Here are the first two chapters from Book Six in the Beyond the Blue Horizon Series, On the Wings of Midday, which should, with any luck, appear in early 2018. Mark your calendars!
Otto was flying. He was in one of the M & M Airlines DC-3’s, and he was in trouble. Taking the morning flight from Pioneer Lake to Minneapolis, he had run into an unexpected snow squall, and the wings were loading up with ice faster than the deicing boots could handle it. He looked over and saw his co-pilot was Pete, Mata’s dead husband. His brother-in-law’s face was gray and his eyes bloodshot. Otto saw that he kept bony fleshless hands on the control yoke “Pete!” he exclaimed. “You can’t be here! You died over a decade ago!”
Pete turned to him with a toothless grin. “You’re in trouble, Otto, and I’ve come to help you out.”
“That’s great! Thank you so much!”
“Not so fast, there cowboy! I’ve come to help you to the place where I am!” He let out a deranged laugh: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Now I’ve got you, my friend!”
And my little dog, too, Otto thought. He had the strangest thoughts at the most inopportune times. Maybe he could click his heels and whisper “There’s no place like home,” and he’d wake up in his bed.
This is just crazy, he thought, but it’s worth a try. Pete pushed the column all the way forward, and the airliner fell into a sickening dive, Pete howling with maniacal laughter as it dropped through the clouds. Otto saw the ground rushing to meet him and thought, in for a dollar, in for a dime. He took his feet off the rudder pedals, closed his eyes, clicked his heels and whispered, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home…”
He opened his eyes to a white mist. He was no longer in the pilot’s seat, but somehow floating above the ground. I think I know what happens next, he thought. It will be good to see Papa again. He found himself rising, and he knew he would end up hovering at the edge of a familiar forest with a building that looked like a Greek temple at the other end, a set table in front of it. As he watched, he saw the forms of his father and friends come out of the temple and take their places at the table. Again he heard his father speak to him in his mind. “Otto, mein Sohn, come sit with us.”
Otto caught his breath. He had never been asked to do this before. Did that mean he was dead or worse? Maybe he would become like the Pete thing he had seen earlier. When he had seated himself, his father embraced him in a way that did not involve contact. He felt engulfed by a warmth from his head to his feet like nothing he had ever felt before, and he associated it with a spiritual kind of love. His father addressed him directly. “Otto, perhaps you are wondering why you are here. You came close to being with us for eternity, but your time is not yet come. There is still much for you to do. I want you to be careful, and do not neglect your family as you have in the past. Do you understand me?
Otto nodded mutely. “That is all I have to say this time. Auf wiedersehn, mein Kind, remember me…”His father and the rest faded from sight, and Otto felt himself fall. Here we go again, Otto thought. Couldn’t his father just send him a letter? It would be easier on everyone, although he knew exactly what to expect. He fell faster and faster until it seemed he would slam into the earth, but at the last moment he slowed like an aircraft flaring for a landing. He landed on something soft and then knew no more.
“Otto! Otto! Wake up! You’re having some sort of nightmare!”
Otto opened his eyes to the familiar sight of his bedroom. The lamp on Betty’s nightstand was on, and she was propped on one elbow, looking concerned. “This one must have been a bad one,” she murmured. “You were pulling on something and shouting ‘Pull up! Pull up!’”
Otto ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I thought I was on a flight and Pete was the co-pilot but he was different. He looked like one of those what do you call thems?”
“Zombies,” Betty said. “The girls have read about them in some of those comic books they like so well.”
“You let them read stuff like that?”
Betty sighed. “I try to save my battles with them for the important stuff.”
“Oh. Anyhow, Pete put the plane into a dive to take me, as he said, ‘to the place where I am.’ It was so scary. I tried to pull the plane out, but nothing worked. Then—“
Betty sighed. “I know. You had one of your visions or whatever they are.”
Otto nodded. “Yes.”
“What did your father say this time?”
“What he usually says, but he told me to not neglect my family.”
“I’ve been giving you that message for years, and you didn’t have to go to heaven to get it, my dear.”
“Well, either way would be preferable to going where Pete said he was to get messages.”
She laid her hand on his. “It was only a dream, Otto.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“Do you think Pete is in Hell?”
