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The Devil’s Breath – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  April 1, 2017  /  12 Comments


Don’t be Fooled…


Thomas Calabrese …  The group consisted of forty students and ten teachers from Mira Costa Junior College in Oceanside, Ca.  They were touring religious and historical sites in Israel when they were kidnapped as they left the Garden Tomb. Hamas and Isis both claimed responsibility for the abduction and Intel determined it was a joint operation by the terrorist organizations. Their demands included; money, release of prisoners and retreat from various occupied territories. Colonel Robert Wolf would normally develop a rescue plan and coordinate it from the command center, but because of the seriousness of the situation, he decided to lead the forty man covert strike force himself. A group of negotiators bought the team extra time to determine the exact location of the hostages by bargaining with the terrorists over every detail.

Captain Mike Hodges would lead twenty members of the team and engage and disable the perimeter defenses of the compound. Colonel Wolf and his team would fast rope out of a stealth helicopter to the roof of the structure. Once the hostages had been safely evacuated, both teams would rendezvous and eliminate the remaining resistance.

The timing was split second coordinated and the initial stages of the mission went off just like it was designed.  Colonel Wolf and his men made their way down the stairs while an intense firefight took place outside. They eliminated the interior guards with accurate and deadly shots and reached the hostages within forty seconds of their boots hitting the roof.

“Hostages are secure…repeat…hostages are secure,” Colonel Wolf radioed, “Sit rep?”

“We’re taking heavy fire,” Captain Hodge responded as bullets hit all around him.

“Hold your positions,” Colonel Wolf ordered then turned to his men, “Fire teams one and two stay here with Sergeant Reese and protect these hostages…everybody else with me!”

Colonel Wolf and his men came up behind the terrorists that had Captain Hodges and his men pinned down and caught them in a deadly crossfire.  Afterward the dead terrorists and structure were searched for valuable Intel and the counter terrorist team was gone as quickly as they had arrived.

The team was given thirty days leave as a reward for the successful rescue and Colonel Wolf intended to catch a connecting flight from San Francisco to Reno after arriving from Tel Aviv, but his brother Bridges offered to pick him up. They were heading east over the summit on Highway 80 toward Truckee when a storm suddenly released torrents of freezing rain. A lumber truck hydroplaned then jackknifed when a car swerved into its path.

Unable to stop on the slick payment, Bridges crashed into the trailer and the full load of wooden beams broke free from their metal bindings and fell on the car. It crushed him and his wife, Barbara in the front seat while Bob sustained non-life threatening injuries in the backseat.

Colonel Robert Wolf served in the Marine Corps for twenty three years, having joined after graduating Douglas High School in Minden, Nevada. He received an officer’s commission for heroic actions in combat in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where he was awarded the Silver Star. Thirteen years later he earned the Navy Cross in Operation Vigilant Resolve in April, 2004 at Fallujah, Iraq. His first seventeen years were in Force Reconnaissance and the last six as executive officer then commanding officer of an elite Joint American and Israeli Counter Terrorism unit that distinguished itself in missions all over the world. Bob Wolf had quickly risen up through the ranks and was up for Brigadier General when this family tragedy changed his priorities.

Bob was the executor of his brother’s will and the appointed guardian of his twelve year nephew, Logan. His loyalty to the Marine Corps and his commitment to protect America was only exceeded by his love of family. Bob couldn’t help, but feel responsible for his brother and sister-in-law’s death so he resigned his commission and moved back home in 2012 without hesitation.

The Wolf Ranch had been in the family since the early 1900’s.  Ralph Wolf was a gambler, one of the best of his time and after winning big at a high stakes game in Reno, came to the Carson Valley with his younger brother Fred and reluctantly purchased ten thousand acres. The land was situated in the midst of a pastoral oasis, nestled between the majestic snow- capped Sierra Nevada and Pine Nut mountain ranges. The spectrum of deep rich blues, greens and pastel colors alternated between breathtaking and serene, depending on the time of day and year.

Ralph had no desire to settle down, but his brother convinced him that it was in his best interest to invest his winnings before losing it back in the next big game. Fred stayed in Carson Valley to build a dynasty and his brother moved on. Ralph was shot three and killed three years later in Las Vegas after he caught a card shark trying to cold deck him and took four conspiring grifters with him in the bloodbath.

Bob’s father, Craig was born and bred to be a cowboy; he loved the country, the animals and embraced the entire lifestyle, but the Wolf Ranch would have gone bankrupt decades ago had it not been for his mother, Joyce who handled the business part of the ranching.  Growing up as a boy, Robert was more like his father, less pragmatic and more of a dreamer while his brother Bridges inherited more of his mother’s qualities of pragmatism and organizational skills.

