Chapter 1: The man in the woods

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C.B.G.B
I ain't got time for that now

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, P. A.?
You oughta know not to stand by the window
Somebody might see you up there
     - lyrics: Life During Wartime, Talking Heads

Jonah felt a searing pain shoot through his left tibia as he cracked it against the thick kitchen table leg while on his way into a full dive to the saltillo tiled floor.  As glass fragments sprayed and bounced across his new kitchen floor, his mind noted an odd sensation in his shoulder, while his right quadriceps  extension spasmed from the sudden shift in weight onto his healing limb.  Briefly he recalled the troubles he had 2 years ago trying to recover from the apparently botched meniscal repair surgery on the right knee.  The knee had never been right after that; he had gone in for the repair because his knee was recurrently locking but came out with a loss of terminal knee extension range which he found more debilitating than the occasional locking.  He had to take much of the blame though. He had thought that with his knowledge base that he could get away with  not following up with rehabilitation.  Since then the professional relationship with Michael had been superb and Jonah ultimately accepted the blame for his poor outcome.

Dave Matthews “American Baby” played softly in the background; a startling contrast to the excruciating throb in his left trapezius. He felt blood trickle down the left side of his chest, the warmth soaked up by the Egyptian cotton 200 thread count shirt. He looked down seeing it seep into the “J” insignia overlying his pectoral ... God, a brief venture into the panache he thought, now clearly realizing the douchy decision that had been. “Who does that anymore? Don’t answer that”’ mumbling beneath is straining breath.
His attention was now drawn to the cut on his fifth finger.  As he hit the floor, the hand had slid out from underneath him on the freshly glazed tile and pressed into the grating at the base of the refrigerator making a clean slice into the flesh from the tip to the base of the digit.  He rolled onto his back to reach above for a dish towel that hung wrapped through the handle of the refrigerator door, in doing so he felt the glass fragments press against his spine through his shirt, minuscule needle sharp teeth biting into his skin.  “Fuck” he exclaimed as he instinctively reached for the thick evening newspaper on the kitchen table and pulled it to the floor frantically opening it and rolling back onto it, back on his elbows.  He wrapped the dishcloth firmly around his hand and gripped the bulk of its mass in his fist.

“Holy shit” he said out loud, exhaling. “That was close... too close” he added. He was trying to recount what had just happened in the last few seconds. The pain brought unusual clarity and focus to the present situation. He needed a weapon and he needed it now.

He looked to his right and saw blood spatter on the door of the oak cabinet under the sink and a small hole near the edge of the raised panel door. He instinctively opened the door and couldn’t believe what he saw. A bullet submerged in the plastic bottle of mineral oil he kept under the cabinet to condition the chopping block atop the center island of the kitchen. He looked to the left, almost unconsciously, as if to see his attacker watching but was greeted by the legs of the kitchen chair he had just abandoned. Peering through the slats of the back of the chair, he could see across to the window, where the bullet had just come in before entering his his upper trapezius.

“I can breathe, so the bastard must have, . . . must have missed the apex of my lung. Thank God for small favors” he said out loud as he shook his head.  Dave broke into  “Smooth rider” on the stereo.

He poured the oil out on the floor. “Sorry Shauna” he thought. What a mess for the cleaning lady. He shook the bullet from inside the bottle and held it between his two non bloodied fingers and studied.

“Looks like a small caliber, possibly a .223” he thought. He wiped the bullet off on the newspaper and stuffed it in the change pocket of his Levis. “Never know when you might need something like this, especially if I live to tell about it.”

Jonah knew he could not stand up. If another bullet came through the window over the sink he could be done for.  The window faced out onto the west side of the lodgepole and sage covered hill and the sun was setting just over the peak of the mountains just distant.  He knew that even if he tried to peer out the lower corner of the window it would be impossible to see into the woods; the angle of the sun at this time of the day setting just over the peak of the hill would make it impossible to see anything.

The shooter must know the area well and knew that this time of the day was perfect for his task.  He had to know Jonah’s routine well enough to know that he sat down at the kitchen table for a cup of green tea and the evening newspaper every day at this time.  Jonah had continued this relaxing habit ever since Cheryl had died. Routine was something they enjoyed, and now it was a thing that helped him though. This habit had been their time to reconnect and discuss their days together but now it was a signature task to somehow reconnect with her spirit after a long day treating patients back in town.

