Authors: Richard Herman
San Francisco Los Angeles
This is a work of fiction and all characters, incidents, and dialogues are a product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or events, is entirely coincidental.
THE PEACEMAKERS. Copyright © 2011 by Richard Herman.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
E-Design by Gretchen Ricker
Cover by John D. Repka
Also by Richard Herman
(writing as Dick Herman)
A Far Justice
The Last Phoenix
The Trojan Sea
Edge of Honor
Against All Enemies
Call to Duty
Force of Eagles
David “Bull” Baker
Brig. General, USAF (Ret.)
He led and made a difference.
Blessed are the peacemakers:
For they shall be called the children of God.
Rancho Cordova, California
avid Orde Allston sat in the backseat of the small Toyota and bit his tongue. It was hard being a passenger and keeping quiet while his kids did the driving. He rearranged his legs in a futile attempt to be more comfortable, but the rear seat of the Toyota wasn’t designed for someone six feet tall. The former fighter pilot was forty-five years old, and thanks to hard effort, still lean and fit. That helped somewhat, but he was convinced a sadistic contortionist had designed the rear seat.
Allston made small talk mainly to relax Ben, his sixteen-year-old stepson, who was behind the wheel and learning to drive. “Heavy traffic for a Saturday.”
“Piece of cake, Pop,” Ben replied.
Allston smiled as his slightly misshapen jaw offset to the right and his hazel eyes flashed with amusement. Ben’s one goal in life was to be a fighter pilot, and he was going through a World War II phase and imagined himself flying in the Battle of Britain, which explained his current vocabulary.
“He wants to fly a Spitfire,” Lynne said from the front passenger’s seat. She turned around to face Allston. Lynne was Allston’s twenty-one-year-old daughter and tall and beautiful like her mother, his first wife. “See what you’ve done, teaching him to fly.”
“Spits can be arranged,” Allston said. He tried not to think what Ben’s mother, his former third wife, would say about that, but at sixteen Ben was already an excellent pilot flying high-performance aircraft.
“Yes!” Ben shouted. The teenager’s enthusiasm was infectious and Lynne smiled at Allston, enjoying the moment.
The car slowed as the traffic on Sunrise Boulevard piled up. Ben didn’t quite make it through the last traffic light before they hit Highway 50, the freeway leading to Sacramento’s airport thirty-five miles away, and had to stop short of the intersection. They were first in line and caught in the right hand lane. Once past the intersection, it was a clear shot to the freeway. Lynne was worried. “Will we make Ben’s flight to Los Angeles?” Her half-brother was booked on Southwest for one of his periodic visits to see his mother and didn’t want to go.
Ben smiled. “Ain’t that a shame?” He hummed a few bars of the song and beat the steering wheel in rhythm.
A quarter mile ahead, Allston saw the traffic sign pointing to the freeway’s on ramp. Automatically, he checked his watch and ran the numbers. It would be close. “Piece of cake,” he said.
The last three cars making a left hand turn in front of them slammed to a halt, blocking the intersection. “Gridlock,” Ben announced, happy their forward progress had come to a halt.
“You’re not getting out of this,” Allston told him, “so quit smiling.” Then, “Lock your doors.” Lynne and Ben heard the change in his voice and quickly depressed their lock buttons. “At your four o’clock,” Allston said. His words were short and clipped, a sure indication his situational awareness had kicked in. Lynne shot a look to her right. A tall, skinny, raggedy, gaunt-looking man was standing on the corner less than ten feet from her door. His eyes darted from car to car and his hands twitched with anticipation. Their light changed to green, but no one could move because of the three cars still blocking the intersection. “Ben, heads up,” Allston ordered.
The man bolted for the last car in line trying to make the left hand turn. He grabbed the driver’s door handle and jerked the door open. Allston hit the release button to his seatbelt as the man dragged a young woman out of the car by her hair. “Car-jacking. Lynne, get out and call 9-1-1.” His words were crisp and clear with no sign of panic.
“My baby!” the woman cried, holding on to the man. He threw her to the ground and kicked at her.
Allston and Lynne were out of the car. “Ben, block the car so it can’t back up.” Ben understood immediately. If the hijacker backed up, he could turn the car and would have a clear shot at the freeway for a quick escape. Allston slammed the door and ran for the woman lying in the street while Lynne ran for safety, her cell phone in her hand.
Allston bent over the woman as the hijacker jumped into the driver’s seat. “My baby’s in the rear seat!” the woman cried. At the same time, Ben stepped on the accelerator and twisted the wheel to the right. Allston leaped for the hijacker as Ben slammed his Toyota to a halt behind the woman’s car, his front bumper against its rear bumper.
