[ Chapter 1.1 is here. ]
October 22, 2023
Remus moved a tuft of hair from Lumi’s face. Then he held her hand and gently patted it. When she awoke, he put a finger over his mouth to be quiet. He motioned to her to follow him.
“Why do you all wear sunglasses when you sleep?” Remus asked her when they were away from the trucks.
“Because the future is bright,” Lumi answered with a sleepy smile.
Remus whispered in her ear.
I have good news. We know where the bare-footed man sleeps. He sleeps in the Cotroceni palace. When he sleeps, his only guards are the children.
One of our spies has returned with this information. He is one of twenty who were sent out. None returned but Rene.
A few of us are going. There’s missing children. From the first days. I vouched for you. So the Captain said you could come along.
Lumi whispered back:
“Max and Grace have to come too. Max lost her daughter some months ago.”
“The Captain won’t allow it. We’re going now. We have to go before sunrise,” replied Remus.
Remus headed up the street along the wall of Cismigiu Park. Lumi followed him.
Captain Brighton was suiting up with twelve men when Remus and Lumi joined them in the tower. Bullet proof vests. The classic anti-terrorist gear. They checked their rifles and their hand guns. Seven magazines for the AKs were handed out to each soldier. Three magazines each for the 9mm Glocks. Lumi and Remus were given bullet proof vests, tactical automatic shotguns, and 24 shells each.
The captain and four other men put on skull helmets just like the ones Max and Grace had taken from the bodies of the Sergeants at Arms.
Captain Brighton noticed her unpleasant surprise.
“So you do recognize these. We took them in the first days. There were 18 sergeants at arms in the beginning. I guess there are six still out there.”
He spoke English with a British accent.
Lumi nodded as she put on her vest.
This is going to be a quick in and out. We’re not going in there for the bare-footed man. We’re going to scout around the palace. We’re looking for three children.
He handed out three pictures of each child to the four men with skull helmets: two boys and one girl. The men in skull helmets passed the pictures to their team members.
Our intel says that the bare-footed man keeps 100 children between 8 and 10 as his personal guard. All three children have been identified as being at Cotroceni Palace as of last night.
That is my daughter, Irina. The boy with the blonde hair and blue eyes is Jacob. He’s the Mayor’s grand son. We’re bringing our kids home.
We’re going on foot. We’re going in four units so we don’t attract too much attention.
If you can’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. On the way there. Or coming back.
Lumi and Remus, you’re with me in Tango 1. Stay close.
Gentlemen, let’s bring those kids home. Hoo-yah!
As the four teams made their way to Coctroceni Palace, Lumi wondered about John’s Father and what had happened to him. Finding him was one of the reasons she had come to Bucharest with the caravan.
John’s father was a wonderful paradox. Half of the town worked for him. He had saved the village and grew it into a town that thrived on health care, spiritual retreat, folk craft, tourism and technology. His nickname was King.
King was not like other men of accomplishment, wealth and authority. He was kind, warm and friendly with all. He empowered people and unleashed their potential. He brought people together in collaboration. He helped others to dream bigger.
When King came to take them out of Bucharest, he came with seven white Porsche Cayennes. They were escorted by four police cars and three armored NATO gun trucks. As the hounds of hell were unchained and let loose upon the world, he came like an ambassador of God and took them out.
Lumi had come to love him as a mentor and a father. She has become his left hand. She made sure things worked like clockwork. He was right about most things, 92 percent of the time. And when he was wrong, he accepted criticism with good-humored grace.
Lumi never knew a man like that.
King had told her that God was sending him on a long road of hope. But Lumi never understood his faith as wonderful as it seemed to live through him.
She wanted to understand it. She could see there was something different about him – something wonderful and handsome.
John’s father took her, John and Zach to pray the rosary with him a dozen times. Lumi wanted to go with him, but still she didn’t like it.
But Lumi never complained.
She didn’t like how it felt. In the middle of the night, he would pray the rosary out loud at the grotto behind the Cacica church. Drops of water would fall down from the well bucket and ring in their splash and the ringing splash echoed with such wetness you could almost feel it on your lips.
But on more than one occasion, she had felt like something evil was watching them from the trees. It would move among trees just outside of the church grounds. A few times, a branch would break and she’d feel a kick in her gut. It never seemed to bother King.
