Thomas Calabrese–Rogue Lightning is often called dry lightning, even though there is actually rain, it is just too high in the sky for us to feel it. On this particular day the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees on the beach even at 0700 hours as a high pressure cell blanketed California and the entire Southwest for the Labor Day weekend.
Zane Reeves was a Marine Corps Sergeant assigned to 1st ANGLICO (Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) and stationed at Camp Pendleton. He decided to go down to Del Mar Beach on base for some paddleboarding before it got too crowded with families enjoying the last holiday of the summer. The ocean was calm and smooth when Zane entered the water and paddled out. He could see dark clouds in the distance and heard the thunder rumbling. To the east, it was clear and sunny, but to the west, it was growing more ominous with each passing minute. It started to rain at high altitudes which caused a cascade of rainbows as the sun’s rays pass through the droplets.
Zane paddled north, staying 200 yards offshore and parallel to the beach while keeping his eyes focused on the rainbows. When he reached lifeguard tower number five which was located on the northern boundary of Del Mar Beach, Zane turned around and headed back toward the jetty that separated the base from the Oceanside Harbor.
Suddenly it got very dark. Zane looked up and saw the black clouds were right above him and decided to get out of the water as quickly as possible. The lifeguard was sitting in his white Toyota pick-up on the beach and using his loudspeaker to encourage Zane to speed up his exit, “Come to shore! Get out of the water!”
“That’s what I’m doing,” Zane yelled back and increased the speed of his paddling. He was only 50 feet from shore when the skies unleashed a barrage of lightning strikes, so loud it sounded like artillery practice. Several lightning strikes hit Zane’s paddleboard and a few more hit next to him. They were so powerful that they shot water spouts 100 feet into the air. The young Marine was catapulted in the air and by the time the lifeguard reached Sergeant Reeves, he was floating face down in the water with pieces of his shattered paddleboard all around him.
The lifeguard rushed into the water, dragged Zane’s body to shore and performed CPR to get his heart pumping again. The paramedics arrived several minutes later and Sergeant Reeves was rushed to Camp Pendleton Hospital.
I don’t know if it was prophetic ironic or coincidental, but the motto of 1st ANGLICO is, Lightning from the Sky, Thunder from the Sea.
Sergeant Reeves was able to breathe on his own, but was remained unconscious for five days. His doctor, Navy Lt. Commander Ron Jackson was baffled, turned to the nurse and said “There is so much electricity in his body that we can’t do an EKG or CT Scan because we can’t get an accurate reading. The good news is that his vital signs are stable so all we can do is wait to see if he comes out of it.”
Zane might have been unconscious, but he could still sense what was going on around him. There was a wall that he couldn’t break through. Navy Nurse Lieutenant Christine Whittington was talking to Zane while checking his vital signs.
She encouraged, “C’mon Sergeant, you can do this…open your eyes.” Lt. Calder then made a mental note, ‘I’ve got to call home and see how dad is doing after his knee replacement during my break.’
Suddenly Lt. Whittington felt a rush of euphoria as she prepared to leave the room then heard a voice behind her, “Excuse me, ma’am, could I get a glass of water, I’m really thirsty.” When she turned around she saw Sergeant Reeves with his eyes open and a soft golden glow around his bed.
Several days passed before Zane was released from the hospital. Lt. Commander Jackson said, “You’re a very lucky Marine. The lifeguard told me that he couldn’t count how many lightning strikes hit you and all around you. Most people don’t survive one, let alone multiple hits. If you have any problems, make sure you check in with sickbay immediately. Some long term effects could be muscle weakness, sensory loss or sensitivity, spinal cord weakness, and difficulty thinking and concentrating.”
“Thanks for getting me back on my feet, sir,” Zane smiled, “I’ll worry about that other stuff when and if it comes up.”
“You’re a medical marvel, Sergeant.”
As he was leaving the hospital, Zane stopped off at the nurses’ station to thank them for their efforts and commented to Lt. Whittington, “I hope that your dad’s recovery from his knee surgery is going well.”
She was caught totally off-guard and responded, “How did you know about that?”
“I don’t know,” Zane shrugged.
Lt. Whittington said, “He’s doing fine…thanks for asking.”
