First Chapter Reveal: Dreamer by Phillip L. Davidson
Genre: Faith-based military thriller
Author: Phillip L. Davidson
Publisher: Phillip L. Davidson, 2nd edition
Purchase at AMAZON
The fiery relationship between Captain David Eliott and beautiful lover and wife Sonny creates a drama that will cross continents. She is the light of his world and suddenly disappears under the worst circumstances, which causes David to again become the man that he swore to forget. This military drama is full of intrigue and redemption.
Phil Davidson’s book Dreamer is dedicated to preserving the bond of brotherhood that military members commit to, shows the power of faith in overcoming life’s most adverse situations, shows the strength of families working through challenges, and the healing from trauma that occurs by becoming bold enough to face the enemies of your past.
Alexandria, Virginia – March 1, 1982
I n the black void of his mind, David could see them again.
Like hunted animals, they scurried through the knee-deep rice paddy water, slipping and falling, cursing, and gasping for breath. Above, unseen in the darkness of night, fast-moving clouds unleashed a torrent of monsoon rain that fell across them in heavy rippling waves.
Suddenly, they froze. Overhead, sizzling noises broke the dull drone of the rain as the sky became filled with yellow flickering candle flares. He dove into the filthy water and fitfully pawed his way along the muddy bottom of the paddy until he reached an earthen dike. Lying with his face against the muddy slope, he could only sense the desperate gathering of the gray silhouettes of his men as they one by one pressed up against the dike.
He looked down at the luminous dial of his Rolex. They were fast running out of night. Before the sun came up, he had to lead his men across this vast expanse of flat rice plain to an obscure island of jungle where they could hide during the day and then escape as night fell.
One by one, the flares died out and the sky became dark once more. Cautiously, he raised his head. Had they been quick enough? Or had they been seen, caught in the open dark statutes framed against the paddy waters’ sparkle.
He turned to his men. He knew they were exhausted. For the better part of an hour they had been moving at a dead run. In the distance behind them, the fires from the burning village gave of a faint shimmering glow.
But it was not how exhausted they were, or the barrage of the rain, or Keaton’s labored breathing that most troubled him. It was Jude’s haunting face. Even in the darkness, he could see it, could feel Jude watching his every move, waiting for what he knew was coming, for what he knew David would soon have to do.
“Where am I?” he asked the darkness.
“On course,” answered a voice, powerful and alluring. He reached out to touch the voice, but could feel nothing there.
“Dai Uy, why did you have to bring him with us?” Force asked as he crouched next to him in the filthy water.
He grabbed Force’s shoulder strap and pulled him close to his face. “Get the hell back, Sergeant. We couldn’t just leave him there,” he hissed.
“I was afraid we were lost,” he said to the darkness.
He lifted the lensatic compass that was securely tied around his neck and flicked open its cover. The rain was coming down so hard it was impossible to read its dial, so he took of his beret, held it against his forehead, and brought the compass up close to his face. He smiled. The two illuminated dots had nestled correctly between them the compass’s arrowhead indicating that he was guiding the team in the right direction. He closed the compass, let it fall, and climbed to the top of the dike. In the darkness, he could hardly make out the huddled figures of his men who had spread themselves along the dike in various dark contortions.
“It felt good,” he explained to the darkness.
It did feel good. He could feel the ooziness of the rice water inside his jungle boots and the trickling rain water flowing inside his tiger fatigues, uninhibited by useless underwear.
His web gear was hooked securely across his back and chest and carried everything he needed to survive in the jungle: knife, first aid pouch, flashlight, and grenades. His canteen was half full and his Webley was resting securely in its holster. Across his chest was strung his faithful Car-15 still awaiting his command. He had forgotten how good it felt to be on a battlefield.
He quickly turned over. Keaton was too old for his now. Why was he here?
Even above the incessant drone of the rain, he could hear Keaton’s heavy breathing. He sloshed his way to the end of the formation where Keaton was guarding their rear. As he squatted down breathlessly beside him, Keaton’s rock face turned and he spoke.
“Dai Uy.” Keaton’s voice was deep and gravelly. After he spoke, he coughed and spit.
“How you holding up, Sergeant?” he asked, getting his wind. “My Ranger tabs keepin’ me warm,” Keaton said under his breath.
“Yeah. Can you see anything out there?” he asked, squinting into the rain.
“They can’t be too far behind. My guess is they’re fanning out, hoping to get a scent or to hear something.”
“Has Jude been talking to himself,” he said, dropping his head.
“Dai Uy, I didn’t know,” Keaton said as if trying to explain, but he stopped him.
