Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Rider and the Christmas Tree Mission


In a brief respite from what had been howling winter winds; the snowflakes landing on the tips of the rider's ears seemed loud in the momentary stillness of the darkness surrounding him.  The rider's sidecar rig's engine's pinged steadily as it cooled in the bitterly cold air and was the only other sound the rider could hear after having stopped the rig in a small clearing alongside the forest road he'd been using.

All around him, the rider could discern the dark shapes of tall pine trees, their branches heavily laden with wet snow from previous snow falls.  The road itself showed only the narrow tracks left by his sidecar rig as it had effortlessly carved them through the 4-5 inches of snow that had covered the road.

Donning his night vision goggles as the wind started to howl again, the rider walked forward, stealthily covering the remaining few hundred feet that stood between where he left his rig and the brightly lit compound in the middle of the Russian forest he'd infiltrated.  A quick glance at the luminous dial on his GPS equipped watch showed him at the right coordinates and nearing the right moment as planned.

At the edge of the forest, less than 50 feet from the security fence that guarded the compound, he found a spot to wait for when the changing of the guards would occur.  The thick snow kept falling, muffling all sounds and causing his bated breath to appear ghostlike before his eyes.

As he waited, the rider replayed in his mind the rush he'd experienced as he'd stepped off the cargo ramp of the Hercules C-130 aircraft less than an hour ago.  The roaring blast of the wind as he entered the violent air stream left by the aircraft and the brief tumble before the rip cord had yanked his parachute out and it deployed, slowing down his fall.

The sound of the C-130 fading fast, it had then become instantly still as he hung in the dark sky, slowly descending towards the snow covered field where his sidecar rig already had landed with the aid of its own parachutes.  Less than ten minutes after his own landing, the rig had been freed from its parachute rigging and the rider had ridden the rig out of the landing zone and into the dark forest around it.

The rider had located the narrow forest road right where his mission briefing had placed it and he'd made good progress in spite of the deep loose snow and the lack of lights.  His night vision goggles had allowed the rider to see the road and avoid the treacherous ditches on both sides of it as he motored along with no lights showing, his engine noise barely noticeable thanks to the custom mufflers.

He'd found that there was a thick layer of ice under the fresh snow, which had caused him to engage the rig's 2WD functions; allowing his rig's spiked tires to forge forward under some degree of control.  His helmet's visor with its heads up directional display had taken him through a labyrinth of turns in the dark forest's spiderweb of logging roads; allowing the rider to focus on ensuring no detection of his travels.

Returning to the present, the rider looked back and saw that his footprints had already been covered by the falling snow and he relaxed slightly knowing his rig's narrow tracks in the snow would also soon disappear as well under the fresh snow.

The rider's eyes methodically scanned the perimeter fencing of the compound, noting the guard tower to the north of him, approximately 250 feet away from where he rested.  The portion of the fence in front of the rider was between two pools of light from overhead security lights.  He could see the bored looking guard, shuffling about the small guard platform, trying to ward off the cold of the Russian winter night.  The rider saw the sentry's cigarette's glow briefly,  lighting the young soldier's face as he inhaled strongly, the smoke issuing from his lips as he exhaled.

As midnight approached, the rider heard the clanking of leather and metal together as a line of four soldiers walked along the inside of the fence, AK-47 rifles on their shoulders, towards the guard tower.   The guard on the tower noticed the line of men approaching also and straightened his posture, appearing to be actively watching out towards the dark as he was supposed to be doing.

The floodlights from the guard tower illuminated the faces of the advancing soldiers, he heard their sergeant call out harshly to the man in the tower and heard the guard acknowledge.  The rider could see the men impatiently shifting about as they waited for the sergeant of the guard to go through the familiar ritual of the changing of the guard.  In the cold and wind, the rider well knew that the soldiers wanted nothing more than to be able to get inside and warm again.

As soon as the guard started climbing down the guard tower's metal ladder, which was slick with ice and snow, the rider sprang silently from his hiding spot and headed directly for the fence line.  He knew all the soldiers' attention would be on their compatriots uneasy descent down that ladder.  Some of the recalling how dangerous it could be, some wondering how funny it would be to see the guy fall off perhaps....

