Authors‎ > ‎Thomas Calabrese‎ > ‎

Ascent To A Reckoning

posted Sep 12, 2014, 9:26 AM by Ron Pickett

 

           Terry Rayfield woke up with a headache. She glanced at the digital clock on her nightstand. It was four thirty AM.  Terry never needed an alarm clock to awaken her. She would just set in her mind the night before on what time she wanted to get up and her body always cooperated. Once Terry was awake she never saw a reason to procrastinate or lounge in bed so she got up to face the day and whatever challenges it held. Terry cursed herself as she walked downstairs to the kitchen because she knew the reason she had a headache was because she got careless and didn't hydrate enough after her workout last night. It was a stupid mistake and she should have known better. Terry was harder on herself then she would be on anybody else. She had been with the Orange County Sheriff's Department for twelve years, six on patrol, four in vice and the last two as a homicide detective. During that time she had seen co-workers turn to alcohol when dealing with job related stress, others became abusive to their spouses and children. Terry went in the opposite direction. She became a borderline obsessive compulsive when it came to her health. In a business where being reactive to other people's actions was the rule, Terry was one of the best at her job. In her personal life, she wanted to be pro-active whenever the opportunity presented itself. Terry had her problems, but it wasn't her style to reach out for help from everyone especially her father and boyfriend. Terry had built a wall around her vulnerability ever since her mother's untimely death and nobody was able to go through or over it. She overcompensated for her emotional weakness with her compulsion to be as physically capable as humanly possible.

Terry drank a large glass of alkaline water and her headache began to dissipate then she juiced some organic produce and took her daily vitamins before heading off to 24 Hour Fitness for her workout. She would normally be working the swing shift Friday at Southern Division but she had signed up three months ago to attend a weapons and tactics seminar on Camp Pendleton on Saturday and Sunday. Terry decided to leave early from her home in Laguna Hills so that she could stop at Palomar Mountain for a hike before checking into her hotel in Oceanside. From past experiences Terry knew that the Chimney Flat 8.8 mile trail would be a good workout if she kept up a good pace.

As she packed her hiking gear and clothes, her cellphone rang. Terry saw it was her casual boyfriend, Mike McNulty. “Hi Mike.”

“Are you on the road yet?” Mike inquired.

“Just about?”

“Drive careful.” Mike added.

“It's only fifty miles. I think I can handle that.” Terry knew Mike was trying to make small talk.”But like they say most accidents happen within twenty five miles of home.”

Mike was tempted to ask Terry if she wanted company. He could have easily changed his schedule, but chose not to bring it up. If Terry wanted his company, she would have asked him earlier. Mike knew from personal experience that Terry was fiercely independent and defined the term “low maintenance”. She was the perfect girlfriend for a man who wasn't looking for a long term commitment.  In the beginning Mike was content to have someone who asked for little and needed even less, but as his affection for Terry grew, he began to wonder if he should move on before he got too involved and got his heart broken For the time being he wouldn't push the issue. Mike knew that if he gave Terry an ultimatum, it would be the end of what they have and he wasn't prepared to take that step yet.  “If you want, give me a call when you get to your hotel.”

“I will.”  Terry responded and hung up. She knew that Mike was waiting for an invitation and was disappointed that he didn't get one. Terry also knew she should have more empathy for his feelings, but couldn't find any. He wanted more that she was capable of giving, but she promised to make it easy for him to move on when the time came. He was a good man and he deserved a woman that was looking for that middle class suburbia dream of husband and children. She wasn't ready to make that step and was pretty sure she never would be.

Terry made good time on Interstate 5 to State 76. When she arrived in Pauma Valley it was only eleven AM.

Terry then took County Road 56 from Rincon Springs. It was steep and winding, but much more scenic. She knew that trailers and RV's didn't take this route so she would be less inclined to get stuck behind some slow moving vehicle.

Terry was a seasoned hiker and off road runner so she had the proper gear for the trek. She had a first aid and snake bite kit, energy bars and three bottles with lemon flavored water. Terci also never went hiking without her Ruger SP-101 and a single blade folding knife. Since Terry often hiked alone, she was aware that predators who found a woman in an isolated area might envision her as a target of opportunity that was too inviting to pass up.  She wished that it would have been her instead of Chelsea King running at Lake Hodges who was attacked by John Albert Gardner. She would have emptied her clip into him then cut his genitals off.

