An Uncapped Pen

December 24, 2007

CASUAL DUTY – Chapter Three

Filed under: Dickens Challenge — cindylv @ 1:14 am
Tags: ,

Chapter Three

Lydia’s Quick Mart, May 1981
Outside the Main Gate, Fort Huachuca, Arizona

Bridie settled back against the wall with her legs outstretched. She lifted Mrs. Bolling’s head, placing it in her lap. The last step in the checklist for Treatment for the Prevention of Shock was to notify emergency services. That would have to wait. She watched the red and blue lights from the police strobes chase each other around the room. The police know we’re in here. They’ll get us out.

Bridie glanced at the clock again, two minutes after three, 1502, she corrected. She’d missed the bus. What happened to her duffle bag? How was she going to explain this? Late reporting in for her duty assignment. Isn’t that called AWOL? Maybe one of the police will write her a note.

The gunmen still huddled across the room, not speaking to the hostages. I’m a hostage. Hostages were supposed to sit still and do exactly what they’re told, according to what Bridie heard on TV and the in the movies. It’s always the same script. The hijacker stands up, points his gun and announces that the plane in going to Cuba. No one gets hurt. Well, this isn’t an airplane and we’re not going to Cuba. On TV they’d wait it out, unless it was like SWAT. Then Hondo and the Team would break down the door and shoot the bad guys. No, this isn’t like on TV. It was more like Basic. Execute an Assault on a Defensive Position. Wait a minute. Maybe this was some kind of a test. Was this just another part of Basic? Maybe this wasn’t real, and the drill sergeants are watching from somewhere in the store. Some kind of final exam? And I’m sitting here on my butt, letting it happen, not doing anything? It couldn’t be. I did get on the plane. I got off in Tucson. I spent the night in the hotel with Julie and Tracy. They couldn’t fake that! The bus ride through the desert from Tucson? That was real. Maybe it’s some kind of test at my new school, for intelligence analysts, and the other soldiers from the bus aren’t analysts. She searched the walls for some sort of window or any sign of observation. If anyone’s watching, I’ve failed. They’re gonna kick me out for sure. If it is a test, what am I supposed to do? No one told me the task, condition and standard. “Well, figure it out, Super Troop. What do you know?” SFC Barrett’s voice in her head comforted her.

Bridie signed and closed her eyes. It was something to do to pass the time until someone rescued her, them, she corrected. SFC Barrett would ask, what’s the situation? Break it down. What do you have? Who do you have? What do you need to do? What do you need to get it done? Think it through, Super Troop.

Task: This looks like a rescue. Civilians. What do they call them? Noncombatants. The task would be something like “Evacuate noncombatants from a convenience store.”

Conditions: Given a Class A Uniform, with handbag and headgear, in an indoor environment, daylight hours. What kind of environment is this? Permissive? Uncertain? Hostile? They’ve got a gun, so I guess that makes it hostile. Two noncombatants, one requires medical assistance. One…how should she describe man from the bank? What was his name? David? She looked over at him slumped on the floor with his knees drawn close to his chest, fingering a tear at the knee of his trousers. A bankrobber is holding us hostage and he’s worried about torn pants? What an idiot! Is idiot a category of noncombatant? Ineffective. That’s the term. One unconscious. The other is an ineffective.

Standard: Trainee will plan and execute a swift insertion of a force, temporarily occupy the objective, and a controlled withdrawal upon completion of the mission. Task includes providing combat service support functions of emergency medical treatment, transportation of noncombatants, and administrative coordination with civilian law enforcement agencies on scene. Civilian casualties and collateral damage are not permitted. I guess that means don’t break any pickle jars.

“My pills…” Mrs. Bolling stirred, opening her eyes. She tried to sit up, but Bridie held her shoulder.

“Shh…” Bridie whispered. “The gunmen are right over there. You passed out, fainted.”

“I need my Nitro. In my purse.” Mrs. Bolling turned her head trying to find her purse. “It’s my heart. It’s not so good anymore. I need a Nitro.”

