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The Helios Rain

The Helios Rain

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The Helios Rain

Longueur:
414 pages
5 heures
Sortie:
Apr 19, 2014
ISBN:
9781311816290
Format:
Livre

Description

U.S. Air Force Major Dr. Mathew Collins is still a military target in his San Antonio plastic surgery practice. Collins is the sole survivor of his special operations unit in Afghanistan after attack by Iranians with the chemical trichothecene–also called the Helios Rain. The United States fears its next home attack will be with this chemical weapon. Collins’ primary physician, Air Force Colonel Dr. Abram Gesecke is actively testing Collins muscle tissue in pursuit of an antidote and reason for his survival. Gesecke urges Collins not to draw attention to his new-found super strength as Collins has become a target by Iran to obtain his medical records and engineer his abduction. Indeed, an Iranian soldier, Lieutenant Kahlid Vermani, also a Helios Rain survivor like Collins is sent by Iran to the U.S. to find him.
Kahlid Vermani uncovers three former Afghanistan military returnees with the name Mathew Collins in his mission to find the correct Helios Rain survivor. In so doing, he prioritizes his targets–an Army Sergeant, a Navy SEAL Lieutenant and Dr. Mathew Collins. It is an agenda of discovery and death.
Dr. Collins cannot hide his new powers completely. He is discovered at a fitness center by San Antonio criminal boss Carl Grange, when Collins rescues the man by lifting 400 pounds of free weights from crushing the man’s neck. In addition, when Collins sings the Lord’s Prayer in church with his new-found soul mate Nancy Tilden and her teenage son Frankie, his voice becomes an ethereal, heaven sent delivery inducing a spiritual experience in all who hear the prayer including the U.S. President. Presidential attention adds the Secret Service into the mix of Air Force Security and CIA trying to keep Collins and his new family protected from the Jihad stalkers.

Peter Glassman

Sortie:
Apr 19, 2014
ISBN:
9781311816290
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

A retired physician, I received all my college degrees from Boston University–AB. MD, PhD. My doctoral thesis was my first literary experience of note. I spent most of my married and professional years on the east coast in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Delaware. As a baby boomer and retired physician I’m devoting my time to writing medical thrillers. My life as an author of fiction began in 2003 after several individuals consistently commented that my speeches delivered at Toastmasters International always captured the audience because they were presented as captivating stories regardless of the topic. “I should write a book” they all said. My wife encouraged me because she was sick of listening to me rehearsing my speeches. “What should I write about?” I asked of my supportive spouse. “Write about your patient from the Navy who brought back a bottle full of human eyes from Vietnam.” Thus began my medical thrillers starting with THE EYEMAN. The sequel, THE DUTY CREW, chronicles the last Christmas Day of the Vietnam War in a Northeast Naval hospital. Like all my novels true lifetime situations are interwoven with suspenseful and intriguing storylines. My other thrillers also have medical facts as a backdrop to the story line–THE HELIOS RAIN, THE MYOSIN FACTOR, COTTER and THE ADJUSTMENT CLINIC. A crime drama WHO WILL WEEP FOR ME was followed by a paranormal fantasy, THE DRUID STONE, about chemical warfare in today’s terrorist climate. I live with my wife in San Antonio near my daughter and her family with four of my grandchildren. My first editor in 2003 told me to keep writing even if I’m not yet published. I devote 5-hours-a-day to my new books and promoting my completed ones. The rest of my retirement day is a balance of family, friends and spirituality.

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The Helios Rain - Peter Glassman

Glassman

Chapter 1

I feel like I’m wearing a suit of armor. My whole body feels tight. Major Mathew Collins threw off the sheet and pulled down his hospital Johnny.

Take it easy Major Collins. The feeling is subjective for the most part. Colonel Abram Gesecke flipped some pages in Collins’ hospital chart.

