According to Grace - Preview

  

This story is based on real events communicated to a massage therapist during a sequence of treatment sessions. By following news reports and talking to some of the other people actually involved, the story has been completed, but basically, “According to Grace”. 

Naturally, the names of the participants and locations have been changed, so, the characters and locations in this novel should be considered fictional and have no relation to actual persons, living or dead.


The story deals with the tribulations of the Tomersley family brought on by corruption of the U.S. Goverrnment and its military, starting during the Vietnam era.


Part of Chapter One:

  

The tray of cutlery slipped from her hands, seemingly in slow motion. It was almost as though she saw it happen before the actual event but lacked the will or the power to prevent it. 

Déjà vu or a mindless premonition?

One corner of the tray hit the sorting table causing the forks to fly in all directions. Handles leading the way, the knives slithered towards the floor arriving an instant before the spoons. The metallic splattering and chattering of the forks as they reached the floor momentarily preceded the stainless-steel tray’s resonant clang as it landed on its edge then noisily rocked itself to rest. 

Total silence followed and Grace stood dumbstruck, jaw hanging, eyes wide in disbelief.

In a loud whisper, she cursed her clumsiness and stooped to gather the utensils. It was only then she realized that her head was throbbing at the temples. She felt like hurling everything at the nearest wall, preferably with a breakable window, but simply did not have the energy.

Sharp, aching stabs darted uncomfortably deep inside her skull in perfect cadence with her pounding heart. She moaned as she dismissed the pain, filled the tray and carried the errant silverware back to the washing station. There just wasn’t enough time for this. There was never enough time.

* * * * *

Have you ever had one of those headaches that linger? 

By itself, not so serious but whenever there wasn’t a distraction of some sort, there it was – that throb – right up behind your eyeballs. And your feet burned and your low back ached? Has your body ever hurt so much you doubted you’d make it through the rest of the day? You know, you really wish you could trade your body for somebody else’s?  

Anybody else’s!

Well, on top of the pain that autumn Sunday evening, Grace sensed that the whole world was closing in on her and the pressure was becoming unbearable. She’d been on her feet since 5 a.m., barely stopping for a cup of coffee and a quick but unproductive sit in the bathroom (which only lasted five minutes) before the staff began hollering for her from the kitchen.

So now she sat, hunched over the table, head in her hands, barely breathing, listening to the hum of the dishwasher as it sprayed boiling water over the twice-washed cutlery.

Grace had been a frail child and a late bloomer, but as a young teenager, she’d become an awkward tom-boy type – sweet face, strawberry blonde ponytail, lanky body but always in jeans and a T-shirt. She hung out with her brother Russ and his friends, trying to join in all their games but being mostly pushed aside by the boys. When Grace started to blossom, Russ became very protective of her, warding off the “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” advances of some of his more lustful playmates. He suggested she stop wearing T-shirts and adopt a more “lady-like” appearance. She was pretty much banned from the macho boy-games. There was much pouting and petulance on Grace’s part and it wasn’t until after Russ left home to join the Marines however, that Grace’s chrysalis opened and from it emerged the seductively beautiful butterfly.

Her pre-adult life had always been “pleasant”, there had never been any insurmountable challenges that confronted her, and her present situation had developed so slowly over time that it was difficult to come to grips with its sudden reality. It seemed that tonight, her world had come crashing in around her. Her head was on fire and her body was screaming loudly.

At this exact moment, she couldn’t decide which hurt most – her head or her back, but then, both legs throbbed as if she’d just run the first-ever Marathon to deliver the victorious news about that ancient, historic battle. The difference was that she had no good news! But wasn’t there a messenger who was killed by his Monarch because he delivered bad news? Grace’s ‘bad news’ was the accumulation of bills for the operating expenses for the restaurant; her battle – finding time to keep up with the paperwork!

She groaned, then mumbled, “I guess they only kill you when y’got bad news for somebody else. Jeez, I wish someone’d put me out of my misery right now! Damned restaurant!”

