Authors: Don Bendell
Strongheart had not even ridden more than ten miles north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, when Eagle, his magnificent black-and-white pinto, started snorting. Eagle's left ear started turning toward the hillock directly to the west of the trail, which ran north and south. Joshua put the spurs to the big horse and Eagle sprinted forward, and Strongheart heard the bullet crack behind his head as the big horse propelled him forward. Fifty feet on, he spun him around and drew his Colt .45 Peacemaker, firing a snap shot at the top of the bluff where the shot had come from. He ran fast until he came to the end of the low ridge, and he quickly veered left into the prairie grass, bounding around the north end of the ridgeline.
Now, on the western side of the ridge, he saw two riders climbing into the saddles of two bay geldings. The cowboys took off south at a dead run, but it did not take long for the long legs of the sixteen-hands-tall pinto to start catching up.
The one on the right made a big mistake and foolishly drew his .44, turned in the saddle, and tried to make a snap shot back at Strongheart. Joshua did a quick draw and fired, his bullet catching the man under his bottom rib and going through his torso, tearing out the other side. He literally flew from the saddle and landed in a giant patch of prickly pear cactus. Obviously, he immediately started screaming in pain.
Strongheart yelled to the other, “You want to end up like him? Just keep running!”
Titles by Don Bendell
THE INDIAN RING
The Criminal Investigation Detachment Series
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DETACHMENT
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
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THE INDIAN RING
A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2016 by Don Bendell.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61717-5
Berkley mass-market edition / January 2016
Cover illustration by Bruce Emmett.
Cover design by Lesley Worrell.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
On February 2, 2010, I had a very freaky thing happen. Three years earlier, I had been recognized by the secretary of veterans affairs, R. James Nicholson, during a speech he delivered at the Denver VAMC, in which he stated that I was the perfect example of how healthy a disabled veteran could live by working out hard, not smoking or drinking, and by eating healthy.
However, three years after being recognized, I had a blood clot form, break loose, and hit a valve in my heart, and I had a heart attack. While visiting me the first week in the hospital, my wife of then almost three decades, Shirley Bendell, had a routine physical and was sent to an oncologist. Shirley was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia with lymphoid blast crisis, which puts you in the fatal final stages of leukemia, usually with only a few weeks to live. On top of that, she had a chromosome cell mutation that nobody had ever survived. For the next two years, Shirley went through ten rounds of chemotherapy, numerous trips to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, and many near-death experiences. On several occasions, doctors told me she would not make it through that day.
Shirley had a deep, abiding faith and tremendous toughness, and she had “prayer warriors” all over the country praying for her. She had been swimming a hundred laps at a time four days per week, lifting weights, doing Pilates, teaching martial arts, and training horses when she was diagnosed. At that time, she was sixty-three years old.
More than three years had passed since Shirley's bone marrow/stem cell transplant, and she was totally cancer free and, according to her doctors, a living, breathing, walking miracle. She was back doing Pilates, teaching martial arts, riding horses, and staying on the go. A year after her transplant, she and I danced all the twenty- and thirty-year-old couples into the floor at a banquet.
Shirley was by far and away, man or woman, the toughest person I have ever known, and at the same time, the sexiest person I have ever known. We were married for thirty-two and a half years, and during that time I fell more deeply in love with her every day.
She was only the third woman in history to be inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame, was a sixth-degree black belt master instructor in four martial arts, had been a recovering alcoholic and prescription drug addict for well over three decades, public about being a former victim of both gang rape and acquaintance rape, an actress, stuntwoman, producer, director, business executive, gymnast, mother, and grandmother, and she covered her head with a prayer shawl every single morning and read the Holy Bible, prayed fervently, and read devotionals daily. When Shirley danced, people on the dance floor often stopped and watched her. With eleven grandchildren, after her transplant, she was at an indoor arena running barrels and pole-bending on a horse, helping me brand and ear-tag cows and neuter bull calves, and teaching karate classes again.
However, 110 days post-transplant, Shirley developed a hideous complication called GVHD, or graft versus host disease. The new cells would travel from one organ to another throughout her body attacking the healthy cells. She was often in a lot of pain but never showed it to people, and on Valentine's Day, 2014, the disease finally won out. She conquered incurable leukemia, but not GVHD. With her sister and brother-in-law, my son, Josh, and me at her side, Shirley passed away and was finally out of pain and misery after a very courageous four-year battle. I was very sad but also very happy for her. She is now pain free living in a mansion for eternity.
For all those years, I was not only totally amazed at her, but I always got excited whenever she walked into the room. Just seeing her quite often took my breath away. Shirley Bendell, you were my soul mate, my best friend, my business partner, my mistress, my dancing and hunting partner, my fishing buddy, my saddle partner, and the love of my life. You insisted that I keep living life to the fullest and find love again. I did, but not a substitute for you. It is a totally different love than I had for you, and you would approve of her. In fact, you predicted exactly what she would be like. All you ever cared about was me and what was best for me. I will always love you and treasure our memories.
Shirley Ann (Ebert) Bendell (3/20/47â2/14/14),
I dedicate this book to you.
Your forever passionate servant,
I have to acknowledge my close friend Rudi H. Gresham. Rudi is a fellow former Green Beret officer and Vietnam veteran and has been a wonderful friend. Rudi is also one of the most colorful characters I have ever known. Although he has a bachelor's degree in chemistry, Rudi became a U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) officer during the Vietnam War and was selected to become the aide de camp to Lieutenant General William Yarborough, who is called the father of the modern Green Berets. Lieutenant General Yarborough was the commanding general when John F. Kennedy made the green beret the official distinctive headgear of the U.S. Army Special Forces, and a statue showing that immortalizes both at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He created Jump Wings for airborne soldiers and came up with other similarly important innovations. Rudi became like a foster son to the general and delivered the eulogy at William Yarborough's funeral. Rudi helped his friend Ronald Reagan get elected to the presidency and was credited by George W. Bush for helping him get elected, too. President Bush rewarded him with a presidential appointment as senior adviser to the secretary of VA, where he served throughout Bush's tenure and more. Rudi was given the Special Forces Association Operator of the Year award three times, and many, many other honors. He also owned a successful chain of radio stations in the South.
It is incredible how many veterans Rudi has helped behind the scenes over the years, especially Special Forces veterans. In many cases, they had no idea, and some still have no idea Rudi was pulling strings to help them out. Rudi and I worked on a political campaign together, and I got impatient and wrote an inner-campaign memo complaining about problems within the campaign. It was pretty critical, and I figured that it would get me fired. Rudi was my supervisor on the campaign and told them that if they fired me, they would have to fire him, too. He has done so many behind-the-scenes good things for veterans. He frequently quotes his friend the late Ronald Reagan: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”
He is married to the beautiful former Miss South Carolina Faye Breland Gresham, and they have three adult children.
Rudi, my friend, you always choose to be in the background making good things happen for others. This time it is about you. Thank you.
De Oppresso Liber,