Read Wings of Steele - Destination Unknown (Book 1) Online
Authors: Jeffrey Burger
- WINGS of STEELE - Flight of Freedom
Edition 1.05 - September 2012
in the United States by Templar Press. Templar Press and the mounted
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book and contents are a work of fiction. The characters and events
portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to events,
places, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not
intended by the author.
with the Library of Congress
978-0615692883 (Templar Press)
2012 Jeffrey J Burger
of STEELE logo, copyright
2012 Jeffrey J Burger
want to offer my thanks to all those who helped, offered their
support, sat to listen to my story and ideas - and in some form or
fashion helped make this, my first novel, a reality. And thanks to
my parents for convincing me as a youngster that anything I put my
mind to, I could do... even more so when someone told me it couldn't
big thank you to the folks at DAW Publishing - the only publisher
that not only took the time to actually read the entire manuscript,
but also took the time to review and positively critique it,
encouraging me to move forward with it as well as a follow-up book.
most grateful to Fran Milsop... for her dear friendship and copious
amounts of encouragement. The hours and effort she put into reading,
and reviewing my work, her advice, technical and professional
expertise, went well above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you
Fran, for helping me to pursue my dream and move forward to
completion - even though it took a little longer than we thought.
seems to dictate that I should select one person to dedicate this
novel to, however this is proving difficult, because he did not have
a great deal to do with the physical process of writing, editing, or
completing this book. But his influence in my life affected not only
the production of the book, but the very story itself... my German
Shepherd, Fritz. And yes, you're right, he isn't a person... but then
again, you couldn't convince him of that. His companionship,
friendship, comic personality and devotion were key to keeping me
grounded while I worked on this project. Thank you buddy.
© 2012 Jeffrey J Burger 3
ILLINOIS - SUMMER
young boy, eleven years old, laid back in the lawn chair on the
grass in his yard, staring up at the star-flecked night sky. Even
the city lights did not diminish the brightly twinkling specks of
light visible in the patch of deep, inky-blackness exposed between
the neighboring houses and overhanging maple trees. The yard smelled
of warm, freshly cut grass and sweet lilac from the neighbor's
bushes. There was a soft, even breeze that rustled the leaves of the
trees adding a quiet hush to the darkness. Crickets chirped
incessantly. His mother would have a fit if she knew he was out
there. It was well past midnight and he was in his pajamas...
supposed to be fast asleep in bed. Who cared? Besides, he was on
summer vacation, there was no school to worry about. But the dreams,
let's not forget the dreams. Unsettling... but strangely exciting.
reached down and felt for the huge Rottweiler sleeping on the grass
beside him. Luke. Good old Luke... a hundred pounds of pure muscle
and willing to use it. They were the best of friends, inseparable.
As black as the sky above, the dog was invisible to young Jack
Steele, blending in with the shifting shadows around him. Luke
huffed softly, reassuringly, feeling the small hand of his young
friend running through his smooth coat. Jack felt better for it.
police siren wailed mournfully in the distance, heading farther
away, fading. Someday he would be a policeman... just like his dad.
Maybe that was the siren on his dad's patrol car, he
duty tonight. Jack wasn't worried, his dad was a big guy. The
biggest. And a good shot too, he was on the police department's
pistol competition team.
listened intently until the siren was gone, then leaned back and
stared up at the night sky again. He sighed, the stars winked at
him. Someday he would be out there too... after he was a policeman.
He didn't know how he knew that, but he did. And not like Neil
Armstrong the astronaut, walking on the moon, but out there...
really out there. Maybe as far as Andromeda... he learned about that
one in astronomy this year. It really didn't seem that far, it was
like he could almost reach out and touch those stars.
it was the dreams, those weird dreams... and the Dream People. Well,
at least that's what he called them. Cool, smooth, featureless
gray-green skin, overly large ebony eyes... and their silent voices
that talked in his head. He was afraid the first time, terribly
afraid. But they never hurt him, or Luke. Besides, like his dad
said, “A real man isn't afraid of the dark or the boogeyman.
