Chapter 1

The crosshairs of the rifle scope were steady on the side of the man's head. Jonas couldn't take the shot because the man was walking and holding the 15 year old girl tight against his chest. The man's head was pressed against the side of her head and if Jonas pulled the trigger there was a high probability that the girl would be killed too. The man was walking along one of the many forest trails that bordered the river in the Shawnee Mission Park in Kansas City. The sun had just set and it was nearing dusk. The light would be fading in moments. Jonas was a little over 100 yards away on a little rise. He was right where Joe had told him that he needed to be to save the girl.

Jonas Gianni had been one of the top Mafia hit men in the country. That changed a few days ago when Jonas, his wife and daughter were killed. God, or Joe, or whatever name you wanted to call the caretaker of that strange garden Jonas had seen, gave Jonas another chance. His choices had been eternal damnation or a chance at Redemption. Jonas had a chance to spend eternity with his wife and daughter. It was a no brainer for Jonas. He became one of Joe's, or God's Protectors and his job was to protect the innocents of the world.

Jonas could see the man's aura through the scope. It was such a putrid dark yellow-black color that it would have turned most men's stomachs. Seeing an aura was one of the many advantages Joe was able to give Jonas. Joe called it an advantage. Jonas wasn't so sure. It could be very disconcerting when he walked into a crowd.

"I could use a little help here," Jonas muttered.

"Take your shot in three more steps," the voice in his head said.

Jonas's time sense stretched. It always did at times like this. The man's fast walk changed to a slow motion crawl from Jonas's perspective. One step and the man looked over his left shoulder. The cross hairs seemed locked on the man's head. Two steps and the man looked back over his other shoulder. Jonas took up the trigger slack. The man's foot came up for the third step. Jonas's finger started squeezing the trigger. The trigger was calibrated to an exact four pound pull and Jonas had just over two pounds pressure on it. A covey of quail flew from bushes to the man's left. At the same moment a siren from a police car shrieked from the road about a quarter mile away to the man's left. The man didn't hesitate. The man pivoted in mid step and he turned right to leave the trail. At the same time a knife appeared in his hand and it was moving towards the girl's throat. The man had turned directly towards Jonas. The remainder of the four pounds of pressure was applied as the man's foot struck the ground on the third step. The rifle bucked gently against Jonas's shoulder. Jonas thought he could almost see the bullet in flight as it traveled over 3000 feet per second to its target. The red dot that appeared on the man's forehead was almost an afterthought. His head snapped back. His arms went slack and the girl staggered away. She fell to her knees screaming. The man didn't even stagger under the impact of the bullet. He simply lay back onto a thicket of blackberry brambles and didn't move again. Jonas had the added proof that he was dead when the sickly yellow aura winked out.

Time snapped back to normal speed and Jonas heard the sound of the shot echoing over the gentle woodlands that surrounded the area. Police erupted from a tree line about 500 feet from where the girl was kneeling and crying hysterically. Most were uniformed police but they were led by a man in a suit coat. Jonas looked through the scope and had to smile to himself. The round shouldered figure with a paunch in a rumpled suit was an unlikely sight running across the field. The fact that he was outdistancing the younger men was even more astonishing.

Detective Cleves Jordan was racing across the field because Jonas had called him about two hours before. Jonas smiled at the memory.

"Detective Jordan speaking," the detective had answered the phone on his cluttered desk. His voice sounded rushed and harassed.

"Cleves, it's me, Jonas. There's a girl that's been kidnapped. I don't have her name but I've, ah, I've been ordered to protect her," Jonas had told the detective.

"How the hell," Cleves started then stopped what he was saying. He knew how Jonas knew. As improbable as it was, he knew that Jonas had a direct line to the guy upstairs. "This isn't even on the wire yet. It was just reported. We haven't even had time to post an Amber Alert," Cleves said lamely.

"Yeah, well, I guess I have a faster mode of communication," Jonas said. "Anyway, I've got to go. There isn't much time but I could use your help after I take the kidnapper down."

"What kind of help?" Cleves asked.

"Well, Joe said someone would need to calm the girl after I'm done. He, ah, he suggested you," Jonas replied hesitantly.

"Me?" Cleves yelled in shock.

Jonas heard his voice drop to a whisper on the phone.

"God, ah, Joe suggested me specifically?" Cleves asked.