During King’s prayer, she would feel dizzy and her ears seemed to ring with the sound of silence. But the ringing wasn’t coming from her ears. It was deeper. She felt like she was being swallowed up by the silence between the words of prayer that he spoke.
On several occasions, she would pass by the grotto and notice a three day candle that he had lit was still burning. Seven days later. Sometimes, she would smell roses after his prayers. Sometimes, myrrh.
She had talked to Zach about these things. Zach shared many stories like this with her. And of more magnificent miracles. Not like walking on water or transforming water into wine- although Zach wouldn’t doubt it if it had happened.
Zach’s best description was that miracles followed on King’s heels like squealing, bounding, tripping puppies. And King loved puppies. He’d take them out on a gentle hill of green and roll around with them in the grass.
She thought of King sitting at Piety, a pie and coffee shop in Cacica. He was always smoking a cigarette and drinking a café latte. Often with green grass stains brushed across his pants or dress shirt. In front of him, he always had a bottle of water and some chocolates on a small plate. There might even be a plate of cheeses and sliced fruits. She found him every morning at Piety.
She thought of the warm, friendly smile on his face. Maybe, she was upset about something and he saw it on her face. He’d laugh and tease her, ask her what’s wrong, and make it all better with a few gentle words that moved her heart to peace.
Leadership is not about making a decision; it’s about what gets done!
It was one of the many ideas that he had shared with her. But one of Lumi’s favorites.
Expand an idea into a shared vision. Expand a shared vision into a better world.
It was another of her favorites.
What’s better than random acts of kindness?
Steadfast, constant kindness!
What’s greater than this?
Multiplying and amplifying the kindness and generosity of others!
That was one of her all time favorites.
It wasn’t poetry. It didn’t even qualify as philosophy. It was just, simply, true. It had a decided direction, refreshment and satisfaction to it like cold, sweet water bubbling and chirping from a mountain spring.
The first two units arrived at Cotroceni Palace and scouted the walls for guards. There were none. They moved to the walls, went over, and started searching the grounds for the children with night vision.
“All clear,” said Tango 4’s team leader.
“Looking for hope,” said Tango 3’s team leader.
“Roger,” replied Captain Brighton as they ran.
On another channel: “We’re on auto-follow,” said Max.
Across the palace grounds, there were small camps of children. The children were sleeping; ten around a fire in clusters of twos and threes.
“Bagged Jacob in sector seven,” reported Tango 4. “Sectors one and four, clear.”
“Bagged Florin in sector six,” reported Tango 3. “Sector three clear.”
“Take those bags home. Don’t stop for ice cream,” instructed Captain Brighton.
“Roger,” replied Tango 3 and 4.
“Tango 1 on sector two, Tango 2 on sector nine,” instructed Captain Brighton.
“Roger,” replied Tango 1 and 2.
Dawn was breaking. Time was running out.
“Sector nine clear,” reported Tango 2.
“Bloody Hell! Sector five and eight are courtyards,” said Captain Brighton.
“Take Tango 1 and 2 into sector five. Me and my people will take sector eight,” Lumi replied.
“Your people?” Captain Brighton asked with a surprised look.
Max, Grace, Eduard, Valentine, Cristian, and Decebal stepped out of the forest.
“My people!” Lumi texted proudly.
“How? What?!” said Captain Brighton. “How did you text that to me?”
“Third generation K-9… We’re running out of time, Captain,” texted Lumi.
“Ok. Ok. Move out. Tango 1 and 2 into sector five. Lumi and her people on sector eight,” barked Captain Brighton.
An owl hooted eight times.
They all went though the Museum entrance.
Inside the courtyard, Lumi and her team ran along the southern wall to the other side. Tango 1 and 2 went on the other side of Cotroceni Palace. There were two camps of children: North East and North West corners of the court yard.
In the second courtyard was one camp.
Max, Grace and Lumi went from child to child – trying to get a look at the children’s faces without waking them up. Eduard, Valentine, Cristian, Decebal and Remus secured the East and West entrances to the courtyard.
Max found her Violeta.
“It’s me,” she whispered in Violeta’s ear and lifted her up.
“Nothing here,” said Captain Brighton.
The lights turned on around the palace.
The lights turned on in the second courtyard.
