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 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: May 22, 2022      Views: 21
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Patrick P. Astre, CFP, EA, RFC is a recognized tax and financial expert specializing on the economic issues of longevity. Patrick is independent and has been advising individuals and corporations since 1969.

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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.
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Chapter 20 of the book The Devil's Caldera
Bernard continues his trip as captive
"Bernard's captivity continues" by Patrick Astre
A terrorist plot to destroy half the landmass of the US is under way. Only a couple of investigators, a Mossad agent and a specially gifted young man can prevent it. But no one believes them

Bernard’s Story:
      Bernard wasn’t sure how long he’d been carried lashed to this strange and powerful beast, controlled by the creature called the Garridon as it sat on a sort of platform tied to what must have been the beast’s head.  For long moments he’d find himself back in another time, on patrol in Afghanistan with his squad, at home in France, a child once again.  A dim part of his mind knew that he was drugged by the gas they made him breathe periodically, a compound endowed with hallucinogenic properties.  He remembered coming awake as they entered a vast cavern whose ceilings stretched beyond sight.  The walls were phosphorescent, illuminating an underground lake where unseen creatures rippled the dark surface. 

      They stopped and the Garridon untied him and lowered him from the creature whose rounded back he’d been lashed to.  The Garridon’s face was humanoid, with great brows, flattened nose and powerful jaws covered by fur that hung over the creature’s body leaving no skin exposed.  Bernard tried to glimpse the eyes, perhaps engage in some contact but whatever kind of eyes the Garridon possessed, it was covered over by shaggy fur that Bernard guessed it could see through.  The creature exuded a heavy musk and from the way it casually held him, placed him on the ground and tied him with a heavy rope, he felt the tremendous strength of the ape-like creature. 

      Another time Bernard remembered passing through a tunnel so tight the huge centipede-like creature that carried him, rubbed its flanks on the sidewalls.  When they emerged into another great cavern, there were shadows that moved and converged on them.  Man sized shadows flanked by larger ones that Bernard recognized as three men and several Garridons as they approached.  One of the men held his head and forced a mask over his head and nose, and held it in place until he took a breath, smelled the metallic odor of the gas and passed out again.
      When Bernard regained consciousness, he was outdoors.  The air was cold and he found himself dressed in a winter leather jacket, heavy shirt, corduroy pants and boots with no recollection as to how any of it had come to be.  He sat with his back against a tree, at the top of some hill looking down into a valley below.  There was a village there, mountains in the distance, a road leading to the town, passing by a church whose spire extended long shadow into the surrounding countryside, indicating late afternoon. 

      He saw the road continued past some farmland and ended at what looked like a small, private airport.  He tried to move his arms but they were bound behind him by what felt like metal handcuffs.  A chain was wrapped around his ankle, held fast by a lock.  The other end of the chain was latched to the step on a Land Rover parked a few feet away.  He noticed there was an Italian license plate on the bumper and wondered about the significance.  Was he in Italy, and if so, how did he manage to get there from the other side of the Pyrenees mountains, the side that didn’t even border Italy?  He tried to stand but coughed heavily as a bout of nausea overtook his senses, and he sat down again, his back against the tree, and closed his eyes.

      Five minutes later a man stepped from the other side of the Land Rover and walked over to him.  Another man soon followed.  Bernard heard them, didn’t open his eyes, allowing them think he was still out.  Maybe he would overhear something he could use to escape.

      Bernard felt a hand grasp his face, hold his cheeks while another hand pried open his eyes.  He did not close them.  He saw a man squatting in front of him, full beard, medical scrubs under an open Alpine jacket from the pocket of which protruded part of a stethoscope.  The man wore a nametag that identified him as Dr. Bishara- Bishara.  With neatly trimmed beard and John Lennon spectacles, the man held the perfect appearance of a medical professional from India, Pakistan, or the Arabian Peninsula, trained in the West, an appearance that vanished when Bernard looked in the man’s eyes. 

      The eyes were hard, carrying the harsh vision of one who had taken lives, fanatic eyes.  Bernard had seen such eyes before in the most extreme Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and ISIS commanders in Iraq.  Of course the difference was that back then, he’d been the captor.
Yes, he knew the type well, had fought them his entire military career, the type of individual who in another time would get up, make himself coffee, eggs and toast, then well rested and well fed, light the ovens at Dachau. 

      The man remained squatting in front of Bernard for a few seconds before he spoke softly in heavily accented English.  “I am sorry that my French is not that good, but then again, you are fluent in English, are you not, Captain Bernard LaChasse, Brigade des Force Speciales Terre, French Special Forces, Land, every bit as good they say, as their US equivalent.”

      “Yes, I do know some English, so try this:  Fuck you, Mohamed.”