“It’s not your fault. It’s nobody’s fault,” he said evenly, trying not to meet Keaton’s eyes.
No. It’s my fault, he thought. I’m their leader. I’m responsible for everything. Then he returned his attention to the moment. “How far away you guess the jungle is?” he asked.
“Not far . . .” Suddenly, red tracer rounds flew over their heads like a swarm of mad hornets followed the sound of random drum-roll bursts of gun fire. He chuckled, and Keaton coughed again.
“They’re recon’n by fire. They don’t know where we are,” Keaton said with a raspy laugh, hope evident in his voice.
“Let’s don’t let them get lucky,” he quipped. “I’ll get us moving.”
He made his way back to the head of the formation, and grabbing Force by his arm said, “Help Jake carry him.” Force and Jake lifted Jude by the shoulders and with the rest of the men followed him into the gray mist that had begun to rise off the paddy water.
Behind them, not far, fierce warriors pursued. Men with different moralities, different truths, different needs. Men who had forsaken emotion and inhibition. Men who understood the meaning of sacrifice. Men who would stop at nothing until they had killed them all.
Another swirl of brilliant tracer rounds licked across the sky.
Faster, he thought frantically. I must go faster. He quickened the pace. But when he looked back over his shoulder, he couldn’t see his men. Their lives depended on his ability to read a compass and their ability to keep up with him. It was easy to become lost, even this close. Where were they? Two flares lit up a patch of rice paddy to his left about a mile away. Got to go faster. No. He stopped. Jake? Force? Then he heard sloshing and breathing. There. Yes, they were there. “Over here,” he said plaintively. The sloshing stopped. Two more flares lit up the horizon to his right.
“It’s all right,” the voice said softly in the darkness.
He hurt. He no longer had any feeling in his feet and legs, and his back throbbed with a deep pain. I’ve got to get in control of it, the hurt, the pain, the exhaustion. I’m their officer, he thought resolutely. No matter how bad it gets, I’m their officer.
“It’s so hard to go on. Help me,” he cried in desperation.
Wearily, he rose up from where he lay and reached out again for the voice, but the darkness around him was empty and cold.
“Look, Dai Uy!”
Startled, he turned to see Jake standing next to him. He cupped his hand over his eyes. Not far ahead of them, the horizon became darker than the paddies. He smiled. Jake’s eyes were the best at night. The jungle was just ahead of them. They were going to make it. “Let’s go, men,” he ordered confidently.
He left Pratt, Chip, and Julio at the jungle’s entrance as lookouts while the rest of the team moved further inward.
“Put him against that tree,” Keaton ordered.
Force and Jake let Jude drop to the ground. He had passed out from the pain of his wounds. “Bring him to, Doc,” he ordered, his commanding voice beginning to fade.
Doc bent down and broke open a vial of ammonia under Jude’s nose and he began to shake his head from side to side. “Wake up, you motherfucker!” Doc said, slapping Jude’s face.
He grabbed Doc’s arm. “Don’t do that,” he ordered. Jude was still his man.
The rain had suddenly stopped, and in its place an eerie pall had spread over the jungle. He and Keaton stood side by side looking down on Jude.
Keaton turned to him with a demanding look on his face. “Dai Uy,” was all Keaton said, as he handed David the Walther with a silencer attached to its barrel. The little pistol felt hard and cold as it lay in his open palm, its blue steel frame well oiled and covered with little drops of water. He curled his fingers around the grip and the trigger. It was like holding death itself.
It was still strangely quiet. The rain had left a vacuum and dawn was coming. Each man’s different breathing could clearly be heard.
“Why?” he said, feeling sick as the rice he had eaten wanted to come up. He wanted to run, to escape from it. The responsibility. It was never supposed to have come to this.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage,” the voice from the darkness said.
He tried to take a step back, but Keaton’s huge shape stopped him. “It’s got to be done, sir. You know what will happen if they find us out here in the open. Besides, he’s not one of us anymore,” Keaton said as he took hold of his arm.
“I’ve got to know why,” he said, wrestling his arm free from Keaton’s grip. He squatted down in front of Jude. “Why, you bastard? Why?”
“Why? You want to know why? You think knowing will make it easier for you? It won’t. Besides, what does it matter? I did what I had to do. What I was led to do.”
“Tell me, you damn traitor.”
“I’m no traitor, Captain. You’re the traitors. All of you,” Jude said loudly, waving his arm at them. “But . . . I . . . didn’t think any of us would get hurt. Only the scouts. Only the scouts. But you know John. He was always the hero.” Jude began laughing to himself.
