03-09-2007 04:46 PM - edited 03-09-2007 04:46 PM
I was focused, driven to get my sorry ass over that plate-steel guard rail, all of my energies were focused on that stretch of balcony 10 feet ahead. The guard-rail, constructed of ¼-inch steel plates would most definitely block all shrapnel from projectiles fired at it; I knew I’d be relatively safe once I had crossed over and behind the rail, and so I drove on. Then, I heard it: the beginning of the end…
I was mid-way through my second lunge along the beam when that first shot rang out, and I knew that hundreds more would soon follow. Being in an enclosed building, I expected the blast to be much louder than it was. Maybe the sound was swallowed up by the crowd, or lost in my mind because of my stern concentration. In either case, it wasn’t so much the sound of the shot but it’s trajectory that REALLY got to me, in more ways than one, I suppose! That first shot was badly mislead, striking and shredding the tin and sheet-rock insulation in the ceiling somewhere to my rear. 6 feet or so to go… and that’s when the -RAT-TAT-TAT!- started!
No way I could avoid every one of the fast-flying slugs coming my way, I feared. But, since I was in mid-swing, I couldn’t even make an effort to avoid any of the blasts. It was little consolation at the time that the rocket-launcher had not fired; I would have taken some comfort, even in death, knowing that the stupid Commmie bastages had brought some portion of the roof down on themselves. Of course, some of the hostages would be lost along with myself, but hopefully, too, would a few of the scum!
Unfortunately, the LAW wasn’t on my side this time. The best I could hope for was a sudden attack of blurred vision upon my opponents, or some other such miracle. Luckily, for me, that miracle presented itself in the form of my weaker left arm. Not so luckily, the miracle came in the form of an awful crunch and searing pain from what I could only surmise was the fracture of my ulna snapping open once again! Involuntarily, in the heat of the moment, I released my grip on the girder and surrendered, in a woefully wobbly free-fall, to my fate. As I careened gracelessly from the beam, recalling the nearly 6 foot gap between myself and the safety of the guard-rail, only one thought returned to my mind: “Oh Brother!!”
I guess Malcolm’s all-too-eager approach to working with Corporal Quisberg could’ve been reasoned away as being better than any of the other punishments Cadet Sorenson might come up with. Still, seeing my big brother’s exuberance boggled my mind. I suppose he had his reasons, but I’ll be damned if I could think of them! Oh well, I’d just have to ask him that later, if he was still talking to me.
“Well, bro…” I prompted when that time came. “are you feeling better now? After all that hard work this afternoon!? No fever, or hallucinations, or…” Malcolm was apparently ignoring my mock-concern, breezing past me to his bunk, where he proceeded to begin packing his duffel bag.
“What the?!” I was perplexed. We weren’t supposed to return to Morris for at least another day, possibly 2 full days. Malcolm never bothered to plan ahead, to pack ahead of time.
“Seriously, Malcolm.” I stomped to his bunk-side. “ Are you feeling OK? Are you---“
“Ready yet, Ghost?!” Cadet Sorenson’s thunderous bark beckoned from the barracks door.
“Ready for WHAT, Sir?!” I interjected curiously.
“Well, Sequel,” Sorenson smirked, “Your big brother’s going back to Morris with the good Corporal tonight. There’s another deuce of supplies that needs to be delivered, and Ghost volunteered to assist.”
“Volunteered?! Malcolm?!” I was shocked and surprised. So, Malcolm’s punishment for losing the low-crawl race was more of a prize than a penalty; he got to go home at least a full day earlier than me, and I’d be stuck in the hell-hole that was Camp Ripley through another grueling day. I’d probably get stuck driving Malcolm’s Camaro home too, and apparently that car was more super-sensitive than a woman during PMS! And, another thing…
“I don’t have a clue how to drive a manual transmission Camaro!?!” I voiced my concern immediately, after realizing that Malcolm would not necessarily have to make the return trip with Quizzy after loading the deuce. Malcolm’s cocky smirk faded then, as he also realized his plight; stuck in Ripley for another night unless…
“Well, “ Sorenson resolved, “I guess Ghost is going to have to make the trip up to Morris AND back tonight, with Corporal Quisberg, instead of just making the return trip…” Ahhh, sweet revenge!
“But, Sir…” Malcolm pleaded. “When will I get some sleep?”
“Sleep on your own time, Ghost!” Sorenson snapped. “Now, disappear! I think I hear Quizzy calling!” Sorenson turned and grinned at me and I smiled back in supreme satisfaction at the timely twist of events. Malcolm’s uncharacteristic willingness to work evaporated then and there. As Sorenson’s glare met my brother’s, a battle of wills ensued. Sorenson actually grew angry by Malcolm’s stubborn impertinence, as Malcolm refused to pack, refused to budge from his position. After an eternal moment, Sorenson barked, “MOVE IT, GHOST!” Maybe Cadet Sorenson wasn’t so bad after all; I was beginning to like him more and more. He wasn’t nearly as evil as, say for instance, Malcolm and the Slacker Squad could be! HA! I had to laugh! Malcolm, however, was no longer in such a jovial mood… His expression said what his twisted, twitching lips didn’t; he was pissed! As he muttered countless unheard curses, I could almost hear the cash register inside his brain tallying just how much my inability to drive his Camaro would cost me. What was his hurry to return to Morris? What could possibly require his immediate attention, so much so that to miss a day would mean the end of his life as he knew it?! So many questions, including…
“What about Carlson, Sir?” I found myself suddenly pondering, in a weak effort to earn some level of forgiveness from Malcolm.
“YEAH!” Malcolm’s eyes brightened as the Great Wheels of the machine in his mind began whirring on thoughts wholly unrelated to making me pay. “Carlson should go back tonight, Sir… He IS the Assistant Driver, and my training as a deuce driver is sorely lacking…” Again this was supremely odd; Malcolm denying perfection and utmost skill in ANYTHING and EVERYTHING was completely out of character!
“Not tonight he isn’t Ghost!” Sorenson countered. “Besides, Quizzy can most likely handle all the driving. He’ll just need your extra pair of hands for any loading and unloading detail…” Once more, Malcolm’s gloom-and-doom glare fell upon me, and I sulked at the inevitable ‘labor charges’ he was tacking on to my already unrealistic bill for the weekend. It was amazing how shrewdly Malcolm’s mind worked. One instant, he was joining me in my efforts to pass off his troubles to Specialist Carlson, hi pal; the next moment, he was recalculating the taxes and interest payments on my debt to him! Oh, Brother!
Slowly, meticulously, Malcolm resumed packing, completely in contrast to the grab-and-stuff technique with which he had begun 5 minutes earlier. His lolly-gagging only served to annoy the good Cadet further, and Sorenson eventually left in a huff to check on whatever was delaying Quisberg’s request for his assistant driver to assemble in the Motor Pool.
Hours passed and the night wore on, and still no return visit from Sorenson or Quisberg. Unable to get any rest for fear of being awakened from a blissful dream, and equally unable to join in the festivities of the opening-weekend of AT, Malcolm and I sat in the hut, waiting, a gray haze of hatred clouding between us, a veritable storm of insanity brewing just behind Malcolm’s beady blue eyes. Finally, as midnight approached, Malcolm bolted from the hut, intent on finding Sorenson and some answers. That thunderstorm in Malcolm’s mind had apparently been made manifest over the skies of Morris and the surrounding area, Sorenson’s report explained. A line of intense storms had moved in and was tracking from the west, and would be pummeling the area between Camp Ripley and Morris throughout most of the night, and into the weekend. Quisberg was worried about making the trip at all through a thunderstorm, and was down-right adamant about making the trip with an inexperienced assistant. “What about Carlson?” Quizzy himself suggested. Cadet Sorenson flashed back to Malcolm’s cocky suggestion earlier, and immediately shot down the Corporal’s recommendation. Fate stepped in then, in the form of Alpha Company commander, Captain David England, who countermanded Cadet Sorenson’s rejection of Specialist Carlson, insisting that Carlson make the return trip that night, and further allowing for Malcolm and I to return to Morris the following morning.