Sergeant Zane Reeves went back to 1st ANGLICO, but things did not go well. He started experiencing severe headaches because the normal sights and sounds of his daily work routine were too much for his electrically charged mind to deal with. Zane was in a constant state of hypervigilance and experiencing sensory overload. He only slept a couple hours a night and even then he had to use earplugs and a blindfold to block out as much of the environment as possible to get any rest. If he spent too much time around his fellow Marines, he began to sense what they were feeling and thinking and their problems soon became his issues. During the day, Sergeant Reeves wore dark sunglasses to filter out visual stimuli, but it only helped a little. He noticed everything no matter how insignificant, like a piece of trash being blown down the gutter or the sound of a bird’s wings flapping overhead. With each passing day, he noticed something different about himself. Zane was evolving into something that he had no control over, while hoping to return to the way things used to be for him before that fateful morning on the beach. His reflexes became so quick that his thoughts and actions were simultaneous. There were times that Zane would reach for something and he would be amazed at how fast his hand moved. To test this, Zane took ten coins, tossed them five feet up in the air and caught each one before they could hit the ground.
The military lifestyle is about fitting in and not about changing the system to accommodate one individual. It was glaringly obvious that Sergeant Reeves could no longer do the job he was trained to do, and with his physical and mental challenges, there wasn’t much else he could be retrained to do. So it was farewell to the Corps and back to the civilian world. Zane received a medical discharge and with the help of the Veterans Readjustment Center, he moved into a 400 square foot mini home located at the El Corazon Center of Oceanside.
There were 25 pre-fabricated homes of the same size situated around a courtyard. The cost of rent was one-fourth of the veteran’s disability pension which gave Zane a lot left over for living expenses. All the veterans living at El Corazon were dealing with various physical and mental issues so they were not inclined to be overly sociable. They would exchange cordial greetings, sometimes make small talk, but for the most part, they kept to themselves. Zane liked it that way, he didn’t want them to know about him and he didn’t want to take on the issues of his fellow veterans.
Zane was a minimalist, choosing to keep his possessions to a minimum. He bought himself an electric bike and qualified to have a therapy dog. He chose a two year-old Belgian Malinois that he named Rusty and immediately bonded with the intelligent animal. Their connection was powerful and supernatural. Zane bought a two-wheel cart that he could connect to his electric bike. Sometimes around midnight when traffic was very light, Zane and Rusty would ride west on Oceanside Boulevard to the beach. In the darkness, Zane would run wind sprints until he was completely exhausted then sit in solitude as the night and his dog gave him some peace and tranquility. In the darkness, Zane noticed that if he rubbed his hands together, they would begin to glow. He would do this then touch Rusty’s face. The dog would savor the positive and nurturing energy that permeated every fiber of his body and purr softly.
It was 0300 hours and Zane sensed danger nearby and so did Rusty whose ears went up, Zane whispered, “Easy boy,” and then pointed to the Strand, “Go!” Rusty took off at a full sprint and waited for further instructions when he reached the pavement.
Moment later, four hard looking men came walking down the beach and stopped when they saw Zane. One of the men commented with a sneer, “A little late to be out here.”
“Less crowded this way,” Zane replied, “or it was until you got here.”
One man looked at the electric bike and commented, “What did this cost…three grand? I’ve always wanted one like it. You don’t mind if I take it?”
“Let’s cut to the chase,” Zane said, “Even if I gave you my bike, which I’m not going to do, you’d still have to kill me to stop me from following you or calling the police.”
One of the men raised his shirt to expose the handle of a pistol in his waistband and smiled, “You’re right about that.”
Zane felt the evilness in the men’s souls and it heightened his resolve, “Even if you were smart enough to let me go, I can’t let you live because you are incorrigible predators who prey on the weak and defenseless. So if it isn’t me tonight, it would be somebody else on another beach or another street. Basically, I’d just be kicking the can down the road to protect myself. Did you hear that sound?”
One of the men responded, “What sound?”
Zane smiled, “Fate, destiny, a reckoning…they all sound similar. “I’ve learned that when you hear it, you’d best answer it because it’s not going away.”