Well for the most part, I feel like every muscle in my body is trying to leave it. Collins looked at Gesecke and then at the Air Force nurse. He flopped back from a sitting position to a 45-degree angle on his electric bed. How long will I be here?

You’ve been here one month and I think you’ll be ready to go stateside by the end of the week. I have to arrange your transfer to Wilford Hall in San Antonio.

I’m the only patient like this to come out of Afghanistan?

You’re an anomaly Major. Al-Qaeda or the Taliban used the trichothecene before but the toxin causes paralysis. You had the reverse. You’re muscles became stronger–hypertonic–and went into partial spasm. Every member of the SEAL team died except you.

I understand all that. What about the future? I can walk and do everything. I just get stiff all over.

Your condition is stable. We have to continue to observe your progress. You’ll need a muscle biopsy at Wilford Hall and more testing but we want you to get back to civilian life right away. Right now you need massage therapy at least twice a week and exercise therapy the same amount.

Look, Dr. Gesecke, we’re both doctors. You’re a neurologist and I’m a plastic surgeon. I need to get back to work–to see if I still have my dexterity in the operating room.

You still have your fine motor skills and your sense of touch is entirely normal. You just have to adapt to your new muscle tone. Gesecke had the look and physique of the new Star Trek commander including the shaved head. His authoritative presence was effective.

What’s that supposed to mean? And what about my increased muscle mass? I used to be at my ideal body weight.

Matt, I’ll be following your care in San Antonio. I’m going back with you. You’ve looked at yourself in the mirror. Your muscle size has more than doubled since your unit got ambushed. It’s now stable. Your muscle strength has increased out of proportion to your size and that’s what needs to be fine-tuned. You’ll work in your trade at Wilford Hall Air Force Hospital and if everything’s okay you’ll be somewhat released to civilian practice.

Somewhat released? What the hell does that mean? Collins grabbed the bed handrails as he sat up again. The rails gave way and detached from the bed. He saw the nurse’s wide-eyed stare as he stood up in his briefs with a deformed bedrail still in his hand.

Gesecke pointed to the metal tubing. That’s what you have to adapt to. You have to know your own strength. Gesecke paused. You’ll still be in the military–in the inactive reserves–while we determine what your final neuromuscular status will be.

The nurse wrote something in the progress page and smiled at Collins. You’re going to PT now. You can get into your sweats.

Collins looked again at Gesecke. Dr. Gesecke, what’s my working diagnosis? He put on his sweat pants and his sweatshirt.

For lack of something definitive we’re calling it a ‘post-concussive shock syndrome’. It’s purely descriptive of your being exposed to the shock wave of an explosion. The trichothecene exposure is top secret. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not supposed to be using chemical weapons.

Are you sure it was al-Qaeda? Saddam Hussein was supposed to be the one who used the stuff on the Iranians. Collins tied his sneakers and stretched his legs.

We’re not sure. It’s politically safer to blame al-Qaeda or the Taliban at this point.

Collins began stretching his arms and moving them in wide circular motions. There’s no antidote for trichothecene poisoning.

If we get to the victim in time, we can provide mechanical ventilation and wait for the toxin to dissipate. It may take a few days but it’s theoretically possible to save the victims.

Theoretically. What a cop out. By the time we get to the victims they’re dead.

Let’s change the subject Matt and focus on you. You should have died from trichothecene paralysis but didn’t. Why? We have to know. We also have to know why your connective tissue is so strong. Every attempt to biopsy your muscle tissue breaks our instruments and any tissue sample we get is mangled and unsuitable for any testing.

So I may be the cure. I’m a test subject. Are you looking for antibodies from me?

Gesecke smiled. Anything’s possible Matt. Go down to your PT. In two days you’ll be in San Antonio.

The nurse motioned Collins to the wheel chair. Sit, Major.

I can walk better than before. This is ridiculous.

Sit. Hospital rules, Dr. Collins. Are you concerned because I’m a woman driver?

It’s the wheelchair. I don’t need it.