Before he signed up for the Marine Corps, Robert consulted with his younger brother, “You sure this is all right with you?”

Bridges smiled, “You have to do what you feel is right. You go defend the country and I’ll take care of the ranch. If you ask me, I’d say I got the easier job, but make me one promise.”

“Sure, name it.”

“Come back safely,” Bridges said.

Robert did his best to return home whenever his military commitments permitted and each time he did, he noticed substantial changes. Most of the facilities now operated on sustainable energy systems that included; methane gas, wind, solar with lithium battery backups and biofuel generators.  Bridges had the foresight to see the organic trend approaching on the horizon and planned accordingly. The herds of Angus, Herford and Charolais cattle were now all grass fed and the crops and alfalfa fields were completely pesticide free. Bridges also knew how to qualify for federal and state incentives to minimize the family’s tax liabilities and before long Wolf Quality Meats became synonymous with the world’s best to its five star restaurants and specialty market customers around the world.

It didn’t take long for Bob to realize that he was in over his head when it came to operating a venture that was as multi-faceted and cutting edge as the Wolf Ranch. It was like being the CEO of a small corporation with cattle, horses, sheep, crops and mining and a significant work force.  Ranch foreman Ray Davis had been with the family since Bob was a boy and while he had a basic knowledge of everything, he was like a senior NCO in a Marine Corps battalion. Once he had a mission, he would walk through hell to complete it, but the ranch needed a field general that could make quick and correct decisions in the short term and develop comprehensive strategies for the long term.

Two years later, Bob met with his mother and father at the main house, not so much about voicing his frustration, but making them aware of his concerns and limitations, “I expected to be better at this by now, I’m doing a passable job at not sliding backwards, but if Bridges was here, who’s know where we’d be. I’m like a journeyman ballplayer trying to fill in for a Hall of Famer.”

Joyce answered, “We all miss Bridges, he was a good son, brother and one hell of a man. We are all going to have to pick up the slack; we’ve gotten spoiled at how well everything worked out.”

Craig Wolf placed his hand on his son’s shoulder, “Just do the best you can, son, you don’t hear your mom and me complaining.”

“I appreciate your support, Dad, but I got to call it like I see it, and my best hasn’t been good enough. As a Marine I was trained to adapt and overcome so I’m not giving up, but Bridges set the bar higher than I’ll ever reach. ”

Fourteen year old Logan was standing in the doorway, “What about me? I can reach that bar.”

“Of course you can, dear” Joyce responded in typical grandmother fashion.

“I mean I can do more,” Logan suggested, “just give me the chance.”

“You work hard enough, besides you should enjoy your childhood, it passes by quick enough.” Craig commented.

“Your grandfather is right…we’ll handle this,” Joyce seconded.

“With all due respect, you can’t handle this without me,” Logan answered defiantly, “Uncle Bob, if this was a Marine fighting unit, you’d be in your element, but it’s not. My dad was teaching me about this ranch before I could even walk.  I know what his dream was because it’s the same as mine. I know you think I’m too young, but I’m ready.”

When Logan put it in those uncertain terms, the Wolf family knew that Logan’s time had come so they nodded to each other and Bob verbalized the sentiment, “If you say you’re ready, that’s good enough for us.”

Over the next four years Bob and Logan worked side by side to make the Wolf Ranch even more profitable than anybody imagined. Their relationship encompassed all of the following; uncle and nephew, brothers, friends and business associates. Even when they disagreed, they always found a way to reach a consensus of opinion. Bob taught his nephew on how to take care of himself and the value of honor, integrity and loyalty and in return, Logan educated his uncle on the value of the social media and the use of various computer programs. They forged an unbreakable bond that grew with each passing day.

One of Logan’s innovative ideas was to start a Wellness Program for the employees and a fitness center was built on the ranch and a certified trainer set up exercise routines and diets for the men and women on the ranch. Not only did the insurance costs drop dramatically, but there were also less injuries and illnesses which resulted in less workmen compensations claims. Bob routinely trained with his nephew in a long list of athletic endeavors that included weight lifting, mountain bike riding and martial arts.

Bob and Logan’s birthdays fell on the same date, April Fool’s Day and The Wolf family had planned a large birthday celebration on the ranch for both of them. Logan would be eighteen and Bob would turn forty-eight. On March 31st, Bob Wolf was having a late lunch at Adele’s Restaurant and Lounge in Carson City with Kelly Travis, an attractive woman in her mid-forties. Bob and Kelly briefly dated in high school, but lost contact after he joined the Marine Corps. Kelly had been divorced for eight years and her two grown children had moved away. She currently operated a Friesian horse ranch that was adjacent to the Wolf property. Bob and Kelly had reached a point in their lives that usually comes from years of experience where they enjoyed each other’s company without unrealistic expectations. They also shared a mutual respect that only comes when two strong people genuinely care for each other.

