The Richard Jackson Saga: Tenth Grade
Chapter 3

Monday I awoke bright and ready to go. I flew through my exercises. While running I thought about how I had not practiced archery since I got home, and that I needed to start my next level training in unarmed combat.

That was going to hurt, but it had to be done. Maybe I was a little hasty in throwing my instructor in the horse trough. Maybe troughs were meant to be my exclusive domain.

After breakfast, I headed out to pick up Fred and then to the beach. When we got to Katin’s where we always met Corky to begin the day, there was our Producer Mr. Tom Jensen.

“Rick, I’m just checking up to see how things are going. Corky here tells me that you have the basic surfing skills needed for the movie, so that is going fine. Now that I see you, we have another problem. You are getting tanned too dark for your movie character. Remember he is not a professional surfer, just a guy on holiday.”

“I just naturally tan dark.”

“No problem, since you have the skills, just back down to one day a week. That will keep the tan you have, but not get any darker.”

This was okay with me, because, frankly, surfing three days a week was becoming a chore rather than fun. However, the look on Corky’s face gave me pause.

“What’s wrong Corky?”

“It’s not your problem, but I was counting on the money to be able to go on the world champion tour this year.”

I shook my head about this and said nothing more. As Corky and Fred started toward the beach, I told them I would catch up in a minute.

When they were out of hearing I told Mr. Jensen that I wanted to do something for Corky as he had really helped me get better at surfing.

“What do you have in mind, Rick?”

“Some sort of sponsorship on the world tour.”

He thought for a minute.

“Do you have any idea of how much money is needed?”

“From what Corky has said the better part of five thousand dollars. Most of that is airfare, for Hawaii, Australia, Peru and South Africa.”

“The movie itself could sponsor part of it, but not all. He would be in the credits as it is. If he did well in the championship it might help the box office.”

About that time, Mrs. Katin spoke up, “The shop could help with a thousand dollars.”

“I would chip in two thousand, but want to keep my part silent.”

“Okay the movie can do two thousand. The Katin’s and I will work out the details with Corky.”

I called Jim Williamson my accountant and told him what was going on and instructed him to cut a check for two thousand dollars to Katin’s, who in turn would add it to their sponsorship money.

Mr. Katin asked me why I wanted to do it quietly. I told him that I had enough publicity in the world and would like to do a good deed without it being a big deal.

I then spent the rest of the morning out on the ocean. Now that I didn’t have to do it three times a week I enjoyed myself.

After dropping Fred off, I headed to a Doctor’s office for my flight physical. I need to get that in and several other forms for my student certificate.

The less said about the physical indignities of that visit the better.

I went on home for lunch and walked into a madhouse.

Mrs. Hernandez told me that Mum had left in a hurry to the Tucker Academy. Apparently, Eddie had been hurt. Mum left word that when I got home, I was to stay there until she returned.

Dad called from a hospital to let us know that everything was okay. From a hospital! How could things be okay? Mrs. Hernandez had picked up the phone, so I was hearing only one end of the conversation.

After she hung up she told me that Eddie had a broken arm from a fight at school. It was a greenstick fracture so it would be in a cast, but he would be okay. She had no details of the fight.

Now Denny being in a fight was something I could picture. Eddie just didn’t fit that image.

I tried to do something productive like studying, but I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t even read for pleasure, so I ended up going for a long run.

It was late afternoon when my parents arrived with Eddie and Denny in tow. I have never seen them so mad looking.

The story came out quickly. Two boys had told Eddie he had to give them his money. He said no, they knocked him down and jumped on his arm, breaking it. There had been no witnesses so it would be his word against theirs.

A meeting had been scheduled at school with the kids and their parent’s tomorrow morning. In the meantime the Head Master had suspended both Eddie and Denny, so there would be no more trouble. The other two kids were to be allowed to attend classes.