Gesecke gave him a pat on his shoulder. Just be patient, Matt and be a patient. When you get to the states we’ll get you back to work in the OR.

Collins sat in the wheelchair and folded his arms. He looked up at the shapely nurse and smiled. Are you coming stateside with me, Captain?

I wish. She released the wheelchair brake. Off we go, Major.

The water was hot and soothing in the Jacuzzi pool. Collins sat in front of the water jets and across from an opposing current of warm water. The tightness in his arms and legs went away quickly. He looked at the wall clock. Twenty minutes of hydrotherapy and he would get a total body massage for another twenty minutes. Collins thought back to the day he received his orders to go with the SEAL team.

Navy SEALs? I’m Air Force. What’s this all about? Collins waved the thin pages in the air.

They need a plastic surgeon to go with them on a special operations mission. The Chief of Surgery at the Air Force hospital sat back in his high desk chair.

What? I thought plastic surgeons were protected. We’re rare commodities in wartime–even peacetime. This is bullshit. Collins threw the papers onto the desktop.

All I can tell you, is the SEAL team has to extract a politically high muckity-muck being held prisoner by al-Qaeda on the Afghan-Iran border. It’s a place 50 miles west of Herat.

I haven’t a clue even to where Herat is.

It doesn’t Matter. In two weeks you jump in with the SEALs. You have to determine if the person is real or has had a plastic surgery job on his face. You’ll get pictures and a physical profile on this guy, including any scars or identifying marks and characteristics. It’s his face and any possible alterations we need you most for.

What’s the risk of failure here? What if I become the next hostage?

You’ll be briefed on the entire operation. The SEAL team–and that includes you–will have a large back-up of marines to help get you back to a safe haven in case of trouble.

Where do I go from here?

You go to Landstuhl Army Hospital. It’s adjacent to Ramstein Air Force Base in Ramstein Germany. The Navy SEAL team will be training not far from there.

Sir, this sounds like a circus. I’m Air Force, going to an Army Hospital and being trained with a Navy special-ops group.

If the person retrieved is the real deal, you’ll be going directly back to Landstuhl for further verification of his identify. You’ll be on the medical team taking care of him.

What if he’s had a facial reconstruction and isn’t the right guy?

Then you’ll come back to Landstuhl without him.

Chapter 2

Kahlid Vermani went from the hospital bed to the chair. It was made of cold metal and the arms were constricting his body. He was not fat. He had become large and rigid over the past months. He looked down at his hands. They too were larger than he remembered. He clenched his fists and looked up at the man he had come to know only as Doctor-Colonel.

I ask you again Lieutenant Vermani. You had crossed the border to Afghanistan. What was your mission?

Vermani looked at his superior. I am a patient Doctor-Colonel. We both wear the same uniform. And I am an Iranian soldier as are you. You know of my mission. Why do you keep asking?

Do not answer me with a question. You were the only survivor in your unit. You know me from the past weeks of my examining your body. You know the General seated next to me from before your mission. We are on your side Lieutenant. Tell me again of your mission.

Vermani felt the soreness on the top of his right thigh and remembered the surgery. A minor muscle biopsy they said–a small piece of tissue to find out why his muscles had grown so rapidly throughout his body. He massaged the sore area. We were to recover bodies of Americans after the Helios Rain.

And what happened? The Doctor-Colonel tapped the rubber reflex hammer on his desktop.

We waited for the explosion of the Helios canister. We waited two hours past the detonation hour. The American patrol never came but the blast did. It was a bright light just as the sun was coming up. The rain showered down on us. I was soaked. It smelled like fresh paint. The sun came out within an hour and my clothes seemed on fire. My skin burned. I couldn’t breathe. Then blackness came. That’s all I remember.

Do you remember coming to this hospital?

No, sir. I do not.

How many men were in your unit for the mission? Twenty-six.

How do you feel today? I mean how is your breathing, how does your skin feel? Are your muscles still sore? Are you hungry? Are you ready to go back to work?