“So what does Logan want for his birthday?” Kelly asked as she sipped her wine.

“The same thing as me,” Bob replied.

“Which is?”

“That his birthday goes by unnoticed.”

“Knowing your parents, what do you think are the chances of that happening?”

“Less than zero and if we weren’t born on the same day, I could probably get out of it.”

“Not with me, you couldn’t,” Kelly promised, “By the way I have a two year colt with good bloodlines that I’m going to give to Logan,” Kelly said.

“That’s not necessary.”

“Are you telling me not to?”

Bob laughed, “I’ve learned from experience to never tell you what to do.”

“You need to come by the house,” Kelly said matter of factly, “I have a present for you too, of a personal nature.”

“I told Logan that I would go on a mountain bike ride with him in the morning,”

“I wasn’t asking what your plans were for tomorrow morning,” Kelly coyly smiled.

“No, you were not.”

Bureau of Land Management Director Martin Cornish was sitting across from long time United States, Nevada Senator Bernard Warren in his Reno office who voiced his obvious displeasure, “I thought you said it was a done deal.”

“It was…I got rid of the original deed and on top of that, I designated the mountain gray rabbit as a protected species then filed a cease and desist writ that horse breeding was negatively affected their natural habitat. There was no way Kelly Travis had the financial resources to fight it in court,” Martin Cornish replied.

“Then what happened?” Senator Warren asked.

“The Wolf family got involved and found a conservative judge to impose an injunction until we can provide environmental evidence. They wield a lot of power in the valley and as long as they’re in this with Kelly Travis, we’re going to have a hell of a time stealing her land like we did from the other ranchers.”

“It is never politically correct to say “steal” to a career politician. Anything that I can appropriate was actually mine in the first place, remember that,” Senator Warren snickered.

“I stand corrected,” Martin Cornish smiled.



“I promised the Travis ranch to a generous donor and I’m not going to disappoint him, especially with a contentious election coming up. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all, I have a plan.”

Logan was standing next to the pick -up truck with the two mountain bikes strapped in the bed when Bob drove up at Five AM, “Wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”

“I said I’d be here,” Bob replied.

“Long night?

“Same length as always.”

“Are you up for this?” Logan asked.

Bob got in the passenger side of the truck, “No more questions, you drive,” and pulled his baseball cap low over his forehead and closed his eyes.

When Logan pulled out of the front gate of the ranch, he didn’t notice the jeep that was parked off the road and behind a tree. He drove for thirty minutes until he reached Pine Nut Road Trailhead near Mount Siegel. After both men got on their bikes and rode down the trail, the jeep pulled into view.

Two hours later, after an exhausting ride, Logan turned to his uncle when they were a half mile from their starting point, “I’ll race you!”

Both men pedaled furiously and when Bob looked off to his left, he saw a figure moving among the brush and the sun reflecting something. He speeded up and pushed Logan off his bike and both men rolled through the brush.

“What the hell!” Logan grimaced.

“I don’t have time to explain, but I need you to do exactly like I say.”

“Sure,” Logan replied, “What’s wrong?”

“Stay still.”

In the distance, a man with a high powered rifle slowly scanned the area with his scope and his finger on the trigger. There was no movement so he got up and moved slowly toward Bob and Logan’s concealed position. Bob lifted his head just high enough to see the armed man approaching and realized the urgency of the situation, “Don’t move an inch,” then began crawling to his right and disappeared from sight. Logan’s heart was pounding and while he didn’t know what was going on, he sensed it was serious so he complied with his uncle’s orders.

Bob worked his way behind the sniper just as he detected Logan lying behind a bush, He jumped up and charged at the man and hit him with a vicious shoulder block and they went tumbling down a ravine and the rifle landed ten feet away from both men. Bob’s adversary was a young man in his mid- twenties, thick set and heavily muscled with a glazed look in his eyes and Bob sensed that the man was either current or former military from his appearance. The young man immediately got to his feet and went into attack mode. He had serious martial art skills and brutish strength and Bob had to fight with all his strength to keep his younger adversary from getting the upper hand. Logan rushed over and grabbed the weapon and was prepared to shoot the young man when Bob called out, “Don’t! I need him alive!”

Bob finally found an opening after being hit and thrown about by his stronger opponent. He elbowed the young man in the face, slapped him across the ears to disorient him then drove several punches into his solar plexus then got behind him and put his left forearm across the  young man’s throat and pulled tight with his right hand until he lapsed into unconsciousness.

Logan stared in amazement, “You got some serious skills, Uncle Bob. Did you kill him?”

“Nope, get me some rope out of the truck before he comes to.”