“BUT…” Commander England concluded. “Quisberg and Carlson will need your extra hands tomorrow morning, to load the deuce and get back here to Ripley post-haste, King! So, you will be required to stop at the armory to assist the deuce drivers in their mission! So I’d be getting some rest now, if I was you…”
“Yes Sir!” Malcolm snapped sharply, content with his half-hearted victory over the slick cadet.
“You know, Slick…” Malcolm brainstormed as he returned to the steel hut in the 1st Platoon contonement, “You’ll have to wait around the armory until I finish helping Quizzy, so if YOU help as well…” AUGH! Now, my prize for winning the low-crawl race was becoming Malcolm’s punishment! And Malcolm’s punishment was becoming a prize! The twisted machinations of Fate, added to the already twisted nature of my relationship with my bigger faster stronger brother, and the National Guard, and girls, were all converging to make this weekend before finals pure and utter Hell on me!! And, the weekend had only just begun!
Message Edited by crAZRick on 03-09-200703:49 PM
03-09-2007 04:51 PM
03-10-2007 06:53 PM
It was quiet… too quiet. The trip home after not even 2 days of a 2-week Annual Training period should have been a joyous occasion. Instead, Malcolm and I rode home in silence. Maybe I should have let him win the low-crawl race; at least then, maybe we’d be having some fun! Undoubtedly, Malcolm would be harassing me about my pathetic performance compared to his skillful scamper, but at least we’d be talking. Any noise at all would be some comfort now, even the vile strains of Aerosmith or Tesla or whatever other band of long-haired, mascara-wearing, hard-rocking hippies Malcolm wanted to jam to. Anything but the deafening silence!
After 20 long minutes, I could take no more. I broke down and attempted to reason with Malcolm. I told him how unfair the ‘race’ was, with me practically on my hands and knees while he was struggling in the full-prone. It was no-contest, he was a god, and I was his humble servant and shadow, as always. So what if, as penalty, Malcolm had to do a few hours of actual manual labor under the watchful supervision of Special-Corporal Quisberg! Big Deal! We’d be in and out of the armory in no time. So, why was he so upset? What could possibly be bothering him so much to keep Malcolm quiet for so long? I’m not sure Malcolm himself knew the answer to that question; he was most probably just being himself, stubborn and unreasonable as ever!
Whatever the reason for it, Malcolm’s silence really bothered me, and I began to get upset! Reason #129 Why I Hate My Big Brother: When he’s in a bad mood, everybody else better be in a bad mood, or he will go out of his way to put everyone in a bad mood. This, he accomplished most effectively on most every occasion. What a grouch! Man, I hate Malcolm… and silence! Actually, I don’t necessarily hate silence; being a lonely, boring loser as I was, I often spent hours, sometimes even days, in total blissful silence, relaxing with my thoughts. What I hated, mainly because I couldn’t understand it, was silence as it related to my bigger, faster, louder, more obnoxious brother. He was NEVER so quiet— never, unless the logic circuits in his twisted mind were working overtime on some sadistic plot for revenge against me or anyone else who had wronged him. This kind of silence always—ALWAYS!—meant trouble for some unfortunate soul, and usually ME in particular! That is why the silent treatment on the road-trip home really upset me.
Near Sauke Center, I revolted, quickly flicking on the radio. The initial volume of such a hasty move was literally as deafening as the silence which immediately preceded it, and Malcolm stirred angrily to life. He shoved my hands away from ‘his radio’ and worked the knobs with a mastery only he understood, though it didn’t take a genius to grasp the concept of clockwise = loud / counter-clockwise = quiet… So much for my little shot at a revolt, I sighed, and resigned my self to a return to dead silence.
To my surprise, Malcolm left the radio on, at a somewhat more subdued volume, especially given Malcolm’s own penchant for ear-splitting decibel-levels. I relaxed in the bucket seat next to my bigger, faster stronger brother, hoping that on some level he had finally given up on himself and his selfish stubborn ways. One tune led to another, and Malcolm actually seemed to find some sort of peace in the grooving, swerving childishly (maniacally!) across both lanes of the sparsely traveled road. He was laughing now, obviously insane, while I began to panic, and he drove the gas pedal to the floor and raced ahead recklessly. This is what it had come to; my bigger faster stronger brother had snapped, gone out of his mind and would sooner kills us both than live with the idea that anyone as athletically-challenged as myself could ever beat him in an altogether unfair test. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…
Fortunately, the maniacal maneuvers ceased once the music gave way to the news. Whew! I never usually pay attention to the radio news, especially so far from anything I would consider ‘local’ but at that moment I was happy to earn a new level of worldliness and culture. Malcolm apparently needed a breather too, and he didn’t bother to work the second knob a bit, and find another rock station, or fish for one of the dozen or so cassette tapes he kept stashed at various locations throughout the interior of the Z-28. The follow-up to the top story reminded me to remind Carlson and Andrews to update THEIR story to Sorenson.
‘…the 6 unconfirmed escapees fled the Rehab Center on foot 8 days ago, possibly commandeering a passing motor vehicle, law enforcement officials claim. Further information could not be revealed, as the investigation is on-going at this time… Are your kids safe as you pack them off to school? Hate groups and revolutionary militia splinter factions are finding a target-rich environment on the nation’s college campuses… more at 10… In other news, another Royal Wedding may be in the works, as Prince—“
“Damn it, Slick!” Malcolm bolted, snapping off the radio furiously. “I could be home right NOW, if you hadn’t brought up Carlson and the car!! Now, everything is ruined!!”
“What ‘everything’?” I wondered, confused as much as startled by Malcolm’s sudden blubbering.
“You know…” he stuttered, seemingly very near a total loss for words. ‘Finals!!” he finally stammered. “I could have really used the extra study-time! **bleep**!” I was still at a loss; the last time Malcolm was all fired up and anxious to get home to study was the day after the last time I had seen him excited and fired up about manual labor tasks… the 12th and 13th of Never! Something else was going on in the deepest recesses of my big brother’s mind, something bigger and better—or much, much worse—than studying for Finals. But, at the time I was too thoroughly confused by his babbling to figure him out. I presumed asking him anything or questioning him further would be like playing Russian Roulette; would he confuse and confound me further, diffusing the whole conversation with some brilliantly illogical logic, or would he explode in my face for my curiosity? Either scenario left me begging to return to the somber state of silence from which I had only just emerged, and so, once more, I was frustrated and at my wits end. Life with Malcolm was a lot like walking a tight-rope, or—
…dangling from a steel girder, 30-feet above a crowded gymnasium!
All things being equal, I’d much rather be dealing with Malcolm’s ever-changing moods than the ever-changing scenery around me there in the gym! Even just hanging on for dear life would have been preferable over my present course of action; as I heaved myself wildly along the span of steel, I could only hope that the terrorists were as bad at judging distances and accuracy as I had been that day on the softball field. My injuries from the latter throbbed, ghostly reminders of a hint of the pain I would suffer should the aim of the former be true. Searing, ripping pain as the missile-like projectiles from a half-dozen assault rifles tore through my already-bruised and battered flesh.
Once again, the idea of adding injury to injury didn’t thrill me in the least. But, what could I do? It occurred to me that I would be on equal---if not better--- terms with the terrorist goon squad if I just lowered myself to their level. With that resolve, I bravely released the half-assed grip I had on the girder, as my fractured, plaster-cast arm crackled under the stress and strain of my struggle.
In any truly intense, panic-filled moment of indecision, at the absolute point of no return, only 2 or 3 phrases can accurately sum-up and describe the situation in full. My choice: OOPS!
“Oops!” Such a simple word to simplify the beginnings of a complex and dangerous situation. I’m sure Malcolm was ‘Oops-ing’ himself up a storm on the roof, after watching his sure-knot, no-slip, square-knot loose itself from around my waist, thereby plunging me down the small ventilation shaft, through the small square of sheet-rock sealing the duct from the open-air of the gymnasium. Oops!
Don’t get me wrong, the fall itself was hardly life-threatening, and didn’t really bother me much, except for the uncertainty of it all--- it was the landing that would end such a fall that had me scared! Oops!
Luckily, I was able to prevent such a header, by grasping the thin-but-sturdy girder which spanned the gym ceiling.
As long as it remained dark… Oops!
As long as I remained still and quiet -CLANK!- Oops!
Well, just as long as nobody spotted me Oops!
