An Uncapped Pen

January 27, 2008

Casual Duty – Chapter Eight – Such a Deal

Filed under: Writing — cindylv @ 11:39 pm

Chapter 8

Range 7 – Rifle

Fort Huachuca, Arizona

“Private, come here,” the Lieutenant pointed to a spot just to the right of Colonel Richards. “Back a little bit. Let’s see how that looks.” She stepped back and framed the imaginary shot with her hands. “Uh, we’re gonna need a . . . We need. . . Stay put.” The Lieutenant trotted back toward the press vans and spoke with the crew, gesturing toward the Colonel and Bridie. A crewmember nodded and dragged over a black case for the Colonel to stand on, making him appear…um…more Colonely.

Bridie stood and stayed, as directed, hoping for a biscuit. Next to her, the diminutive Colonel tugged his uniform, straightening seams and his gigline. Then he squared his shoulders, and rotated his neck, all while mumbling the beginning of his speech. As he preened, Bridie debated mentioning the shaving cream spot on his ear. She watched the Lieutenant scramble around attempting to direct the news crew, who seemed more interested in watching the platoon on the rifle range than in setting up the interview with the post commander. She still wasn’t sure why they brought her out here, or what she was supposed to say. Corporal Donaldson had been dispatched to the Range Officer to procure a rifle for her to hold as a prop. He also managed to borrow two steel pots, one for her and one for the Colonel to wear, because helmets were mandatory safety equipment on the range.

“The important thing to emphasize here,” the Lieutenant pounded her fist into her cupped hand, “the most important thing, is that there was no danger to the post. No threat. This had nothing to do with Fort Huachuca. You just happened to be there and you used your military training to effect the rescue from inside the store. And keep your chin up, there. Tighten up that strap, Private.”

“I was shopping. The gunmen came in,” Bridie said.

“No, burst in,” the Lieutenant corrected.

“Burst in and one of them waved a gun.”

Brandished a weapon.”

I’ll never remember this, Bridie thought. “I assessed the situation, administered first aid to the civilian victim, and planned the . . . “

Before Bridie could finish the thought, the Lieutenant cut her off with a wave and called for action. The crew turned on the lights, and the cameraman swung the heavy camera up to his shoulder.

By take seven, Bridie was no longer nervous. She wiped her sleeve across her face and shuffled her feet as the officers debated the semantics of the Colonel’s remarks. The reporter stood in the shade fanning herself with a copy of her script. Bridie could tell she was losing her patience with the whole charade.

“Alright. Let’s try that again,” the Lieutenant said. “Take it from the line…’steeped in the rich tradition’…Let’s do this, people.”

The reporter stepped back into the scene and called for lights. With the camera rolling, the Colonel began, “Steeped in the rich tradition and history of . . .”
“Cease fire! Cease fire!” the Range Officer screamed, waving his arms. “Safe and clear your weapons!
Startled, the Colonel stopped and all eyes turned to the activity on the range.

“Range left clear.”

“Range right clear.”

The safety sergeants cleared their zones and directed the soldiers to return to the administrative zone near the bleachers. The range personnel collected into a small group as the Officer dispatched the safety sergeants approximately 100 yards down range, past the paper silhouettes near the berm.

Bridie watched as the one of the sergeants stood up and turned away, retching.

Cactus Canteen
Fort Huachuca, Arizona

“Range activities at Fort Huachuca were unexpectedly suspended this afternoon when the partially decomposed body of a young Hispanic woman was discovered on a remote section of a rifle range during routine qualification exercises. Military authorities are attempting to determine the identity of the victim, but at this time, it does not appear that the woman was a soldier or family member stationed at the post. The cause of death is not readily apparent, but the investigation is continuing. In a statement released this afternoon by the Public Affairs Office, this unfortunate situation will not have any impact on the upcoming Desert Exercise scheduled for this summer. The Provost Marshal is working in cooperation with local civilian authorities in Cochise County to determine just how a civilian would gain access to the range, deep inside restricted area on the post.

Sources speculate if this incident may be connected to the bank robbery-turned hostage situation that occurred just outside the Main Gate at Fort Huachuca yesterday afternoon. If that is the case, then it is likely that the FBI might also become involved in the investigation. In other news tonight…”

The bartender reached up, turned the television set off and the juke box back on. Conversations in the bar resumed as soldiers speculated what might have happened to the young girl and how she managed to get herself all the way out to the rifle range. Illegal aliens from Mexico were common in the desert areas near the border towns of Nogales, or even Agua Prieta, but not around the post.