Reaching the fence, his body almost invisible courtesy of his snow covered riding gear, the rider swiftly cut a small hole in the fence line with wire cutters.  The rider crawled through the hole and found himself a spot in the shadows of a nearby building.

From his new hiding place, the rider watched as soldiers retreated towards their barracks, their muffled footsteps fading away, to be replaced the sounds of the new guard moving about the tower, settling in for what the guard probably believed would be another boring shift.

The rider moved slowly but steadily towards the center of the compound and his objective.  Arriving at the shed near the compound's motor pool, he peered into the shed's small window.  He dimly saw the tree, packaged for delivery leaning against a bench.  It was slated for delivery to the home of  the Russian Prime Minister in the morning.  He'd been briefed the tree had bright red tips at the ends of its needles and that it was unique in that regard.  There were no lights in the nearby buildings as expected and the rider was able to pry the shed's door open with little effort and no noise.

Inside, the rider hefted the wrapped tree onto his broad shoulders and retraced his steps back towards the perimeter fence.  Glancing towards the guard tower to the north, he waited until the guard had finished his periodic walk around his platform and once again faced away from him, protecting his face from the cold winter winds and the blowing snow that was still falling.

The stiff wind howling in his ears, the rider moved with his tree and used the hole he'd cut before as his exit point after having lofted the packaged tree over the fence, its fall completely muffled by the deep snow on the other side.

As he gained the shelter of the dark forest's edge, the rider once again looked back towards the tower and let out of small sigh of relief when no alarm came from that quarter.  Moving quicker now, though slightly burdened by the tree on his shoulder, the rider made his way back to his sidecar rig.

Quickly brushing off the accumulated snow from his rig, he deftly stowed the tree into the sidecar's rider compartment and lashed it down firmly.  He pushed his rig free of the accumulated snow around it and started the engine. The rig's rear and sidecar wheels spun briefly before they gained traction and launched the rig onto the forest road.  The rider wrestled the handlebars as he gained control and pointed the rig away from the compound.

Looking in his rear view mirrors, he could see twin plumes of snow being thrown up by his rig as he sped away from the compound.  The rider opened up the throttle even more once he'd gained some distance and the now muted roar of his engine was music to his ears as he fought to keep the rig in the middle of the road as it plowed through the deep snow.

Successfully negotiating the labyrinth of logging roads again thanks to his helmet's heads up display, the rider soon found a paved road leading towards the south.  He threw the hidden switch which enabled his rig's riding lights and headlight and was soon motoring along the deserted road, looking from a distance like just another Russian sidecar rig out at night.

A few minutes later, the rider was briefly startled when he heard a soft beeping start sounding in the speakers built into his motorcycle helmet.  The rider began to actively scan the skies around him.  He soon spotted the small lights flying to the south of his direction of travel and he enabled his rig's transponder.  He could picture the blinking display in what he knew was a special operations UH-60 helicopter, now blinking madly and highlighting his location to the aircraft's pilot's heads up display.

The rider saw he'd reached the stretch of road that was about three miles long and straight as an arrow.  As he rode, the rider reached down to lift and engage the special mechanism attached to his sidecar's subframe.  It lifted with oiled precision and at his upward push, engaged and locked into a triangular framework with a cargo lift steel eyelet at its apex, about a foot above the head of the rider.

The rider then noticed in the far distance behind him red flashing lights; he assumed they had to be police or military patrol cruisers heading towards him at high speed.  Engaging his helmet's night vision visor, he turned off his rig's lights as next he felt a strong blast of cold air from above. The UH-60 helicopter positioned itself above him as the rig sped along at a steady 25 mph.  The pressure of the air blasting down from the helicopters rotor blades made it an effort to reach up towards the cargo hook he knew was attached to the infrared chem light stick he now saw being lowered down to him from the helicopter.

