Seeing Red

By: Sandra Brown

Prologue




Did you think you were going to die?”

The Major pursed his lips with disapproval. “That question wasn’t on the list I approved.”

“Which is why I didn’t ask it while the cameras were rolling. But there’s no one here now but us. I’m asking off the record. Were you in fear of your life? Did dying cross your mind?”

“I didn’t stop to think about it.”

Kerra Bailey tilted her head and regarded him with doubt. “That sounds like a canned answer.”

The seventy-year-old gave her the smile that had won him the heart of a nation. “It is.”

“All right. I’ll respectfully withdraw the question.”

She could graciously pass on it because she’d got what she’d come for: the first interview of any kind that The Major had granted in more than three years. In the days leading up to this evening’s live telecast from his home, he and she had become well acquainted. They’d engaged in some lively discussions, often taking opposing views.

Kerra looked up at the stag head mounted above his mantel. “I stand by my aversion to having the eyes of dead animals staring down at me.”

“Venison is food. And keeping the herd thinned out is ecologically necessary to its survival.”

“Scientifically, that’s a sound observation. From a personal and humane standpoint, I don’t understand how anyone could place a beautiful animal like that in the crosshairs and pull the trigger.”

“Neither of us is going to win this argument,” he said, to which she replied with matching stubbornness, “Neither of us is going to concede it, either.”

He blurted a short laugh that ended in a dry cough. “You’re right.” He glanced over at the tall gun cabinet in the corner of the vast room, then pushed himself out of his brown leather La-Z-Boy, walked over to the cabinet, and opened the windowpane front.

He removed one of the rifles. “I took that particular deer with this rifle. It was my wife’s last Christmas present to me.” He ran his hand along the bluish barrel. “I haven’t used it since Debra died.”

Kerra was touched to see this softer side of the former soldier. “I wish she could have been here for the interview.”

“So do I. I miss her every day.”

“What was it like for her, being married to America’s hero?”

“Oh, she was super-impressed,” he said around a chuckle as he propped the rifle in the corner between the cabinet and the wall. “She nagged me only every other day about leaving my dirty socks on the floor rather than putting them in the hamper.”

Kerra laughed, but her thoughts had turned to The Major’s son, who’d made no bones about his aversion to his father’s fame. She’d felt an obligation to invite him to appear on the program alongside The Major, perhaps just a brief appearance in the final segment. Using explicit language that left no room for misinterpretation, he had declined. Thank God.

The Major crossed to the built-in bar. “So much talking has made me thirsty. I could use a drink. What would you like?”

“Nothing for me.” She stood and retrieved her bag from where she’d set it on the floor beside her chair. “As soon as the crew gets back, we need to hit the road.”

The Major had ordered a cold fried chicken picnic supper from a local restaurant for her and the five-person production crew. It was delivered to the house, and, after they’d eaten, packing up the gear had taken an hour. When all was done, Kerra had asked the others to go gas up the van for their two-hour drive back to Dallas while she stayed behind. She had wanted a few minutes alone with The Major in order to thank him properly.

She began, “Major, I must tell you—”

He turned to her and interrupted. “You’ve said it, Kerra. Repeatedly. You don’t need to say it again.”

“You may not need to hear it again, but I need to say it.” Her voice turned husky with emotion. “Please accept my heartfelt thanks for … well, for everything. I can’t adequately express my gratitude. It knows no bounds.”

Matching her solemn tone, he replied, “You’re welcome.”

She smiled at him and took a short breath. “May I call you every once in a while? Come visit if I’m ever out this way again?”

“I’d like that very much.”

They shared a long look, leaving the many insufficient words unspoken, but conveying to each other a depth of feeling. Then, to break the sentimental mood, he rubbed his hands together. “Sure you won’t have a drink?”

“No, but I would take advantage of your bathroom.” She left her coat in the chair but shouldered her bag.