Vermani looked at the General and back to the Doctor-Colonel feeling pummeled by the questions. I feel bored. My breathing is good. My skin and my muscles feel tight and sometimes they are sore but the pain goes away after I exercise or after the Jacuzzi bath. I am not unusually hungry anymore. I would like to see my family before I return to my unit.

You may see your family once I get a satisfactory muscle biopsy and we do more testing. The first surgery was not productive. As for your unit–the Helios Rain destroyed it. You will be trained for a special mission. The Doctor-Colonel turned to the General.

Lieutenant, the Helios canister bomb meant for the Americans detonated over your unit by accident. The American patrol never appeared and the helicopter infrared picked up your group instead. The General paused and folded his hands. Mistakes happen in war.

We are not officially at war with the United States.

Lieutenant, Iran is always at war with the United States.

What about my family? Do they know I am alive?

The General stood up from the desk and walked to the chair. He placed his right hand on Vermani’s shoulder. You have been reported missing. Once we complete our tests we will tell them of your survival and you may see them.

Vermani looked up and grabbed the rails of the chair. It is unfair to them and to me. He tore the steel arms from the chair and stood up holding the curved metal struts in each hand. Why can’t I be released now and see them?

The General stood back. The Doctor-Colonel came forward next to the General and pointed to Vermani’s arms with his reflex hammer.

Lieutenant Vermani, that is the reason, the Doctor-Colonel said. We must know what you are now capable of.

Young man, no one outside of this hospital must know of the change in your body. The General took one of the heavy steel chair arms from him. Your physical change is top secret.

No more interrogation occurred and after a week of administrative processing Vermani reported for new orders. Lieutenant Vermani knocked on the door before entering. He had been given clearance to go directly to the Doctor-Colonel’s office without the hassle of seeing multiple layers of medical staff. He stood at attention. At six-foot-3-inches and 208 pounds, he presented a formidable figure in his khaki uniform. His green epaulets were studded with his gold lieutenant rank and a gold-braid aiguillette around his left shoulder completed his smart appearance. Vermani had a close shave but a shadow could still be seen on his dark Iranian skin. His hair was black and close-cropped. He waited for the Doctor-Colonel to speak.

Relax Lieutenant Vermani. I have your medical records and your condition is good. We still have been unsuccessful at getting a muscle biopsy. I called you here to tell you of your first assignment.

Has my family been notified of my survival, Doctor-Colonel?

Yes, they have. They have been told you received some minor injury requiring medical recuperation. I have arranged for you to talk on the telephone with them. You are to tell them nothing of the mission or about the Helios rain.

When will I be able to see them?

After your next training you will be considered if you are ready for a brief meeting with your family. Here are your orders.

Vermani read the pages while still standing. He wrinkled his brow and stared at his superior.

I am to learn to speak English?

Yes. You are to learn the American language until you have little accent. When you have achieved sufficient ability, you may see your family. The sooner you achieve this the sooner you will see them.Vermani did not ponder the reason for learning the language. If speaking English would get him home he would learn it and master it rapidly. The orders say to proceed immediately. Am I to go today?

A lorry is waiting for you at the reception entrance. You will be issued a sidearm and will be considered returned to active duty. You are again a soldier Lieutenant Vermani.

Chapter 3

The sound was there again–buzz...buzz…buzz…buzz. It grew louder–buzz buzz…buzz…wop…wop...buzz. Collins looked around–it was dark. The noise seemed to be coming from everywhere. It was a crescendo filling his head–buzz…buzz…buzz…wop…wop…buzz…buzz. He put his hands to his ears. The noise was still there and then a loud BANG. A sudden flash. He was getting wet. The rain came without lightning or thunder. Just one loud bang. He was drenched. The light came next. It was all around. He turned and fell. The light now filled his room. He looked around. It was his bedroom. He had fallen from his bed. He was home. He was drenched in sweat. The noise was still there and he reached over and shut the buzz alarm on his alarm clock. Almost every day Collins woke up the same way. He hadn’t told anyone about the audio-visual way he woke up. Collins headed for the shower. He had an early case in the OR.