Having engaged his cruise control, the rig maintained a steady speed in the darkness as the rider used his left hand to guide the rig and his right to try and catch the cargo hook swinging wildly on the cable from the helicopter.  The rider could see the approaching curve in the road in the distance and knew he was running out of time and space.

Three times the rider reached out and failed to grasp the chem light, the lights from the police cruisers were much closer now and he could see by the lights of the trail vehicles that it was indeed military police vehicles, with soldiers positioned in a hatch through the vehicle's roof, manning light machine guns.

Less than a quarter mile away from the curve and its forested roadside, the rider stretched out his right arm one more time and to his relief grasped the chem light and its cargo hook firmly.  In a swift and practiced motion, he slammed the open end of the hook onto the cargo eyelet of his rig's deployed framework and heard the satisfyingly loud thunk of the hook locking onto the eyelet.

He quickly engaged his riding jacket's belt onto welded-on anchor points on his rig.  He knew his anchoring the helicopter's cargo hook to the rig had started automated lift sequence on the part of the helicopter's winch and he braced for what he knew was coming.

The rig was suddenly and violently jerked into the air, its wheels still spinning and barely clearing the tops of the trees by the roadside. He felt the rig deploy a small Kevlar covered tail assembly from the rear of the sidecar, this helped stabilize what had been wild gyrations of his rig as it was lifted into the air.  The rider was then able to slightly relax his grip and look down and behind him at the ground.

The rider smiled widely in his helmet as he saw the pursuing lights of the Russian military police continue on the road, still thinking he was somewhere in front of them.  The wind blasted at him strongly enough to sweep him from the rig he knew and he thankfully patted the anchor points securing his jacket to the rig.

The dark countryside flashed by underneath him, mostly snow covered and with brief pools of light showing the location of small villages.  The cold winter air blasting at him was beginning to penetrate the several layers of warm clothing the rider wore; even as his helmet's location display stated they'd crossed the border and were flying out into the Baltic Sea.

Soon enough, he glimpsed on the horizon, a large ship's cruising lights.  As they neared, the rider could see the Stars and Stripes flying from her yardarm and he knew it was the USS Essex, a Wasp Class helicopter carrier designed to support a Marine Corps' Expeditionary Unit's air arm.  The helicopter vectored onto the Essex and soon the rider felt his rig's wheels thump softly onto the Essex's deck, the helicopter remotely released the cargo hook and flew away into the night.  Crewmen rapidly approached and pushed the rider and his rig closer to the Essex's control tower and secured it to the deck.

The rider stiffly freed himself from his rig and slowly stepped off onto the Essex's deck.  He brushed off the layers of ice from his riding gear and took a deep breath as he removed his helmet.  The sea air, bitter cold as it was, felt fine in the nostrils of the rider, for he knew he'd once again accomplished his mission.  The special tree would soon be airlifted once again, this time aboard a Marine Corps Harrier Jump Jet, its final destination a military hospital ward of wounded military members recovering from wounds inflicted in the ongoing fighting in Afghanistan.

Later, as he sat in the Essex's officer's wardroom, a steaming hot cup of coffee in his hands; the rider thought it had been a highly successful trial of his rig's special equipment and his training.  The real mission would be scheduled soon enough he thought, and in his mind's eye he was once again riding his rig through snow bound roads in deepest darkness....his objective this time not a special tree but a special woman.


----------

The story, is partly inspired from a talk I had today with Jack Riepe.  Hey Jack, is this what you meant by "tell the story"?  I am quite happy to relay the news that his book "Conversations with a Motorcycle" is selling well, my review of this book is here: LINK.

Hope you enjoyed the above tale, it flashed into my mind as I rode home today after having gone to the local big box hardware store to pick out our family's first real Christmas tree.  You see, we'd always just used a fake one before and now both Martha and the boys wanted to experience the real thing this Christmas.

This task at hand was right up Valencia's alley.  It was my Ural Patrol sidecar rig that I chose to carry the tree home:

Christmas Tree Hauling Duty, no problem.

