Excerpt from Chapter One:
Cool night winds drifted in through the open window, causing the lace curtains on either side of the window frame to list-lessly rise and fall. Jenna McGuire lay watching them from her bed across the room. Traces of roses from the backyard garden lingered on the breezes. She inhaled the pleasant scent, mesmerized by the graceful dance of the white curtains. She thought, They glided through the hidden glens on a midsummer’s eve, fairy maids dancing beneath a silver moon, silky gowns trailing behind them . . .
Jenna took a deep breath and stretched, feeling a tightness in her muscles. She chided herself for the three-hour workout at the do jo, keenly aware that age and time were creeping up on her. She felt a dull pain in her lower back. Although, she remained devoted to the martial arts, she was pushing herself too hard. These strenuous work-outs were wearing her down.
Slowly working the kinks out her back, Jenna snuggled beneath her lemon-scented sheets. The pain in her back caused her to grimace, but she also grinned as she recalled the conversation she’d overheard that afternoon. The words had trickled in from the hallway at juvenile court where her 16-year-old client, Lucas Holland, approached her office with his friend Bobby. “Your PO is hot,” said Bobby. “Like Laura Croft.”
Inside of her office, Jenna had sat still and silent, waiting for Lucas to respond. Though she had no clue who Laura Croft was, Jenna was mildly curious as to how she compared. She heard Lucas say, “Laura Croft? Get real, Bobby! Her boobs ain’t that big!”
Bobby laughed. “You gotta admit she’s a hotty for an older lady.”
“Shut up!” responded Lucas. “You’re talking about my probation officer, for Jesus’ sakes! And she can’t be older than thirty!”
In light of his compliment, Jenna didn’t appreciate the roaming eyes of the 14-year-old. Lucas had to kick Bobby several times be-neath her desk to keep him from smirking while the two boys shared Lucas’s midweek session with her. When the session ended and Bobby had exited her office, Jenna asked Lucas, “Who is Laura Croft?
“Probation officer to a whole slew of delinquents!” Lucas said. “You’ve never heard of Tomb Raider?”
Jenna went out at the end of work that afternoon and bought the Tomb Raider movie. Jenna had actually laughed out loud, when she discovered who Bobby had compared her to. She was flattered. Yet very amused. Laura Croft, played in the movie by Angelina Jolee, was an action/adventure hero, a female version of Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Rambo. Her only resemblance to Jenna was the french braid she kept her dark hair in place with. She only wished she looked half as good as Angelina. And the boobs? Jenna had shaken her head in amazement at the breasts of Angelina. Lucas had been right. Jenna’s boobs weren’t that big.
Jenna tossed and turned, attempting to get comfortable. The dancing lace curtains caught her attention. Fairy royalty gliding through woodlands resurfaced in her mind, and she thought of the rare day in Afghanistan when a Kurdish gypsy woman had read her palm.
There was no way the old lady could have known of Jenna’s former days of dancing in one stage play after another, and yet she quot-ed word for word the critique one writer gave her, “With her cat-like grace, she danced across the stage like a Celtic Princess. This raven-haired beauty carried the show. Perfectly executed stage combats. Lively dance routines. Her performance was visually stunning. She represented the regalness of Cleopatra. Guinevere. Galadriel.”
Bear from Delta, laughed out loud at the perplexed look on her face. Chaz, her interpreter, was more respectful, offering her a curious look as the gypsy released her hand. Sargent DeBreeze, seated there with his German shepherd, had the good sense to say, “Gypsy sooth-sayer nailed you with a truth, didn’t she, Mac?”
Jenna would have stared a hole right through that old lady if the rattle of a fifty caliber had not shattered the stillness in the market outside the housing unit. Bear was out the door in seconds, jacking a round in his AK47. DeBreeze followed behind him. Taking her by the arm, Chaz said, “Can’t even take five for yourself without some rag-head interrupting your peace, right, Doc Mac?”
After two years serving Uncle Sam as a de-programmer of radical Islamists, she had earned the nickname, “Doc,” because of the mind games she was constantly involved in due to her work. It had been Bear from Delta who tagged her with the “Mac” due to her last name, and since the rest of the escort team thought it had a nice ring to it, Doc Mac became her official title. It also endeared her to the men and women of Ranger Company Bravo who kept her alive as she ventured into dangerous territory to work as a specialist, de-programming devoted jihadis with a 10% success rate. Hard-core jihadis were her biggest challenge. Still, she persevered. Up until the day, she had a bull’s eye placed on her due to circumstances that spun out of control.
Drifting closer towards sleep and putting Afghanistan in her rear-view mirror, Jenna struggled with the youth that seemed to be slip-ping through her grasp. To bolster herself, to keep from despairing over the inevitable, she closed her eyes, seeing herself leaving that palm reading by the Kurdish gypsy with her words etched into her memory. She had placed those same words on a sheet of paper, and read them with a smile almost every morning for a year.
Jenna nestled her head deeper into her pillow. She liked thinking of herself as Guinevere. Or Galadriel. Maybe even Laura Croft. Rose-scented air drifted her way from the open window, and slowly she drifted on the currents of sleep.
Her nightmare began two hours before the break of dawn.