Chapter 1

Copyright┬ę 2007 by Volentrin


I was getting a little nervous, the closer I got to my parents house. Oh, I knew I was welcome there, but I had not told my parents about my getting wounded, and the resultant medical disability I'd had to accept. After fifteen years in the Army, I was medically retired due to a wound I had received a few months ago.

My left shoulder and the joint were still damaged, though the military hospital had almost totally rebuilt the joint. Still, the original wound had been serious. As a result, I had lost some muscle as well as part of my shoulder joint.

I grimaced in pain as the cab hit a pot hole. 'Good old' Denver streets. The winter was doing what it always did to them, and damned if this cabbie didn't seem able to find each and every one of the pot holes. Either way, my left shoulder was hurting something fierce.

Finally the cab pulled up in the circle in front of my parents' house. I paid him off, and he took my bag out of the trunk. One duffle bag, and a suitcase with my civilian clothes were all I had to show for fifteen years in the military. The military, particularly the special forces, did not encourage single people to collect a lot of junk.

I went to the front door, and rang the bell. No answer. I took out my keys. I unlocked the front door and entered the house. While it was not the house I had grown up in, I had visited often enough to be familiar with the layout.

There was a room upstairs that was mine for when I visited... first door to the left. My sister had one across the hall from mine. My parents' room was at the end of the hall. They had the 'en suite' bath, as well. Each bedroom connected to a bathroom, but nothing as grand as my parents bath.

My father was an investment broker, and my mother was an interior decorator. Both were successful at what they did. Hell, I had turned a lot of my money over to my dad for investing. He was that good.

One thing my dad had pounded into my head when I was growing up, was to save, save, save. I was in the perfect place to save, as far as I was concerned. As a single man in the army, I received free room and board. I could and did save most of my pay.

After I made E-7 or sergeant first class, I was moved from the barracks, to apartment style billets for senior enlisted. I was already missing the military. I had planned for a life long career with the service, and had been well on my way, until I had received this wound.

I looked at the clock in the hall downstairs, after putting my bags up in my room. It was 1:45 PM, and my little sister would be getting home from school in a little over an hour. She was in the local high school. I smiled with fond memories as I thought of her.

She had been born shortly after I had enlisted in the army. I had been 18 and did not want another four years of school, in the form of college. She had been a cute little baby. I had made it home often enough for her to form an attachment to me. Hell, she adored her big brother, as I adored her.

For that matter, she had been a cute little girl, too. She was going to be a knock out. As the guys in the units I had been stationed with would say, "She's built like a brick shit-house!"

I made my way to the kitchen, and got a glass of water. I took the two painkillers I had brought downstairs with me. I hated taking pills to begin with, but my shoulder was really acting up. I set the glass near the sink, and made my way to the living room. I turned on the TV, which is where I fell asleep.

"Steve!" I heard a shriek.

I snapped my eyes open, and was just in time to intercept my little sister from throwing herself on me. I noticed a dark haired girl in the doorway. She was watching interestedly, but my mind classified her as non threatening. What I had to watch out for, was my sister.

"Hey, Christine? Look, can I ask you something? I hurt my left shoulder and if you hug me too tight, it will hurt like hell," I told her gently, still holding her off at arms length with my right arm.

She stopped struggling to reach me as I spoke. Her face took on a concerned look.

"Oh. I'm sorry. I don't want to hurt you. What happened?" she asked me with a fifteen year old's curiosity.

"Well, I don't want to repeat everything, so can you wait till mom and dad are here? I'll tell everyone at once?" I asked reasonably.

I stood and put my right arm around her, and she carefully put her arms around my waist and hugged me back. She introduced me to her friend, Melissa. Shortly, the two of them were sitting on the couch, while my sister asked me how long I was staying.

"That's classified information, Christine. If I told you that, I would have to kill you," I said her with a serious look.

"That's just stupid. Come on! Are you on leave? A pass? At least tell me if you will be here for my birthday next week?" she queried me breathlessly.

"Birthday? Is someone having a birthday?" I asked as if I had forgotten.

Christine rolled her eyes at me.

"Jeez, Steve. You pull that crap every time it's my birthday. I'm not twelve anymore, you know. Give me a break," she said rolling her eyes again.

I laughed, and ruffled her hair. The guys were right. She was growing up, and was already a heart breaker. She smoothed out her hair, and I caught Melissa grinning at us. Both girls were very pretty. My sister had honey blond hair, blue eyes and elfin features. Her friend Melissa was a dark haired beauty. Both must have boys sniffling around them, constantly. I felt a pang of jealousy and an overwhelming sense of protectiveness go through me.

I spent a while catching up with Christine, and what had been happening back here. I carefully kept to myself what had happened to me. When I told the family a bit of it later, there was going to be worry, and maybe a bit of hell to pay.

Mom was the first one home, and her welcome was a happy one. Dad followed her by about forty minutes

"Ok, now that Mom and Dad are home, can you say how you hurt your shoulder, now?" Christine asked me.

