The Martyrs

Chapter One

Friends Forever

Prologue

1991


The wind blew through Husam's hair as he drove down the highway, he loved driving his Mustang with the top down. The forests and fields of South Carolina were so different from the stark deserts of his homeland. There was just so much green it was a bit overwhelming. Even the way it smelled after a spring rain was wonderful. As a student at the University of South Carolina he spent so much of his time indoors studying. It was nice to leave the campus behind for a nice weekend just driving the back roads and seeing the rest of the state.

Husam slowed down an pulled over as he approached an old fashioned iron trussed bridge. He loved the sound of flowing water. This seemed a good opportunity to take a nice relaxing hike along the creek.

Husam walked along next to the stream with his hands in his pockets listening to the sound of the water and the birds. It was a wonderful day and he was enjoying himself immensely. Up ahead he began to make out the shouts of children playing and he smiled to himself. As he got closer he started to make out the words that the children were shouting and his smile faded.

"Crazy Myrlyn! Crazy Myrlyn!"

"You stay away from my sister! Oww! Oww! Leave her alone!"

These children weren't playing. Husam started to run toward the shouts. It was slow going through the woods. The ground was rough and the tree roots kept snagging at his heard a girl wail in pain and terror accompanied by cruel laughter."

"Get away from her! Leave her alone!"

"Crazy Myrlyn! Get the crazy girl!"

Ahead, through the woods, he saw a girl with dark brown hair who looked to be about twelve huddled on the ground. Next to her was a small boy with a crew cut who looked like he was no older than six. Surrounding them were three older boys taunting them. The youngster ran up to one of them who pushed him down into the mud while the other two ran up to kick the screaming girl. The young boy got up and ran toward the two who backed away laughing. They bent down to pick up rocks. The boy was outnumbered three to one and he was only about half the size of the smallest bully. He couldn't possibly have defeated any of them. Husam came up to a barbed wire fence and climbed over it next to the fence post. A barb snagged his polyester pants leg and he yanked it free with a tearing of cloth. Off balance, he fell face first into the mud.

Spitting mud out of his mouth Husam got up. The little boy had apparently figured out that fighting the bullies was a hopeless battle. He was kneeling on the ground holding his sister's head in his lap using his body to shield it from a rain of rocks and bottles. Nobody noticed Husam.

Husam rushed up and grabbed the nearest bully by the scruff of the neck yanking the boy off balance and spinning him around to face him. "Leave you little monsters! Before I crack your heads open!"

Terrified, the three boys ran away into the woods. Hasam turned toward the little boy who was still cradling his older sister's head in his lap. "It's alright little lion, they've gone."

The boy raised is head and looked warely around. His face was dirty and bruised. A trickle of blood flowed from his nose. "It's the Ellis brothers, well, one of them is an Ellis cousin, but the whole family's as mean as wildcats! Even the girls!" He looked up at the older man. "What did you just call me?"

"Little Lion, from the way you bravely defended you sister."

"Someone's at the door," the girl whispered.

The boy's dirty bruised face creased into a smile. "Little Lion! I like that!" He held out his right hand. "My name's Caleb Temple and this is my sister Myrlyn."

"My name is Husam al Shiraz." He took the hand and shook it.

"Who Sam Al Sheer Razz?" The boy's face creased into a grin. "That's a funny name!"

Husam grinned back. "Well I'm a funny guy! But I happen to be from Saudia Arabia."

"You're an ay-rab!" The boy looked around. "Where's your camel? And how come you don't have one of them cloth things on your head?"

Even though Husam never owned a camel he decided to play along. "I left my camel at home. They wouldn't let him on the plane. And while the keffiyeh is good for keeping your head cool in the desert, they look kind of silly in South Carolina."

Caleb nodded and Myrlyn whispered "There's someone at the door."

"Myrlyn's not really crazy, she's just a bit tetched in the head." Caleb helped her up. "And she's getting better every day aren't you Myrlyn?"

"There's someone at the door."

Caleb gave Myrlyn a sad look. "We better get back home. Daddy doesn't think Myrlyn should ever leave the house but she does like it down her by the creek."

Husam took Caleb by the hand. "I'll walk you home."

They walked about a half a mile to a run down old farm house. Caleb stopped. "I'd invite you in for supper and a soda pop but Daddy don't like strangers in the house. He especially don't like ay-rabs not that he's ever seen one."

Husam squatted down. "It's quite alright Little Lion. Just stay brave and protect your sister."

"Wait a minute!" Caleb grabbed Husam's hand then took Myrlyn's hand and clasped them all together. "From now on we're friends forever! This is a thing that can never be broken."

Husam squeezed their hands. "A thing that can never be broken."

Caleb watched Husam walk back down the road the way they came. When he turned around Sheriff Buck was standing right behind him. He wasn't there a minute ago.

Lucas Buck looked down at the two children. Myrlyn gave a heartrending wail and ran for the house. He shook his head. "Son, I think you should be a little more careful about picking your friends."

Caleb glared up at him defiantly. "You ain't my daddy and I can pick my own friends."

Lucas Buck squinted at the man in the distance. "We'll see about that."

Husam's stomach growled as he headed into Trinity. He'll pull over somewhere to find some lunch. Sudenly he saw flashing lights in his review mirror and made a frustrated groan as he pulled over. Now what?

The police man who came out of the unmarked car wore no uniform. Instead he wore a long duster unbuttoned, underneath were a pair of slacks, a vest and a collarless red shirt buttoned up to the throat. His longish brown hair hung over his shirt collar. He strode confidently up to Hasam's Mustang. "Sheriff Lucas Buck, I clocked you going sixty five in a forty mile per hour zone."

"I was driving thirty five!"

"Are you calling me a liar, Ahab?"

"No sir, just stating the truth." Husam reached for his insurance papers.

"Not only that but you've got a broken tail light." Sheriff Buck had suddenly appeared at the rear of the car. How did he get back there so fast?

"It's a new car, I'm sure the tail lights are working."

Sheriff Buck swung his night stick. Husam could hear the shattering of glass. "No it's definitely broken."

"You son of a bitch!" Husam leaped out of the car and ran back to Sheriff Buck. Sheriff Buck caught his fist and and twisted his wrist. Husam howled in pain.

"I'm afraid assaulting an officer is a felony. I'm gonna have to bring you in." He said rather calmly. He twisted Husam's arm around his back and handcuffed him.

Husam was sitting in a jail cell his empty stomach rumbled again. "How long are you going to keep me here?"

"Oh, about a week." Sheriff Buck wandered back there with a plastic tray. "Dinner is served."

"I can't miss a week of classes!" Husam eyed the stack of meat suspiciously. "What is it?"

Sheriff Buck grinned. "Pork chops, just like mama used to make."

"You know I can't eat pork!"

"Some crazy old man in a desert a thousand years ago says you can't eat pork and you ragheads just do what he says without question." Sheriff Buck smirked. "I guess you'll just have to wait for breakfast. It's scrambled eggs with bits of chopped up bacon mixed in. Just the way I like it. I'm sure you can pick out the offending parts."

Husam glared at the arrogant grinning sheriff. His heart was full of hatred and rage. This man was what America really was. This was what America really stood for.