Okay, Nell, put the rest of the dressing on. Have the recovery room call me if there’s even a dime-size area of blood-staining. Collins pulled off his gown and gloves and was handed the patient’s chart. He wrote post-op orders and went to the locker room to change his clothes.

How’s it feel to be back in civilian practice, Matt? Clint Judd asked. As Chief of Surgery at St. Angelo’s Hospital Judd had been the first to welcome Collins and endorse his privileges.

It’s like I never left. I’m doing a lot of noses and facial procedures. In the Air Force I had mostly burn patients, skin grafts and hand reconstructions.

Judd looked at Collins as he changed from his OR scrubs. Wow, where did you get that build? You were like a beanpole before you went to the Middle East.

Military training. I actually had to run with the marines at one point. Collins smiled and issued the rehearsed words given to him by Gesecke. When I wasn’t taking care of casualties, there was nothing else to do out there but exercise.

You mentioned to the credentials board of the hospital you’re still in the reserves. Any chance of your being activated again?

No. I’m actually in the inactive reserve and I’m here at Wilford Hall Air Force Hospital one weekend a month. Have no fear. I’m done with mobilization. If you need it in writing I can get it.

I don’t need it right now but it’s comforting to hear.

Collins checked on his patient in the recovery room and gave words of encouragement to the now awake patient. He checked his cell phone for messages and called his office. Joan, I’m leaving now. Any problems?

None, Dr. Collins. You have six patients for this afternoon–two brand new.

We’re getting at least one new patient a day–very encouraging since I’ve only been back in private practice three weeks.

If this keeps happening I’ll reassure my husband about my job security. He was skeptical of my leaving hospital nursing.

Things will only get better. See you soon. He had time to gas up his black Saturn Vue.

Collins had been lucky to coax Joan Torres from her hospital job. Working for the hospital she had to rotate her hours through daytime and night shifts and was often called on to cover for absentee nurses. An office job promised the same pay but more stable 9-5 hours and this was the bait he used to get her to make the switch. Collins smiled as he remembered her doubts when the office first opened.

I don’t know Dr. Collins, we’ve only had five patients this week.

Joan, we just opened for business. Don’t worry. He smiled and inwardly agreed with her. He hoped he wasn’t lying. I’m covering the ER for plastic surgery this month. Business will pick up. Sure enough on the second week eight other patients came from his emergency room coverage for anyone needing a plastic surgeon. Since then at least one new patient a day called for an appointment and his colleagues were beginning to refer others to him. There was one other plastic surgeon in his office building and they arranged to cross cover each other. Hopefully, they might one day enter a partnership.

This is your last patient of the day. Call me when you’re ready for the examination. Good luck. Joan handed him the new chart. She smiled at him. Joan Torres was an experienced nurse and he couldn’t help but notice she had a good figure for a 36 year-old mother of two. I have to watch those sexist thoughts. I got burned once. Stick to business.

Collins sat in a chair and looked at the 28 year-old platinum blond patient. Miss Bounty, your medical history is good. You’ve only had a tonsillectomy as a child and mononucleosis when you were in college. What do you do now?

Cynthia Bounty blinked her heavy false eyelashes, pursed her lips and shifted on the exam table in her blue paper gown. I’m planning marriage, you know. I’m almost 30 and still single.

No, I meant what’s your vocation?

Nails. I own my own nail salon, you know. I’m setting up another one and my partner and me hopefully will have a chain pretty soon, you know. I mean in a couple of years.

When are you getting married?

It’s up to you, Doctor.

Up to me?

Yeah, you know. Didn’t your nurse tell you?

I don’t understand.