I just had to get to safety beyond the guard-rail before I fell…
03-10-2007 06:54 PM
As relief rushed through my harried head, I casually perused the nearest military transport vehicle, wondering how long it would take to load that beast. Carlson was already on-site, and he greeted our arrival in typical fashion: he beamed Malcolm a devilish grin, and flicked me the bird! With Carlson and Malcolm as the anchors of the work force, and the vicious ineptitude that was Special-Corporal Quisberg as the driving force behind that team, I surmised that this job might take just less than an eternity!
In that moment, time itself seemed to stand still, and Eternity took on a wholly different meaning entirely. As comically clumsy Carlson tripped off the 2-step platform beneath the deuce door, landing on the softest part of his chunky chassis, I laughed. As Carlson moved quickly to right himself, I shifted my gaze away from him, certain I would be beaten severely if I would ever admit to seeing him fall; my gaze instead locked elsewhere on the vehicle, near the rear, on the black-stenciled numbers of the Identification Plate which labeled the deuce. I smiled as I noted a significance I had never noticed in my time at the unit. My smile widened immensely, possibly inciting Justin’s wrath, though his antics were no longer even a part of the equation, as I read the letters once more, to myself.
To any unloved, unromantic loser, the likes of which I used to be, the kind of guy that Matt Hess, Charley Andrews and Justin Carlson secretly wished they were not, the painted characters would never be anything more than and ID tag for the deuce. To me, however, the symbols were prophetic beacons of a brighter tomorrow, for myself and for the woman I loved… and for all of Mankind! But, perhaps I am over-reacting.
“Katy Is The One For ME!” I mused out loud, interpreting the ID number phonetically, as if it were some sort of vanity plate meant for me.
“Huh?” Malcolm’s gasp and the sudden silence as he shut off the engine of the Camaro snapped me back to reality. Quickly, I shifted my attention from Justin and the deuce to…
“I said, let’s help Justin load the deuce so we can get outta here!” Malcolm knew that’s not what I had said, but he couldn’t argue with me, since he was in just as big a hurry to get home to ‘study’ as I was!
“Hey Jas!” Malcolm greeted, not bothering to listen to my musings over the cryptic ID tag. “Where’s Quizzy?”
“Oh that smart-ass bastage said something about having orders that only you and I are to load this **bleep**!” Justin snorted, pointing to the open garage where a pile of military gear sat on wooden slats.
“Oh, wonder-**bleep**ing-ful!” Malcolm sassed, before setting off across the lot toward the slats, and the work began…
Malcolm and I spent the better part of 3 hours helping Specialist Carlson load supplies onto the one of 2 2.5-ton vehicles parked outside the docking bay. With only 1 good arm to offer, I was of little help really, but I DID try to pitch in as best I could, with the little things; small boxes, duffel bags and such. After a few hours though, the numbness in my weak and worn left arm turned to a throbbing dull ache, and I was beginning to wonder if my assistance at all was a wise idea.
“The arm bothering you, Slick, huh?” Malcolm noticed my pain, and seemed almost genuinely concerned. “I got 2 words for you…” I braced myself for another in his long-line of insulting barbs against his weaker, smaller, younger siblings. “Demerol and Codeine… when pain is the game, ask for them by name…” Wow! That was almost kind of him!
“I got 2 words for you too, Dick!” Carlson piped in. “Back the **bleep** up!” There it was! Now, I could feel complete; or at least like the complete loser the Slackers all saw me as! Thank you, Justin! Just for that, I decided to let Justin and Malcolm finish the heavy-lifting by themselves!
In fact, Malcolm and Justin were just finishing up any way, hauling the last crate from the Arms Room to the parking lot, when that word first escaped my lips. Overcome with a bit of Malcolm’s stubborn selfish streak, and suddenly wanting to nurse my arm and ribs after such a ‘grueling’ work-out as 3 hours manual labor, I excused myself from helping with that last crate. OK, honestly, Carlson dismissed me in typical style:
“We got this one, Dick!” Justin exclaimed. Uhh, the name is Rick, or…
“SLICK!” Malcolm ordered. “Step aside, huh!?” so I removed myself to a supervisory position. It was from that position, far removed from the action, that I noticed a confusing array of events that left me perplexed, and on the verge of my own lapse into lunacy.
From my vantage point inside the large loading bay, I could clearly see everything which took place outside. Malcolm and Justin moved with minor difficulty under the bulk of the medium-sized crate which they hauled across the parking lot. The crate itself resembled an aluminum cooler, about 3-feet long, 2 feet wide and high, probably packed with some high-tech night-vision equipment or something, I assumed. The mystery began as I watched the two laborers load the crate not into the mystically marked deuce or its mate, but into Malcolm’s Z-28 instead! What use would Malcolm possibly have for anything stored in the armory? He RARELY found any use for any of the locker-full of equipment he was issued for use during the month to month weekend warrior drills; why would he be loading them into his car now?! Homework? Some covert ops planned for the Slacker Squad a little later that night? What the hairy heck was going on!? I had to check into this strange turn of events at the earliest opportunity…
That opportunity presented itself a scant few minutes later, just as my curiosity was first piqued. In their obvious haste to load that last crate into the Camaro, Malcolm and Justin failed to notice a bit of paper flitting on the breeze across the parking lot, once freed from the side of the crate, or from within one of their cargo pants pockets, perhaps. In their haste, they may have misplaced the papers, and had not yet noticed their absence, letting them fall into the mercy of the Four Winds, which just so happened to be blowing my way, at that moment! I had no clue as to what a packing invoice or what-not would offer in the way of an explanation for this warped turn of events, but I was ready to look anywhere for answers just then. And, here my answers came, and not in the form of a question or a riddle or a puzzle of logic, as they would if I posed the same questions to Malcolm or Justin…
“Oops…” I muttered sheepishly to myself, exiting the loading bay and trotting toward the tumbling page of paperwork. “Careless, clumsy Carlson dropped something!” As I made my way from the garage to intercept the mystery memo, I could almost feel the plot begin to thicken…
“…1 45cp… 5AR15… 7 9mm (5u2p)… 50 20Rmag…
10k556… 25H E g… 15W S g… 2ClbC4… 4RKT…”
What the Hell was this gibberish?! I could almost decipher 2 or 3 of the chicken-scratch scribbles, but still it was just garbage. Even those I could make out made little to no sense to me! Alas, alas, all hope is dashed! (Nobody famous said that, just me!) Any way, without too much fanfare, drama or suspense, I crumpled the page and discarded what was to become my first clue to the Greater Mystery which lay ahead. I had more pressing problems to deal with, I decided; my English Final was fast-approaching, for one, and my date with Katy afterwards… and I still hadn’t come up with a good punch-line to my joke!
Still, since it vexed me so to see the Slackers stow that crate in Malcolm’s car, I had to ask.
“What’s in the back, Jack?” I phrased my question slick and creatively, all but guaranteeing an equal response from my bigger, faster, louder brother.
“Justin’s beer, Queer!?” he hooted with not even a moment of hesitation to think.
“One for the road, Toad?” I continued, longing for a look into the ominous ‘cooler.’
“Get it to go, Bro!” Malcolm’s non-insult caught me off-guard; just the result he was most-likely looking for!
I recovered quickly, and reached back into the silver ice-box before he could further sway my resolve. My groping paw quickly met with the icy cold outer shell of what had to be 1 of 25 High-Explosive Grenades (25H E g ??) or maybe a LAW rocket tube or 1 of 4 rockets (4RKT ??) Or, maybe even—an ice cold can of Budweiser?!
“Budweiser?!” I gasped in shock over what I had discovered.
