On Wings of a Lion: Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

Abadan, Iran

August 25, 1978

 

 

“Strike it again!” Anthony Evans shouted, steadying a crowbar wedged against the rear doorjam of the barricaded Sohbe Emrooz newspaper building. His helicopter pilot Hans raised an ax high and slammed it into a rear door bolted from the outside, a SAVAK trademark.

            The ski mask clung to his sweltering face in the afternoon sun, heightening Anthony’s rage and increasing his anxiety about stopping these bastards. Though he would not survive the day if he was caught interfering with the Shah’s Secret Inteligence and National Security Organization—the SAVAK. 

            A bearded student paced behind him, wringing his prayer beads, muttering prayers begging Allah to save his family trapped inside. His white shirt was bright against a pale, worried face, a face Anthony could smack for his arrogant behavior. He’d been stupid enough to pit his family against the Shah’s secret police, risking their lives. 

            Anthony could not rewrite his own history, but this family’s suffering had to end today. 

            Inside the building, someone moaned.

            “Once more!” Anthony shouted. 

           Hans swung, the bolt finally cracking to pieces under the weight of the ax head.

            Anthony kicked in the door, and the two men exploded into the building. 

            Looming presses stood silent in the vast room where once they hummed with the business of printing news. Huge metal-cased windows were blackened like hooded eyes. Flames licked up the far wall, smoke building in a thick cloud along the ceiling. Blood pooled across the linoleum floor, and smears of it had followed a whimpering child who tugged at the arm of his prostrate father. His sobbing mother clutched her husband’s ankles, trying to tow him away from the blaze, her palms slippery against bloody flesh. Her face dripped sweat. She seemed oblivious to the two men in ski masks. 

            Anthony lifted his mask. “We have no time, madame! We must go.” 

            “Your accent. You are an infidel?”

            “I’m a friend.” Anthony held out his hand. “The SAVAK will return to make certain you’re dead. You can’t help him anymore. Come!”

            The bearded student rushed in, coughing. “Maman, these men will help us. They help many. Please! Get up.”

            Tears streaked her face. “My son, you are safe.” She shuddered with relief, and then she clutched Anthony’s hand, letting him help her up. 

           “It’s my fault, Maman,” the youth cried. “I ordered the type changed. I added a story charging SAVAK agents with the Rex Cinema fire. We thought they did it. . . .”

            “Your father told you it was not SAVAK, son, yet you brought this to our door.”

            “. . . but then I found out about the Black Glove,” her son spoke over her words. “It was them . . . but I felt tortured.”

            “So you brought these Black Glove terrorists to us as well.” 

          “My friends burned to death—so many,” he sobbed. “I—I’m—forgive me, Maman.”

            Hans eased the clinging child away from his father and bent over the bleeding newspaper owner. “He looks bad, mate.” Hans leaned down and gathered the man into his arms and picked him up.

          Anthony lifted the younger child in one arm, using his other sleeve to wipe tears, blood, and soot from the small boy’s face. The woman looked past her elder son, her gaze following Hans as he carried her husband out of the building.

           Anthony grabbed the young man’s arm. “Take your little brother!” he yelled. “Get in the van. NOW.”

            The student let go of his prayer beads, grabbed his little brother, and ran after Hans.

          Anthony heard his pilot shout from outside, “Hurry! Black Glove Lincolns have turned up the road.”

          Anthony yanked down his ski mask. It would be a miracle if they made it to the airfield. “Madam, we must go now.”

          She stood frozen. “My home . . .” 

          Something ignited in the room. glass splintered, spraying the room in shards, and Anthony exhaled, impatient. 

          “I’ll apologize later,” he said and hefted the woman over his shoulder, fleeing moments before the roof caved in.

 

***

Hollywood, California

August 26, 1978

 

            The morning dawned clear and bright, about 80 degrees in the Hollywood Hills. Panting from exertion, Kathryn Whitney jogged up the driveway of her little rental off Mulholland Drive. She was waiting for Brett’s decision: Would the Boeing shoot in Iran be hers to direct or not?

            God, she needed this one. She was broke. Two long years without a decent directing job, scuffling to make ends meet on pay from industrials and infomercials had barely covered her rent. 

            She bent over, hands on her knees, cooling down on her tree-lined street, reveling in the physical release she always felt with exercise. Stretching, she pushed away niggling reminders of her precarious situation if this shoot didn’t come through. 

            Inside her kitchen she brewed a Kona blend, turned on the stereo to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” and brushed past tall birch shelves that housed her father’s used but cared-for books. She almost choked on her longing to have him back again. Her chest rose and fell in a shuddering cadence as she ran her fingers along the spines of art and archeology volumes she loved for their legends, laws, and ways of life contained within. Her father had stoked this appreciation, and the images had all come alive for her, inspiring her concept for Boeing. She knew it was a winner. 

            You always said thirty-three was your best year, Dad. Well, let’s hope it is for me, too. She headed for the shower.

            Afterward, towel-drying her hair, she inhaled the scent of star jasmine wafting into the bedroom through sliding glass doors to her garden, enjoying a moment of peace. She heard the deep sound of Brett’s Maserati Quattro Porte roaring up the driveway and slipped on her robe. This was it. He was here in person with his decision. Her body ran hot then cold, not knowing what was coming. Her peace evaporated. Calm down, relax. 

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