Cynthia Bounty removed her examining gown. See, Doctor. You gotta build me a body, you know.

Collins pressed the intercom button and Joan came in.

Oh, I see we’re ready for the exam. Joan produced another smile.

Yeah, you know, I don’t know where to begin but I think the tits are first.

Collins suppressed a grin and looked at her chart. It says here you would like to be evaluated for a breast augmentation, a tummy tuck and a butt plaster. All right Miss Bounty, let me check you up top first. Collins measured her chest circumference and assessed the skin pliability. I don’t see any problem for increasing your breast size.

Are you kiddin’, my genes were gypped at birth. Can I pick out my size?

Of course–within reason–I don’t think you want to be Dolly Parton.

Hey, lookit her. Dolly Parton only got where she is today because of her humongous tits. But I can’t have ‘em like hers. I wouldn’t be able to work on my customers nails, you know.

Okay, stand up while I measure your tummy.

I need liposuction right here, you know. She placed her fingertips beneath her belly button.

Your tummy actually looks okay. It’ll flatten out with exercise.

Doc, don’t give me the exercise speech. I’ve heard it before. And look at my ass. I don’t have one. I want a butt pack or plaster or whatever you stuff back there.

She did indeed have a flat bottom. It was time for a physical exam. I have to do a quick physical exam to see if there’s any problem with your health.

Hey, you know Doc. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and with my body I hardly ever get laid. That’s where you come in Doc. Who’s gonna be interested in this body unless I have tits and ass to get them curious.

Collins completed his exam. Okay, I think we can sculpt your body to your dimensions. We have to talk about practical matters now. Medical insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic surgery.

I know all about it. Nurse, where’s my bag. She grabbed her pocketbook and pulled out a bank statement. I brought this. See. I’ve been workin’ hard for six years. I saved up for my new tits and ass.

Okay Cynthia, I’ll need you to come back for a separate appointment. We should do the breasts first. At the next visit, if your lab work is okay, I’ll take a picture of you and then we’ll superimpose the breast size you want and schedule an operating room date. The tummy and your buttock surgery can be done at the same time but at a later date.

Great doc. I knew the tits should come first.

Sitting on the stool and examining patients all day had taken their toll. Every muscle in his body ached and the stiffness concerned him. He needed supple muscles to do his surgery. He finished with Cynthia Bounty and asked Joan to close the office. I’m heading out for my physical therapy appointment. See you Monday.

Collins arranged his PT sessions for Fridays and Tuesdays at 5:30 after office hours. He scheduled his fitness workouts for Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays were his evenings to himself. As a single male, he needed the weekends and free evenings to tend to domestic chores. This Friday he arrived a few minutes early and checked in at the PT desk.

Mathew Collins for my 5:30 PT, he announced to the receptionist.

It’ll be a few minutes and George will be right with you.

Collins looked in the waiting area and noticed one woman waiting. He sat next to her where the magazines were stacked and rifled through them. The woman stood up and went to the desk to ask about her PT delay. Collins noticed her perfect dimensions. She’s about 5-foot 7-inches and about 135 pounds. She came back to her seat next to his and smiled. Her chest and pelvis are also ideal for her frame. She has a cute face except for the nose. It’s angled like an adult hawk, but it’s not unattractive.

Excuse me, you aren’t waiting for George are you? This is my first time at this place. I used to go to PT out near the Air Force hospital. Collins stared at her nose. I have to stop being a plastic surgeon all the time.

The woman looked at him. I see Lucy. They do girl-girl, boy-boy here.

Yes, of course. I was just asking since we seem to be the last ones here.

I’m Nancy. I come here every Friday and Tuesday about this time and I’m always the last one.

Mathew Collins–Matt–I work during the day and rush to get an early evening time. So you come Tuesdays too. Then I’ll probably see you again on Tuesday. Collins smiled and got a dimpled smile back. You look pretty fit, if I may say so.