“Yeah…” Malcolm sighed, disappointed, though not as disappointed an I was. “Justin only drinks that **bleep**!” He popped the top on the beer and accepted the can from me, slamming back the whole 12 ounces in one swallow. He obviously hadn’t expected there to be anything but beer in the cooler, so all of my initial intrigue was for not. That strange list of scrawlings must have just been trash, or scratch paper from one of Carlson’s many sick and twisted jokes or puzzles. Well, with all thoughts of secret weapons caches and artillery arrays out of my mind, I was set for a night of hard-core studying, followed by a day of serious sweating—first through my English Final, then the date with Destiny… and what a date it would prove to be…
03-10-2007 06:57 PM
Oh, what I would give to be out with Katy right now, out in the warmth of a darkened theater, surrounded by silence, a beautiful young woman at my side. Pure Heaven. Then again, 3 out of 4 aint bad! I was out--- out cold, unconscious. And, I seemed to be quite warm; perhaps my choice of costume was inappropriate! As I figured it, for any act of infiltration and reconnaissance, basic black would prove most effective, and least noticeable color to wear. I had seen my share of TV movies and such, and the black-dressed spies, ninjas and SWAT team members always lasted the longest. But, maybe a black, fish-net T-shirt, black long-john turtleneck, covered by a black hooded sweatshirt with black jeans, a black stocking cap and combat boots to boot was going just a bit too far… I knew I should have left that stocking cap at home!
When you’re staring Death in the face, you sometimes find it hard to be completely serious… pretty ironic, isn’t it?
Anyway, I was unconscious and steamed, surrounded by the darkened silence on the flip-side of my eyelids, and all was quiet… deathly quiet. At that moment, in the dark, by myself, I was at peace with my surroundings. Let the terrorists come, let them kill me for sure--- if I wasn’t already dead. I’ll never talk, I’ll never tell them anything! Even if I do talk, I don’t know anything!! I’m just an average Joe, a common regular, every-day dude. I’m no hero! And, even if I was, how could I fight off 6 or 20 or 100 Communist terrorist bastages? Not even Malcolm could bring down more then 10 or 12. Oh sure, he’d try his best, and in his dying breath, he’d blame it all on his gun jamming or the computer cheating, or the controller malfunction, or the sun getting in his eyes, or a branch getting in the line of fire, or something… but, at least he would die trying, not die after being knocked senseless from a fall off a steel girder 30-feet overhead in a crowded gymnasium!! Who was I fooling? Myself, for sure… I was not Malcolm! I was no hero! I must be delirious… I’m rambling again… Why is the sky blue??
“Why is the sky blue?” I know there’s a good punch-line in there somewhere! What kind of Final Exam is this any way? ‘Write a 2-page essay on anything you want to’ ANYTHING?! Seemed incredibly simple, for something so weighty as a Final Exam. But, why did I choose to write about the sky and its hue? Probably because the thought came to me as I crossed campus that morning. ‘Why is the sky blue?’ I had asked Katy, promising to deliver the answer on our date night. I HAD to come up witty something to say, and I did my best work under pressure. So, I utilized the pressure of the final English exam to come up a response. Unfortunately, a page and a half of pure BS followed, with nary a punch-line in sight. I covered the scientific angle OK, and was quite witty in my own way, but there was no real spark to my work. I needed a hook, something so incredible, so unbelievably witty that my professor couldn’t help but grade any less than an A++. But, at the end of 90-minutes, I was drawing a complete and total blank.
“Why is the sky blue?” my essay closed. “Good Question!” Lucky for me, my English professor liked my style, or my complete lack of any sort of organized style, and never graded anything I submitted lower than a B. so I was in the clear as far as English 1101 was concerned…
Unfortunately, my Computer Programming Final on Tuesday afternoon would be another matter entirely! 2 things in my favor were looking forward beyond the dreaded final Final to my date with Katy Tuesday night, and Beth Cooper. Beth was Malcolm’s girlfriend/fiancee/ ball-and-chain; they had been together for 3 or 4 years since high school, so it was like they were married without actually having said the vows; like a common-law thing, I guess she was the only person in the world strong enough and stubborn enough to put up with all of Malcolm’s insane antics.
Beth was a blonde, but she was a total brain. Sometimes, getting her to admit her intelligence was as difficult as getting Malcolm to work, or getting me to admit my incredible charm and coolness, and grace with the ladies. Beth really probably didn’t like Malcolm much at all, and wouldn’t even be with him, except that it got her in close quarters with ME! What Beth didn’t know was that I was secretly only using her for her Computer notes and her general smarts in most other categories, so her interaction with my bigger, faster, dumber brother didn’t phase me.
Of course, even if Beth hadn’t been in the Computer class with me, even if I didn’t know her at all, I still had Manuel, the Teaching Assistant in the class, to fall back on. Manuel was Hispanic, the exact nature of his lineage uncertain, as I was never very interested in Sociology, or Genealogy or any -ology for that matter! Not that I was racist by any meaning of the word; I simply led such a boring existence that very little in life really interested me at all, not enough to devote any REAL time to study and research any way. Most often, since race-relations in the small Midwestern towns were decidedly lopsided in favor of Caucasians over any other ethnic group, it just became easier all-around to stick with stereotypes and prejudices against other races, rather than to admit complete disinterest or lack of concern over skin color, or religion, or sexual orientation.
In fact, it was often wise to pretend to be racist and prejudicial in the face of the predominantly white populace; in my case, it most likely prevented several severe beating at the hands of my ‘brothers’ who were not so secure in their own ethnicity. I could never be mistaken for any of those White-Power, hate-monger racist groups that were just becoming all the rage around the country; I didn’t hate anybody, hardly even held a strong dislike toward anyone in particular really. Sure, there were a few individuals who I would rather not spend any amount of time around, but to call that ‘hate,’ to put such a strong and damning label on it, was just inaccurate.
I would never lower myself to such a level as to be a part of any such classification or grouping. I was a lot of things, and I lacked in many areas of my life, but being prejudicial and lacking the ability to see a shred of decency and goodness in any individual were 2 things I could not claim as my own. Any way, I held nothing personal against Manuel de Salazar; for the most part, he was just a normal, average Teaching Assistant, simply trying to make his way in a society that was set-up to work against him. One thing was certain: For a red-neck, wet-back, Hispanic-American, Manuel sure was smart! And, I mean that as a compliment!
“Hold it!! Hold it right there!!” the tall, gray-haired-but-balding man in the cheap polyester-blend suit and tie interrupted, his temples throbbing. “What does all of this—the softball game, the girls, the Guard drill, the blue sky and the red-nec—uh, the Hispanic Teaching Assistant—have to do with the terrorist case?!” Humph! The nerve of some FBI guys! Interrupting a perfectly good story so rudely…
“Well, excuse me for embellishing a little!” I snapped, “But if you’d let me finish, I’ll get to all of your questions!” I was tempted to ask this clown his name again, to clarify that he was not in fact related to a certain obnoxious **bleep** named Matt Hess, but I digress… “Now… Where was I?”
“When?” the FBI guy asked, rechecking his notes.
“Huh?” I resorted to Malcolm’s key catch-phrase.
“When?” he repeated monotonously, “Which ‘Where”’ were you referring to? The girder ‘Where?’ or the flashback from the girder ‘Where?’ Which ‘Where?’ When?!”
“Huh?” it was fast becoming a Three Stooges routine, as I played as dumb as the fed was acting.
“Was this Monday--- yesterday? Or have we moved into today? When was all of this taking place?” the fed wondered. “I’m confused…” HE’s confused?!
03-10-2007 06:58 PM
The sharp, high-pitched twang of Beth’s white Mercury Capri horn startled me from my countdown to ecstasy. Beth was on her way to campus as I was wandering home, and she pulled up and slowed, as I approached.
“Slickster!” she greeted. “Aren’t you going to the study group?” Oh yeah! The Computer Programming 1 Study Group had scheduled a cram-session for that afternoon! I really couldn’t miss it either, though all of my thoughts were stuck on Katy. I was hoping to go home and soak in a nice hot bath, soothe my aching bones and muscles after such a grueling weekend away and a horrid hour-and-a-half in English 1101. But, the study group most likely would not survive without my intellectual input, and I myself would definitely not survive Tuesday’s final without the extra study-session. So, I joined Beth in her Capri and returned to campus for what would become the longest night of my life…
The study group was over practically before it even got started; along with Beth and myself, only 3 others students bothered to show up--- including Manuel, the TA in charge of the session!! With only 4 students present, Manuel didn’t see much point in wasting time in a formal review. Instead, he offered to help each of us with our most pressing concerns. I had assumed that these ‘pressing concerns’ would have to be along the lines of Computer Programming and such, but the only concerns I saw Manuel handling were those requiring him to press closely toward Beth!! It was obvious to all--- to me especially--- that Manuel de Salazar wanted to bone my big brother’s babe! TA, indeed! T & A, more like it, Manny!
