage they bring with them. There are ways to mitigate, maybe not the surprises themselves, but the harm they cause. Extensive planning and an even temperament are surprisingly effective tools against the unexpected, but I’ve learned that self-discipline is also helpful. I work endlessly to be ready for anything that might come my way.
Ordered, organized, regimented, whatever you want to call it, I relish the structured framework of my life. I do what I want, when I want. I count on no one and count myself as needed by no one, not on a personal level anyway. My life is an environment purposefully created by me and I immerse myself in it. Per my definition, I live indulgently. I’m certainly fine with that.
This mesa where I make my home is a natural wonder. There are thousands upon thousands of acres which allow for the privacy and solitude I crave. Additionally, they’re strewn with indigenous obstacles to incorporate into my strategy of physical and mental fitness.
Breathe, push, breathe, push. A few yards to go.
Upon completing my run, I cautiously break through the tall grasses at the edge of the pond, my chest heaving, my lungs desperate for the air they crave. I check my pulse and respiration rates as sweat trickles the length of my body, soaking any article of clothing to which it lays claim.
When I glance toward the front of my cabin, I see a woman standing on the front porch. To have gotten there undetected she would have had to precisely navigate the shattered old walk that leads to the front of my home.
Not easy, but not impossible. Still, it’s rather strange.
She’s blonde and of slight build. In this instant, and at this distance, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly descriptive about her. She simply stands at the southern entrance to my cabin, knocking on the door.
That, in and of itself, is rare. My place is much too remote for passersby to stumble across. Nor do I ever invite anyone to my place. No one comes here intentionally.
However, this woman clearly isn’t a figment of my imagination, so it looks as if today is a rare exception to my life of solitude. It also looks as if my defenses failed to protect me from the unexpected.
For some reason, this intruder piques my curiosity. There’s a vague familiarity which keeps pinging my brain. There’s no fear attached to the mental nudge. There’s no cause for alarm. I would know if there were. Yet, some memory is relentless in its effort to surface.
What is it about her? Is it the way she’s dressed? In that regard, there’s not much to be determined from here. Her clothes don’t appear special, certainly nothing upscale. Her dress is just a simple straight garment made of some light weight fabric which moves vaguely in the breeze. I’m too far removed to see for myself, but I wonder if the dress has a floral print on it.
Right now, because of the distance between us, she’s unaware of my observation even though I’m making no effort to hide my presence. Her attention is focused solely on getting someone to answer the door.
I’m not at all sure how long she’s been on the porch, but, without notice, she gives up knocking, resolute the door isn’t going to be answered. After a moment she reaches over and grabs the handle on her suitcase. She rolls it behind her as she turns and shuffles for the lone chair, an Adirondack, which sets facing the quiet pond.
A trained eye is a useful tool. It can differentiate between true confidence and mere arrogance. It can pick up on the tiniest of details which could cost you your life. Or, it enables you to distinguish between a true lameness and one that’s a product of role playing. There’s nothing false about the uneven gait which propels the visitor across my porch. Her first two steps pull forth the memory my brain has been requesting. I know exactly who she is.
It’s been a long two years, a welcome reprieve, but not nearly reprieve enough. It appears as if I’m entirely wrong about someone never finding me intentionally. Shaking my head in disbelief, I start toward my cabin, unable to imagine how she found me or why she even bothered.