Bridie verified the gunmen were still across the room. She eased Mrs. Bolling’s head off her lap and crept over to retrieve her handbag. “They haven’t done anything yet. They’re just talking. The older one is hurt pretty bad. It looks like he’s shot in the leg. He’s bleeding. The other guy, he just looks scared.”

“I need to…help me up, please.” Mrs. Bolling struggled to get her arms under herself and push up. Bridie settled her against a stack of boxes.

“Let me see if I can’t get you a soda or something to take that with.”

“The nitro…it goes under my tongue for dissolving. But I need some drink for after.”

Bridie looked over at the gunmen again. Still nothing. With a quick look toward the front door and then back to the gunmen, she stood up and inched her way to the cooler across the aisle. The younger gunman whirled around and yelled something in Spanish. His partner raised the gun and swung it in Bridie’s direction.

“She needs something to drink, for her medicine.” Bridie held up her hands to show them she wasn’t a threat, but she didn’t back down. “I’m just getting her a soda.” She continued to the cooler. It didn’t seem like he knew how to hold the gun, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t fire it accidentally. You could die from an accidental gunshot just as easily as one aimed at you, the range sergeant told them. Bridie slid open the cooler door and pulled out a couple cans of soda. She crossed back to where Mrs. Bolling sat with her eyes closed, Nitro pill under her tongue. Bridie knelt down, opened the can, and set it on the floor next to the woman. Then she passed a can to David, who shook his head without saying a word.

Mrs. Bolling opened her eyes and took a sip. “My name is Lillian.” She pronounced it lil-EYAN.

“I’m Bridget, but everyone calls me Bridie.”

“Ah, a warrior. Goddess of fire.” Another sip.

“Not really, it’s just a name. I’m not even a real soldier yet. I just graduated Basic Training last week. I start my training at school here on Monday.”

“Names are very powerful. They are not wrong.” She sipped the soda. “You have strength you do not know yet.”

Across the room the wounded man moaned and shifted. His partner leaned over him, speaking quietly. He looked around the room, at the front door, at the hostages and then back to his friend. He seemed to be pleading with him.

“Did you need a drink?” Bridie stood holding the can toward the robbers. “He needs fluid. His leg…with all that bleeding. He should drink something to keep his fluids up.” She mimed drinking and pointed to the wounded man, and set the can down next to him. As she stood up to back away, she saw the blood seeping between his fingers. Bridie had never seen a gunshot wound before. Blood ran down his leg, dripped on the floor into a spreading puddle. “You should get a bandage on that, apply pressure…” She stopped. They didn’t understand what she was saying.

The man was going to die, right here in the store if he didn’t get to a doctor. This man…he was just a boy really, probably the same age as she was, looked as scared as she felt. The other guy, the younger one, was only 16 or maybe17. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. These guys were the enemy. They had killed someone, the bank guard. Should she even be helping them? Was this giving aid and comfort to the enemy? But he was just a boy, and he was going to die, right here, unless she did something. What am I supposed to do? She couldn’t just let him die right here, could she?

Stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure to the wound. Next step, apply pressure to the nearest pressure point. Last step, apply a tourniquet, if necessary. “I need a first aid kit, with bandages or wait! Sanitary napkins.” Bridie remembered a story the range sergeant told her platoon during night operations. His unit was pinned down, taking heavy fire. The medic treated his buddy’s wound by wrapping Kotex napkins on his leg. “Ain’t nothin’ better at soakin’ up blood,” he said.

She ran down the aisles until she found the feminine hygiene display, grabbed a couple of boxes of napkins and returned to the wounded man. “We need to get these on the wound.” She ripped open a box and pushed the man’s hand aside. Blood spurted in the air, spraying across her chest and face. Bridie flinched and wiped her sleeve across her face. She took a deep breath, and got herself under control. She pressed a pad across the worst part of the wound and gestured with her head, “Give me another one.”