Terry was immediately suspicious when she saw the four men talking to the Park Ranger near the entrance to the state park. She watched them for several minutes before getting out of her vehicle. They weren't dressed for hiking, wrong clothing and shoes. Their large packs that were not adjusted properly and sitting too low on their backs. This would not only caused undue fatigue, but possible injury. These men were definitely not experienced hikers. Once her suspicions were aroused Terry began noticing other things. They stood like hoodlums hanging out on the street corner, that loose limbed slovenly posture that was a cross between arrogance and laziness. At first, Terry thought about waiting for them to leave before starting out on her hike, but when they didn't move after several minutes Terry lost patience, got her gear and started on her way. She had to walk past the men to get to the trail so she prepared herself. Terry didn't want to ruin her day by getting in a confrontation so she vowed not to overreact.

When the tallest man with the eagle picking up a rodent tattoo on his forearm saw Terry approaching. “Hey baby. You're not out here alone, are you?”

Terry thought to herself, don't say anything. just keep walking. When the man stepped in front of her she walked around him. Terry looked at the Park Ranger to see if he was going to intervene. Fear was etched upon his face, however he reluctantly approached the man with the tattoo and whispered something to him.

“Sorry Ma'am.” The Man with the Eagle Tattoo. “I got carried away.”

There was no sincerity in his apology, but Terci accepted it anyway. “No problem.”

As she walked away she could hear the men arguing when they thought she was out of earshot. “You can't do shit like that.” We're not supposed to draw attention to ourselves.”

The Man with the Eagle Tattoo responded defensively. “Yeah, yeah...she's nobody... relax.”

 These men were involved in something, there was no doubt about that in Terry's mind but it was none of her business. Her sole purpose for being here was to get a workout.

Once she got on the trail, Terry was able to focus her attention on the task at hand. She was only two miles from the top of the mountain when she saw another group of four men detour off the main trail. Terry noticed that they were carrying the same type of packs as the men in the parking lot. Coincidence? She didn't think so.

“Don't do this to me. I'm off duty and I don't want to be involved in anything.” Terry said to herself, but still couldn't resist the temptation and followed the men anyway. It was in her DNA.

  Terry came across a sign on a tree; Danger No Hiking Beyond This Point. Where are they going? It couldn't hurt to follow a little further. She rationalized.

When she got to the top of the ridge, Terry looked at the valley below then pulled out her binoculars and scanned the area. About a dozen men were working among tall green plants. It all began to make sense to her. They were growing and harvesting marijuana.    It went something like this; The men pretended to be hikers, walked up with empty packs, filled them up then went back down the trail. They put the packs in vehicles waiting below then either left or went back up for another load. The Park Ranger, if that's what he was, was in on it. Terci saw several storage areas hidden among the trees. They were filled with small bundles of marijuana. Terci estimated the value of the crops and harvested products to be in the millions. This was definitely not a small time operation. Something this size on state land had to be under the protection of some very influential people. Covert agencies working in partnership with cartels, probably. Drug dealing has always a good way to raise money for black ops instead of asking for congressional appropriations. Terry self preservation gene kicked into high gear. She knew she would be killed if they caught her so she pulled out her I Phone and took a video of the valley then quickly headed back to the main trail. She didn't quite make it, the four men from down below intercepted her before she could.

Terry smiled. “I supposed you wouldn't believe me if I told you I had to use the little girl's room.”

Man with Eagle Tattoo laughed. “You know what they say, Curiosity killed the stupid bitch.”

“You paraphrased that.” Terci had the ability to see things in extreme clarity when in a dangerous or life threatening situations. While receiving mandatory counseling after a shooting, the police psychiatrist told Terry that she was a “danger junkie.” She didn't think that was true, but the pumping of adrenalin through her body definitely heightened her senses and quickened her reflexes. In this organization, these men were the labor. While they might possess some rudimentary skills, they were not elite operatives. Even though the odds were four against one, Terry had one distinct advantage, she had a pretty good idea whom she was facing. On the other hand, the four men mistakenly assumed that Terry was just a casual and defenseless hiker.

“As much as I would like to spend a little quality time with you, we're on a tight schedule.” The Man with Eagle Tattoo turned to the other men.”Let's do this.”

All Terry needed were those precious couple seconds when they were looking each other at not at her. Terry drew her Ruger 101 and began firing. She went for the kill. This wasn't like when she was on duty and the use of deadly force was always a last resort. This was something completely different and Terry was taking no chances. Each man took a round to the face or head depending on which way they were turned. Four shot in less than two seconds and all of them within two inches of where Terry aimed.  She slipped her weapon into her pocket, took out her phone and got photos of their faces. Terry made sure to get a photo of the tattoo. It was very distinctive. Her experience as a homicide detective helped keep her calm and methodical.