I hope the story briefly took your mind off the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut yesterday.  Such a horrific event,  Martha and I hope the families involved find some peace as they and the nation grieve the loss of their loved ones.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Rider.....a meeting in Germany

A bit of fiction....which I am prone to, now and then.....this time due to the book I recently reviewed: Key West Revenge.  I hope you like it and it's tie-in to SonjaM's recent posting.

The monotonous drone of the Air Force C-130 engines were drowned out by the sudden roar of night air as the rear ramp of the aircraft lowered open.  All was dark within the rear compartment of the aircraft with small red lights providing the only illumination as the rider re-checked his gear one more time, since they took of from the airbase at RAF Mindenhall two hours before.

The night outside was just barely visible from the within the aircraft, and the rider could see the dark ground below, covered mostly by vast forests, roll by and into the distance, disappearing once more into the darkness that was this part of western Germany at night.

The crew chief nodded at the rider who followed the jump master's hand signals by attaching his rip cord to the wire stretching the length of the aircraft.  Ahead and between him and the open ramp, was his Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig, strapped down on its cargo pallet, sitting on and surrounded by the cardboard blocks which would provide it a cushioning effect upon landing.

The rider could barely hear the jump masters commands and concentrated on his training as he waited for the red jump light to turn green, indicating that they were above the drop zone.  He knew that they would rise to an altitude of 1200 feet just before the jump, the aircraft currently flying low over the ground, in nap of earth mode, to avoid detection by radar.

The rider felt his stomach seemingly drop away from him as the C-130 suddenly and swiftly gained altitude and leveled.  The jump light turned green and the cargo master quickly activated the release switches which unlocked the rider's Ural cargo platform from its moorings.  A small drogue chute was launched by another crewman and it dragged the lines attached to the Ural's cargo pallet out into the night.  One second the Ural had been a large shadowy object in front of the rider, the next it was a small dark blob floating in the sky, a larger set of three parachutes beginning to billow out.


The rider moved forward before the jump master could urge him and launched himself off the rear cargo ramp, feet and knees tightly together, head bowed forward into his chest and his hands tightly grasping the sides of his reserve parachute attached below his chest to his parachute harness.

The rush of air almost caused him to close his eyes, but he fought them open against the pressure as he counted to four as he'd been trained.  As his count passed three, he felt the gratifying pull of his parachute drag him up into the sky, slowing his fall through the night sky.  Looking up, he briefly gloried in the sight of a fully open parachute before turning his attention down and seeking his Ural.

He spotted it just as it hit the trailing edge of the small drop zone, it raised a small dust cloud and he steered his parachute towards his rig, manipulating his parachute's risers to guide his descent.  The rider managed to land on top of one of the three collapsed cargo parachutes and he hit, dropped and rolled into a PLF or Parachute Landing Fall to absorb the impact.

Standing up and ridding himself of his jump gear and helmet, he moved towards the dark bulk near him and swiftly moved to free his Ural from its cargo platform and cushioning material.  Kicking away the cardboard cushions from the front of his rig, he turned the ignition on after ensuring the lights were still disabled, held open the throttle a quarter turn and pushed down on the kick starter.

The Ural's 750cc engine roared to life at the one kick and he mounted the motorcycle in one smooth motion, opening up the throttle he rolled off the cargo platform and moved quickly to the trail he knew existed on the southeastern portion of the drop zone.

The rider donned his motorcycle helmet and keeping his helmet's visor open, soon saw the trail dimly among the dark trees that bordered the drop zone.  The going was rough as the drop zone had been a recently harvested wheat field and the rig bounced about as the rider fought to keep it in a straight line until he reached the smoother edge of the field which had served as the drop zone.

Dark shapes which took to be deer flitted in and out of his way as the rider slowly but steadily gained distance from the drop zone and sought the small county road nearby.  The map he'd memorized before the mission solidly in his mind, he found the road and turned right onto it after ensuring no one had seen him.

The rider's eye's adjusted quickly as he switched on his headlight and running lights as he spotted oncoming traffic about a half mile away.