The four men were armed and the odds were in their favor, but they weren’t feeling as confident right now as they were a minute ago. They didn’t know how to proceed so they exchanged glances and stood motionless. One of the men commented, “We’re going to be on our way. You’re one crazy dude”
Zane shook his head and sighed impatiently, “I’m going to give you to the count of three to make your move, one…two…” but before he could say three, one of the men reached for his pistol. In a flash, Zane jumped forward, grabbed the pistol, shot the man then killed the other three before they realized what happened. Zane whistled and Rusty came running, “I appreciate that you waited out of harm’s way. I couldn’t take it if anything happened to you,” and embraced his dog.
Zane took the weapon that he used to kill the men and put in his waistband. He didn’t want some kids or early morning surfers to find the criminals when daylight came. He tapped 67 on his cellphone to block his number before calling 911 and reporting, “I heard gunshots on Buccaneer Beach….bodies are on the beach,” and hung up.
Zane waited on North Pacific Street near the Wyndham Pier Resort until he saw several Oceanside police cruisers drive down the Strand with their lights flashing. When they located the bodies, Zane pedaled away. On the way home, he disassembled the pistol with his fingerprints on it and threw the pieces in different dumpsters along the way. When he got back to his mini home, Zane turned to Rusty and said, “Let me see if I got right, I don’t want to get close to good people because I get overwhelmed by what’s going on in their lives. Are you following me so far?”
Rusty barked and Zane continued, “But when I get close to bad people, at least I can do something about it.”
Rusty barked again and Zane proceeded, “That lightning has really screwed me up. Who says that God doesn’t have a sense of humor…not me.”
That night, Zane slept soundly without the aid of earplugs or a blindfold with the window open and listening to the sounds of traffic in the distance. He felt calm and relaxed and when he awakened he liked the feeling so much he knew what he had to do from this point forward. Zane didn’t like the hand he was dealt, but he had two choices, whine about it or make the best of the situation.
Zane did some research about various online jobs and decided to try day trading to supplement his income. His instincts served him well and he became successful in a short period of time. He worked from his mini home during the busy part of the day and used the night and early morning hours for other activities. He joined a mixed martial arts gym where he worked out on the heavy speed bags to improve his hand to hand combat skills. Because the facility was only open to nine pm, Zane would arrive at 730pm to get a ninety minute workout. He did this on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On the other days, he went to Planet Fitness which was open 24 hours and exercised from 2 am to 5 am.`
It is legal to have a police scanner in California so Zane bought three of them and monitored calls from the Oceanside and Carlsbad Police and the Vista Sheriff’s Department. Zane had his earplugs in and was working out on the heavy bag, Rusty was lying on the floor. There were only seven members in the building when all of a sudden an entourage of ten men entered and talked to the attendant. Zane pulled out his earplugs to see what was going on. It seemed that one of the men was a light heavyweight and number one ranked contender. He was due to fight for the title at the Pala Casino in three days and they wanted to know if they could use the ring for some sparring.
The attendant was obviously confused, “Don’t they have a ring at the casino?”
The manager answered, “They do, but they had a minor electrical fire so we’re having to make some last minute adjustments. We’re willing to pay for the use of the ring. How about 500 dollars for an hour?”
The attendant called the owner to get permission and responded, “Go ahead.”
Carl Tanner was a skilled fighter, but what made him so dangerous was that he had a mean streak, a killer instinct and was merciless in the ring. Zane found a seat and watched Tanner quickly dispatch his three sparring partners in consecutive rounds with powerful punches.
His manager scolded him, “I told you to take it easy! This was supposed to be a light workout.”
Carl joked, “It was light….for me.”
“Now we don’t have any fighters.”
Carl looked over at Zane and said, “Want to make some money?”
Zane pulled out his earplugs and replied, “Are you talking to me?”
“Yeah, I’m talking to you. I’ll give you $200 if you can last a round with me.”
The manager protested, “You can’t just fight anybody, you’re a professional, you’ll get sued.”
“I’ll sign a release,” Zane said.
Zane put on his headgear and gloves and got in the ring. Tanner boasted, “I’ll make this quick.”
“Don’t rush on my account.”
Zane stood still and Tanner unleashed a powerful body shot that Zane easily avoided by stepping back out of range. Tanner then threw several combinations of rights and lefts that also missed their targets. This was not a nice person and Zane felt his negative energy. The skilled boxer grew more frustrated with each passing second because he wasn’t used to feeling like a fool especially in his own environment.