I asked about Mary, and that is when I learned that the kindergarten was run separately from Tucker Academy. It was on the school grounds but was owned by several retired teachers who had reached an agreement to rent an unused building from the school.

The building was separate from the main campus, was fenced away from it and even had its own drive way entrance. Mum had gone so far to call the kindergarten about any relatives of those boys who might attend the school. There were none.

Of course, we all showed our concern to Eddie. He tried to take it in stride, but you could tell it bothered him to no end. He told us how all the kids knew about the bullies, but no one could do anything because their parents were important people.

You can guess how that went down with Mum and Dad.

Before dinner the entire staff stopped by to check on Eddie. Even the guards from the front gate came in, one at a time. While they offered to “see” to the boys, the family agreed that might not be the best answer.

After dinner, the family was able to settle down. I spent the rest of the evening studying.

On Tuesday my parents along with Eddie went to the school. Denny and I played pool. He still was able to kick my butt every time. We both wondered about what would happen at school. It was Eddie’s word against theirs. We both figured Mum would overwhelm everyone there.

Around eleven o’clock, they returned from Tucker Academy. From the looks on their faces, it was not good.

I have never heard the word bloody used so many times in my life. When Dad finally got Mum settled down the story came out.

When they arrived at the Academy, they were taken to a conference room where four boys and four sets of parents were waiting; the two boys and two witnesses.

“But didn’t Eddie say there weren’t any witnesses?”

“He did and I believe him.”

“Did you tell them they were lying?”

“It wouldn’t have done any good. Eddie did say they weren’t there, but the Head Master discounted it. He was brown nosing the parents. They are a local judge, the county sheriff, the prosecutor, and the editor of a small paper in the Valley.”

“What happened?”

“Eddie and Denny have both been kicked out of the Academy.”

“I ought to kick all their butts!”

“How do you think that would play out on the national stage? Someone your size beating up on twelve year-olds. The sheriff would arrest you; the prosecutor brings charges; the judge finds you guilty and the newspaper cry to the world what a beast you are.”

“Then what are we going to do?” It never occurred to me that we as a family would let it go.

Mary broke in with a suggestion that I use my bow and arrow on them. Everyone agreed that probably wasn’t a good idea, though Eddie did smile at the thought.

Dad spoke up, “Mum and I have some thoughts, but we want to talk them through. We will discuss it at dinner.”

The only ones who didn’t seem upset were Denny and Eddie, they were out of school.

I went for my flying lesson; it went great. Putting my concerns for Eddie aside, I was more determined than ever to gain my license. I even began questioning Mr. McGarry about what sort of an airplane I should own.

That took him aback for a moment. Then he realized that I could probably afford it. He quizzed on what I would like to do with it. That puzzled me until he asked, long trips, short trips, fast trips, acrobatics, how many passengers?

“Oh, I hadn’t given it thought. I just want to be able to fly my own plane. I did promise my sister, I would fly her to school when I could, but they don’t have a runaway at her kindergarten.”

He shook his head when he heard that.

I only bounced the plane once when I tried to land it, so I was getting better.

At dinner, my parents presented their plan.

Dad told us, “Since we can’t fight city hall, we are going to change city hall. I made some phone calls today. All three of the elected officials are up for re-election this year. There are one Republican and two Democrats. They will be opposed in their primaries and if needed in the general.”

I asked, “How will you handle them from being from different parties.”

“That part has already been started. One of the lawyers on staff is a Democrat; another is a Republican. We have been using them to gain influence in local politics. They attend central committee meetings and are both going to run for a seat on the respective committees. That has already been in the works. It is how most big businesses keep their feet in both political camps.”

“As far as the newspaper goes, it has a small competitor that is for sale. We are going to buy it and run the other one out of business.”

“What about the boy’s schooling?”

“They are being homeschooled until we can get them back into Tucker after the first of the year.”

“Will the Academy take them back? From the sounds of that the Head Master likes the other people too much.”