He shook his head. “No. I think the powers that be were trying to tell me something with Pete’s appearance.
“What do you think that was?”
“I have no idea. We’ll have to find out.”
She leaned over and kissed him. “I’ll help you.”
“Thank you, my love.”
“You’re welcome. Do you think I’ll be able to sleep the rest of the night?”
“I certainly hope so.”
“Good night, then. Again.”
“Good night.” Otto pulled the covers up and fell into a deep sleep until morning.
Otto had just finished his third cup of coffee when he heard someone coming up the walk. No, make that two someones, he thought. It’s either Marion or Maria. Kerchner, you’re a deductive genius. Of course, it could be someone else. I never know who’s going to show up or what’s going to happen. He thought back to his adventures in the Amazon jungle a few years ago. He shuddered and it wasn’t just from the cool air. He never wanted to go through anything like that again.
He heard steps approaching the door and then wondered if he should go into the living room. He decided it was a father’s duty to know what his daughter was doing so he stayed put. He liked this Button boy, but he had been his age once and he knew what could happen.
The steps slowed and then stopped. He heard Marion’s voice distinctly, Carlton’s less so because it was lower pitched. “I had a lovely time, Carlton,” Marion said in the particular tone of voice that young women use with young men they are trying to impress.
“I did, too, Marion. Gosh, you’re so pretty and smell so nice. And your dress is beautiful.”
Pour it on thick, Otto thought. Any thicker and I’m coming out there to break up Romeo and Juliet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
“You bet. You’ll pick me up at 2 for the picnic?”
“I’ll be right on time.”
“You always are. You’re so wonderful.”
I may be sick right here, Otto thought. Remember they’re young, Kerchner. You were probably worse than this.
“Marion, may I tell you something?”
“I love you.”
A brief pause ensued.
“And I love you, Carlton.”
Silence again, and Otto knew they were kissing. Whoa, this was a whole new ball game, he thought, and he wasn’t thinking about baseball. Neither was young Carlton. He would have a word with little Miss Marion.
She came into the kitchen, closing the big wooden door behind her. “Daddy! Have you been sitting there all the time?”
Otto nodded grimly.
“So you heard everything we said?”
“Yes, I did. Sit down, Marion.”
She sat, looking like a cornered animal.
“What’s this business about ‘I love you’ and “I love you too, Carlton’?”
“That’s how we feel about each other.”
“You’re too young to be saying such things.”
“How old were you when you dated Mom?”
“That’s immaterial. Things were different then. Boys were different.”
“From what I’ve heard, you were about the same. And what are you doing eavesdropping on my private conversations?”
“This is my house, Marion, and I’ll damn well sit where I want and listen to what I want and do what I want. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend to give you time to think about what you’re saying and doing.”
“Daddy! That’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair, Marion. Surely you know that by now.”
She burst into tears and slammed her purse down on the table. “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” and ran down the hall to her room.
A few seconds later, Betty emerged from their bedroom, wiping sleep from her eyes. “What in the world is going on?”
Otto stood and rinsed his coffee cup out in the sink. “Nothing. Just a little father-daughter chat.”
“Sounded like a big father-daughter argument to me.”
Otto shrugged. “Call it what you will. We’ll talk about it more in the morning. By the way, you’ll have the services of Miss Marion the rest of the weekend. I grounded her.”
“For what? She’s such a good child.”
“I’ll tell you in the morning.”
“You’ll tell me now, mister, or I’ll ask her.”
“All right, all right. She told the Button boy she loved him.”
“Isn’t she too young for that sort of thing?”
Betty sighed. “Otto Kerchner, you’ve been around women all your life. To think you don’t understand them any better is simply amazing to me. Don’t you know a girl that age doesn’t know what she’s talking about, really? She couldn’t. Understanding love takes years of living, give and take, going through good times and bad, staying together and upholding each other no matter what. Of course she doesn’t understand love.”
“I’m just trying to protect her.”
“You know we can’t protect them, no matter how hard we try and how much we want to. Enough has happened to this family that you should know that. I’ll chalk this up to crazy father thinking and we’ll talk more about Marion’s punishment later. But now, to bed.”
Otto sighed. He had run afoul of one of the women in his life again. When would he learn? He simply didn’t know.