The manager yelled out, “Stop screwing around! Hit him or let’s go!”
Tanner’s frustration turned to rage and he charged at Zane who sidestepped the bull rush and sent the boxer tumbling out of the ring. Tanner climbed back in and screamed, “I’m going to kill you!”
“I’m right here.” Zane said, showing no fear.
When Tanner got within range, Zane threw an uppercut with blinding speed. It staggered the professional fighter. Zane then unleashed a barrage of punches that put Tanner on the canvas. Everybody was dumfounded at what they just witnessed. Zane stepped out of the ring and walked over to the manager, “You owe me 200 dollars.”
The boxing match at Pala Resort was cancelled. The Tanner camp said it was a training accident. The bad news was that Zane liked the gym and was sorry he wouldn’t be going back anymore. He’d have find another one.
While sitting in his Toyota pick-up with Rusty in the Oceanside Transit Center Zane heard a call on the scanner, “Officer down! Officer down!” The address was only a few block away.
Zane drove off and found the injured officer lying next to his cruiser with a bullet wound to his right leg, “What happened?”
“I was responding to a disturbance call and the guy shot me from the window,” The Officer grimaced.
Zane looked at the wound, “It missed the artery, you’ll be fine, just keep pressure on it. Where’s the shooter?”
The Officer pointed, “The green house.”
Zane turned to Rusty, “On me.”
The Officer looked at Zane, “What are you going to do?”
“End this before another police officer gets shot…oh yeah, blue lives matter.”
Zane took off at a full sprint with Rusty right behind him and when he got to the front door of the house, he energized his body and exploded through it like a supercharged battery ram. He found the shooter, disarmed him before he could fire and threw him through the front window. He landed unconscious on the front lawn. Police back-up arrived and arrested the shooter as Zane and Rusty disappeared.
Despite his best efforts, Zane still had too much free time on his hands. The type of crimes that he could help prevent or assist in like assaults, armed robberies and shootings weren’t happening around the clock and that was a good thing. There would be days, even weeks when the police were fully capable of handling things without his intervention. Zane was already exercising three hours a day and his day trading endeavors were successful enough without increasing that.
Inflation was at record levels and low income earners and seniors were being hurt the worst with the high prices. One of the things that increased dramatically for Zane since the lightning strike was his problem solving abilities. He decided to go to Home Depot and Lowe’s and purchase a variety of tools and start a handyman service. It wasn’t the money, it was about giving back to the community. He made up some business cards and gave them to the senior centers in Oceanside, Vista and Carlsbad. Zane didn’t take on any major jobs, choosing only to do minor electrical, plumbing or carpentry projects that could be completed in a few hours. He had no set price for his services and simply told his customers, “Whatever you feel comfortable paying is fine with me.”
Customers were completely surprised and extremely grateful for Zane’s help. He simply replied, “We all need a little assistance every now and then. This is as much for me as it is for you.”
Some people could only afford ten dollars for a few hours work and others paid $100 for a job. Either way it was fine with Zane. He remembered the great gift of Rusty so whenever people paid by check, he told them to make it out to Canine for Veterans. All checks and cash went into a jar and every month he brought it down to the organization and donated it.
There was this particular morning outside Planet Fitness. Zane exited the facility at 0500 hours with Rusty by his side. He heard the sound of a car struggling to start, then saw a woman exit her vehicle and open her hood. Zane walked over and inquired, “Problem?”
The woman responded, “I forgot to shut my lights off and now I have a dead battery. It’s my fault. I work at a restaurant and I was scheduled to open up this morning. I hate to call the owner because he’s been sick. I’m rambling on, I’m sorry. I called AAA, but they said it would be an hour before they could get somebody here. You don’t have any jumper cables, do you?”
Zane replied, “Not with me, I’m on my bike.”
The woman saw Rusty, bent down and gave him a big hug, “I needed that,” and sighed in resignation. “I guess I better call my boss.”
“Hold on, I know a little about cars. Why don’t you try to start it one more time?”
“It’s completely dead,” The woman said.
Zane encouraged her, “It won’t hurt to try.”
The woman got in the car and said, “Tell me when.”
Zane rubbed his hand together until they were glowing and placed them on the battery, “Now.”
The woman pressed the ignition button and the car immediately started, “How did you do that?”
