Dog Tags: Softcover
When disabled ex-Marine Mark Graham reconnects with his best friend's sister, he finds himself falling in love. But Beth Martindale's presence is a constant reminder of events he'd rather forget. Mark wants to move forward, but the secrets surrounding her brother's death, as well as his own confinement to a wheelchair, threaten to tear them apart.
When a psychopath who calls himself The Knight fixates on Beth, Mark is determined to give her the protection he failed to give her brother on the battlefield, yet he discovers that a wheelchair isn't the only impediment he has to keeping Beth safe.
Will terror win, or can Mark find the strength of mind and body to rescue Beth and find his own redemption?
The Knight’s mind clouded over, like fog settling over the local San Diego metro area. One thing was clear as he sat in his white, sparsely furnished living room: his goal. He must continue his quest to help damsels in distress, ones like Juanita. He hoped she’d listen to him, that she’d understand he only tried to protect her, that she’d appreciate his chivalry. But as he’d learned from experience, the women he chose to rescue might not always be cooperative. Being a knight in shining armor did not always prove an easy task.
The finger in the jar atop the entertainment center served as a reminder: death was far kinder than the fate Juanita could have suffered at the hands of that other man. No matter what society thought, the Knight had done the right thing.
He removed the latex gloves he’d used to handle the jar and hurried over to the stainless steel kitchen sink—spotless and sterile, the way he liked it. He used his foot to open the trashcan and tossed the gloves inside. With great care, three times he washed his hands with antibacterial soap, rubbed them against each other under the warm water, and grabbed a paper towel. Infernal germs lived everywhere. One could never be too careful. Just look at how pneumonia had killed Mom.
His thoughts raced. A bottle of pills sat in the distance. The medication would soothe him, but that could wait. He needed a clear mind for the task ahead.
He released a sigh, sat at his computer, and navigated to the Riversdale Community College website, where he clicked on a picture of the women’s basketball team. Using the mouse, he zoomed in closer on the team captain. The next woman he’d help.
Beautiful and helpless. Another fair lady in need of his assistance. Her eyes called out to him, begged him to rescue her.
He opened an image he’d taken of the woman and her wheelchair-bound male friend chatting in the middle of the campus quad. The Knight hit the print button and grabbed the finished page.
A second Internet browser tab allowed him to search the college’s website for clues pointing to the woman’s major of study: chemistry. So far, she sounded intelligent. Maybe he could help this one without having to resort to drastic measures. He eyed the ammo on the dining table. Still, it didn’t hurt to take precautions.
Mark Graham closed the book atop his shortened podium. “That’s it for today, class. Please read chapters twenty-three through twenty-five for next week.”
The afternoon History of Civilizations lecture on ancient fraternal organizations and mysterious societies ended—a topic that never ceased to interest his students. Who didn’t love hearing about a good secret? So long as they weren’t discussing his secrets. He rubbed tired eyes. His secrets would be his undoing. The recurring dream of the ambush had awakened him last night, and he hadn’t been able to return to sleep.
Mark packed his lecture notes into his brown leather briefcase, ready to leave Riversdale Community College for the day. As he rolled his wheelchair out of the stucco building, he crossed paths with two brunette female basketball players who took his morning class. They waved, and he continued to the parking lot.
If no one else stopped to chat, maybe he could leave on time for a change, not that it mattered. At thirty-one years of age, he didn’t have much to go home to—no wife, no kids, and no prospects. Just a little black dog named Sparky.
Once outside Peterson Hall, Mark undid the top button of his dress shirt and wriggled his tie loose. With his luck, the college would finally relax the dress code a year after retirement. He folded his silk tie and placed it in his briefcase. Order had its place, but he worked alongside junior college students, not businessmen.
He ran his fingers through his hair. Ten years had passed, yet it was strange not to have the standard, Marine-issue haircut. Still, he didn’t miss it.