"Why don't we wait till after supper? I am still playing catch up here, you know," I answered firmly.

"Chrissy, you hush up and leave your brother alone. He'll tell us what he can, when he gets around to it," my mom told my little sister firmly.

"Melissa, are you staying for dinner?" my dad asked her.

"No, Mr. Anderson. My parents are expecting me home for supper, so I have to leave. Nice meeting you, Steve," Melissa said and left.

I relaxed and was happy to be home. Dad sat with me, and Mom went into the kitchen to make supper. Christine was banished to her room to do her homework, so Dad and I caught up.

"Your portfolio is doing well, Steve. I was just about to send you the quarterly report on it. If you give me till tomorrow, when I get to work I can look up the figures. However, I do know you are almost at the three hundred thousand dollar mark, in your investments! Congratulations. I told you turning over profits and putting them back into the investment fund would stand you in good stead. Plus, it defers the taxes," my dad told me.

I nodded. I always paid attention to what Dad said when it came to money. While there were better or maybe luckier brokers, Dad was a solid investor. His investments always made money... Always!

We also talked about local noteworthy items of interest... the news, politics and family. I caught up on the doings of my aunts, uncles and cousins. One of my cousins was in prison after having been caught breaking into a pharmacy. Apparently he had gotten hooked on drugs. I sighed when I heard that. I had always liked him best, as he was the closest to my age.

Dinner that evening was pot roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. Peach cobbler was the dessert. No one made peach cobbler like my mother. I sat back and unbuckled my belt.

"Mom, I can already see you are a danger to me. If I stay too long, I will start looking like Santa Claus!" I exclaimed with a laugh.

"Well, you look like you could use a few pounds, here or there. You're absolutely skinny," mom responded.

I had lost some weight after my injury, and was still slowly gaining it back.

"Well, I have been putting off for as long as I could the particulars of my injury. Guess now is the best time to get it said. All I ask, is that no one repeat what I am about to say, to anyone.

"I was shot during a withdrawal from a country that shall remain nameless. All I can actually say, is that we had completed the mission. We were leaving for the extraction point.

"I got hit by a very powerful rifle bullet, in the back of my left shoulder. I had to have surgery to repair the joint. I lost some muscle, and I still don't have full mobility. The doctors say it is doubtful I will regain very much more mobility in my left shoulder.

"I am going to be doing intensive therapy at the local VA hospital for my shoulder and arm. Also, I have been given a medical discharge from service. I am now out of the army," I finished, with a sigh.

Mom had tears in her eyes, and Christine's eyes were huge. Dad looked sorrowful. I was quick to add that I was alive and getting better. I didn't want them feeling sorry for me.

"Eight months," I said, muttering to myself.

That was how long I had been going to the VA for therapy. While there had been some improvement in the mobility of my left shoulder, it was not enough to override the medical disability I had received from the army doctors. I would not be rejoining the military after all.

I had been hoping against hope that I could overcome the disability and rejoin the military. I was even prepared to take a loss of a rank for the time I had been gone, knowing I could make it up again quickly.

Unfortunately, the reality of the wound was now settling in. I had worked my butt off, working through pain and stiffness to regain the use of my left arm and shoulder, restoring as much mobility as I could. While I'd had quite a bit of success, I was still far short of what the military would accept. My dreams of rejoining the army were dashed. I finally had to accept that.

I started looking for a place of my own, to live. I had been living in my parent's house, during the therapy. While I enjoyed the time with my family, I wanted to be on my own. That was how I ended up buying a place way out here, outside of a little town called Wolf Creek.

It was a bitty little town, over five thousand feet up in the mountains, on the western side of Colorado. I fell in love with the area right away. The house I finally bought, had been part of a farm. The small amount of farming land had gone, a long time ago, to someone else.

The house sat on ten acres of woods, though, and there was an old barn that went along with the house. A barn, a machine shed, an honest to god old smoke house, and a chicken coup that had almost fallen in on itself, completed the ensemble.

It would take a lot of work to get the house livable, but time and money I had aplenty. While the place had had electricity run to it, a large propane tank was what supplied the cook stove and the furnace.

I noticed the electrical power line was all overgrown by the trees, and considered what this could mean during storms. I contacted the power company, and asked them if they were going to trim back the trees.

They responded that they would and could trim them back, but their tree service was already behind. This was due to this season's unusual work load. It would be months before they got around to me. I considered my options, and decided to buy a small generator that ran on propane. I could hook it up to run only some lights and the refrigerator, plus a few selected wall outlets.

So I spent the spring and summer getting the house fixed up. I did some of the work myself, but had to hire out a lot of it. For example, some of the roof needed replacing. I mean part of the roof structure itself, not just shingles. That ran me four thousand dollars, all by itself. Then I had to re-shingle the roof.

I gutted part of the inside of the house. Water came from a well, and I had a plumber come in and run pipes for indoor plumbing. That blew another fifteen thousand dollars, by the time I was done.