That the only thing to fear, is fear itself.”
maybe... maybe not.
decided he pretty much had it figured out... he was sure, well,
reasonably sure, that despite their dreamlike appearance, the Dream
People weren't really in his dreams at all... but real. But how
could you explain that to your parents? You couldn't. It wasn't
going to happen. At least not with his parents. They'd either
patronize him and admire his vivid imagination, or put him in a
rubber room somewhere. He heard Tommy Brooker's mom went to a shrink
and ended up in a crazy ward for a while. Tommy said she didn't like
it. Jack figured he wouldn't like it either. Eleven was too young
for a straight-jacket.
stars blinked and sparkled, Jack's eyelids grew heavy. The crickets
grew quiet, the breeze shifted and Luke huffed, his nose pointing
into the wind. Jack suddenly grew more aware, paying closer
attention. Luke moved his bulk to a sitting position and whined
inquisitively, pensively. Jack squinted and could see the vague
silhouette of the dog's massive head and shoulders just a foot away
in the inky darkness. The Rottweiler made strange little mewling
noises, more insistent than before. Jack felt it now too...
with the tart, electric smell in the air, enough to make your mouth
water, was the buzzing of his skin, like pins and needles all over
his body. His eyes grew heavy again, heavier than before. Luke laid
back down again, his head on Jack's thigh, quiet now, breathing
eleven-year-old knew the feeling. They were coming... somehow he had
known they would come tonight. The Dream People. They would speak
silently to him in his head and take him out there, but just for a
little while... he was always home before it got light.
of STEELE - DESTINATION UNKNOWN
the massive four-poster bed, soft jazz emanated quietly from the
small clock radio on the nightstand. The heavy antique oak bed was a
work of art, at least a hundred years old. On the wall above the
headboard, hung a large black, Medieval battle shield, emblazoned
with a golden silhouette of a winged horse against a red rising sun.
At an angle and to the right hung a gleaming two-handed functional
replica of an English broadsword. It was obviously a man’s
room, filled with dark wood and strong furniture… but
everything was in its place and the room was meticulously clean. The
wafting Sunday morning jazz began to reach the lone sleeping
occupant of the great bed. Jack Steele was becoming vaguely aware of
the music invading his sleep and struggled to maintain that last,
final bit of dream as it dissolved and faded away into waking
awareness. He could also feel the warm Florida coastal breeze
drifting through his open window and smell the fresh tang of salt in
the air. For a moment, he hoped the music was coming from outside
and not the clock.
propped himself up on his left elbow to look at the clock. The
cursed thing confirmed his worst fears. It was indeed... morning,
7am. And worst of all, time to get up. "Crap." Jack had
been a morning person, not by the wildest stretch of the
imagination. “How bakers do it I'll never know...” He
let himself flop back to the mattress, perturbed at the early
arrival of morning. Gazing absentmindedly at the dancing patterns
of sunlight playing on the ceiling that filtered through the
vertical blinds, he gradually cleared the morning cobwebs from his
mind and began reviewing the day's checklist of things to do.
before Jack could finish his review, he caught movement in the
shadows out of the corner of his vision and suddenly was acutely
aware of everything around him. The low, dark figure, which had
entered the room so silently, sprang without warning over the foot
of the bed. The two combatants wrestled on the bed, entangling
themselves in the linens and blankets, fighting for whatever
advantage they could purchase. Abruptly, the tussle stopped, the two
lay panting, side by side. Jack poked the obscured form he had
successfully wrapped in the sheets like a mummy. The figure squirmed
violently. With implied ferocity, it emitted a muffled snarl, then
sneezed. "Give up?" Jack inquired. He carefully peeled
back the sheets. Out popped a black, shiny nose, drawing deep
huffing breaths, patiently awaiting another onslaught.
none came, the long-legged German Shepherd tossed his head, throwing
off the sheets and revealed a handsome, expressive face, with deep
brown twinkling eyes. His name was Fritz. Not a particularly
imaginative name, but it was given to him as a pup and Jack felt it
somehow seemed to fit the dog's curious intelligence and
personality. Fritz gazed up into the eyes of his human partner.