“Ben!” Allston shouted. “Get out.” The teenager bolted out the door and ran for the woman still lying in the street.
Allston was a blur of motion as he reached into the open car window and grabbed the hijacker’s hair. Allston drove his left fist into the man’s face with three short pile driver jabs as Ben scooped up the prostrate woman and carried her to safety. The man managed to shift the car into reverse and stomped on the accelerator, pushing Ben’s Toyota. There was no bang, only the sound of grinding metal on metal as the two cars shot backwards. Allston stumbled but held onto the hijacker’s shirt and hair with both hands. The car had room to turn and the man hit the brakes as he twisted the wheel to the right. It was enough for Allston to regain his balance. He braced his left foot against the door and pulled the hijacker out the window. He banged the hijacker’s head against the pavement, stunning him.
Two other men were there and it was over. “Nice going,” one of the men said in admiration. Lynne and the young mother ran for the baby still in the car. The baby was fine and the mother cried with relief. The wail of a police siren echoed in the distance, growing louder by the second.
Ben and Lynne stood by Allston in the street. “You did good, son. Real good.”
Lynne affectionately ruffled Allston’s short dark hair. “You never change, Dad.”
“When something goes wrong, get aggressive,” Allston replied. It was one of the basic rules of survival he had learned long ago flying fighters.
Lynne understood. “You’ve just got to get involved — no matter what.”
Abyei, South Sudan
ermaNur scrambled to the top of the low hummock as the sun rose above the eastern horizon and established its dominion over the ancient land. Dust swirled around his feet as his eyes narrowed and swept the eastern horizon. He knew the airplane bringing food would come from that direction. Behind him, the first of the refugees swarmed out of the compound, clutching baskets and large pots.
He burned with hatred when he saw the Dinka who followed the two UN relief workers and mixed in with his fellow tribesmen. Neither the Dinka, the two Europeans, nor the Americans who flew the big white airplanes, deserved to live, but food and the three went together and his hunger was stronger than his hate. BermaNur was seventeen-years old, scrawny from malnutrition, and old beyond his years.
He looked over the ragged mob and saw his mother and older sister pushing their way to the front. With him, they were the last survivors of his family. Again, his hatred flared. He knew his mother had sold herself for food and he promised himself that someday he would blot out that dishonor by killing her. And he would immediately kill his sister if she ever sold her body. Jahel would honor him for the honor killing, and his tribe, the Rizeigat, demanded no less. BermaNur swelled with pride. The Rizeigat were Fursan, the cavaliers, or horsemen, of the Baggara, and honor was more important than life. For now, the age-old rules and traditions were in abeyance, but only until the western intruders and their big white airplanes were gone.
His small wireless, the modern version of the walkie-talkie, vibrated in his hand. He pressed the receive button and held it to his ear. It was Jahel. “Do you see anything?” The sheik had spoken in the same quiet way when he had chastised BermaBur for his mother’s misconduct. That conversation had ended when Jahel had taken BermaNur’s horse, his most valuable possession. Without a horse, BermaNur was not able to join the marauding bands of Rizeigat and increase his family’s wealth. But once his family’s honor was restored, Jahel would return his horse, and with it, his personal honor. That was the way of the Rizeigat and the Baggara. BermaNur fumbled for the transmit button. “Nothing, sire.”
“Watch closely,” Jahel said. “We must stay hidden until the last possible moment. All depends on your warning.”
BermaNur’s heart beat fast. “I see it! It is far to the east.”
“Is it coming this way?”
The young Sudanese paused. This was the test he had been waiting for and he had to be right. Then, “Yes!”
“Good.” Jahel broke the connection. Now the teenager had to wait.
The white C-130 Hercules descended to 1200 feet above the ground and entered a racetrack pattern around the strip of road on the southern side of the ravaged village that served as a landing strip. The Hercules was an old workhorse of the United States Air Force and this particular aircraft had entered service in 1976. A coat of white paint belied the aircraft’s thirty-four-years of age and it was nearing the time when it would be consigned to the bone yard.
One of the UN relief workers made sure the villagers were clear of the road and fired a canister, laying green smoke to indicate wind direction and signal the four-engine cargo plane that it was safe to land. The pilot saw the smoke, entered a downwind leg, and called for the before landing checklist. The copilot started the flaps down and lowered the landing gear. The C-130 turned onto the base leg and the pilot marked the spot where she would touch down. It was a much-practiced routine. The pilot turned onto final approach and flew the big bird, nose high in the air, towards the touchdown point she had selected.