      A dark shadow flew across Bishara’s features as he stood, his eyes never leaving Bernard.  Suddenly he lashed out with a kick that landed square on the side of Bernard’s face, followed by another kick to the body, sending Bernard sprawling face down in the dirt, arms behind him held fast by the handcuffs.  He barely heard the second man speaking, his voice harsh and urgent.  “No, Bishara, you know our instructions.”

      Bernard retched, gasping against the darkness and flashing lights from the blows to his head.  He managed to open one eye and saw Bishara, held back by one arm by the second man.  This one had the dark complexion of someone raised in the sun, but his features were Western, and like Bishara he wore medical scrubs and a nametag Bernard could not read.  The man spoke urgently to Bishara in harsh clipped tones, the language was Farsi, and although Bernard was not fluent, he understood enough of the conversation.

      “Remember our orders, and whom it came from, Bishara.  The man is not to be harmed.”

      “We are using a medical transport.  If I hurt him badly, it will be that much more realistic.”

      “Get back you fool, I will manage the prisoner,” the second man said.

      Bernard raised his head, tried to sit up, but only succeeded in leaning against the tree.  He tasted blood in his mouth as brilliant starbursts flashed in his injured eye.

      The second man was also dressed in medical garbs, but no name tag.  His jacket was embroidered with a medical insignia and the letters SGDMDLS.  He pulled Bernard to his feet as he spoke to him.  “It is dangerous and foolish to anger Bishara.  Keep your mouth shut if you want to live.”

      “Who are you?” Bernard asked, the words bringing a flash of pain to his jaw where Bishara had kicked him.

      “You will find out soon enough.” The man said, and plunged a hypodermic in his arm.

      Bernard felt his legs wobble and collapse under him.  The man caught him and laid him on the ground, removed his handcuffs and leg chains.  “Stand now, walk,” he urged.

      Bernard barely sensed his legs moving.  Whatever the man had injected him with, had flung him into an abyss where his senses nearly vanished.  He only made it to the front of the SUV where he noted a third man fixing a magnetic sign to the side of the van.

      AMBULETTE - next to a large red cross.

      The interior of the SUV was nearly filled with medical equipment.  They placed him on the gurney fastened to the floor of the vehicle, strapped him down, secured his wrists to the side of the gurney with plastic ties, hooked him up to instruments that beeped and chirped and displayed flashing lights on a screen mounted above him. The interior of the ambulette smelled of rubbing alcohol and bleach. A narrow bench filled the opposite side of the gurney where Bishara and the second man sat opposite him.  Through his drug-induced fog, Bernard noted the second man’s name tag:  Hamza.

      A third man appeared and got in the driver’s seat, and after a brief exchange in Farsi the ambulette took off.

      Bernard’s vision wandered in and out, seeing things that may have been real or drug-fueled hallucinations.  He couldn’t tell as he noted passing through the village, following the road into the small, regional airport he’d seen before.  The ambulette drove directly onto the runway where a twin engine aircraft waited, propellers spinning, cargo doors open.  The fuselage also had a red cross and medical insignias.

      They removed the gurney from the ambulette, wheeled it to the plane, rolled him inside and fastened the gurney to the floor.
      Bernard felt the vibrations of the engines revving, the plane moving down the runway, accelerating until it finally lifted and what remained of his consciousness evaporated.

      Bernard did not remember very many details of his journey as a captive.  His impressions remained a kaleidoscope of memory, those not quite certain, as if someone held up photo cards in front of him and suddenly retracted them before their full meaning became evident.  The plane made several landings, and at one point someone in uniform came aboard and looked around.  Probably a customs officer, and exchanged words in Arabic with Hamza who handed the officer a wrapped package the size of a paperback – a bribe, Bernard assumed. 

      The plane made a final stop, and by that time, whatever drugs had been injected into his veins was beginning to wear off.  Bernard kept his eyes closed, didn’t want another injection.     They unbuckled the straps from the gurney, pulled him up, replaced the handcuffs, and duck-walked him to a Toyota open-bed truck.  Hoisted up on the bed, flanked by Bishara and Hamza, the truck drove out of the landing strip.

      He was in desert, at the edge of some mountains.  The truck moved fast, clouds of sand from the dirt road raised in its wake.  It was hot and the air smelled of fried dust and animals long dead whose desiccated bodies decorated the trail.

      After a few miles, the truck slowed, and stopped in a clearing where an eighties vintage Soviet helicopter waited.  The chopper was painted desert-camo, huge blades turning and turbines wailing in anticipation of take off.

      “Where are we?” Bernard asked.

      “Hell,” Bishara replied, and spat on the floor at Bernard’s feet.

      “Not at all,” Hamza said, “But welcome to the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 


The book continues with continuing of Bernard story III. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.
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