As her head dropped into her arms which were folded onto the table, Grace sank deeper into her misery, a myriad of thoughts flashing through her mind, none of which could she grasp. Her life was an unpleasant whirl! How had it come to this? She was physically exhausted, emotionally drained and worn out to the point where absolutely nothing seemed worthwhile any more. How much longer could she go on? 

Her body yearned to stretch out. Anywhere! On the floor; across the table; her mind was directing her to lie down but her body was throbbing as it tried to numb the pain. She simply could not move.

As numbness progressed throughout her body Grace lost gravitational perspective. There was no longer any downward, inward pressure, only a feeling of light restraint. Her body could just as well have been floating in the heavens amidst a billowing cotton-puff cloud. She drifted to a peaceful, faraway place and was momentarily content, but before too long heard a voice gently whispering her name and the pain returned. 

She tried to free herself from the crushing pressure of her body which she imagined was the inwards swirling of the cloud that restrained her.

At first, the sound was faint, a gentle summons only slightly intruding on her solitude. Nothing could be important enough to really need her attention, so she slumped forward lazily but the voice beckoned again, almost pleadingly. Desperately she struggled to extricate herself from the stupor, or at least answer, but she could not respond. The call became more urgent and as her brain began to focus, she managed to raise her head, then snapped back to reality, jerking upright.

“Hey, Gracie! Whatsa matter you?! You donna looka so good, eh.” Luigi the kitchen supervisor had poked his head around the door, wiping his greasy hands on his checkered pants. He quietly crossed the floor and hovered over Grace wondering what he should do. He’d never seen his boss sitting in the staff-room let alone looking like a whipped puppy. In fact, nobody ever really got to spend much time in the staff room! After all, she was the one who bounced in, delivered the pep talk, got everybody fired up and then kept the customers happy

Luigi was good looking in an Italian kind of way but he always seemed to be “greasy”. He was lean and swarthy and his nickname, “Lui the Lizard”, suited him. He was actually of Mexican-Greek derivation (courtesy of World War II) but looked more Italian than many Romans. When he was eight years old, his mother had immigrated to America to marry his father who had served with the U.S. Army in Italy and Greece.

She had moved to Italy after the war and waited for an opportunity to contact Luigi’s father in Texas. The bureaucracy was even more than cumbersome back then, and years passed before the necessary paperwork could be mailed back and forth and finally approved, allowing the trio to be united.

Lui’s pre-America formative years were spent in the suburbs of Rome so his ‘native’ tongue was a mixture of Maternal Greek and Street Italian. Not having had the advantage of a father until he was eight, he knew how to “work” women which in many circles might be considered to be a great advantage! His schooling in Texas was minimal and he’d moved to Tennessee a year after his mother died when he was eighteen. 


Part of Chapter Twenty-Nine:

  

Perkins placed a call to the nearest airport with a charter service and a plane large enough to carry eight passengers and equipment. Parachutes were taken out of storage, unpacked, checked and repacked and under cover of the falling darkness, another team of Montana militiamen, this time led by Captain Perkins, departed for southern Iowa.

The computer-generated maps of the area in which Ed was trapped, directed the pilot close to Lovilia from which point the plane conducted low-flying search sweeps. All eyes in the plane were scanning for signs of Ed.

The sun was rising and the Sheriff’s deputy, weary from a sleepless but uneventful night manning the road block preventing Ed’s escape, leaned against the hood of the patrol car and ruminated on a donut. He squinted through blood-shot eyes at the low-flying plane, droning back and forth, slowly edging ever closer.

“Hey Frank! What the heck’s that guy think he’s doing? He’s too big for a crop duster. He’ll clip those trees if he’s not careful!” Loudly, he banged on the roof of the car to awaken his partner who was still half asleep sprawled across the back seat.

Stirring drowsily, the other deputy poked his head out of the window and squinted skyward as the plane buzzed overhead then started to circle and climb.

“Damned if I know. Shouldn’t be flying that low anyway. Where’s the nearest airport? Maybe he’s in trouble and looking for somewhere to ditch. Here, have some coffee. Hand me the donuts.” And he passed the thermos flask out the window.