"Yeah," Jonas said with a little laugh. "I thought he knew what he was doing but maybe I was wrong. Look, I need to go now. Go to the south end of the river road in Shawnee Mission Park. All that I know right now is that I will be near one of the forest trails in the south end of the park. Come running when you hear my shot."

Jonas could hear Detective Jordan sputtering when he hung up.

Jonas watched the detective out run the younger men in uniform. He was the first to reach the girl and wrapped her in his arms. Jonas couldn't hear the words but could see his intent to calm the girl in his aura. He could tell from the girl's aura that she was being calmed by her rescuer.

Jonas smiled as he eased back from the top of the rise. He broke the rifle down and put it in a travel case. It looked like a full sized briefcase and Jonas could carry it anyplace that didn't have a metal detector. He followed another path up the river bank until it cut over to a parking area about 500 yards from where the girl was rescued. He put the brief case in a compartment in his trunk. He removed the green coveralls he was wearing and neatly folded them and put them in the same compartment. He closed the compartment lid and made sure the lid couldn't be seen before closing the trunk. Under the coveralls Jonas had been wearing dress slacks and a light blue shirt. He opened the back door of his Mercedes and took a suit coat from a hanger. Now he looked like any yuppie business man.

Jonas eased the car onto the river road and slowly drove back towards the flashing lights. They were easy to see now because the light had almost completely faded from the sky. A uniformed policeman had been detailed to traffic control and he stopped Jonas.

"I'm sorry sir," the policeman said through Jonas's open window. "Police emergency has the road closed. You can wait if you want but it would probably be faster to go back about a mile to the cross over. That will take you to the main park road."

Jonas looked at the name tag and said, "I don't mind waiting Officer Hawthorn. Is Detective Jordan available?"

The officer hesitated for a moment as he tried to decide what to do. Then he keyed his shoulder pickup and said, "Officer Hawthorn for Detective Jordan." There was a pause then his radio crackled to life.

"What's up Hawthorn," the Detective's gravelly voice said from the speaker.

"There's a man asking for you," the officer said.

"Is it Gianni?" the gruff voice asked.

The officer looked at Jonas and raised his eyebrows in a silent question. Jonas nodded and the officer said, "Yes sir."

"I'll be there in just a few minutes," the detective said. "Ask him to park to the side of the road and wait."

Jonas smiled and bowed his head as if in response to the detectives' orders. "His wish is my command and all that stuff," Jonas said smiling before he pulled into a wide area on the side of the road. It really wasn't a parking area. It was more of a pickup and drop off point for people wanting to walk down to the river.

Jonas watched the kaleidoscope of flashing red and blue lights while he waited. There were at least a dozen marked police cars and a three unmarked cars. An ambulance and a Coroner's wagon were parked in another turn out with their doors open. Jonas could see the girl sitting in the back of the ambulance. She was composed now and had an oxygen mask over her nose and a blood pressure cuff on her arm. She was talking to someone just out of sight.

Another unmarked car pulled into the crowded area and stopped next to the ambulance. Jonas could see a man and woman in the back jerking at the door trying to get out. A guy in a suit got out and opened the door for them and they piled out of the car and rushed to the girl. The woman was crying and the girl started crying all over again as they hugged. The man wrapped his arms around both of them and Jonas could see his tears even from this distance. Jonas could also see the way their auras melded and knew they were the mother and father of the young girl.

Detective Jordan walked around the edge of the ambulance and looked up and down the road. Cleves had been who the girl was talking to. Cleves spotted Jonas and after a glance at the girl and her parents, started walking towards him. The detective that had been driving the girl's parents called something to him and Cleves motioned for him to follow him before continuing to walk towards Jonas.

"Is everything alright?" Jonas asked as Cleves walked up to his car.

"Yeah, every thing's fine," Cleves said. "Did you know someone shot him just before we got here?"

Cleves craned his neck to look in the backseat. "No rifle back there," he said about half joking.

"He would have seen you coming and the girl would have died," Jonas said softly.

"I know," Cleves said just as softly. "That was for the benefit of the patrolman over there and anyone else that might be listening."

Cleves turned his head and in a normal voice said, "I'd like you to meet my sometime partner. At least he's my partner when he isn't off playing super cop. Detective Jim Bladen, meet Jonas Gianni. Jonas, meet Detective Jim Bladen."

Jonas looked at the detective that had driven the girl's parents and his aura caught Jonas's attention. It was a sickly yellow color. This was a dirty cop.

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