Bridie closed her eyes, trying to erase the memory of the afternoon’s ordeal. She had no idea who the poor woman might be, but hoped that she hadn’t suffered before she died. She sat across from Frank Roberts and his friend Roger Valentine, the pitcher of beer in the center of the table, nearly empty.

“So, what’d the old man do when they found her?” asked Roberts. “

“I don’t know for sure. The Lieutenant just sort of hustled the news people back into their vans. Then she and the Colonel went out to see what was going on. We thought somebody was shot, or an accident, maybe. Then they closed the range down, and the Colonel’s driver took us back to the gate. I didn’t even know what happened until I got back to the barracks after chow.

“I was in the Orderly Room with Simpson when the call came in. First thing he does is he gets on the phone with his wife, and he says to her, he says, ‘Now honey, I know we have reservations and all, but we got us a situation here. I’m gonna be a little late is all. I’ll get there. . . Honey? I know I promised. Now don’t go gettin’ yourself all worked up.’ I’m sitting there, and I got the Old Man on the other line and I’m telling him that the Platoon Sergeant is in conference with the local authorities.” Roberts drained his glass and set it down on the table. “Local authorities, my ass! I met his wife once, and that was enough to convince me not to get myself sideways with a woman!”

Val looked at Bridie. “Well, I think you were real brave, at the store, I mean. I don’t know what I would have done if I was there. I mean, if I had my rifle. . .” His voice trailed off and he dropped his gaze.

“Fuck your rifle! What do you think you’d do with a rifle inside the store? Tell the asshole to move back 25 yards so you can shoot him? You’d need a handgun, or a knife or something. I’da taken the gun and shot both of ‘em! They’re murderers. No negotiating. Just BAM! BAM! Say goodnight!” Roberts declared and blew a wisp of smoke from the end of his fingertip “gun” and re-holstered it.

Val hid his red face behind his glass and traced the condensation ring on the tabletop. “I’m just sayin’ is all. I mean if I–”

Loud cheering from across the room interrupted him. In the back of the room, near the pool tables, a group of men clapped and hollered as a young girl Bridie recognized from the barracks drained the contents of a shot glass and placed it upside down in a row of empties. Nancy something or other, she thought. Bridie watched as the girl giggled and fell over into the lap of the man next to her, with a little help from him, she thought. One of the men looked familiar, but from the angle it was hard for her to tell. He sat on the edge of the group, and all she could see was his reddish-blonde hair and his arm holding a mug of beer. He set his glass down and turned slightly. It was SSG Jackson, the guy she sat next to in the hallway at the Colonel’s office earlier. Someone in the group called for more tequila, causing resulting in another roar of cheers and table slamming.

“Snake-eaters. From Bragg. Here for three weeks for some kinda training back in the hills,” Roberts explained. “Show up, drink all the beer, steal all the women and disappear into the night. Like smoke, fuckin’ green beanies.” He drained his glass and slammed it on the table. “Beer. We need more beer!” He grabbed the empty pitcher and headed to the bar.

Bridie pushed her glass forward, still more than half full. “I think I’ve had enough. I’m pretty tired.”

“Don’t go yet. It’s still early. I mean . . . we don’t have formation til eight o’clock tomorrow and . . .” Val broke off. He glanced up at Bridie, then away. “I just meant that, you know . . . just hang out a little while, is all. Maybe get some dinner. We’re going to Rosalie’s just outside the gate. Mexican food.”

Before she could reply, Roberts appeared with a fresh pitcher and refilled everyone’s glass.

“Let’s drink to our hero!” He raised his glass and Val followed.

“Come on, guys. It wasn’t like that. I just—“

“No, no, no! You can’t interrupt the toast.” Roberts tipped his glass in her direction and declared, “Delta Company’s bona fide hero!” He swallowed a large gulp of beer. “So what was it like? The press conference? What’d the Old Man say? You never told us.”

Bridie shook her head. “It was awful. I was so embarrassed. He kept going on about bravery, and heroism. I tried to tell them that it was Mrs. Bolling’s idea to throw the cans, but everyone’s got this idea, this . . . it’s almost like a script they’re reading about a movie, or something. It’s like I can’t make them understand it wasn’t like that. I can’t get anyone to listen to me.” She reached for her beer and took another sip.

