He'd lost blood and comrades on the world's battlefields, but neither compared to losing his memory. Waking up in a secret military bunker, drugged, with vague images of a mission gone bad, Jonah had nowhere to turn. Until help came in the form of the one woman he'd always remember....Psychologist Sophia Rhodes never got over the bad boy who'd stolen her good-girl heart a decade ago. But without military training, how could she possibly steal Jonah from a high-security facility? She had only one hope--that he'd never forgotten her, either. Sophia knew the breakout was the easy part. Somehow she had to help Jonah focus his hazy images--before a desperate man made sure he'd never remember....
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Soldier Caged by Rebecca York
Jonah Baker heard the chatter of a Kalashnikov, then another weapon returning fire. The sound was familiar in the craggy brown hills of a country where warlords ran rampant over the land, fighting each other for prestige and territory.
The sun played over the top of his helmet, and sweat crawled down his back under his flak jacket. For a man who'd grown up in... Grown up in...
He struggled to remember the place where he'd spent his childhood. He had to have come from somewhere. But he couldn't bring it into focus. Not the town. Not his house. Panic tightened his chest. Then he reminded himself that the past wasn't important right now. He had to focus on this village. These people.
They knew who had come here to harvest the viscous fluid from the immature poppy plants, then ship the darkened, slightly sticky mass called opium to middlemen.
He caught a flicker of movement to his right, but it was only a woman peering out from the doorway of her stone house.
Her whole body was hidden by a burka--a blue robe with a face screen that allowed her to view only a narrow slice of the world. But he saw her small hand clutching the wooden door frame. In her other hand she held a metal box with a crank. She let go of the woodwork and began to turn the crank. As she did, music started playing. It sounded foreign and exotic, something the men might dance to on a village feast day or at a wedding celebration. It should have been pleasant, but it sent shivers along his spine.
"Stop," he said, wanting to clamp his hands over his ears. "I mean you no harm," he added.
The woman eased back into the shadows beyond the doorway, but the tune kept grating at him until he strode away, scanning the street for trouble.
A few houses away, a group of men with dark beards, loose-fitting shirts, and colorful turbans stepped into view and stood facing the American soldiers. Some of them had lined, weatherworn faces that made them look as if they were in their seventies. But he suspected they were decades younger. Life in...
Again his mind drew a blank. And then it came to him. He was in Afghanistan. Tramping through the back of beyond, where there were no passable roads. Trying to cut off the source of funding for the Taliban.
"We won't punish you. We just want to know who harvested the opium," Lieutenant Calley said.
Wasn't he someone from another conflict, decades ago?
"Damn," he muttered.
"Quiet. Don't interrupt," Calley ordered.
Jonah's head swung toward the man. "You don't give the orders. I'm the major. You're the lieutenant."
"But I'm better at the language. That's why I'm handling the questioning."
Jonah focused on the scene. Everything seemed normal. But something bad was going to happen. He felt it all the way to the marrow of his bones.
The villager doing the talking took a step back, his eyes darting away for a moment. "We don't know the men who came for the opium," he insisted.
"But you watched them work."
Somehow Jonah could understand perfectly what the guy was saying.
"There were a lot of them. They said they would kill us if we interfered."
"Uh-huh," Calley muttered.
Jonah saw him reach for his gun. "Don't!"
"I know how to get them to talk." Calley pulled out his sidearm and shot the old man.
A sick feeling rose in Jonah's throat. "What the hell are you doing?"
"No. You started it." Jonah backed away in horror. "Stop. Stop," he kept pleading, but Calley had gone mad.
He saw the woman in the doorway clutch her chest and fall. Red blood spread across her blue burka as she lay on the ground.
A bullet slammed into his thigh and he went down. Then another one caught him in the arm.
Horror swirled through his mind, through his soul. He was still screaming "No" when his eyes opened and he found himself lying on a narrow bed in a darkened room.
Sweat drenched his skin and the T-shirt and briefs he was wearing. The bedclothes were tangled around him. Dim light filtered in under the crack at the bottom of the door.
He'd awakened from a nightmare--about Afghanistan. His last assignment.
He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes.
No, he corrected himself immediately. That wasn't his last assignment.
The dream was so vivid, that it had seemed like reality. But he knew he had made it up. It wasn't real. Lieutenant Calley was a soldier from Vietnam, notorious for having ordered the mass murder of innocent villagers. That was how he had ended up in a nightmare about the massacre of a village in the Afghan hills.
Or was there something real about the dream--and his mind had twisted the facts? Like the lieutenant's name.
He moved his arm and found it was sore, as though he'd suffered a recent injury. Fumbling beside the bed, he found a table and a lamp attached to the wall. He switched on the lamp, then sat blinking in the sudden light.
When his vision cleared, he looked at the upper part of his right arm and saw a round red scar from a recent bullet wound.