The night was still and quiet as the Rider's Ural Sidecar Rig's headlight cut a weak swath through the darkness blanketing the narrow road.  In his peripheral vision, the rider saw glimpses of the tall tree trunks and thick foliage growing close to the side of the road he was on.  Dark shapes on both sides, with a slightly lighter shade of black where the trees ended and the sky began, this was his world at the moment.

The Ural's engine, while not exactly a purring sound, had its usual calming effect on its rider as it consumed the miles of  German forest road.  The hum of the wheels, could just barely be discerned by the rider from within his helmet which kept the night's chill air from his shielded face.

Off in the distance, the rider could discern the glow of a small town's lights.  Knowing it was the town of Pulheim in western Germany, the rider had been using it as a navigational landmark and as it loomed, he slowed his pace, seeking a suitable place to pull over and park.

A rest stop showed itself and the rider pulled his rig into a parking spot, under one of the two bright halogen lights illuminating the rest stop.  Dismounting, the rider removed his helmet, took out his cellphone and dialed a number he'd stored as a speed dial during his mission briefing.

Two rings and a voice on the other end answered with a female voice.  The rider spoke: "R Bikes Rule" and thought he heard the speaker catch her breath and then come back with: "Oilheads drool" and shortly afterwards end the call.  Smiling, the rider donned back his helmet, remounted his sidecar rig and pulled away smartly from the rest area towards the lights of the town.

Streetlights and neon signs greeted the rider as he entered the outskirts of the Pulheim.  His helmet's earphones murmured directions into his ears, guiding him to the rendezvous point with his contact. He kept looking into his rear mirrors, trying to detect someone following him and finding his "six" clear.

The rider found his way to out of Pulheim, his onboard police scanner having reported no alarms or reports of parachutes in the sky over the Chorbusch Forest which had served as his drop zone.  He got on  the #1 Autobahn which formed part of the beltway around the big city of Koln or Cologne, the biggest German city closest to its border with Belgium.

The rider and his sidecar rig were not long on this highway, taking the Aachener Strasse Road exit and then heading straight into the center of town.

Traffic was pretty heavy and the rider noticed many glances from passing vehicles at his bright orange Ural sidecar rig. He wondered again why mission planning had dictated this color choice as it was not exactly what comes to mind when one is doing covert operations.

The rider threaded his way through the late night traffic, his rig being such an unusual sight that it caused drivers to give him some more space than usual.  Soon he arrived at his destination, the exposition center where the 2012 Intermot Motorcycle Trade Show was being hosted.  Pulling around to the back of the convention center, the rider slowly approached the loading dock area which was deserted at that time of night.

It was Saturday and near midnight as he parked the rig at one of the drive up ramps and he ran the access keycard he'd been provided earlier during the mission brief.  The steel shutters rolled noisily upwards as the Rider inwardly cringed at the noise being made.  Still, there were no persons around inside and no alarms started blaring so it was with a sigh of relief that he restarted the sidecar rig's engine.

Slowly motoring up the ramp and into the convention center, he quickly shut off the engine once inside and closed the dock door.

He pushed the sidecar rig through the brightly lit hallways leading to the convention site's exhibit area and pushed the rig through the doors.  His eyes feasted on the site of many new shiny motorcycles parked in their manufacturer exhibit areas.  The lights were on low as the exhibit was closed in preparation for the opening on Sunday, later that morning.

As he'd been briefed, there were no security guards about as the main public access doors were locked and he'd gained access from the docks.  His contact had apparently disabled the inside cameras and alarms as expected, though he once again was amused at the previous exchange of code words.

He looked for and spotted the Victory Logo sign on one of the exhibit hall walls and pushed the sidecar rig in that direction.  Finding the open spot he'd been briefed would be there, he pushed his Ural sidecar rig onto the display platform and locked the front wheel into place with the chock assembly that was waiting there.

