Chapter 1

Sam's Story.

Sounds like a 'Clementine' should be in here, but not everyone likes Orange.

A lot had transpired this last year or two. There were family events, business conflicts and one or two personal problems for me. Overall, it seemed to be a new start, a bad one and one that I just did not look forward to; my name is Samuel B. Smith, Sam for short.

Mom and Dad had died, killed by a drunk driver. Then my sister was driving home and some old(84) grandma hit her car. Not bad enough though, Mira was expecting a baby. I cannot tell you what Hell waiting that can cause. Business issues made that year a bit off too. One of our longest, biggest and best opportunities to do on went to another firm.

Let me step back a little. It may sound funny but it happened. I was all set to serve my country, except, my medical 'eval' stopped everything. I was found to have 'flat feet'. Man, 6' 2", 178 pounds and not enough fat on my bones to even sizzle on the BBQ, but 'flat feet'. The kicker was when my trip to boot camp was cancelled I called Paige, my girl, to tell her the good news. Surprise, surprise, she was on her way with her 'boyfriend of the week' to 'someplace warm' to unwind, according to her younger sister. Brooke always had treated me great and I knew she would never lie to me. I got the feeling if she was a few years older or I was a bit younger what a 'package' we would make, if I had been smart I would have, grabbed and held on to her till she turned 18. I never had that kind of relationship with Paige, her sister, and now I knew why.

I had started a sort of gym, mostly for me to get in shape, about a year ago. It was not a regular kind of gym. There were very few machines; we used isometrics, tree trunks, sand bags, running, rubber straps, hoops and heavy balls to get in shape. A few members wanted to learn hand to hand fighting as well as martial arts. Since it was a simple venue, the addition of Kendo, and a variety of martial arts meant there was something for everyone. Within a year, there were 15 or 16 regulars as well as another 20 younger members. Tai Chi was offered to a number of seniors at no cost, it was for the community, after all.

First, we had three kids, one girl and two boys. Then I do not know what happened, half of our members were younger than 13 and Brooke was there as if it was her gym. For whatever reason (I really did know) she acted like she and I both owned the studio. She could have maybe, there was never anything I asked of her that she would not do or try. Fitness, I mean, just fitness.

I have to admit there were times I ended up thinking 'what if?' about her, 'what if?' There comes into one's life people like Brooke only a few times. I think her Mom recognized better than I did that Brooke was special to me.

When I asked her to instruct the 6-13 groups and I would pay her, our closeness increased. Hell, it was more than closeness, that thought of snatching her and running away came to mind a few times. My time became focused on the 14 -21 year olds. Things changed, Brooke now took those 6 to 17 and I expanded the age to 25. This was somewhat required since we began a of security service, personal protection. It was a large contract like that we had lost.

We were not a large company, we were able to pay the bills and every employee ended up as a member of our gym. By the time, Brooke was nearing 15 she was running the 16 and 17 year olds ragged. There was no doubt that those 18 and 19-year-old boys were not offering to help just because they were interested in the students. Some of the girls in that age group also wanted 'advanced' training from me so I understood how that might happen.

I do not want to generalize, but our guys and gals being from Texas seemed a might more sincere and able to adapt to many things better than most. A couple times, not to be advertised, we 'protected' both boys and girl's way younger than was normal. Mommy and/or Daddy only cared about a few things, their kids were one. Whether it was to school, a game or just shopping at the Galleria, they wanted them safe but not walking with some 'ape' two or three times their age. With electronic gear, staff nearby, and some understanding of a need for privacy at times; we tried to match the sex and age of our client with one or two people to accompany them. Not exactly, legal sometimes but it worked and Mom and Dad were happy; so were the kids.

We did not get much bigger than 25 people, billing hit $3-5 million a year and pretty much stayed there. We stayed in the Dallas or Houston areas, did a few concerts, hockey games and watched over our beloved Cowboy Cheerleaders at every home game. I never had a problem getting those assignments filled. Mr. Jones even let those not officially working in free with enough comp tickets and passes for their dates. I think Brooke was a very popular High School gal.

Houston was an area we might grow in; even have a physical location there. Up until then, whomever we worked for needed to provide apace and pay for hotel or motel rooms if it was an extended assignment. When I got the call to interview there, I went early and started to look over the area East of town, just in case.

Football, oil, ranches and Rodeo pretty much added to the decor of vacant tall buildings in Houston. The mega companies all had left or went out of business. More than half those great edifices were becoming eyesores.

Where I was supposed to meet the potential client was at a small airport outside town. Small, meaning in this day almost deserted. In it's time there were 10 or 20 planes landing or taking off every hour during the day. Those days were long gone. Those that had money used Dallas airports and a helicopter to go to the ranch or oilfields. Buses and charters brought the hurricane traffic these days looking, 'the good, the bad and the ugly' was real now.

I got to my appointment early. The food and drink sign did not totally mislead, it just never told everything. 'Vending machines' might have made a better sign. I guess bottles and cans of cola last longer than those doughnuts with the green stuff growing from it, at least I hoped so.

I missed 'Big D' already. I drove my old 'Pick-um-up' with the gun rack on the back window. A Glock .40mm sat on the floor, between the seats. Not much had changed since the time of the 'Cowboys and Outlaws", wait a minute, they were still here, this was Texas, 'don't you know'.

I left the machines and went back to the lobby. Then I heard something that I did not want to hear. It was a shrill scream.

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