The plane continued to circle, climbing until it reached an altitude of fifteen hundred feet. It leveled out and began a run towards the deputies. They couldn’t know that Ed was holed up less than half a mile from their location and had managed to attract the attention of the plane’s pilot and passengers.

Slushing his coffee down the front of his uniform, the deputy’s eyes widened as a series of parachutes billowed in the wake of the now overhead aircraft.

“I’ll be damned. Get a look at this, Frank! Damned skydivers are going to land almost on top of us. Did they get a permit?”

The eight silken canopies mushroomed behind the disappearing plane and came to ground in rapid succession. Using World War Two ‘chutes, the descent took less than two minutes. Perkins and three of his men hit the ground within a hundred and fifty yards of the waiting Ed, while the last two parachutists to exit the plane, landed in a cornfield on the other side of the road, a few hundred feet from the roadblock.

Deputy Frank climbed out of the patrol car and accompanied his partner towards the parachutists as they gathered-in their silken shrouds, ballooning in the light breeze.

“Hey! What you boys think you’re doin’? You can’t go jumpin’ any old place you like, you know!” Frank climbed up on the steel rung of the gate to get a better view of the two men thrashing around in the half-grown corn, then in his deepest, most officious voice bellowed, “Anyways, you boys got a permit or anythin’?”

Meanwhile, the two remaining jumpers who’d landed northeast of the roadblock, had made their way to the patrol car and taken possession. While one of them covered the Deputies, the other quietly opened the trunk, dumped the Officers’ files out onto the ground and stowed their rucksacks. He then gunned the vehicle into life and noisily revved the engine several times.

The Deputies spun around and were dismayed to find a camouflage-attired militiaman pointing an automatic rifle at them. The last two of Perkins’ men cleared the cornfield, climbed the gate and poked their rifles into the backs of the policemen.

With the Deputies handcuffed to their barricade, which had been pulled to the side of the road, the patrol car carrying the four hi-jackers sped to the farmhouse up the road. Ed’s injury, which was only a superficial flesh wound, had been cleaned and dressed. Perkins and Ed had exchanged information and a plan of action was formulated.

The militiamen took up a defensive position around the farmhouse and waited for their two vehicles to arrive from Jefferson City. The police radio was bristling with agitated messages from the Sheriff to his missing, unresponsive Deputies and Perkins knew it wouldn’t be too long before another patrol car appeared on the scene. Ed was more concerned with the whereabouts of the Federal Agents and whether they too might be on the way to Iowa. Radio contact had been established between the Group’s teams and the two vehicles from Jefferson City were not too far away, speeding north. 

Perkins decided it was time to abandon their position and head south until they connected with their northbound vehicles. While Perkins drove, his partner squashed up and perched sideways in the space behind the MG’s seats. Ed sat comfortably in the passenger seat and the trio headed due south followed by the commandeered patrol car now carrying the other six militiamen. As soon as they met up with the Group vehicles they’d ditch the police cruiser and make a dash for the Senator’s mansion.

* * * * *

Andy was still in residence at the Mansion when the first two teams from the Group arrived. Ed had already called ahead and warned him that they were on their way. The gates were open and their vehicle was quickly secured inside the garage.

The eight militiamen immediately swept over the grounds, reconnoitering for possible hiding spots, sniper hides and areas from which they might be attacked. Two men then took up sentry positions on the roof while the others barricaded all points of entry into the building and prepared for nightfall.

It wasn’t all that long before the other vehicles, led by the MG, rolled into the estate. Once all the vehicles were parked inside the cavernous garage, Andy, with the pickup truck, was dispatched into town to arouse the owner of the supermarket and obtain supplies for what may prove to be an extended siege.

It could be safely assumed that at this point in time, the Agents knew nothing of the Group or Ed’s affiliation with it. What the local authorities would make of the parachutists, the commandeered patrol car and Ed’s escape were a matter of conjecture. It might be assumed that by now, the Agents were aware that the Senator’s mansion had some connection with Ed’s whereabouts and they could be expected to check the place out.