“I don’t understand why everyone keeps saying that I’m . . . you know. I just did what I could. It wasn’t like what they said. The robbers, they were just boys really.
“What are you talking about? They had a gun and they shot the guard. They robbed the bank, didn’t they?” Roberts asked.

“Well, yeah, but . . . “

“But what? BAM! BAM! Just shoot the fuckers!”

“You know how you think about murderers, like Gacy, or even Richard Speck? It’s like they’re older guys and they’re just evil. These guys were just kids. I think they were as scared as we were. I don’t know how they got there.“

“Look it doesn’t matter how they got involved. They did it, didn’t they? They shot the guard at the bank. Kill ‘em! Right, Val?” Roberts slapped his friend on the back.

“Well, maybe if . . . you know, if there was some sort of a reason, like . . . a good reason for robbing the bank, like they needed the money to help someone? Like a good reason—“

Roberts slammed his hand down on the table. “And the guard? He had a reason for going to work that day, right? He had a family. Get real, man!” He shook his head and took another swig. “The guard is dead!”

“I just meant that they were like kids, sorta lost. . . like they didn’t understand what was happening,” Bridie said.

“Yeah, right. They didn’t understand that someone would stand up to them and defend the bank? Then they’re stupid, too!”

Val put his hand on Bridie’s arm. “They had a gun, and they took the money. I think you’re real brave for getting out of there alive.”

Bridie sighed and put her hands up. “Could we please just talk about something else? I’m tired of trying to explain it.”

Roberts looked over at Val. “How’s the snake huntin’ going? Looks like you got a good burn on your nose there.”

“That fuckin’ Line. It’s killin’ me. You’d think with no rain, how the weeds gonna grow? They get like three – four feet tall. And sharp. Everything in the damn desert sticks, bites, or scratches. And if it don’t,” he continued, “it stings. I hate this fuckin’ desert.” Val slammed his fist on the table. “I didn’t re-up just to die here in the desert cuttin’ weeds.”

“Well I ain’t calling’ your Mama to tell her you died of tumbleweed scratches, and complications brought on by stinkbug bites.”

“I gotta get a slot tomorrow,” Val said.

“You’ll get a slot and get sick like you did the last two times!” Roberts replied. “Val’s got himself a reputation. Every Friday Selection, he’s in line for Sick Call. He loses his slot.” He punch Val in the shoulder. “You gotta quit eatin’ those burritos on Thursdays, man.”

Roberts leaned over to Bridie. “You want me to hook you up with a permanent detail? After you finish in-processing, we’ll see who’s giving up their detail. I’ll hook you up.” He took another sip. “If you don’t get a detail, you’re back on the Line. Or worse. You could get stuck on QRF. That’s gotta be the worst.”

“Quick Reaction Force,” Val explained. Those guys are on like 30 minute alert. They don’t hafta stand formation, or take PT or nothing. Just wait for the call, then they jump in the truck and disappear. You know, like fighting fires, or looking for lost kids in the mountains. Whatever they need.”

“They don’t get to go off post, either. The call comes in, they’re gone. Sometimes they don’t come back for two, three days. They don’t get tents, or cots or nothing. Just sleep on the ground,” Roberts said.

“And C-Rations for chow,” Val added. “I can’t eat that shit.”

“So, getting back to the permanent detail. What are you talking about? She asked.

“It’s a job. Like punching out medical cards at the hospital, or working in Records, checking folks in at the dental clinic, answering phones in an office, working at the Rec Center…you know. Office stuff. What kind of stuff do you like to do?”

Bridie shrugged. “Anything’s gotta be better than the Line.”

Roberts smiled broadly and clinked his glass against hers. “Have I got a deal for you!”

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2 Comments »

  1. Aha — this is really opening up a lot of possibilities now. I think you’re doing a great job in developing so many of these fabulous secondary characters. What a great twist, to have the press conference get high jacked by the discovery of the body and for Bridie to be so flummoxed by the way they wanted to paint her participation. Can’t wait to see what detail she’s headed for.

    And great detail in the bar — almost gave me the creeps :)

    Comment by Lisa — January 28, 2008 @ 5:47 am | Reply

  2. “He sat on the edge of the group, and all she could see was his reddish-blonde hair and his arm holding a mug of beer. He set his glass down and turned slightly. It was SSG Jackson, the guy she sat next to in the hallway at the Colonel’s office earlier.”

    Oooh, oooh, oooh, there he is again! A Bragg Boy, no less! OMG Cindy!!!!!!!

    Comment by angel — January 28, 2008 @ 6:03 pm | Reply


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