“You have more positive energy than you think,” Zane joked.
The woman smiled, “Thank you …thank you very much.”
The woman drove off then realized that she didn’t even ask the man’s name. Zane looked at Rusty and said, “Nice lady, I can tell you liked her.”
Rusty barked happily.
It was a few days later and Zane was installing a ceiling fan for an elderly lady. The woman with the dead battery noticed a pick-up truck in the driveway and entered the house, “Grandma, its Callie, whose truck is that?”
Grandma answered, “It’s the handyman, he’s installing a ceiling fan in the bedroom for me.”
“How much is he charging you?”
“Whatever I want to pay,” Grandma said.
Callie walked closer, “It’s a scam, nobody works like that.”
Grandma disagreed, “Zane does.”
Zane walked out of the bedroom and said, “All done, Sally…got a remote for you.”
Callie immediately recognized Zane. Rusty ran to her. “Are you a handyman?”
“More like a hobby handyman,” Zane replied, “I do a few jobs now and then.”
Grandma asked, “You know each other?”
“Zane helped me with my car a few days ago.”
Grandma asked, “Twenty dollars alright?”
“If it’s alright with you, then it’s fine with me,” Zane said.
Grandma wrote out a check and handed it to Zane, “Canines for Veterans.”
Callie was confused, “Who is Canines for Veterans?”
“A charity,” Zane answered. “I’ll get my tools and be out of your way.”
After Zane walked out, Callie turned to her grandma, “He lets you pay whatever you want and you make your check out to a charity.”
Zane was putting his tools in the back of his truck when he sensed something behind him and turned around, “Did I forget something?”
“What kind of guy works for free?” Callie asked.
Zane answered simply, “A guy with some free time on his hands.”
“You must be independently wealthy?” Callie asked.
“Depends on your definition of wealthy…I got a dog that likes me.” Zane smiled.
Three days later, Zane knocked on the door and Sally answered it. He said, “I got your message, you said the fan is not working?”
Callie walked out from the kitchen, “I apologize for the subterfuge. It was my idea, but I wanted to show my appreciation for what you did for me and my grandmother. I’m a restaurant manager at Mimi’s. I had our chef prepare a special meal for you.” The dining room was all set up with plates and silverware, “If you don’t want to stay, I’ll pack everything up for you to take home, but we’re hoping you’ll join us.”
Sally added, “Please.”
“I’d be honored,” Zane replied.
It was an elaborate five course that included avocado salad, grilled salmon, mash potatoes, asparagus and a cheesecake topped with black cherries.
Callie served the main course and set a big piece of salmon on a plate for Rusty on the floor. Zane asked, “Is there any reason you just didn’t invite me?”
Callie replied, “Would you have come?”
Zane thought for a minute and replied, “I don’t know…it’s been so long since anybody invited me anywhere, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.”
Sally said, “That’s sad….what about a home cooked meal?”
“Once again I don’t know, at least a few years.” Zane could sense that Callie and Sally felt sorry for him and he didn’t want that, “I don’t want you to give you the wrong impression…my lifestyle is by choice. I’m a very simple guy, a protein drink, a handful of vitamins and some raw vegetables and I’m good to go.”
Callie slightly disagreed, “You’re more comfortable doing things for others than having them do things for you is my assessment.”
“Or I’m one of the most selfish men you’ll ever meet and do a good job of hiding it,” Zane said.
Callie packed all the leftovers from the meal and gave them to Zane, “Something to eat for the next few days.”
Zane extended his gratitude, “Thank you for the excellent meal and even better company. It was truly a memorable evening.”
After Zane left with Rusty, Sally turned to her granddaughter, “I’ve been around a little bit or a lot depending on your perspective and that my dear is a real man. There are very very few of them around, but when you meet one, there is no mistaking who they are. Their humbleness won’t let them admit it, but there’s a light and a glow that they cannot hide. You just naturally feel better about yourself and the world when they’re around.”
Callie hugged her grandmother, “That’s very profound, but yeah I totally agree.”
It was a week later and Zane received a call from Sally who sounded very distressed, “I have a problem.”
When Zane arrived at Sally’s home, she explained, “The chef at Callie’s restaurant was at a wedding in Rosarito Beach. His two daughters and niece left the hotel grounds and were kidnapped. The kidnappers want one hundred thousand dollars for their return. Callie is trying to put the money together right now.”