“The new Head Master will be just fine. It seems that Tucker Academy is an old family business which has not kept its finances in order. The last of the Tuckers, Miss Doris Tucker would love to sell the place and retire in peace.

Her only stipulation is that the property must remain a school and not be developed. If she allowed development the place would have sold long ago. It appears a foundation; Academics for Tomorrow is about to make an offer.

Since the foundation is being supported totally by a holding company which belongs to Mum I think we will have a say in the new Head Master.”

I had pictured in my mind what had happened to the Russians. I realized that might have been overkill, literally. Remind me never to really get Mum and Dad mad at me.

That night I read, about young J. Pierrepont Finch, a window-washer who joined a huge corporation by starting in the mail room, and became chairman of the board two weeks later. I thought it absolutely impossible until I thought of my situation.

In the morning, I was up early as usual and did all my exercises. At breakfast, I told Mum and Dad that since I didn’t have to go to the beach that I would stop by the studio. I hadn’t advanced at all in my unarmed combat since I had got back, plus I hadn’t touched my bow and arrows, sword or long staff since I had been back.

They agreed that would be a good use of my time. Mum did have some questions on my school work, but I was ahead of my schedule there so she had no concerns.

The guard at the studio gate was another new one, but I had the T-Bird with the parking sticker, so he waved me through.

I stopped by the school house and dropped off my accumulated work. Miss Sperry took a quick look at it and declared me to be on target. She would look at it in detail and let me know of any issues.

My next stop was the stunt yard. I ran into Dick Wyman there and we spent awhile catching up. Mr. Dawson and Mr. Palmer joined us so we went to the canteen for a cup of coffee. I was quizzed on my plans for my various fighting skills.

After half an hour’s discussion, it was decided that I would spend Wednesday and Friday mornings at the studio brushing up on my skills and trying to advance in unarmed combat. Somehow in the conversation we started referring to it as UA.

From there we proceeded to a sword work out. Boy was I rusty, but at the same time the flow started to come back. Mr. Dawson asked me if I would be willing to be an extra in a sword fighting scene in a movie that was currently underway.

Of course I said yes. It was going to be later today so that took care of lunch plans.

By lunch time, between sword fighting, exchanging staff blows, being thrown around the landscape, I was ready for a break. As usual, the studio canteen was a menagerie.

There were revolutionary war sailors, World War 2 submariners and prohibition gangsters and FBI agents. At least, I thought they were FBI agents from the suits and snap brim hats. What topped it all were actors dressed like refugees from something by Homer. One big guy looked like he had been cleaning out the Aegean stables.

Lunch was pleasant as Dick Wyman, Mr. Palmer, and Mr. Dawson all joined me. They were all encouraging about my skills. Yes, they were rusty, but I hadn’t lost them yet. Mr. Palmer thought I would be at the brown belt level soon, well other than the fact that he didn’t award belts.

His attitude was all about practicality. No belts, no fancy uniforms, no controlling of attitude. His world revolved around using unarmed force to kill or disable an opponent. He looked at the emerging schools such as karate and tai-chi as hobbies. To him these skills plus weapons such as rifles were tools of the trade, no more, no less.

To him, a bow before a fight was allowing your enemy an advantage. You either reacted instinctively to an attack or made a decision to attack and did it, no signaling of intentions.

That said he did place emphasis that you didn’t want to lose your temper as you would be giving up an advantage. He had nothing against being mad, just against giving up advantages.

Mr. Dawson had similar feelings but tempered them with a caution.

“The real killing with sword and staff hasn’t occurred for a long time, so what you are being taught may not be the best. Tricks of the trade will have disappeared along the way. I’m still trying to teach you the real thing the best I can.”

Dick Wyman’s words of wisdom were, “You really need to learn how to use guns, pistols, rifles and never forget the good old shotgun for close in work. These will trump what you are being taught.”

Neither of my other two instructors disagreed. I wasn’t bad with a pistol, which I knew from my appearing with John Wayne and afterhours shooting. I had the feeling that not only rifles and shotguns would be different, but that shooting at people would be different from targets.