“Kill him!” Force hissed.
“God, just shoot him and let’s get out of here!” Jake said flatly, turning his head.
“No. Let him finish!” he snapped.
Jude looked up impassively at him. “Thanks,” he said quietly. Then he turned to the others. “I could see it, even if no one else could. What we were becoming. Don’t any of you understand where we were heading? Whom we were serving?”
“The Buddha,” Jake chuckled.
“Kill him!” It was Force again.
“Who? Who were we serving?” he screamed, so close to Jude’s face he could feel his breath.
“Dai Uy, this is a waste of time. Shoot the bastard so we can get the hell out of here before they find us. Shit,” Keaton implored with a worried look on his face.
“He’s talking bullshit, Dai Uy. He led those bastards to us and now he’s just trying to talk his way out of it, ” Force said.
“Everybody just shut up!” he shouted. “Now, what are you talking about? Who were we serving? Fuck. Who were you serving?”
“He was serving me, David,” the voice from the darkness said evenly.
“The rest of you get the hell out of here,” he ordered. “Keaton, set up an RP at the other side. We’ll push out of here at nightfall and try to make Ba Chuc.”
Keaton did as he was told. The team quickly gathered themselves and their gear together. Each knew he had to do it. And the sooner they left the better. As they filed past Jude, each man took one last look. Some even shook their heads. He watched anxiously as the last man disappeared into the mist.
“Before I do this, I need to know the reason why,” he said flatly.
“I always thought you were smart,” Jude said, not looking up.
“Tell me!” he yelled impatiently, but Jude just hung his head and seemed to sway back and forth as if praying.
He pulled the pistol’s hammer back.
Hearing the click, Jude looked up with a jerk. “Phoenix,” he said quickly.
“Why Phoenix? Just tell me that. The things we were doing, the people we were killing, women, old people. God, Captain.”
“You turned Judas. You got John killed. Why didn’t you just get the hell out if things bothered you so bad? Why didn’t you just cross the canal and go to Cambot?”
“I didn’t mean for John to get killed. What he did was foolish. You know he’d been reckless ever since he got word that his wife had left him.”
“You still haven’t told me why.”
“I’ve been telling you. You just haven’t been listening. I did it for you and the others. If we got hit really badly and we lost our scouts, SOG would have to pull us out.”
He raised the gun.
“Do it,” Jude said breathlessly.
He stared into Jude’s eyes, looking down the sight of the pistol.
“You were losing your soul, Captain. I couldn’t let that happen to you. What would I have said to Him when he asked me why I, knowing the truth, did nothing to save you?”
As his finger tightened against the gun’s trigger, he began to feel lightheaded and dizzy. Was it the fever again? No. Something else. Something was there, an unseen presence. He could feel its warmth and sense its power. The pistol became suddenly very heavy, so heavy that he struggled to hold it in his hand. “What’s happening?” he cried out.
The pistol fell from his hand to the soft jungle floor. For a moment, neither he nor Jude spoke, as if each was pondering the consequences of what had taken place between them.
“Why didn’t I have the strength?” he asked out loud. “Because I was with him,” the voice answered.
After an eternity, he asked, “Will you go to Cambodia?”
His mind raced for an answer. “I don’t know,” Jude replied quietly.
“Will I see you again?”
“Yes. You will see me again.”
“The others won’t understand.”
“They will in time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will, in time.”
“I know,” she said, holding his head against her warm body. She wiped the sweat from his forehead and kissed him. “I’ll close the window, okay?”
David nodded, embarrassed. Sunny got up from the bed and went to the window. A cold breeze was blowing across the city. Far out in the distance were the Capitol and the Washington Monument, both framed in spears of white mist-laden light. The breeze chilled her naked body. She quickly shut the window and returned to David, who was awake and sitting up. “I’m sorry. It happened again,” was all he could say.
Morning had come too quickly. Wearily, David wrapped himself in his bathrobe and leaned against the windowsill. Below, traffic was starting to coagulate as the army of government civil servants made their daily pilgrimage over the Wilson Bridge. In the distance he could see the lights around the monuments and government buildings of the city being turned of as the sun broke the earth’s surface. It was going to be a bright, clear day.
Sunny had gone back to sleep. She lay on the bed, her slender legs spread invitingly. A sheet was draped casually across her smooth stomach. Asleep, she looked peaceful, David thought, not seemingly inexhaustible like she did when she was awake. A movement. She turned her face toward David and sighed. A trusting face. Bright and ever smiling. A face that never betrayed the awful truth about her past.