Mark rolled his wheelchair to the faculty parking lot and unlocked his van. New vehicle, new job. He really had made a successful new start. After using a remote to open the right side door of the van, he maneuvered onto his wheelchair ramp, into the driver’s side area, and locked his wheelchair in place. He remotely took care of the ramp then tossed his briefcase onto the passenger seat.
He drove south on Pacific Coast Highway, past the naval station, using hand controls to steer the vehicle. With the windows cracked, the chatter of seagulls resonated in the distance.
Mark pulled into the back parking lot of the bait and tackle store he co-owned with two Marine buddies. As much as he wanted to forget his time in the military, Bill and Tim Wilson offered him a job in California near the base where their unit had once been stationed, at a time when he was more than happy to leave his hometown in Ohio. A wooden sign hung slightly crooked in front of Fishy Business. He’d have to get that fixed. Hints of the original brick exterior of the former convenience store peeked out from beneath the newer stucco façade.
Using his wheelchair ramp, Mark exited the van. A slight ocean breeze touched his face. Pretty rare for that time of year. He couldn’t complain, as it offered a refreshing break from the dry heat. Salty marine air pervaded as he wheeled through the back door.
Question 1: Mark tells Beth he avoids singing in church because of his current condition. Have you ever felt this way, as if you can't praise God because of your current circumstances?
Answer 1: Answers will vary. I Timothy 6:6 tells us that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (King James Version).
Question 2: The Knight tells Beth that prayer doesn't work because he prayed and God didn't protect him. A lot of people seem to share this view. How would you respond to someone who said something similar to you?
Answer 2: Answers will vary. God listens to our prayers and answers them, but he doesn't always answer them the way we'd like Him too. Also, unfortunately, because of the presence of evil in the world, humans experience suffering at the hands of offers.
Question 3: Mark and Beth shared the Gospel with Chris, but he never responded to them. However, he did still accept Christ. Why is it important to share the Gospel even if someone does not respond to your invitation for them to become saved?
Answer 3: Answers will vary. The Holy Spirit convicts someone of their sin and their need for salvation. God saves people, so it's important to tell someone about God because maybe we're just planting the seed of salvation in someone's life, and God might use someone else to water that seed and help it grow.
Question 4: Mark withholds information from Beth because he is afraid of her reaction. How could he have handled this differently?
Answer 4: Answers will vary. He could have prayed and asked God for strength to help him be honest with Beth.
Question 5: How was Christ's love modeled in the story?
Answer 5: Mark was willing to sacrifice his life to save Chris. Beth forgave Mark.
Question 6: Beth mentions Abraham and how it must have been hard for him to trust God. Why is it sometimes hard to trust God?
Answer 6: Answers will vary. We don't know what God will choose to do in a certain situation; however, we do know that God loves us and promises never to leave us or forsakes us.
Question 7: Mark tells Beth that he hasn't had too many serious conversations involving God lately and that he'd brushed his passion about God aside, most likely out of fear. What did Mark fear?
Answer 7: Mark feared getting close to God and possibly feeling hurt again if God chose to allow more trials in his life.
Question 8: Beth decides that when God said to forgive seventy times seven, that means she needs to forgive Mark and no longer be angry with him. Is there anyone that you're withholding forgiveness from right now? What steps can you take toward forgiving that person?
Answer 8: Answers will vary. Ask God for forgiveness and pray that God will help you love and forgive the other person. If appropriate, contact the person and express your forgiveness.
Question 9: Mark paraphrases Proverbs 16:9, telling Beth that a man plans his ways but God guides his steps. What does this mean?
Answer 9 Anyone can make plans for their life, but his/her plans are subject to God's will. For example, someone can plan to win a marathon and train for it, but it may not be God's will for that person to win. It's okay to make plans, but one must remember that God is ultimately in control over everything.
Question 10: When Beth and Mark kiss, he realizes at one point, he needs to pull away and slow things down in their relationship. Why is this important?
Answer 10: God's design is for a man and woman to enjoy sex within the confines of marriage. Song of Solomon 2:7 states, "Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right"(New Living Translation).