They all agreed with me and thought I should take some classes. I agreed but wondered where I would find the time.

Mr. Dawson and I went to the studio office after lunch to have me sign the paperwork for my work as an extra. I would be paid the extra day rate and receive no credit in the movie. My face might not even be on screen, only a body swinging a sword.

Make up was simple, used to spending an hour or more I was surprised at the five minutes I was given to change clothes, then the ten minutes to apply face makeup. This definitely wasn’t star treatment.

It turned out; I was one of fifty people in an all-out melee, the grand finale of the movie. When the movie was finally released in 1961, my face was on screen of all of three seconds. Of course, my fan club did pick up on that three seconds.

We finished up around four o’clock, so I headed home.

At dinner, there was talk of what was being done about Denny and Eddies schooling. Miss Sperry was going to homeschool them at our house. It couldn’t be at the studio because of California regulations governing studio schools. It appears you had to be a child actor in a movie to be eligible. Who would have thought?

Mary made certain that she would be allowed to go to kindergarten. She made the point that her friends might be lonely and scared without her. We all agreed that would not be good, and that she should continue going to class.

Dad did mention that negotiations had been opened with both, the small newspaper The Simi Valley News and Miss Tucker about the Academy.

There would be a meeting with the lawyers who were active in their respective parties about good candidates to support in the primaries.

Eddie was quiet during dinner; you could tell his arm was bothering him. We had signed his cast, but that wasn’t the same as his friends signing it. He had talked to two guys on the phone, but they weren’t allowed to visit. I guess Eddie had cooties. When I told him that, it got a wan smile.

Mary kissed him on the cheek and told him that his cooties didn’t bother her.

Eddie ruined the moment when he wiped his cheek off and said, “Yuck, girl cooties.”

Mary just giggled.

After dinner, I spent the evening on school work.

The next morning got off to a good start; my running on the hillsides had finally brought me back into condition. Running on the flats all summer hadn’t been kind to me. Also I hadn’t been as diligent with my weights as I should have been.

As I ran I reviewed where I was at with my various goals. Physically, I was exactly where I wanted to be. Business seemed to be going good, but that was due to other people knowing what they were doing. I may have had the original ideas, but I had no illusion that I was the one making things happen right now. It looked like a good ride, so I had better hang on.

Movie wise my career was in good shape. However, I did take Mr. Baxter’s words to heart about where I wanted to take it. Like everything else if I was going to do it, I needed to do it right, so how could I become an A-lister?

School was on track; as a matter of fact I was a little ahead of the curve on my schoolwork. Flying lessons were going great. I couldn’t wait until Mr. McGarry said I was ready to solo.

Somewhere along the line I needed to become proficient at using long guns. I think my pistol work was okay. Then there was ballroom dancing. Yes, there were several dances like the Tango that I was good at, but I had never done most of the common dances. At least to be able to perform at the level required in a movie.

I think we could forget about a singing career. I doubt if anyone would be interested in signing me up to sing again.

These were the immediate items, what were my long-term goals? I realized that the events of my life had pushed me in good directions, but what directions did I want to go.

All these thoughts went through my mind as I ran. I had been running through the mile’s long park just following the path ahead of me. By the time I realized that I had been running for a while none of the park looked familiar.

Now the simple thing would have been to turn around and head back. What’s the fun in that? Instead, I took the next fork in the trail that veered to the right. This should take me towards the highway and one of the many entrances to the park trail. I could then look at the map board and figure out where I was.

My plan worked to a point. I got to the road, saw the map board. Some jerk had torn the map off!

Now I had two choices, follow the road downhill towards my house, or follow the trail and hoped it went back that way.

I was getting tired enough that I chose the road. It was a sure thing. After running downhill for several miles, there was another entry way and its map was intact. I was still almost ten miles from my house. Well, I wanted a good run.