Trying not to look at the gun pointed at her, she accepted another pad and added it to the wound, pressing hard with both hands to slow the bleeding. The wounded man moaned and tried to wriggle away. “He’s going to die if we don’t stop this bleeding. I need you to press here,” she said to the younger man, her hands guiding his to keep direct pressure on the wound. Bridie reached up to find the pressure point at the wounded man’s groin, and hesitated. I can’t touch him there. It’s too close to. . . I just can’t.

“Let him die,” David said. “He killed that guard, he just shot him. Let him die.”

“He’s a human being,” Bridie replied. “We have to do what we can to help.” She took a deep breath and shoved her fingers against the crease between his thigh and torso, hoping she had the right spot, but too scared to feel around to be sure.

“Maybe a tourniquet?” the older woman ventured. “Like in the movies, with his belt?”

“This doesn’t seem to be helping much. You’re probably right. I need a belt and something like a stick to twist it. A ruler maybe? From over there in the school supplies.” She pointed with her head, keeping her hands pressed against the man’s leg.

“David, take off your belt,” Lillian directed. When he started to protest, she silenced him with a stern look and a raised finger. He stood, unbuckled his belt and tossed it in Bridie’s direction. “And get her a ruler.”

As Bridie wrapped the belt around the top of the man’s leg, she raised her eyes to look at his face. Smooth skin, a few stray hairs at the corners of his upper lip. He’s even younger than I thought. She slid the ruler under the belt and twisted it once to tighten the tourniquet. “Hold this here,” she said as she stood up and wiped her bloody hands against her uniform trousers. She raised the man’s injured leg a few inches and placed on his partner’s lap. “Keep it up here. Keep it elevated, like this.” She returned to her place across the aisle by Lillian and David.

“Gracias, senorita.” The younger man’s voice was barely a whisper.

“What’s taking so long? Why haven’t they come to rescue us?” David whined.

“The police don’t really know the situation in here. They—“

“They know the murderers are in here! They know they’ve got a gun. They know they’ve got hostages. What are they doing out there? Drinking coffee?” he continued.

“Look. They’ve got to make a plan. The police need to know the layout of the store, how many people are in here, where we’re located, where the guys with the guns are, fields of fire. A lot of things go into making the plan. They’ll come. Don’t make the situation any worse by panicking,” Bridie said.

“Shouldn’t you be doing something? Aren’t you a soldier?” he asked. “Those badges on your uniform, don’t they mean you’re trained in something besides first aid?”

“I just finished Basic. I don’t know anything yet. My marksman badge means I can shoot an M-16, which I had to leave behind at Fort Leonard Wood. This one’s for grenade training. You see any grenades around here? I don’t.” Bridie’s exasperation with this man started to overshadow her fear of the gunmen.

Lillian Bolling took another sip of soda. “It’s just like when the Nazi’s come to our town in Belgium. When I was a little girl.” She leaned back and closed her eyes. “My brothers and I, we hide in the trees. When the Nazi soldiers go to the houses, we throw the rocks at them. We run away farther into the trees. They don’t see us in the trees.”

“Well, I don’t see any rocks around here either,” said David. He leaned back against the shelf of vegetables.

“Asparagus,” said Lillian. “We have cans.”

The plan was simple. Bridie estimated their chances at slightly better than even. The intruders were young, didn’t seem to be that experienced, and one was severely wounded. Her job would be to throw cans at the gunmen distracting them, while David helped move Lillian about twenty-five feet across the open aisle and out the back door. “Remember, when you’re withdrawing from your position under fire, you can use hand grenades to cover your movement. You don’t have to worry too much about accuracy. Closeness counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The goal is to keep the enemy pinned down and distracted, while your team escapes,” SFC Barrett told them at the grenade range.

One, two, three. . . Stop it! There’s no time for that now! Bridie forced her attention to Lillian and took a deep breath. “Are you ready?”

The older woman nodded slightly. Some color returned to her face and her breathing seemed stronger. “Remember to move in short bursts, from one shelf to the next. Try to keep some cover between yourselves and them at all times.” Both women looked at David.

