Soldier of Fortune

an excerpt



Chapter One



Releasing a shaky exhale, Lucas gazed over the audience. There were a lot of people here. More than he thought would turn out. Every seat in the auditorium was filled, and more people lined the back wall and crowded the floor. It kicked up his nerves, despite the fact that no one was there for him. They were gathered to hear his father speak and say what many of them hoped, that Arthur Hartman would be running for senator representing the State of Florida.

He glanced at his father, standing behind the podium at the front of the stage, his baritone voice carrying through the auditorium as he delivered his ideals, his beliefs, his hopes for the future. Lucas knew everything his father stood for; they were the same beliefs he held, wanting a world where compassion ruled more than money, where people cared for and helped each other, the planet, and all her inhabitants. They both wished for a world in which equality and acceptance ruled before judgment and scorn, and where those in power understood they were in that position because of the trust people had placed in them.

Idealistic? Sure. Some would even say innocent, naive. But wasn't it better to strive for an idealized greater good? While it might be unattainable, in the act of trying to reach it, change for the better would still happen.

His father had already taken steps to create change with his renewable energy company, Green Hart. The company specialized in engineering and manufacturing products for green energy, solar, hydro, and wind. His father had started the company manufacturing solar panels for businesses and private homes, then his father decided, why stop there? Within thirty years, he had created one of the greatest powerhouse corporations in the United States--if not the world--for renewable energy, and employed hundreds of people.

Challenges and creating change were nothing his father hadn't faced before, but this was different. He couldn't believe it when his father told him he was running for government. He hadn't understood why his father would take on such a thing. But as his father said, there was only so much that could be done in the private sector to enact change, when the leaders of the country seemed more concerned about who was lining their pockets.

He couldn't argue that, but he wasn't sure it was the best move for his father. Being in government could be dirty, and that was never how his father had done any kind of business. He understood his father wanted to push for the things he believed in from the other side of the fence, but he worried about the obstacles--and threats--his father faced.

Those threats were the true reason behind why Lucas was clasping his hands to hide the trembling. That morning, a call came through his father's cell phone, an unknown and disguised voice telling Arthur Hartman to back down, drop his run for the Senate, and go back to quietly running Green Hart. Although, his father never had been all that quiet in running his business. Regardless, it made him less of a threat to some...perhaps many...than taking a step into government.

His father had laughed, saying, "Why should I be afraid of anyone who hides their identity and disguises their voice? I'm not one to be cowed before cowards."

Lucas scanned the crowd. He didn't think whoever was behind the threats was a coward. He thought they were serious. And they could be there now, hidden among the crowd.

His father's voice boomed through the auditorium, murmurs of approval following his words as the people became entranced with what he was saying, their excitement rising with his father's statements.

"I don't need to boast about my accomplishments or the things I've done. We're part of this community together. I see faces I recognize out there, my friends, my employees." A few cheers from people at being acknowledged hooted throughout the crowd. Arthur pointed to a middle-aged man standing in front. "Ralph, I remember when we got your house set up with solar panels. And I remember too when you came back, laughing and showing me a check from the electric company, because your home was producing not only enough energy to sustain itself, but to start turning back your meter and feed energy into the grid."

"I still get those checks!" Ralph shouted, people laughing and a few more cheers following his statement.

"And that's a good thing! At least, I say it is. There are others who don't believe the same. Who don't believe in much of anything that I've said here today. But what I've said, what we're here for today, are the values of us in the real world, in this community."

Lucas could sense the charged energy in the room. Everyone was in key with his father, hanging on his words, their support and belief palpable. It was infectious. Of course he believed in his father, but standing here listening to him, he was overcome with pride, as well. This was a man whose footsteps he'd always wanted to follow in.

"They're the values of us who live in more of this world, than those who stay tucked away behind the closed walls in Washington D.C.," Arthur continued. "And I want to take our values to the capital. I want to throw open the doors and show them what really matters to the people. And I want to do it with your support as the next senator for this beautiful State of Florida!"

The crowd erupted with cheers and chants for Arthur Hartman.

Lucas let out a relieved breath. It was over. The rally was finished and nothing bad had happened. Maybe the threat had been hollow after all.

His father made a quick move, turning to glance back at him, smiling...and flinched hard. His smile wavered and faded. He looked down at the left side of his chest. A small, wet dark stain was growing larger on his father's immaculate light gray suit.

Lucas sprang forward, lunging toward him. "Dad! Get down!"

He jumped for him, throwing his father to the ground. The wind whistled by his right ear as he tumbled to the floor with his father. An impact pinged into the metal sign behind the podium, featuring the silhouette of a green stag, standing proud. Hitting the floor, Lucas glanced up and back at the bullet hole in the sign.

Chaos exploded through the auditorium. The guards leaped into action--finally--one grabbed Lucas's arm and hauled him up. Two more collected his father, the rest forming a human shield around them both as they ushered them backstage. Once cleared from the auditorium, they laid his father on the floor, one guard tearing at the suit jacket and shirt to get at the wound beneath.

Horror froze Lucas. He stared at the wound, blood flowing freely from it. His father's face was already pale, and the sight snapped Lucas out of his shock. He ripped off his own suit jacket, wadding it into a ball and pressing it over the gunshot wound. "Hold on, Dad. It's going to be all right. An ambulance is coming."

His father lifted his hand, finding Lucas's, and gripped it. "See? I told you whoever that scumbag was...that he was a coward. Wasn't even man enough...to show himself."

Lucas forced a smile for him. "Yeah, you were right. You always could see right through people, even when they don't show themselves. But don't worry about him, don't even think about him. He's not worth it."

Closing his eyes in a long blink, his father moved his head in the smallest of nods. "But as soon as I'm on my feet again...I'll be out there...showing them..." His voice hushed, but rather than making him sound weaker, Lucas heard steeled determination.

Bowing his head, Lucas closed his eyes. He wasn't going to lose him. He couldn't, not like this. His father had to pull through and when he did, he would make sure his father was safe...somehow.