Looking at the map I saw the trail now ran parallel to the road. I chose this as it would go easier on my legs. As I got closer to home I started see other runners.

The gate to the back of our house was in sight when I noticed an orange flash running through the woods. It was some sort of an animal, but it was big. It disappeared so quickly I had no idea what it was. I wasn’t even certain that I had seen anything.

I showered and went in for breakfast. Since I had run so far everyone else was finishing up. I filled a plate from the sideboard and joined the family.

The boys were excited about something in the paper. I looked over at the headline to see what had them excited.

Uh-oh, a Bengal Tiger had escaped from a small local zoo. Was that what I saw? Then I started to wonder. Had I shut the back gate and locked it? To be safe I went out to check.

I could see the gate was closed, but I could see that a ten-foot fence didn’t mean a lot to a Bengal Tiger as it was rummaging in our garbage can.

Edging back to the kitchen door, I saw Mrs. Hernandez talking to the cook.

“Mrs. Hernandez, will you please find me the largest piece of meat you can?”

“Why?”

“I want to feed the tiger in our back yard. That should keep him there while you call the sheriff.”

“Funny, Rick.”

“I took her by the arm and led her to the back door and pointed out the window.”

“She let out a shriek that got the tiger’s attention. It wandered over to check out things.”

In the meantime the cook, whose name I didn’t know handed me a ten pound roast from the refrigerator.

“You can explain to Peg what you did with the roast.”

I cracked the door open and tossed the roast to the tiger. It didn’t hesitate at all. It nailed that roast in midair and settled in for a small feast.

In the meantime, Mrs. Hernandez had come about and had the Sheriff’s office on the phone.

Looking back at the tiger I saw that the roast couldn’t even be classified as a small feast as it was almost done with its meal.

I asked the cook for more meat.

She handed me a package of T-bone steaks. This was getting expensive fast.

I threw those out the door. If we kept this up the tiger would be ready to move in with us.

Mrs. Hernandez had now summoned my parents who were accompanied by the kids.

Of course, Denny and Eddie thought it was cool and Mary wanted to keep the big kitty.

By now, the tiger had scarfed down the meat. It must have been content because it stretched out for a nap.

Dad had left the room and returned with a rifle that I had never seen before. At first, I thought it was a double barreled shot gun.

When asked, Dad told me it was .470 Nitro Express rifle by Holland and Holland. It was made for big-game hunting in Africa. You literally could kill an elephant with it.

Of course this immediately upset Mary. Dad was quick to assure her that he would only use it if the tiger tried to come into the house.

“But what if it is only looking for more to eat?”

“I think its favorite food is little girls.”

“Oh, then shoot the bugger!”

“Mary! Watch your language.”

“Mum says it.”

“That doesn’t mean you can.”

We were saved by a Deputy Sheriff arriving.

He took one look out the door and was pulling his service revolver. I don’t know how he thought that might help.

Dad spoke up, “Son, that thing would just make him mad. Why don’t wait for a vet with a tranquilizer gun?”

“This one killed its keeper to escape. It has to be put down.”

“Peg, take Mary to the front of the house.”

When they had left Dad asked the Deputy if he wanted to use his rifle or should he do the deed. After a moment’s thought the Deputy decided it would be better if he did the deed.

The tiger was still taking its nap so the Deputy took the time to call his office and reconfirm the tiger needed to be taken down. It was, he had his facts straight.

The Deputy opened the kitchen door and took careful aim at the tiger. When he pulled the trigger a chain of events started. He missed! From twenty feet, he missed.

Secondly, the rifles kick was more than the Deputy was expecting. He went down on his butt and the rifle broke free from his grasp. I grabbed it in midair.

As I turned to look at the tiger I saw more tiger than I ever wanted to see. It was now ten feet from me and getting ready to leap. Later, I flashed back to the bank robbery in Colorado as I reacted the same way. I held the rifle and fired. I was luckier than the Deputy as I blew its head off. I mean it, the tigers head was a ruin.