The Park Ranger approached, looked at the dead men then at Terci. His sidearm was drawn and pointed at her.

“Don't do this.” Terry stated matter of factly.

“I got no choice. I can't let you leave this mountain.”

“I know.”Terry slowly turned to the side, exposing less of her body to a bullet.  She dove into the brush while reaching for her weapon at the same time. The Park Ranger fired. A split second later Terry squeezed off a round. One was on right on target, the other was slightly off.

Terry left shirtsleeve was soaked with blood by the time she reached the parking lot below. As she drove away she looked in her review mirror and saw several men running down the trail. A high tech surveillance camera was mounted on a pole at the entrance to the parking lot. Terry knew it wouldn't be long before they knew who she was from the license plates on her vehicle.

Later that day, Mike McNulty received a phone call. “Are you at the hotel?”

“I've changed my plans.” Terry answered as she sat in her vehicle and cleaned the wound on her upper arm with hydrogen peroxide. “Somebody might ask you if you've heard from me. Tell them no.”

There was a slight pause. “What's going on?”

“I'm not sure yet.” Terry answered. “I need to get going. I'll explain later. Remember, you haven't heard from me.”

“Do you need my help?” Mike asked.

“No, I better take care of this myself. Thanks anyway.”

“Be careful.”

“I planned on it.” Terry terminated the call then drove to the Fry's Warehouse in San Marcos where she used a Sim Card Reader to transfer essential information on her I Phone to a prepaid cell phone then destroyed her phone.  She purchase two other “burner phones.” in the process.

In the parking lot she dialed an acquaintance who worked for Whitewater Securities in San Diego. This company specialized in security for overseas installations and politicians as well background checks for top security positions. It had many ex-military personnel in its employment. Everett Tate was a former Seal that Terry met during a security seminar.

“I don't know if you remember me. My name is Terry Rayfield.”

“Sure I do. You're the Orange County detective. We met at Coronado last year.” Everett Tate said. “What can I do for you?”

“Terry hesitated. “I liked to send you something. See you know anything about the men in the photos.”

“Is this official or personal?”

“Let me put this way. I'd like to keep this between you and me.” Terry said

“You got it.  Send them to my personal phone number and call me back tomorrow.”

“I don't want to you rush you, but I'm kind of in a hurry.”

“Make it two hours then.” Everett Tate replied.

Terry took a nap in the parking lot of Coco's restaurant off Melrose Drive in Vista. She awakened three hours later. “Oh Shit.” she immediately called Everett Tate.

“I wasn't sure you were going to call back.”

“Sorry about that. I dozed off. Got anything?” Terry asked as she grimaced from the pain in her arm

“I do. We should meet.”

Terci was hesitant. “Why can't you tell me over the phone?”

“You have every right to be cautious. While looking up those men, my agency picked up an alert. Someone put you on a terrorist watch list. One more thing, there's a five million bounty on you...dead or alive. I don't know what you're into, but it sure has created a shitstorm.”

“Five million, huh?”

“I have an old score to settle with the people who I think are involved in this. We might be able to help each other.” Everett Tate explained.

Terry didn't answer as her mind raced through different scenarios. If Tate wanted the reward, why would he tell her about it. She'd would have never known and he could have caught her off guard. “Where?”

“The Flower Hill Shopping Center on Via Del Valle. I'll be in front of the Cinepolis Theater at 1900 hours. Think about it.” Everett Tate hung up without waiting for a reply.

Terry drove to the commuter parking lot off State 78 and found a secluded place. She inconspicuously switched plates on her Toyota Highlander to another SUV. Terry then drove into Oceanside and purchased a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap from a local surfshop. She stayed off the freeway choosing instead to drive to Del Mar on the Coast Highway.

Everett Tate was pacing back and forth in front of the theater when someone in a hooded sweatshirt walked past him. He heard the words.”Follow me.”

Tate followed the hooded stranger into the lobby. Terry pulled her hood down.

“Good disguise.” Tate commented as he handed Terry a manila envelope. She opened it and looked at the contents.

“Whooree....You weren't kidding about a shitstorm.”

“That's when I talked to you earlier. It's probably up to a Category Five tornado by now.” Everett Tate. “Everybody you know, everything about your life is under surveillance and scrutiny right now. I've got a boat waiting at a marina in San Diego. We can be in Rosarita Beach in less than two hours.”

“Then what?” Terry asked.

“We get you a new I.D. then we go after these bastards.”

Terry managed a half grin. “Best offer I've had all day.”

 

THE END

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