I would have leaped from my desk to defend Beth and her virtue and honor, but every time I tensed at Manuel’s slick, almost silly, manipulations toward her, my mind flashed to the thrashing I had received from Jesse Graham and his goons. And, this time, I was battered and bruised from the softball game going IN to the confrontation! So, I backed down…
Beth was handling the Hispanic heart-throb nicely enough on her own.
“I’d like to check over your work more closely, if I might, senorita…” Manuel cooed coolly. “Just in case there is anything crucial that you are missing… Say, at my place tonight?” This guy was at least as slick as Malcolm! C’mon Beth, you GOTTA see through this!
“Sure, Manuel…” Beth was like putty in Manuel’s mitts, rising from her seat and leaning into Manuel, rubbing her body seductively against his arm as she reached for her book-bag.
“Here…” she handed him a small square plastic case from her bag. “It’s all on hard-disk!” Beth stood and walked across the room to the classroom computers along the far wall, leaving Manuel standing there, hard disks in his hand, pouting. Psych!
I guess more than just the disks were hard, huh, Manny?! Of course, the disk would maintain their rigidity indefinitely, unlike Manuel! HA! The poor slob opened the 6-disk carrier and fumbled through the disks blankly, lost and dejected. I could feel his pain, except that, along with my feelings of loss and dejection, I also had a stomach of churning guts and a mouthful of sappy shredded poetry and carnation petals at the time of my dejection/rejection confrontation. Manuel, me amigo, you got off easy!
Not too much later, before Manuel could make any more huge embarrassing mistakes in the name of lust, the study group broke down. I would have liked to hang around until I understood at least ONE of the 12 chapters we had to know, and I’m sure Beth would have enjoyed the extra time toying with poor Manuel. However, state and local law enforcement officials had different plans for our group, although their ideas and Beth’s sexy thoughts probably had a few striking similarities; both involved handcuffs and the use of some moderate brute force, hard-driving explosions, blood, sweat, and tears… and both involved---
“Manuel de Salazar!” the boys in blue beckoned, bursting into the classroom unannounced. “You are under arrest… You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right…” Manuel was silent, turning to face his accusers with a sigh. As he passed by Beth, he paused, handing her back the case of disks. “I guess I won’t be needing these any more, senorita…” he pouted, closing Beth hands over the case, and staring longingly into her eyes one last time as 2 of the 4 the police officers ushered him outside.
“Trouble with Immigration, Manny?!” I wondered out loud as the Mexican humping bean was escorted out of the room. But, if Manuel was the bad guy, why was the boy in blue coming MY way?!
“We’re going to have to ask you all some questions down-town…” the blue-coat explained in his best MacGarret or Deputy Barney Fife impression, as if he’d been waiting his whole career to use those lines. After a few harried minutes of explanation regarding the suspicious nature of Manuel’s presence on-campus, the officers convinced us to go along with them.
“What’s going on, Opie?!” I questioned the cocky cop as he shoved Manuel gruffly into the passenger side front seat of his car.
“Hey, slick, relax…” the smart cop sassed, “ I’ll ask the questions around here… down town!” I couldn’t believe he called me ‘Slick’… how nice of him to get so personal! OK Danno, I decided… downtown…
“Can we take my car?” Beth asked, noticing the cramped confines of the 2 police cruisers, with Manuel secure in one, with 2 cops behind him, covering him from the back seat of the cruiser, leaving only a single back-seat for the 4 of us students. At the lead officer’s approval, and hasty ushering, we were shuffled from the Science and Computer building lobby to the parking lot. They had no need to haul us all in like criminals, in custody, just for questioning… I could see no need to question any of us for Manuel’s crimes any way, since we had no involvement with the grease-ball outside the Science and Computer Center. Something about this whole encounter was off, bizarre in some way, but I couldn’t quite place it in the rushed moments as things transpired, before the race to the police station was on…
And, a race it was!! I had thought even cops had to obey the speed limits, for the most part, especially when they already had the suspect in custody! I could see bending a few rules for and all-out chase, but the chase was over, they had their man! I could actually see laws being bent to the breaking point though, as we cruised behind the police car into the city. 85 miles and hour, tearing down the residential and campus avenues, weaving back and forth, like Malcolm while jamming to Janie’s Got A Gun. I had to commend Beth for her ability to keep the crazed cop in sight long enough for me to copy down his car number and license plate. In fact, Beth’s Capri might have held together with the cruiser to its destination, if the police car itself had held together to any relevant destination!! Of course, telephone poles have a way of bringing even the most hellacious, hair-raising, high-speed chase to an abrupt and awful end. With a whining screech and a violent eruption of crunching metal, shattering glass, squishing flesh, crushing bones, and the sickly dying moan of the siren, the car chase ended as abruptly as the study session had…
03-10-2007 07:00 PM
“Whoa!” I thought again, diving to the concourse floor as bullets pelted the steel plate in front of me. “If I’m dead, why are they still trying to kill me?!”
OK, I wasn’t dead—yet! And, if I wanted to keep it that way, I knew I had to move! It wouldn’t be long before one or more of the Commie pukes made his way up the bleachers to my exposed and vulnerable position. Quick-decision time: make a break for the parking lot and Malcolm’s Camaro, which I have no idea how to drive, and flee into the night to find some help? Or, hide out inside the 3-level Phy-Ed Center until a better plan comes to mind, or until the Communist terrorist bastages track me down and execute me like the dogs they are?! What would Bruce Willis do?
“He’s an easy guy to like, but he’s a hard man to kill…” the radio announcement proclaimed. “See Bruce Willis in Die Hard, now showing at the Morris Theater, 8 o’clock only… now through Friday, June 2nd…”
Beth was really too shaken up to be driving! I myself wasn’t exactly the picture of calm serenity either, so she drove to the nearest residence to report the horrific accident we had witnessed. We were returning to the scene when the 6 o’clock radio news was previewed:
“More info on the escapees from Sauke Center…” the newscaster prompted. “It looks like storm clouds are moving in around southwest Minnesota tonight, and also around Minnesota Twins pitching ace, Frank Viola as trade talks heat up…and, if you thought you were safe from things like scorpions up here in the heartland, have we got a story for you: militia groups and violent hate-mongers may be targeting your kids for a sting… tune in at 6 and 10 for all the news…”
Amazingly, when we returned to the accident site, the police car was a fireball!
“Gas line must have ruptured…” I surmised, surveying the damage from a distance. Beth could barely contain her emotions once more police and fire and medical officials showed up and started cleaning up and documenting the accident scene, asking us all the questions we should have been asked down at the police station.
Something in Beth just wasn’t prepared to deal with this sort of thing; something about her upbringing in a strict Catholic household, with strict Catholic parents and their strict Catholic laws, banned from watching depravities on television, unable to attend any extra-curricular school or social functions; kept indoors, locked away from the horrors of the real world until her late teenage high-school years. Such a sheltered lifestyle must have really warped Beth’s emotional development somehow. She grew to despise violence and vulgarity, and was hopelessly entranced by the hideous display before us on that day.
So, after taking our piecemeal statements---what we did know wasn’t much!--- we were released from the scene, and Beth just drove around aimlessly. For no real reason, Beth cruised back to campus, circling the grounds countless times, sobbing silently… North, past the Science and Computer Center; East, passing the massive Humanities and Fine Arts Building and the stables; South, past the dreaded softball fields; and West, cruising between Independence Hall and the PE Center. Again, and again, we circled, until I had a thought:
“Whoa!” I gasped monotonously. “And to think I could be wasting all of this time studying for my finals!” After a few long moments, my words seemed to reach Beth in her trance.
“Studying…finals…” were the only words I could make out of Beth’s mumbling, as we completed another lap. Nothing I said could break through her catatonic state. Nothing I did seemed to reach her at all; nothing was getting through to her, nothing would make her stop….