My holding onto the rifle was no better than the Deputy’s as I was also knocked on my butt and it went flying. This time it was caught by Dad.

I’ve had adrenalin rushes before but nothing like this.

The Deputy and I, whose name I learned was George Burrill, both sat in chairs for a while shaking. Everyone there was excited. Denny ran to his room and brought his camera back and was taking pictures of the tiger. All the others were talking a mile a minute.

I’ll never forget Dad saying to Mum, “Now what do you think of boys and their toys?”

It was the only time I can remember Mum being at a loss for words. Apparently, she had given him some grief over buying that rifle.

With a start I remembered something I had to do. I dialed Sharon Wallace on the kitchen phone; luckily she was in her office and caught it on the first ring. I updated her on the events of the morning.

She told me that she would have a reporter and photographer from the LA Times there as soon as she could.

Deputy Burrill called his office and let them know the tiger was down. He didn’t give any details.

After he hung up he told me, the Sheriff was on his way.

Dad called the front gate and let them know people would be arriving from the Sheriff’s department and the LA Times. Let them in and escort them to the kitchen.

The first to arrive was the Sheriff and another man. From the way Mum and Dad stood straight and looked at them, I figured out exactly which Sheriff this was.

The Sheriff was as surprised as they were.

“I didn’t know you were those Jackson’s”

The way he said it, it was their fault for not letting him know they were rich and famous.

The other guy had a camera with him and was taking pictures of the tiger.

The Deputy was explaining events to the Sheriff. The guy with the camera was now taking notes and started his own questions. He wanted it very clear that it was me who shot the tiger and not the Deputy.

From Mum’s glare it didn’t take a lot of guess work to deduct that this was the newspaper guy. A look at Eddie confirmed it. The little guy sure could shoot daggers with his eyes.

The Sheriff and newspaper guy didn’t stay long. The Sheriff told the Deputy to contact the zoo that the tiger had escaped from to come pick it up. They would know how to dispose of it.

During the next hour, things settled down. Cook provided coffee, sodas and cookies as we sat around and rehashed events. From the Deputies perspective he had missed with a strange weapon losing it in the process, I had snatched it out of the air calmly and killed the tiger.

From my perspective, I got lucky in catching the rifle and took a shot in desperation, which hit through no skill of my own.

From the looks on the faces of those present they liked the Deputies version better.

We learned more about the rifle. It was made for big-game hunting in Africa. Dad had bought it on impulse at a charity auction, he and Mum had attended. He had no use for it; he just thought it was neat. At least, he didn’t have a use for it at the time he bought it. It was now going to be hung on the library wall in pride.

The reporter from the Times and a photographer showed up next. We had our stories down pat for him. You could tell he liked the Deputies version better than mine.

Of course, they had to stage the picture of me with the tiger like I had been on a big-game hunt. They had to roll the tiger over so the ruined side of his head didn’t show.

Four people from the zoo arrived in cars and a truck. They were brought around back. While the tiger was being loaded into the truck, it took three zoo keepers, the Deputy, me and the photographer to lift the beast. The only way we could do it, was to place the tiger on a tarp and lift the edges of the tarp.

I was told they could come in as high as nine hundred pounds, but this was a lite weight at eight hundred and twenty-five. I would hate to meet a big one!

A faulty counter weight on a door had not let the door come down, so the tiger was not in a separate area when its keeper entered the area. He had mauled the keeper. It had even eaten some of the poor guys arm.

The LA Times reporter was practically drooling over these events.

While we were doing this Dad had been talking to the Zoo Director. At the end of their conversation, they shook hands. I wondered what deal had been struck.

Dad was busy; next he was having a long talk with Deputy Burrill. When they were finishing up, Dad handed him a business card, and again they shook hands.