“Move. Move… We’re coming, Lumi,” barked Captain Brighton.
Lumi and her team had Violeta and were running toward the west entrance. AKs thundered in the palace courtyard.
“This is an ambush,” groaned Captain Brighton. “Get out – if you can…”
Outside the Western entrance, Lumi’s team came to a parking round where a man was bound with heavy steel chains. He lay on the asphalt. He moved slightly as they approached.
“Who are you?” Lumi shouted.
The man looked up with great effort. His lips were broken and swollen. His face was caked with blood. It almost seemed that he smiled. Around his neck hung a metal sign. On it was painted: Jesus heart you!
Lumi couldn’t recognize his face, but she recognized the platinum wedding band on his finger. It was John’s father.
They fired at the chain, but the bullets couldn’t crack it.
Lumi put her camel-pak straw into his mouth. He drank deeply. Water spilled from the sides of his mouth. He coughed and choked.
“Go and tell no one,” he whispered with a broken voice.
As they were running across the Cotroceni highway, Lumi heard John’s father bellowing:
GOD HAS NOT FORGOTTEN US. HE NEVER FORGETS US. HIS LOVE DOES NOT STOP.
NOT FOR ONE HOUR. NOT ONE MINUTE. NOT EVEN FOR A FLEETING MOMENT.
GOD CALLS US BACK TO HIM BY NAME. OPEN THY HEART TO GOD AND ALL WILL BE FORGIVEN.
The soldiers from Cismigiu felt peace in their hearts.
Eight shots rang out. Tango 1 and Tango 2 fell. All eight men.
Captain Brighton waited for his bullet.
“Daddy, daddy!” his daughter called out from a second floor window of the palace.
“He told me you were coming for tea. I missed you, DADDY,” she shouted.
Brighton looked up and saw his daughter in front of a tall Indian man in a shimmering fuschia silk robe.
“She’s been waiting months for you to come visit,” the man said with a big grin.
“What kept you, daddy?”
24 UN Peacekeepers filed out into the courtyard with their rifles pointed at Brighton.
“Place your rifle and helmet on the ground,” barked one of the Peacekeepers.
Brighton did as he was instructed.
Irina came running down to him, entered the courtyard and jumped into Brighton’s arms.
“Can we have tea now, daddy?” she whispered in his ear.
Tears filled his eyes.
The man entered the courtyard.
“You may lower your rifles,” the man said to the Peacekeepers. And they did.
“My name is Krishna Advani. My friends call me Babul,” the man told Brighton.
“We have much to discuss, Alex Brighton. Let’s have tea and biscuits, shall we?”
Lumi and Grace covered the rear as they all humped it back to Cismigiu. The words of John’s father haunted her as much as his condition. Today, in fact, was his birthday.
He had left Cacica two months ago on foot. Nobody seemed to accept his departure lightly. His disappearance was a shock to almost everyone. His departure was felt like a bad sign. Like God had stopped smiling upon them.
John’s grandmother and step mother cried for seven days. But they found sympathy, comfort and friendship from everyone.
One of their reasons for coming to Bucharest was to find John’s Father. It was John, Lumi and Zach’s reason.
She thought of King as he was now: broken, beaten, and covered with boils. He was thirsty. Maybe, hungry. His lips, swollen, blistered, busted and cracked like Job’s lips.
Did he recognize her?
She brought up the video of John’s father as she just saw him. She studied his broken, flushed face. His cheeks and eyelids were twitching in spasms. His breathing was labored, slow, and heavy.
When he looked up at her, he seemed to be wincing like he was staring directly into the sun. Like he was spoken to by God. He had a hint of a smile. It was hard to tell for sure. But if was a smile; it was a broken hallelujah.
A song was playing in her earplug…
Well maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who’d OUT DREW YA
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen in the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Tears streamed down Lumi’s face.
She zoomed in on his ankles. Maggots were thick around his ankle shackles. How long had he been captive?
She was coming back for King. She was coming back for her angel. She wasn’t going to leave her angel in chains.
And she’d kill the bare-footed man for what he had done to her King. His head would roll.
It started to rain.
Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah
The next chapter section (1.10) is [here]. Enjoy!
Your feedback (comment) means much to me.
27 April 2011
Copyright 2011 by Stan Faryna. All Rights Reserved.