I have a desk job. I’m a CPA at a big law firm and after eight hours at the computer my back is all knots.

I can understand that. I was in a military action and got bad muscle sprains after an explosion. My whole body tightens up. He noticed the absence of a wedding band. I’m looking for a fitness center near here. I usually exercise on Mondays and Wednesdays.

She laughed.

What’s so funny?

I go to a fitness center on Mondays and Wednesdays–sometimes with my son. I mean if you hadn’t said it first I would have thought you were coming on to me.

Son? I don’t see a wedding band.

I’m divorced–12 years–I have a 14-year old son.

Nancy Tilden, Lucy, clad in a navy-and-white-striped sweat suit, called out from the reception window.

Oops, that’s me. If I don’t see you later maybe I’ll see you Monday at the fitness center. She handed him a card from her bag with the fitness center info.

She was gone before he could answer. When I returned from Afghanistan, no one was waiting for me. I hope I’ll see you Monday. He drove his Saturn home and corrected himself. There was one person waiting for me to return. There should have been two.

English came easy to Vermani. For the past three months he spent six hours each day at various training classes at the army military planning center in Tehran. Reading, writing and one-on-one speaking sessions occupied the main phase of learning English from his Iranian dialect. Interspersed were English subtitled Iranian movies and English subtitled American movies. He was to read the English out loud for each type of movie. He was now speaking only English when in the training building. And of course there was Salat–prayer. The Muslim day began at sundown and the minutes of prayer acknowledging Allah was assigned to five periods of the 24-hour day. Vermani kept his thin, compact prayer mat folded in the wallet-sized container his father had given him on completion of puberty. On arising, at noon, in the afternoon, at sunset and at nightfall Vermani would face Mecca and perform the ritual Salat.

At least two hours of the day was devoted to military training. Vermani was sweating profusely as he moved horizontal across the rope ladder from one side of the gully to the other. A hand gave him a towel when he completed the journey.

You are doing well, I am told. The General smiled and handed Vermani a bottle of water. His aide received the used towel. This picture was taken of you last week in the weight room. You lifted 420 pounds on the bench press. You are only to exhibit your strength within the confines of the military. Never in civilian areas–Understand?

Yes and thank you General. When am I to be allowed leave to see my family?

Perhaps in three more weeks. You have to smooth out your Iranian accent when you speak English. You will have a week at home and come back to the language center to see what effect switching back to Iranian has on your accent.

What happens after that, sir?

"You will learn about becoming a United States citizen.

Chapter 4

Collins lived off Route 281 close to the inner loop of downtown San Antonio. His thoughts were still on the woman with the bent nose–Nancy Tilden. He didn’t even know her. Did he want to? He should have had two women waiting for him at Wilford Hall Hospital. Only one came and she was more of a patient than he was–or was she.

Two days after arriving by Air Force medical transport his day nurse announced his visitor.

You can’t say no to this lady Dr. Collins. She’s seeing you whether you like it or not." The young Lieutenant returned with his visitor and left the room.

Mathew Collins you didn’t even call me when you got to San Antonio. The woman was in her seventies and leaned on her cane when her right foot touched the floor.

Ma, I sent you three letters and called you twice from Landstuhl. I wanted to get settled before I came to see you. I mean, you had a stroke two years ago for God sakes.

Don’t make excuses about my stroke. I didn’t get my ass blown off in Afghanistan. Your dead father would be as pissed as I am. She didn’t let him respond. And don’t take God’s name in vain.

Collins got out of bed and adjusted his light blue Air Force generic pajamas. He sat next to her. Ma, your language. People will hear you. She’s as feisty as ever. He gave her a hug and a kiss and sat in a chair opposite hers.

You ever hear anymore from what’s-her-name? She patted a tissue to her moist eyes.

Naomi? No. I told you she dumped me when I got shipped out to the Middle East.

"Good riddance. I never met her and I sensed she wasn‘t for you. So what’s goin’ to happen now? You look more

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