Moving quickly, he disengaged the quick disconnects on the sidecar and separated the sidecar from the tug, leaving the tug on display.  He applied the various covers and tupperware add-ons to the tug to make it look like a Victory motorcycle to the casual eye and rapidly wheeled the sidecar into a nearby storage area.  He covered up the sidecar with a cover after ensuring the false bottom in the sidecar passenger compartment remained locked, security his special equipment and weapons.

Taking one last careful look, he moved silently back towards the dock area and let himself out a side door, blending rapidly into the night.  Later that day, Sunday, would be his meeting at the site where he'd left his Ural tug, he was to look for a brown-haired woman wearing a black top and jeans along with a black leather handbag and appearing to be just a Intermot spectator admiring the new motorcycles.

The rider looked forward to the meeting, as his contact had the details of the his next mission, rumor had it being somewhere in Norway.  He wondered what part his sidecar rig would play in that......

Image source: SonjaM

Previous appearance of "The Rider": A little mid-winter fiction




Saturday, January 21, 2012

A little mid-Winter fiction

The streets of Salzburg were quiet as the rider steered his motorcycle sidecar rig through the three inches of snow which had fallen in the early evening.  The frigid weather coupled with strong winds whipping down from the heights dominated by the Salzburg castle had driven all the regular pedestrians into the nearest inn or restaurant and the rider had the streets to himself.


The gas lit streetlights cast his helmeted visage briefly in a yellow ghostly light as he transited the intervening pools of darkness towards his destination.  The strong headlamps on his motorcycle appeared as glowing eyes of some mystical monster in the darkness and the rig's engine sound reverberated as a muted example of a dragon's rumblings on the walls of the old buildings in the town.

The rider's garb was all black with muted insignia on each shoulder, his only concession to being visible being the reflective striping on the outside legs of his riding pants and a narrow strip of the same material laid horizontally across his broad back.  His helmet also was black with a black visor which was down in spite of the limited visibility caused by the falling snow and the late hour.

Headed towards the town's landmark castle, the rider felt the repeated blows from strong winds descending from on high.  Each gust driving sharp icy particles into his outer riding gear, but not affecting him in terms of cold or impact.  He did note that the snow was building up on his jacket and riding pants and welcomed it for the upcoming task.  Every few hundred feet, he wiped his left hand across his helmet to wipe off the snow and ice which built up on his visor, threatening to blind him as he started riding up the narrow one lane road to the castle.

His motorcycle's narrow beams of light highlighted the ruts in the snowy road ahead, illuminating the tight switchbacks that allowed one to gain altitude and intimating as to deep dark heights should one miss
a turn this night.  The snow level appeared to lessen as he gained altitude, most likely due to the strong winds which continued to assault him now from all directions as his rig twisted this way and that to follow the narrow road.

The rider stopped his sidecar rig a few feet off the narrow road, in a thick copse of pine trees thickly laden with snow and shut off the engine.  As he listened to the sound of the engine's ticking as hot metal cooled; snowflakes started to cover the rig.  He looked ahead and saw the glow of the light from the small structure guarding the final approach to the castle, just around the next bend in the road.

He dragged his rig further into the copse of trees, positioning the rig so that he could just drive straight out upon his return.  A few more minutes passed as he watched the heavy snow fall almost completely cover his rig in white camouflage.  He listened to his breath within the warm helmet, his visor now cracked slightly to prevent being blinded by fog.

He used this time to remove the velcro-backed reflective strips from his riding gear, rendering him a black shape in the falling snow.

Shouldering a small pack he'd withdrawn from the sidecar's trunk, he walked swiftly but quietly along the bordering trees of the narrow road.  Soon he was within earshot of the lone sentry in the guard house.
He could see the man huddled over a tiny stove, holding his hands out for the meager warmth it offered, his attention solely on staying warm that cold and wind blown night.

The rider saw that the guardhouse watched over a closed wrought iron fence ten feet high and as wide as the narrow lane he'd been riding.  Thick rock walls, perhaps eight feet in height stretched out from the gate into the darkness and thick snow drifts topped and hugged the walls making them an even more challenging obstacle.