Nothing except the huge throng of students who happened to be crossing the street in front of us just then!! About a hundred or more students were flocking in streams across the road from Indy Hall toward the Phy-Ed Center, as we completed lap #487, like a parade of cattle during round up, or…
“Imholte’s retirement roast…” Beth gasped glumly, finally back into reality, now fully-alert and none-too-happy about it. “Damn!” Beth’s uncharacteristic curse only strengthened my belief that she had been warped by the carnage earlier that afternoon. “I knew there was something else I had to do back on-campus…”
Beth was in the same course as Katy, some Education or Sociology class, and was required to attend the retirement roast of UMM Chancellor John Imholte. I had heard that the Chancellor was a nice enough guy, but I didn’t have any Humanities courses, so I was in no way compelled to attend the affair. Conversely, something in the crowd actually REPELLED me, searing my soul, forcing me to wish I was anywhere else but in that car, on that street at that time…
More accurately, it was ‘someone’ who brought that feeling of disgust and utter hatred into the pit of my stomach, if you consider Angela Williams someone/ The Ice Princess of Indy Hall was approaching Beth’s car, and I was quite sure she wasn’t about to apologize for the torturous acts which Jesse Graham and his goons had subjected me to over the course of the year. As the Bride of Bulkenstein crossed in front of us, I had only 1 thought: “Step on it Beth!”
Fortunately for Angela, I remembered Beth’s fragile mental state, and kept my murderous comments to myself, though the evil grin which parted my lips told all. Again, I was fortunate, that smile would melt away soon enough, as…
“Hey Beth…” Angela squealed. Beth had come to know Angela over the year through the UMM Danceline, of which both girls were members. Angie, in fact, was the leader of the Line, and had come up with the inspired name for the group. ‘The Cougarettes’ danced, if you can call it that, at most-every half-time of any sporting event attended by the UMM Cougar sports teams.
Normally, one might consider the act of watching dozens of scantily-clad beauties bouncing and bobbing, bending, twisting and turning, high-kicking and cart-wheeling around the arena to be an inspiring and uplifting experience. Such was not the case with the Cougarettes. Most of the girls on the squad were at least 15 to 20 pounds overweight, and these were college girls, not teens still losing their ‘baby-fat’ and a few, like Angela, were downright obese! Farm-fed, big-boned, healthy Norse Midwestern girls, everyone of them; none but Beth were all that much to look at either, scantily-clad or not! In fact, most of them looked best when covered from head to toe in their maroon-and-gold workout sweat suits rather than in the tight-fitting, black spandex and tights they called dance uniforms. It was rumored around campus that the combined weight of the 15 girl squad was at least equal too---if not, in fact greater than--- the combined weight of the entire 38-man football team and 15-man wrestling squad combined! That tubby tidbit led the jocks, for whom the gals danced in support, to dub the Danceline ‘The Thundering Herd,’ and Angela was the Bell Cow, the Leader of the Pork, and she was blocking out the sun right before my eyes!!
“The girls and I are getting together after the roast…” Angie mooed in her manly monotone. “Will you be able to make it?” Beth managed a weak half-nod, though she was plainly not quite coherent. Still the Hungry Heifer droned on. “Oh, yeah… I heard something about that accident of yours on the news…” Angela seemed almost interested for a moment, then, “Oh OK… see you later then! And bring your book-bag! I’d like to compare notes for the Spanish test tomorrow… OK… See ya!” then, the clouds lifted, and the sun came back into my life, as Angela stepped away from the car.
“**bleep**!” Beth cursed twice in 5 minutes, looking around the car in curious confusion. Before realizing, “I forgot my book-bag in the Computer Lab!” I hadn’t heard Beth curse so frequently before; then again, she hadn’t said much of anything the last half-hour or so, so this WAS an improvement! If I didn’t hate Angela so much, I would have been reminded to thank her later for snapping Beth back to the land of the living. Yes, things were almost back to normal there as we cruised West down 2nd Street toward the Science and Computer Center. All Beth had to do was find her book-bag and we could return home for a boring night of studying. In time, we’d forget all about the excitement of the afternoon, and would avoid anything resembling excitement for the rest of that evening, saving myself for the glorious date come the following day… if only it was that easy…
03-10-2007 07:02 PM
“---I had a better car! That’s what I need!” Beth was babbling again. “Slick, do you want my car? I’m thinking of buying a new one.” Out of the blue, this query came.
“Uhhh, gee Beth…” I stuttered, unsure whether she was serious or simply seriously deranged. “I’m not sure… I’ll have to think it over.”
“Come on, Slick!” Beth pressed, “You’ll need the wheels if you and Katy hit it off!” she had obviously picked up more than just the good cuss words from Malcolm, using some twisted sort of Psychology on me like that.
Meeting Malcolm was probably one thing that kept her grounded after seeing that carnage earlier. Malcolm had changed Beth’s life in more ways than he had ever changed mine, turning her from a shut-in bookworm scholar babe, to a wild party-animal sexy babe in the course of 1 year away at college. Still, there were 18 years of programming to penetrate, so Beth was still locked in the grip of her strict upbringing. Sure, she could slam back a brew with the best of us, and could even manage to sit through a few hours of bloody massacres during horror movie marathon weekend; she WAS able to separate the made-up and phony world on TV and movies from the real world. But, nothing could have prepared Beth for the day those 2 worlds came crashing together, bringing her face-to-face with such a magnificently violent display as the crash which claimed Manuel de Salazar and the wise-guy police sergeant. Once again, those childhood feelings of fear and confusion, of containment and isolation, engulfed Beth, as the flames engulfed the squad car. Something inside Beth’s mind changed that day, and the question now was: would things ever be the same, and ‘normal’, for her again?
“Sure…” I answered nonchalantly, trying to return some sense of normalcy to Beth’s world. “I’ll pick up the payments next month, OK?” Beth nodded as we entered the West Campus Parking Lot, which was just south of the Computer Center in the Sciences Building. Woo hoo! I had my own car!! Malcolm would be helpless and penniless now that I wouldn’t have to rely so completely on him and his Camaro--- and his exorbitant fees!--- any more! Free at last, free at last!!
I couldn’t think of Malcolm, wouldn’t let him ruin this moment; I had my own car, just in time for my date with Katy! In just 24 hours, I would be starting a whole new life, with a lovely lady at my side, in my new, used car, with not a care in the world. All I had to do was get home, relax, study awhile before bed, sleep, dream of Katy and our wonderful future, and when I would wake, that future would be mine… all I had to do was just live through the night…
Yeah right! I had about as much chance of surviving this night as Specialists Carlson and Andrews had of becoming Sergeants! No good, no way, no how…
“No hay sena de ellos aqui…” the dark-skinned, dark-haired death-machine droned into his bulky olive-green military radio. “Siguen moviendo un momento, Manuel…” Manuel? How many of them can there be on this campus?! Mexican mothers have no imagination! And, what was with all this Spanish?! I didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but I did know enough to know it was Spanish he was speaking… I KNEW I should have taken a second language!!
“Nada, Raoul…” crackled the response, “Whoever that was, he aint here no mo, bro!” THAT was English, even with that harsh Hispanic accent and the crackling of static over the radio, I understood that. Manuel and Raoul, the brothers grim. Who the Hell were these guys? I had to know more!
From my position, I could easily see Raoul, though he could not so easily see me. I just had to wait and watch as he completed what I hoped would be a haphazard search. It was a rather large public bathroom, built to accommodate the masses of sports stars and event enthusiasts who would frequent the gym; I took refuge there because it was the closest door to crawl to, not to mention that the gravity of the situation as I dangled from the girder had put some extra pressure on my bladder… I had to go, but I had to GO, so I had to make the pit stop before I left the building! The forces of nature are even more powerful than the evils at work in the gym, after all!
Raoul was fuming with bravado as he kicked open each of the 4 doors to the individual stalls lining one wall. He grunted in disgusted dissatisfaction when each stall turned up empty, even unleashing an impatient burst of fire from his M-16 into the last of the doors in a futile attempt to catch me inside. After all, where else could I hide in the Mens’ Room? In disbelief and dismay over coming up empty once again, or perhaps, in hopes of getting lucky in his search, Raoul shredded the ceiling tiles overhead with the remainder of the 30-round banana clip.
“Raoul!!” came a tense cry from outside the bathroom door, followed by some equally exasperated, unintelligible gibberish from the large radio.
“Nothing!” Raoul reassured. “Un momento… I’ll be right out.” An approving grunt over the radio and the stomp on receding footsteps would be the last sounds Raoul would eve hear, if I had anything to say about it!
“Just you and me, big guy…” I began yet another conversation with myself as Raoul cooled down.