After restraining the young man, they lifted him into the back of the truck and Bob drove to the Carson Valley Medical Center Emergency Room. He told the admitting nurse, “I got someone who is on drugs and needs to be restrained.”

Logan asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“There’s the birthday celebration… you go, I’ll stay here.”

“What I should I tell everybody about you not coming?”

“Just say that I got a call from my previous military unit and I had to leave on short notice, a matter of national security,” Bob put his hand on his nephew’s shoulder, “You’re smart, improvise the rest.”

After Logan left, Bob approached the attending physician as he examined the young man, “You should run a toxicology screen for Scopolamine,”

“Devil’s breath?”

“I’ve seen that look before when I was in the military,” Bob omitted the fact that he had used the drug on captured terrorists.”

Scopolamine or burandanga, nicknamed, “Devil Breath” comes from the borrachero tree and grows in the country of Columbia. The drug is so powerful that it has been known to induce hallucinations and eliminate free will. It also leaves the victims powerless to recall events or identify perpetrators. There are documented cases of victims giving away their organs, emptying their bank accounts, committing suicide or even murder while under its influence.

Bob remained in the room for several hours until the drug’s effects started to wear off, “What is your name?”

“Jeremy Willard, sir,”

“Do you know who I am?” Bob asked.

“Should I?”

“You tried to kill me?”

Jeremy Willard was genuinely dumfounded to hear that statement, “I don’t even know you, why would I want to kill you?”

Bob showed a photograph of himself to Jeremy, “This was in your pocket…ring any bells?

“No, nothing,” Jeremy responded.

“You need to tell me everything that you remember if we’re going to find out who is behind this.”

Bob sat for several hours with Jeremy as they went over every detail of the last few months of his life and when he had enough, Bob said to the young man, “I got what I need. Do not go back to where you were staying, got any family nearby?”

“I have a sister who lives in Sparks,” Jeremy answered.

Bob wrote his name and cellphone number down on a piece of paper, “Call me in a couple weeks and I’ll do my best to help you.”

“Sorry about trying to kill you,” Jeremy said matter of factly.

“No harm, no foul,” Bob smiled.

Bob drove non-stop to Coronado, California where he met with his friend, Navy Seal Commander Jim Rayburn of Tactical Air Control One, “They accessed VA medical records of combat veterans with severe PTSD and offered them alternative therapy, but in reality they were giving them doses of Scopolamine.”

“That’s a ruthless thing to do,” Jim Rayburn responded, “What’s their endgame?”

“A major land grab in Nevada,”

“What can I do?” Jim asked.

“Just Intel, you’re still on active duty and this needs an independent touch,” Bob answered.

Senator Bernard Warren and Bureau of Land Management, Director Martin Cornish were having lunch when Bob Wolf sat down at their table, “Who are you?” Senator Warren asked.

“When you send a veteran out to kill somebody, you should at least have the decency to remember who his target was,” Bob smiled and before either man could move, he opened a small Tupperware container and blew Scopolamine powder in both men’s faces. He whispered in their ears and handed each man a pistol and left. Bob heard the gunshots as he was leaving the restaurant, but did not bother to look back.

The last thing that Bob Wolf wanted was a political career, but when Senator Warren’s seat became available, he thought the best way to protect ranchers in Nevada and veterans was from the inside. Bob’s impeccable military record and long family history in the state gave him more than enough political clout to run as an independent and easily defeat the Democratic and Republican candidates.

On April Fool’s Day, 2017, The Devil’s Breath was no match for this Devil Dog’s bite.

The End



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  1. John Michels says:

    Senator Bob Wolf? beats the hell out of Bernie Warren.

  2. Pat Madden says:

    Good story.

  3. Joe says:

    Good read. Thanks, as always
    Joe, out.

  4. Guy says:

    Bob Wolf is ready for action, wherever or whenever. A true patriot.

  5. Mona says:

    Good story! The characters seem so familiar…. Bob Wolf is my hero!

  6. Cary says:

    A good man will always step up to protect his family and his country.

  7. Steve says:

    The heroes in Tom’s stories always rise to the occasion, Bob Wolf is the latest in that growing list.

  8. Tony says:

    Truly an excellent story, a Marine that becomes a Politician and an honest one at that! That in itself is amazing.Continue to write I know you must spend some considerable time researching and it is reflected in your the stories you write. Semper Fidelis,

  9. Kyle says:

    I really enjoyed this story.

  10. Greg says:

    I had a completely different idea on what “Devil’s Breath” was. Thanks Tom for enlightening me.

  11. Wolf says:

    Great name for the hero. Looks like he too wants to drain the swamp.

  12. Mike says:

    Good old fashion American hero story. thumbs up

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