Beyond the gate, he could see the castle lay just a hundred meters ahead, floodlit with lights and the parking area in front of the castle choked with Mercedes Gelandewagens and Range Rovers, with a mix of more mundane 4x4 SUVs and Hummers filling up the available spaces.  There was music and laughter softly reaching the ears of the rider and he smiled, knowing his target was holding court in the castle.

After making his way past the guardhouse unseen, the rider positioned himself along the wall on the perhaps 100 feet from the guard house.  The rider removed from his pack the gear which would allow him to pass through the closed gate undetected by the sentry.  His target, he knew, was highly selective of whom he invited to his parties.

A few minutes work as he deployed the gear between a couple of pine trees and he set the timer.  Stealthily, he retraced his footsteps in the snow and he returned to his sidecar rig.  As he waited, he mounted his trusty sidecar rig, after engaging the headlight and driving light cutouts.  Now his rig idled strongly but quietly in the falling snow, a snow-covered mass in the dark night.

Though he was expecting it, the sudden show of lights and loud conversation noises bursting from the area near the sentry box took him by surprise.  It seemed like a whole host of people were walking along the bordering walls to the castle!  The rider heard the door to the guardhouse burst open, the sentry rushing out in response to the hue and cry of his planted device.  The rider knew the guard's eyes would be fixated by the many lights that now seemed to bob along the wall of the castle.

Trusting on the distraction provided, he gunned the engine of his rig, freeing it smoothly from the accumulated snow and he raced towards the gate.  He stopped at the gate and as he worked it open, he could see the flashlight beam of the sentry shining in the trees as the poor man sought the source of all the lights and sound.

Riding his rig through, the rider secured the gate once more, erasing any evidence another vehicle had driven through.

He slowly made his way closer to the castle, the flickering light from the flame-topped torches mounted along the wall the only illumination into the parking lot.  The windows of the castle spilled light into the night but failed to reflect onto him and give his presence away to anyone who might have been looking outside.

He briefly glimpsed elegantly dressed women and men thronging about, drinks in their hands as they moved about socializing with each other.

The rider parked his rig in a dark corner of the parking area, squeezing in between two dark SUVs, once again ensuring he'd be able to drive out quickly if need be.  The cold winds and snow stung briefly as he removed his protective riding gear and helmet revealing a man in a tuxedo.  His riding gear stashed away in the sidecar, now looking for all the world like a party-goer, he strode confidently up to the main door and let himself in quietly.

He was immediately bathed in the noise and light of a full-blown party.  The few people who glanced his way as he walked in noted a handsome man, fittingly dressed as they were, and they briefly wondered who he was as they became re-engaged in nearby conversation.

Brushing off the flakes of snow which had landed on his shoulders, the rider deftly lifted a glass of champagne off the tray of a passing white-coated waiter and slowly made his way to the center of the main hall.  His confident brown eyes scanned the room and its occupants.  He nodded as if in quiet acknowledgement when he met a man's eyes, his eyes lingering a bit longer on the curves and shapes of the women in the room as he passed them by.

The rider took care to not linger in one place too long, always moving, as if seeking some lost companion in the crowd.  The sea of tuxedos and low cut clinging dresses was like an obstacle course as he neared the large roaring fireplace where his target sat entertaining his guests.

The heat of the fire was like a blast from a furnace but it paled when compared to the obvious heat and energy projected by his target as he held enthralled the nearest of his guests in some intricately described tale of adventure and romance.  His target was a large man, with short white hair and the world-weary eyes of what the rider knew as a fellow motorcycle rider.

Above, the fireplace mantle, hung in the place of honor was an oil painting.  The rider recognized the fire red BMW K75 motorcycle pictured in the painting but was unable to fully count the number of scantily clad women pictured clustered about it before he stepped in front of the target.

The target looked upon the rider in surprise as he sensed his nearby presence.  His blue eyes widened in happy surprise and recognition as the rider thrust out his hand and said: "Mr Riepe I presume?"


Author's note: Just a little fictional frippery for those of you locked in PMS mode due to weather and road conditions.  Hope you liked it.