“If you need some help, I could probably come up with twenty grand,” Zane offered.
Sally said, “I appreciate that, but what really concerns me is that Callie has volunteered to deliver the ransom.”
Next morning, Callie showed up at her grandmother’s. “You said it was a matter of life and death to see me before I leave for Mexico. What’s so important?”
Zane walked out and asked, “Any chance that you can give a man and his dog a ride to Mexico?”
“This is none of your concern!” Callie lashed out.
Zane said, “I might be able to help out.”
“What’s your experience in hostage negotiations?”
“None, but I’ve got some knowledge of dealing with bad men. We can either ride together or Rusty and I can follow you, but you’re not going alone.” Zane said.
“Get in,” Callie sighed.
While driving to Mexico, Callie said, “I could only come up with $84,000.”
“Close enough,” Zane said calmly.
“Who the hell are you, you work for free and then you risk your life for people you don’t know. Are you suicidal?” Callie shook her head in amazement.
“Answer to your first question, I’m just a handyman who knows how to fix things. Answer to your second question, I know you and if this is important to you than its important to me and worth the risks.”
“That simple?” Callie asked.
“That simple,” Zane repeated.
At the Rosarito Beach Hotel, Zane reminded Callie, “Just stick with the plan, but if something goes south, take care of my dog,” then turned to Rusty, “Keep her safe.”
Callie gave Zane a hug, “Stay safe.”
Zane took a taxi to the address they were given and he was thoroughly searched before entering the house. His cellphone was taken and one of kidnappers said, “Did you bring the money?”
Zane said, “I need proof of life first.”
One of the men opened a door to show three girls sitting on a bed. The man repeated, “The money.”
Zane reached into his pocket and tossed the man a stack of money who counted it, “It’s only five thousand, where the rest?”
Zane answered, “You’ll take the girls to Rosarito Beach Hotel. When I get a call that they are safe, I’ll give the word to bring the rest of the money. I’ll stay here until it arrives.”
The man in charge contemplated the offer then threatened, “If this is a trick, you will die a very slow and painful death.”
“You want the money, they want the girls. I don’t get paid unless I make sure that everybody gets what you want. I’ve got nothing to gain by tricking you.”
The man in charge ordered, “Jose, take the girls to the hotel.”
Zane sat calmly in the corner and let his senses take in everything. He watched the men carefully and ranked them in order of their potential danger. He also looked around for anything he could use as a weapon. His cellphone rang and he answered it, “Good, send the money,” then hung up, “It will be here in five minutes. Would it be alright to use the men’s room?”
The man in charge called out, “Fernando, take him.”
Fernando kept his pistol pointed at Zane as he led him down the hallway to the bathroom, “Hurry up!”
Zane disarmed Fernando in a split second and crushed his windpipe with the butt of the pistol and set him on the commode. When he got to the living room, Zane shot the other men except for the man in charge, “I’ll take that $5000 back and everything else in that safe behind you.”
The man in charge opened the safe and Zane tossed him a large leather briefcase, “Put it all in there.”
The man complied then made a threat, “I’m going to kill you for this.”
After getting all the money, Zane said, “I’m not one for waiting.” He found a large knife on one of the dead men and took a loaded pistol from another. He showed the man in charge that the magazine was loaded and set the weapon on the table in front of him.
Zane held the knife in his hand and backed up ten paces. “Let’s see if you can pick up that pistol and shoot me before I throw this knife.”
The gun was only 3 inches from the man’s right hand and he gently moved his index finger until it was touching the trigger. The man thought to himself, nobody is that fast…nobody.
The three girls were reunited with their joyful family members in Otay Mesa. Zane took out $5000 to give back to Callie then handed the briefcase full of cash to the father of one of the girls, “The kidnappers said that you can divide this up as restitution for the troubles they caused you.”
Zane, Callie and Rusty drove back to Oceanside. On the way Callie heard thunder. “Weather report is that Hurricane Agatha is due to hit Mexico tomorrow.” Lightning began flashing off the shores of Del Mar and she added, “Rogue Lightning. You know what I learned on this trip?”
“How much you like street tacos?” Zane quipped.
“Never under-estimate the value of a good handyman.”