I had to have a waste system put in for the waste water. That was another few thousand dollars. Every time I did something, it cost me money.

Finally came the day that everything was done.

The electricity was on, the water worked off my well. My waste disposal system was installed, and it worked fine. The propane tank was replaced with a newer, bigger one. A generator that ran on propane had been installed outside, at the back of the house.

The propane tank was a big one: five hundred pounds! That would run my stove, water heater, and furnace for three months, if I was careful. The generator was there just to produce electricity in the event of a power loss. I expected that to happen during high winds and storms.

One of the things I had added to the house was a fireplace. Another expense, but one I thought was well worth it. Firstly, I liked fireplaces. Secondly, chopping wood for my fireplace would keep my left shoulder limber. It was a win/win situation as far as I was concerned.

The autumn of the year after my release from the military, saw me living in my home at Wolf Creek. My folks and my sister had come out to see the place. While they liked it, it was over a three hour drive from their place to mine. We would not be visiting each other too frequently.

I was out looking for more wood for my fireplace. I had already gone through the close up dead falls, and was actively looking further afield. What the hell, I had ten acres to wander over. I was sure I would come across a likely tree, soon.

I was looking along the slope of the mountain, as I had ignored this direction previously. It was still on my property, but the land was rough. It would be hard to get the firewood back to my place.

I had plenty of wood already chopped and ready for the winter, but I was actively looking for more wood to use, when I had used up my current supply. I had hoped the power company would have dropped some of the huge branches from the trees along the power line by now, letting me use them for the fireplace, but they had yet to start trimming. They said they were still 'behind'. I had offered to have them trimmed and present them with the bill, but they said I could not do that. They had a contract with a local company that could do it cheaper than I could have had it done.

It was while I was on the slope of the mountain, that I found the cave.

I had stumbled over a root, and crashed into and through some brush that had overgrown the opening to the cave! I was excited. No one had told me about a cave on my property. I decided to go back to my place, and get some light and a rope. I wanted to do this right.

Unfortunately, I was unable to pursue my exploration of the cave, right then. First, my phone was ringing. By the time I answered it, whoever had been calling had hung up. Then, as I started to get the items together to explore the cave, the local deputy sheriff showed up.

I went out to see what he wanted.

"Deputy Lorry. What brings you here this afternoon?" I asked curiously.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Anderson. We have received a severe storm warning. I am stopping by everyone who lives on this side of Wolf Creek to warn them. I am not sure how familiar you are with mountain storms, but the weather service says we are due for a good'un," the deputy responded.

I looked at the sky and noticed storm clouds off in the distance.

"Are you sure? I mean, those clouds are way off to the west," I responded.

"That's the problem with mountain storms. They have a tendency to sneak up on you," he replied.

We talked a bit, and while we were talking, the wind did pick up a little. Damn, I was going to have to put off exploring the cave until later. Well, it would still be there. I invited the deputy in for some coffee, but he declined. He said he had to go, as he still had a few more people to warn. I thanked him just before he drove off.

I made sure my wood pile was covered with the tarp that I used to keep most of the weather off it, and I checked on a few other things. While I was outside, the temperature dropped, dramatically. Damn, these mountain storms did come up sudden like.

Earlier it had been light jacket weather, and now it was positively cold. I swear, I could smell snow in the air now. I pulled my Ford truck under the carport that I had had built onto the side of the house, to keep most of the weather off it. Then I went into the house.

It wasn't long until the electric failed from the power lines, and my generator kicked in. The temperature kept dropping and soon rain started lashing at the house. Damn, it was a real downpour. Well, I had plenty of food and supplies on hand, so I was not worried.

The rain turned into sleet, which in turn, turned into snow. I was amazed at the weather extremes I had experienced today. I had gone from light jacket weather, to a mountain snowstorm, in just a few hours. I'd had this explained to me a few times by two or three people, but to experience it was something else entirely!

While the storm blew the snow around outside, I gathered what I would need to explore the cave I had found earlier. After that, I lit the logs in my fireplace, and enjoyed having a fire blazing inside while it snowed outside.

It was getting noticeably chilly inside my house, so I kicked on the furnace. Damn, it was only late September, and already I had to use my furnace. Well, I was going to keep a strict record of the propane I used, so I could estimate how much I would have to buy through the winter months.

The storm lasted for three days. All it did was snow, but it was a heavy, wet snow. It was the type that stuck to everything. Kids liked it, 'cause it was good snowball snow. I smiled at the memories of snowball fights with my friends I'd had when I was a kid.

My generator kept running smoothly, so I had lights, power for the refrigerator, and the coffee pot. The propane tank delivered its cargo to my home flawlessly. I was warm and snug in my house, and I enjoyed looking out the windows at the snow coming down.

My mom called me, after realizing I was in the area that was getting hit with the snowstorm. Denver had avoided getting hit, for some reason. She was a bit worried about me. After I reassured her I was all right. We talked briefly about me coming for a visit after my next trip to the VA hospital. I told her I would be there, and then we hung up.

Edited by TeNderLoin

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