The rest of the day was unsettled to say the least. After everyone had left I was tired. I was never tired this early in the day. I told Mum that and she laughed at me. How far did you run? How much excitement have you had? Go take a nap.

Now I had not been sent for a nap for a long time, but with no argument, I went and slept for two hours.

I spent the afternoon doing high school work. I was so immersed that I was able to get the morning events off my mind. After dinner, I spent some time with the kids watching Mr. Magoo. It was one of his theater cartoon’s; Eddie was excited that this week’s TV Guide reported that there was going to be a regular cartoon on TV called, the Mr. Magoo show.

Dad stopped in and was surprised that they would allow Mr. Magoo on TV since he was so mean and nasty. That caused some discussion as we thought he was just an addled old man. Dad watched for a few minutes and agreed that the character had changed from when he was younger.

I spent the evening with my flight manuals. When it was time for bed, I was out like a light.

My run on Thursday was nothing like Wednesday’s both in distance and ending.

When I joined the family for breakfast, I could tell something was going on.

Rather than saying anything Dad handed me two newspapers, our local paper and the LA Times. The headline of the local section of the LA Times was, ‘Sir Rick saves family from man eating tiger.’ The local papers front-page headline was, ‘Jackson murders rare tiger.”

The LA story was correct, well correct as it could be, they took Deputy Burrill’s version of the event rather than mine. The local rag had me murdering a poor defenseless tiger who had strayed into my backyard. In the last paragraph, there was a line about a zoo keeper being reported as injured in the tigers escape.

While the paper didn’t outright lie they twisted the facts to make me a villain. That really made me glad that I had called Susan right away. I was now a believer in what she had been telling me.’ To say that Mum and Dad weren’t happy would be an understatement. There was also no question where Mary had learned the word bugger. I just hoped Mary didn’t know what it meant.

I said, “The Russian option is looking better to me all the time.”

Denny asked, “What’s the Russian option.”

“Not an option at this time,” replied Dad.

From the look on Mum’s face, I’m not sure she agreed.

The conversation went nowhere after that. Denny cornered me in the hall and asked about the Russian option.

“Violence, Denny, full-on violence, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Fortunately he let it go at that.

I thought it would do me good to get out of the house, so I drove over to the studio. In the stunt area I was quickly surrounded by the entire stunt crew. I could see that I hadn’t thought things through.

They all wanted to know about me and the tiger. They had seen both the LA Times and the local rag, so wanted to know the real story. It took some time, but we finally had the story told and rehashed. Several of the guys had been on actual tiger hunts and told me that I had no idea how lucky I was to be alive.

I had no problem agreeing with that.

The next couple of hours were spent with sword and bow. Mr. Palmer felt it was too soon after the tiger event to go hand to hand. He said that adrenalin can kick up several days after an event and have unfortunate consequences.

I had lunch with the guys and then headed out for my flying lessons.

The lesson went fine. I was feeling more comfortable all the time. I did the pre-flight walk around; then taxied the plane to take off position, got permission from the control tower and took off.

I flew in lazy circles for a while then with the towers permissions did some touch and goes. I was feeling pretty smug about the whole thing when Mr. McGarry reached over and turned the engine off.

Yeah Mr. Palmer was right about adrenalin spikes. My blood pressure must have gone off the chart.

Then my brain kicked in and I re-started the motor.

The whole incident hadn’t lasted more than seconds so the plane had only lost a little altitude. I told Mr. McGarry it might be best if we landed.

He raised an eyebrow but took over the stick and brought us in.

Once we were on the ground, I told him that apparently he didn’t read the newspaper. From the look on his face he hadn’t.

When I explained what happened yesterday he broke out into a grin.

“All that and you still reacted correctly, son you are going to be a good pilot. I knew guys during the war who were stone-cold killers in the air, but put them through something like an advancing tiger, and they would have been useless for a week.”

“Now get back in the plane, take off, circle the field once and land.”

I didn’t think about it, I did another walk around to make certain something hadn’t fallen off and got back in the plane. I buckled up and was waiting for him to join me.