“Mano-e-mano… now, just set down the rifle…” I coaxed subconsciously. Raoul responded, unslinging the weapon from his shoulder, laying it across 2 of the sinks against the wall opposite the stalls. After a deep, cleansing breath and a dissatisfied stare in the mirror, Raoul turned on a faucet and proceeded to splash a few handfuls of water across his brown brow. He scooped water again and doused his sweat-soaked, tattoo-tainted neck. Then, he was right where I wanted him…
As the unwary wetback reached for a paper towel from the dispenser above the trash barrel, I attacked. With as much force as I could muster, I leaped up from within that dome-lidded barrel, sending the heavy dome upward from its position over the barrel. The lip of the lid caught Raoul under his chin, and the startled soldier stumbled back. Raoul collapsed to the tiles, his moans drowned out by the clattering crash as the dome completed its upward arc and crashed down over the hurt Hispanic’s head!
“Perfect fit!” I remarked, describing both my hiding place and the dome’s final resting place, over the trash in the middle of the bathroom floor. That somewhat softened -CLANG!- as the lid clattered over Raoul’s head to the floor wouldn’t go unchecked by Raoul’s companions for long, especially not once Raoul failed to report in, I decided. I shouldn’t linger too long in the bath-latrine, I should get out of there as quick as possible! But, not without some finding relief, first from my tight and throbbing bladder, then from the confines of these suffocating clothes, and finally from this nightmarish prison of a gymnasium…
After taking a moment to shake the piss out of myself, I stepped back to Raoul. A quick frisk of his fallen form turned up a few items which could prove useful to me: a gaudy green cloth bandoleer loaded with 6 hopefully fully-loaded 30-round banana magazines of 5.56 ball ammunition; 2 pineapple-shaped fragmentation grenades; the portable, though bulky military-style radio; and a rather light, mostly empty backpack. In his wallet, along with $35 cold hard American cash (not pesos, surprisingly) I found his Illinois-issued drivers license; Raoul Sanchez Ortega…
If this guy wasn’t an American Communist terrorist bastard, he was trying very hard to look like one! I took everything he had, including the $35 from his wallet, and the rifle from the sink, taking no extra time to give Raoul’s medical condition any further check before I bolted. Beneath the domed-lid, the scorpion-shaped tattoo on his neck seemed to throb with the beat of his heart, though I was quite shaken myself and couldn’t be certain if my perception was accurate. He was unmoving, and would not be able to follow me or track me, or even know it was me that hit him, which was all I needed to know. Still…
What if I killed him? I would be branded a murderer, no better than these Communist terrorist scum… I was becoming one of them! Maybe not… no time to check one way or the other I decided, not knowing that only about a minute had passed since Raoul’s last radio report; it seemed like an eternity had gone by since I’d made that leap of faith from the girder… and now, the future lay before me, as uncertain and dark as ever. Quickly I slung the backpack over my shoulder, hanging the bandoleer across my chest over the other shoulder, clipped the radio on my waist band and the grenades in my 2 front belt loops, scooped up the rifle in my hands, and I was gone…
03-24-2007 10:43 PM
Without even a goodbye, Beth sighed, stepping from ‘my car’, which I then took control of, sliding into the vacant driver’s seat. Beth was going to be on campus for awhile, having to first track down her book-bag then make her way to the gym for Chancellor Imholte’s retirement roast, so she let me take the car home. She really needed some fresh air anyway; the walk home in the cool night would do her good. Unless it rained, which judging by the dreary overcast skies was a distinct possibility. Oh well, if it rained…
“I’ll be back…” I promised in my best Schwartzenegger imitation. Not even my pathetic attempt at impersonation could crack Beth’s somber expression, I noticed sadly. Beth tried to put on her best poker face, like she wasn’t bothered at all, but it was a weak effort, and I saw through it. I wished there was something I could do for her, but I had more pressing concerns; my date with Katy was drawing ever closer, and I found myself becoming more and more nervous. I had to get home and get set for the big day. Studying, then the final Final, the date with Katy, then the trip back to Camp Ripley. Of course, even the best laid plans of mice and men, do sometimes go astray. Go astray?! Astray, as in a trip to Hardees or Taco John’s for the munchies is ONE thing! But, to a war-zone overrun by who-knows-how-many blood-thirsty Communist crazies?! No one should be asked to go that far off the map of sanity!!
Unfortunately, Fate had dealt me a bum hand; and, to continue the metaphor, when the chips were down and all the cards had been dealt, I had to Call, even if I was only bluffing. The cards had been stacked against me from the start…
K..T... S… D… 1… 4… U…
What kind of Poker hand was that?! The jackpot hand, when the holder is a group of Cuban/Mexican/Russian/American terrorists bent on world domination! Fortunately, that prophetic hand which had been dealt was also my Ace in the Hole:
“Katy is the one for me!” I kept reminding myself, recalling the ID plate on the deuce-n-a-half.
“…to repeat KTS-D14U…” the radio announcer in my car repeated as I cruised the 2 blocks toward home. But, how did he know about Katy, or the truck, or any of this?! I listened more intently. “If you have any information as to the whereabouts of the military transport vehicle bearing those markings, please contact the Sauke Center Police Department or your local law enforcement agency, or call 1-800-CRIME-USA… Federal agents are on the scene to handle your calls, and are ready to respond. The individuals involved in the high-jacking of the truck reportedly commandeered the vehicle in the early morning hours, after holding up and hiding out in a Sauke Center motel just a few blocks away from the Correctional Facility. Initial reports contend that these men may in fact be a part of an extremist militant group, new to the area, though their intentions are unknown at this time…These men are to be considered armed and extremely dangerous, and should not be approached under any circumstances… K-Q News will keep you up to date, as always, as the story develops…”
OK, hold on a second! Something very strange was happening all around me, and I was just starting to piece it all together and figure out what it was!
“What it is, Slickster!?” Teddy Henderson greeted as I bolted into the house in a huff. “Como es ta?”
“No thanks, I already ate…” I blurted reflexively in response to Teddy’s query. Teddy knew I didn’t speak much Spanish, but even I knew he was asking me how I was feeling. My retort slipped out off-the-cuff; it was a running gag around the house for everyone. Every couple of days, Teddy would bring some new Spanish phrase home from his second-language studies, and Malcolm and I would respond with whatever came into our minds, whether the response fit the question and made sense to anyone or not---most times not! And, Teddy would always laugh his deep, hiccuping cackle of mirth, sounding like an ancient hand-cranked Model-T engine as it hiccuped and coughed noisily to life. Annoying to a point, even on a good day; but I was in no mood for any further annoyances that day!!
I was hoping to find Malcolm at home, hoping he had seen or heard the news reports, or at least could verify my recounting of the ID tag from the 2.5-tom truck, so my feelings of woe could be justified. That a vehicle from our National Guard armory might have been involved in some kind of escape attempt from an asylum was certainly enough to cause me some woe, if it turned out the reports were true. Malcolm could help me sort through all this garbage logically, and together we could figure this whole mess out. If only I knew…
“Where the Hell is Malcolm, dammit!” I snapped, and Teddy did a double-take, sobering up immediately. His disheartened shrug and shaking head answered the question before his mouth could; he didn’t know where Malcolm was.
“He might have a Final or something… Maybe he’s with Beth?” Teddy offered a few options, still set aback by my impatient tone. “I’m on my way to the gym to work out, I’ll look around for him there… Relax, Slick.”
Relax, he says, as if I could! So far that weekend, I had dealt with a cocky cadet and a lopsided low-crawl race, Malcolm’s insane isolation and antics at the armory involving the mysterious box of Bud suds, a oddly prophetic ID plate, a simply complicated English Final, the perplexing punch-line dilemma, the Showdown at the Science and Computer Center, Manuel’s arrest and subsequent trial by fire, continuing reports of mental defectives escaping from the correctional facility, which tie-in with the ID plated vehicle, leading me back in a weak attempt at circular-reasoning to Malcolm and the armory… Malcolm’s Z-28 was parked in the driveway, so Malcolm HAD to be home; he’d no sooner walk to campus--- even to be with Beth--- than run to work! Then again, he had been acting strangely all weekend… Hmmmm…
Not convinced of Malcolm’s absence, I breezed past Teddy and checked the house myself, summoning Malcolm with my screams as much as with my mind, hoping some brotherly psychic insight would lead me to him and resolve this ever-expanding mystery. To no avail, I searched the house; Malcolm was not at home! Gone on some important adventure no doubt, renting videos or games in town, or out to dinner at one of the local fast-food hang-outs… or involved in the high-jacking of military vehicles and equipment for some insidious plot against Americana!! Malcolm a terrorist?? On so many levels, that idea didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility! Still, he was my brother before he became a terrorist, and he deserved the benefit of my doubts.