A past filled with fear and terror and personal courage. Her large brown eyes were closed. Eyes that had given him solace. Eyes that hungered for truth, eternally hopeful of finding in others substance, not form. Someone she could trust. Someone like her. But he had found him. And with him came the darkness.
Later in the morning, Sunny submerged herself in warm bath water. She was in no hurry. Mass at Georgetown was not until eleven, and David had already left for the War College. The water calmed her, helped diminish the fear she had felt during the night. She felt threatened and, when she felt threatened, her first instinct was to fight. But how could she fight a memory? How could she fight men long since dead? Men who now lived in her husband’s mind and haunted him in nightmares. She hurt for him, but could not help. All she could do was be there when he came back; all she could do was hold his head and comfort him. “Why now?” he would ask. But Sunny had no answer.
She wet her washcloth and placed it over her face. The heat cooled her. Slowly she sank down under the water. David was afraid. He knew he had no control over the dreams. Lack of control was devastating to a man like David. And she had seen what lack of control could do to someone you love.
“Why is father crying?” she asked.
Her mother took her away from the study. “Shhh,” her mother said. “You must show your father respect.”
“Is respect the same thing as love, mother?”
“Yes, my darling.”
She had been so young then. The cloth covered her. There had been other crying.
“Sonia!” It was Maria, her blond hair in tangles.
“Maria, why are you crying?”
“They took Paulo!”
“They took him right off the street, shoved him into one of their “green sedans.” No one ever came back from a ride in one of those green sedans.
She had to help him. David, I will find a way. I will get help. Just have faith, my darling. But David had no faith. Sunny sat up in the tub.
Still, she could not see, her mind blinded her to the present.
Her father sat impassively at the far end of the room. Her mother stood beside him holding a scarf in her hands. Her mother was crying. Her father’s eyes were wet and red. “Sonia, for the sake of our family, you must be careful,” her father said.
She felt exposed, naked before them, like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She had taken chances. She had taken a stand. She had involved them against their will and without their knowledge and consent. She was their daughter. She had become a revolutionary. They were the establishment, the very people who supported the military junta. Now they were guilty by blood, and the junta shot the guilty. They had shot Paulo. And yesterday they had thrown Maria against a wall and shot her through her blue eyes.
“How can any person who believes in God stand by and just watch as their friends are dragged of into the night and shot to death?” she asked.
Her father did not answer, just hung his head and sobbed. “Do you want to die?” her mother asked.
She was unable to answer her mother’s question.
The day was bright and brisk, the sky a robin’s egg blue. There was a fresh smelling breeze that carried a slight chill along its edge. Sunny strode purposefully across the commons on her way to Dahlgren Chapel and mass. She seemed to blend in with the other students who walked the commons. She wore a gray skirt, an oxford cloth shirt, weeguns, blue knee socks, and a navy blue sweater tied around her neck. As she neared the steps of the chapel, she began to wrap her hair in a maroon scarf.
“Keaton,” she thought. Who was Keaton? What was he to David and why did David sometimes call out his name during the nightmares? “Keaton,” she said softly, faintly letting the name escape her lips.
As she started up the chapel steps, something jerked the scarf from her head. Startled, she turned, but no one was there. A gust of deathly cold wind whirled around her, enveloping her in a tomblike silence. The sounds of the commons became faint and distant, and everything seemed to slow down like a record player turning of. Suddenly she heard it. At first it seemed far of, outside of the wind. Then it came to her. An anguished cry, a high-pitched scream, shrill and then angry. Something thorny touched her back. She twirled around, but again saw nothing. But something was there. It stood close to her. Pulsating, cold, and hateful. She could have touched it if she had dared, but she was mortified, mute and numb. Then, like dust being sucked into a vacuum, it was gone.
The students milling around the commons went about their business as if they knew nothing of what had just taken place. Birds chirped and the bell for mass began to ring. Sunny felt groggy, as if she had just awakened from a deep sleep. She was cold and sweating. She stood, unsteady for a moment. When she realized where she was, she sat down on the steps. In the welcome quiet of the familiar sounds of Georgetown, she began to understand what she had experienced. Having read the scriptures, she knew. It had been a warning, a premonition of something that was to be. She had felt it before. In Buenos Aires. They had come for her in the darkness of night, for that was their time. But she had been warned of their plan, had received a message of her impending death. Now she understood that she had not truly escaped but had been granted only a respite from the terror. When would it happen, she wondered? How much time did she have?
She stood up, her composure regained. Resolutely, she tied the scarf overhead once again. No, she thought. The drama was not over, and in it she felt she would have a part to play. Only, how soon would it be before the director gave her her cue?