“I still don’t see why we have to—“ he started.

“We go,” Lillian interrupted. She laid her head back against the wall and moaned loudly. “My heart. . . “

Bridie jumped up and moved into position blocking the gunmen’s view of the preparations. David slid across the aisle to the women, squatted beside Lillian and began stacking cans on the floor out of sight of the gunmen. Bridie slid Lillian to the floor, making a show of adjusting her position, and checking her pulse. “Mrs. Bolling? Mrs. Bolling? Can you hear me? She’s dying!”

Upon hearing the code word, David grabbed the woman’s shoulders and yanked, pulling her body behind the cover of the shelves. He helped her stand and supported her weight while Bridie dropped her knees, spun around and began throwing cans of vegetables at the men. “Run!” she yelled. “Go for it!”

David and Lillian ducked and made their way across the aisle to the back door as quickly as her weakened condition allowed. At the sound of the Bridie’s shouting, the wounded man sat up and turned in their direction. The gun slipped in his bloody hand, sending his first shot into the wall near his feet, startling both men. The recoil from the shot threw his hand up and his second shot shattered the window at the front of the store.

“Shots fired! We have shots inside the store!” An anonymous voice on a megaphone shouted outside. “Go! Go! Go!”

When the first can sailed over the shelf toward their position, the robbers ducked and covered their heads. Bridie heard the sound of the steel security bar thrown back as she continued to rain cans down on the enemy position, keeping them pinned down.

More glass shattered as the assault team stormed in, guns drawn. “Everybody down! Now! Get down!”



  1. I love this. Bridie reminds me so much of people I knew in the military who’d never been away from home before. I really like the way you have her battling her insecurity at being so fresh from basic, but using all of her skills and ingenuity to try to figure out the situation. The assault by asparagus I really love. This is developing beautifully and I can’t wait to read chapter 4.

    Comment by Lisa — December 24, 2007 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for your compliments and continued encouragement. I love logging in and finding comments!

    Comment by CindyLV — December 24, 2007 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

  3. Cindy–You really have a great opening with the scene in the store. As I commented on Lisa’s blog, I was never in the military, but both your story and Lisa’s give me a feeling for the life.

    Comment by steve — December 26, 2007 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  4. Thanks Steve!

    Comment by CindyLV — December 26, 2007 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  5. I only managed to read Chapter one at work, so I have reserved my comments until after I got through all three Chapters.

    First off, where have you been hiding! What a GREAT piece of writing. Cindy, you are so talented!

    Second is this. Have you ever read Suzanne Brockmann? Your having someone from the WWII era in the story is so her modus operandi. Except she does a deep point of view with that character, too. Ooh, look at me, writing all writer like. :-)
    She sent a booklet explaining deep point of view and character development with her last book. This is the link to the PDF of it, scroll down to page 56 and then read it to the end. I found it fascinating and you might, too. Even though this is not a romance novel, I am sure that the rules and thoughts could be of use to you.

    Good luck and know that I will be watching and enjoying your writing.

    Comment by angel — December 29, 2007 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

  6. Cindy —

    This is the second time I’ve written you a long comment and it’s been eaten by your software. Later today I’ll post something to John’s site.

    Comment by Tim — December 31, 2007 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  7. Cindy,
    I have lagged behind in reading some of the work. I loved this totally. The ending was somewhat different to what I had expected, but you pulled it off brilliantly.
    I am not even sure what genre you are writing this in. This story could go anywhere.
    Great piece.
    I’ll read the other chapters later.

    Comment by reality967 — January 4, 2008 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  8. Where is Chapter 4, etc?

    Comment by Ed Greenberg — December 24, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  9. Hi Ed! Welcome to Vegas. Any friend of Angel’s is welcome here. I re-activated the links to the next few chapters. When WordPress made some changes to their blog platform, some of my links got loose. I’ll have some time later this weekend to do more tweaking. Thanks for asking! Enjoy…

    Comment by cindylv — December 26, 2008 @ 6:51 am | Reply

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