Jonah stayed below the window line and shuffled on his elbows and newspaper across the room to the couch, he reached next to it grabbing his .44.  It was a Redhawk that he had bought just two weeks ago and was reminded that he hadn’t even had time to calibrate the new Lepold 3X9 scope that Finn had given him as a birthday gift the week before.
“Damn it”. “No fucking shells”. He cursed his normally anal attitude of gun safety. Jonah stuffed the .44 between the couch cushions of the log sofa. “ Hopefully no one will find it” he thought. “Yea, real fortress of security” he said out loud as he shook his head.

Living out in the middle of no where backwoods in Grand County Colorado,  30 miles from town you would think there would be a loaded gun in the house. The only 2 were the 1911 under his mattress in the bedroom and a 16 gauge shotgun in the front closet. Neither would be accessible without exposing himself to more windows and possibly offering his attacker a better shot.

“Shit” he spat. Jonah tightened the blood soaked towel around the hand and again fisted the remainder of the towel bulk.  He looked down at his shoulder and could sense it swelling.  ”Still breathing normally. No pneumo”  And he drew a deep breath as if to convince himself.

Staying low, Jonah inched his way up the stairs now nearing the front door. He was able to shield the sun by the banister pole on the front porch.

The stereo continued “Everybody wake up... if you’re living with your eyes closed. See the man with the bomb in his hand. Everybody wake up”

In the 10 or so  minutes since his kitchen window had exploded into a million pieces by the bullet, the sun had crept behind the hill and the west side of the hill was already nothing but shadows.  He would never be able to see anything even if he postured to intently look out upon the hill top.  The shooter had obviously positioned himself high enough on the hill to be able to escape over it without being seen, knowing that exiting into the sun would make it impossible for Jonah to identify him.  Real pros he thought to himself, this ain’t good.

Jonah was trembling, partly in fear, partly in anger.  Cheryl had died 2 years ago and he was still in the frame of mind that he had nothing to lose.  He had lived life from two ends since her death; either in depression or recklessly.  At this very moment, recklessness and anger prevailed.  He knew of only a handful of local guys who could make that shot through the small kitchen window above the sink and he was determined to find out who his new friend was.

Introduction to Jonah and the Rise

It is my best recollection that this dream occurred about 11 years ago. I had fallen asleep while watching one of those marathon television programs on World War 2 and the Nazi concentration camps. Something startled me, I awoke in a permeating sweat. I had dreamed a haunting tale. The television was still on, the house was still, dark and quiet. I was very uncomfortable, scared. I clearly recall the television was now transmitting the disturbing story of the Auschwitz camp. Inside my head my story swirled. Nothing like this had ever happened to me, never a dream so clear. I rushed into the other room, pulled out a large sheet of sketch paper and began the task. The story was already getting a little foggy. Over the next 30 minutes I scurried to map out the time line, the central characters, the places, the time, the place, the plot. The story stuck with me, it played in my head over and over, but fading as all dreams do. Frantic, circles, lines, arrows, subplots, subcharacters, places, timelines, faster, faster ! I couldn't forget a piece of this tale.

A few months later I was in Colorado visiting my great friend Ivo and our mutual friend Paul, affectionately referred to as Uncle Paulie. We always had deep conversations, great eats and laughs. These are not your average guys, these are special people, genuine, wise, brilliant, creative, and funny. We sat down and had a wonderful dinner at Ivo's home in the mountains that night. We feasted, we laughed, we drank top shelf tequila, the really good stuff, no worm. After a few drinks the story came out. They were silent, listening. I had no idea what to think, they were quiet.

We went skeet shooting the next day. We talked and laughed some more. We left the weekend on an exciting note. We would begin writing this novel, but with a twist. I would write the first chapter, then pass it onto the other two. One would decide to take up the pen, write the next chapter and then pass it onto the third. By the time the pen came back to you, the story had changed, twisted, taken a different path than you had expected or intended. It was both frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. We were each writing a broader story that we were simultaneously reading and experiencing for the first time. Round and round we went for weeks, a chapter a week took form.

That is the story behind the story, the unfinished story of Jonah. I recently obtained permission from Ivo and Paulie to present these chapters, perhaps to re-stimulate the threesome and finish the story. Who knows what will happen, time will tell, perhaps you will be left hanging, things unfinished. The risk is yours.

Chapter 1: "The man in the woods".