He didn’t. He just rotated his arm to tell me to go! And so I soloed.

There is no way to describe the feeling after I taxied back to the school. I thought jumping from the plane was a high, I know getting attacked by a tiger was, but the grin on my face was so wide it’s a wonder my grin didn’t meet in the back of my neck, and my head fall right off.

We then went back into the office, and he spent the next hour grilling me on my studies. As I got ready to leave he presented me with a certificate, which he had made up in advance, celebrating my first solo flight.

I couldn’t get home fast enough to share this with my family.

It certainly was a more cheerful dinner than last night. Dad told us operation green stick was underway. Since Eddie had a green stick fracture, that had become the family code name for our revenge. We were under no illusions this was revenge pure plain and simple.

There was green stick school, the purchase of Tucker Academy, green stick elections to rid ourselves of the politicians, and green stick newspaper, the purchase of a competing paper and putting the local rag out of business.

After dinner, I tore into my flight books with a renewed interest Friday started with a good run through a slight misting rain. It was actually pleasant. It wasn’t one of those man oh man it pours. After breakfast, I decided to spend the morning on flight school and then go to my every Friday business update meeting.

I had just settled in with my ground school books when Mary burst into my room. The door being open was probably the only reason that it remained on its hinges. Recently, she had become a high-energy kid. She wouldn’t walk if she could run; she wouldn’t run if she could ride her bike at breakneck speeds. I shuddered to think if she could drive.

“Rick, Mum wants you to come to reception; you have a visitor at the gatehouse.”

I stood up to go but she held up her hand for me to wait. She picked up my phone and apparently dialed security at the front gate.

“Scott, this is Mary, what can you tell me about our recent arrival?

“Oh, what is that?”

“Okay, what else?”

“Why do you say that?”

“Oh, okay, thanks.”

Mary turned to me.

“The man arrived in a car with a federal government license plate, but it is a pool car, so that is no help. He has a Virginia driver’s license. Scott says he doesn’t carry himself up tight like an FBI agent, so he is probably a spook. Since it is a Virginia license it is a good chance he is CIA.”

“Squirt where and why did you learn to do this, and how do you know the names of the guards at the front gate?”

“Mummy says that if possible you should know about new people coming into your life. You must know and be kind to your guards; they might save your life at the cost of their own.”

I wondered what sort of girl Mum was raising.

A quick glance in the mirror told me I was fairly presentable, so I headed downstairs to the front room we called the reception.

When I entered there was Mum with a tall gentleman dressed in a suit and tie. His hat was on the table next to him. While I didn’t have that much experience with the FBI, he didn’t give off that aura. As a matter of fact, looking at him he was very bland. Must be a spook!

Mum settled it quickly when she introduced me to Mr. Rip Robertson. He introduced himself in a soft Texas accent. While he held out his hand politely I had the impression that he didn’t care about meeting me, one way or the other.

That impression was confirmed when he told me, “I have to train you to notice and be able to evade a tail. I don’t know why I was picked, but I want to get this done as soon as I can, so I can get back to my real work.”

He wasn’t facing Mum when he made this statement, so he didn’t see her lips tighten.

Robertson went on, “This will take every day next week, four hours a day. We will go from eight in the morning till noon. Be ready Monday.”

Mums look had now turned to stone, but quickly changed to a smile as he turned to her. “Lady Jackson I don’t know what strings were pulled, but I will do the job and move on.”

“I’m certain you will do a good job.”

He nodded to her, and ignoring me, left. It was obvious he had never heard Mum talk before. When she told him he would do a good job it was not a compliment, it was an order.

After he left she told me to be ready Monday, and that she had a few phone calls to make.

I went back to my books, but it took a while for me to be able to concentrate. Spy Stuff! I did think to call the studio and let them know I wouldn’t be at the beach on Monday.

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Story tagged with:
Coming of Age / Young Adult /