Giving a defiant
the dog half crawled, half wiggled, out of his cocoon of sheets to
reveal a beautifully lithe body. His coat was long like a Collie but
mostly chestnut in color with a small black saddle, an ivory bib and
a narrow, tapered black mask across his shining brown eyes. Fritz
shook himself to settle his coat and bounded off the now thoroughly
messed bed. He barked a taunt as he trotted through the house, his
nails clicking on the polished maple floors.
swung his feet over the side of the bed and pulled on a pair of
beach shorts. He stared at the bed for a moment, the maid was going
to hate this... she always did. Strolling through the house barefoot
and shirtless, he stopped to pick up a dog lead off the kitchen
counter which he knew he wouldn't need. Pausing at the refrigerator
he snatched out a carton of orange juice and took a swallow,
drinking straight from the container. He smiled, remembering how his
mother disliked that. But Jack was a single man and he allowed
himself a few bad habits.
duo stepped through the sliding glass doors and onto the warm planks
of the sundeck that lead to the fine golden sand of the beach facing
the Gulf of Mexico. As Fritz dashed across the fifty yards of sand
to meet the incoming surf, Jack took pause to survey the expanse of
scenery spread before him. The sky was already a turquoise blue
without a trace of cloud and the breeze shushed through the palm
trees and played with someone's wind chimes up the beach. Planting
his feet firmly, he stretched his six-foot-two frame, arms extended
towards the hot Florida sun and reveled in the glorious weather.
he was not overly muscular, his body was extremely well-defined.
Choosing speed and flexibility over sheer mass, a lifetime of sports
and selective martial arts left his physique lean and hard. While
Jack proceeded through the stretching routines he did almost every
morning, Fritz ran belly deep through the breaking waves. The
Shepherd stopped momentarily to spy a jogger passing by, examining
her to be sure there was no threat. Jack noticed her too and admired
her trim bouncing form as she passed by, waving a friendly hello.
"Yep, yep, yep, this is the life," Jack said aloud to
himself, smirking crookedly. He waved back then leaned on the
railing with his elbows to watch the dog slosh in the gentle
blue-green waves breaking on the golden sand. A squadron of four
pelicans flying single-file along the shore glided easily past, an
occasional stroke of their wings to maintain formation as they
played with the breeze.
new and used airplanes for delivery had become quite profitable. And
for the first time since his painful divorce four years back, Jack
was doing well. Buying and renovating the beach house was his reward
to himself after the long, hard road of financial and emotional
rebuilding. The house wasn't big, like so many of the others along
that area of the shore, but it was very comfortable. Another buyer
probably would have knocked it down and built some multilevel
monstrosity... but Jack had genuinely liked it for what it was. The
three bedroom, two bathroom house, was solidly built, a throwback to
the late fifties and early sixties where quality and durability came
before the excesses of bigger is better... and then later when it
became huge is better than bigger.
began a year before his divorce, back when he was still a cop in
Chicago. While recovering from the emotional scars of losing a close
friend on the police department during a shootout with gang members,
Jack took up flying. He found it profoundly exhilarating and
relaxing at the same time. Unfortunately, his wife did not. She
didn't like him being a cop either. She said one made him hard the
other made him distant, and at a time when he was forced to
completely re-evaluate his life, she left him and took with her
almost everything he owned... everything except the '66 Shelby Cobra
he'd built. He was convinced the only reason she didn't pursue the
car was the fact that she hated the thing. She liked luxury cars,
and the Cobra was not ladylike enough for her. She considered it
brutish with all its power and noise, while Jack considered the
sound of the naturally aspirated 427 big block, music to his ears.
On reflection, there were a lot of things they didn't have in
common, it was a wonder the marriage lasted as long as it did.
Shortly thereafter, he realized the only things that made him truly
happy, were the Cobra, flying and Fritz. So after pulling a few
strings and calling in a few favors owed him, he got a job flying
and left the department. He and Fritz spent the next three years
living like nomads, flying anywhere a job would take them. The
freedom was spectacular and welcomed, but he finally realized the
need for roots once again. Jack was good with his hands and
thoroughly enjoyed refurbishing the beach house. Now self-employed,
his time was his own, allowing him to tinker on the house whenever
he had the inclination. But the house was pretty much finished now,
and it was time to go back to work, in earnest.