“He must have a final or something…” Teddy’s words echoed in my head as I passed back through the living room, trying in vain to shake the ringing from my ears. Except, the ringing wasn’t coming from inside my head; it was coming from the television! Whew! Almost thought I was going out of my mind there, for a second! Almost time to call---
“The Fergus Falls Facility for the Mentally Disturbed or some related institution, most likely…” the newscaster seemed to suggest my next place of residence. Uh oh… it was considered only slightly abnormal to yell at the TV while watching one’s favorite sporting event, or, in some cases on-campus, a favorite soap opera; unfortunately, when the TV starts talking back, it’s most likely time to seek professional help…
“… the call for help was issued by Richard King, a student at the University of Minnesota, Morris, this afternoon…” the news story continued as images flashed on the screen of the accident site where Manuel and the cocky cop had been immolated earlier. “…no bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, though both law enforcement officers are believed to be dead…”
“Alright, Slickster!!” my colossal Chippewa companion clapped me on the back. “You saw THAT?! Whoa!!” Again, I was essentially ignoring Teddy’s hoots, lost amidst my own twisted thoughts.
The report had placed just 2 cops in that car, but I had seen Manuel and the driver in front, and 2 other officers in the back seat, as the car left and the chase began! Some sort of twisted cover-up was going on, which made sense following such an out-of-place accident. The whole thing would catch a little press locally, until some bigger disaster in a bigger metropolis shifted the focus of the pablum-pukers. And, in no time, no one would even remember the accident in Morris, or the cover-up or the name of the bystander who made the rescue call.
03-24-2007 10:45 PM
“A group calling themselves the Scorpions has made their presence known here in the heartland, with SCORPION chapters cropping up in Des Moines, Sioux Falls, Grand Forks, and now closer to home, in Minnesota metro areas such as Minneapolis and Duluth. Hate-groups and attention-grabbing groups such as these Scorpions are usually peaceful, but sometimes prone to violent acting out, in order to get their message of hate heard by the masses… Media in general tend to down-play such acts of aggression, but the phenomenon is finding a following here in our homes, and it must be brought to your attention, and so we shift focus tonight to bring this story to you… SCORPION is an acronym…”
Just like that, the focus was shifted, from me the great grand hero of the heartland, to hateful, hurtful sociopaths and their vigilantism. So, why was I so flustered? There was nothing to worry about. Manuel was dead, Malcolm was out to dinner or with Beth, who was on-campus at the retirement roast; I had probably misread the 2.5-ton truck ID tag, due to Katy-On-The-Brain, which was obvious during my English final. Everything was normal in the little college town, I tried to convince myself. I should have turned my attentions to making preparations for my date with Katy. That little fantasy was definitely about to become a reality, and deserved my complete undivided attention, not like the dramas I had been creating in my mind since hearing of the escapees, the crazy car accident, my missing brother, and the mystery of the missing deuce-n-a-half. OK, everything was settled, and I wanted to get back to concentrating on my final Final, and my date with Katy; still, I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling that something huge was about to happen, and it involved the Morris National Guard--- or at the very least, a stolen 2.5-ton truck from our unit, a truck I had seen earlier that morning parked in the armory parking lot!
I found myself wondering if I should have stayed at Camp Ripley, enjoying the opening weekend festivities I had heard so much about. The Alpha Bearcats of the ‘Old Guard’ were party animals all of them; back in the day, things were far more lax around the ‘Weekend Warrior’ camps. 4 to 6 hours of training 12 to 20 hours of partying, that was the norm back in the Good Old Days. Even though all that fun had been abolished by a ‘restructuring’ of the basic principals on which the National Guard was based a few years back, the opening or closing weekend of Annual Training was always a step back in time to those good old days…
The crack-down on the National Guard--- or at least, on Alpha Company, 1st Battalion of the 136th Infantry Brigade--- happened just about 1 year ago, mere months before I joined the unit in Morris. As the legend goes, Alpha Company was at Camp Ripley, enjoying the usual festival atmosphere ‘on-the-job’ and everyone was having the time of their lives! Back then, the Company First Sergeant, the highest ranking NCO and the ‘leader’ of the grunts, was a burly Norseman named Vern Walters.
First Sergeant Walters had become quite relaxed in his position as Top Dog of the A-Company Bearcats, after 13 hard-served years of devotion to the Guard. In fact, Walters had held the position so long, he was affectionately known as ‘Top’ by all his troops. So relaxed was Top in fact, that he often allowed his fellow grunts to indulge in the variety of alcoholic beverages available, so long as the training schedule allowed for the down-time following such indulgence. Normally, Top himself was a coffee-achiever, avoiding alcohol in any form, and frowning on the over-zealous consumption by his troops; he liked to think of the Bearcats as a finely honed machine under his guidance, and thought they deserved the respect of lenience he offered his men. Then, that night at Annual Training, something inside the old man finally snapped, or so the story goes…
“Hey Topper!” Justin Carlson cheered, summoning the good First Sergeant.
“What’s yer poison?” Justin happened to be keg master at the time First Sergeant Walters appeared in the contonement area, so the story of that night was passed down in typical Carlson style; the underlying truth shrouded in glorious hyperbole and exaggeration.
“Whaddya got there, Jas?” Top slurred, apparently already quite under the influence. The old-timer’s pear-shaped proboscis glowed bright red, as red as the tint of his eyes, his thick red mustache twisting up and around that nose in a sour scowl as he scanned the selection of brew.
“Budweiser?! YUCK!!” his scowl quickly shifted from disgust to desperation, and he thrust forth his Styrofoam cup and belched. “Ahh, Hell! Gimee a shot of that **bleep**, Carlson…”
And so began what would some to be known as First Sergeant Walters’s retirement party, though at the time, nobody knew it. Not even Vern Walters himself could have anticipated the full affect that the liquor which he would imbibe would be. Only after a second shot of Budweiser, and a third and a fourth would things begin to get out of hand… WAY out of hand in fact! For awhile though, everything remained relatively calm, with all of Alpha Company engaged in either meaningless, pointlessly loud conversation and shenanigans, or in some variation of every Bearcat’s favorite Poker game, Buck Euchre…
In the game of Poker, one of the most insignificant cards is the 2, the deuce. Normally, I would consider a hand without a deuce in it to be a potentially decent hand. Then, why, when the cards were dealt and the chips were down in the Game of Life, was I so upset over the fact that the deuce was missing from this equation?! I couldn’t get the 2.5-ton truck out of my thoughts! It’s prophetic ID plate kept calling to me ominously… KTS-D14U…
KTS-D14U… I had to know if that truck was indeed the truck mentioned on the news! Maybe, by finding the truck, I’d be lucky enough to also track down Malcolm. Maybe good old Special-Corporal Quisberg had summoned Malcolm and Justin back to the armory for 1 final deed, to refuel the truck or something, before Quizzy returned to Camp Ripley. Maybe Justin and Charley had come over to the house in Charley’s car, when Quizzy called on them, so they took Charley’s station wagon to the armory, hoping to load up the beast with beer for the party that was sure to follow Finals…
Of course! That would explain everything—well, almost everything. At least it would explain why Malcolm was gone while his Camaro was still in the parking lot out front of our house! Oh well, Malcolm or no Malcolm, I would get no studying done for my Final until I was certain that the mystery deuce was not the one at the armory…
Upon arriving at the armory in ‘my new car’ I was miffed, and the mystery was magnified many-fold. Nowhere in the parking lot were either of the 2 massive tarp-topped green-and-brown camouflaged 2.5-ton trucks. Where the heck were they? And where was Corporal Quisberg?!
Quisberg was supposed to return the truck to the armory, reload, refuel, and return to Camp Ripley, right? Malcolm and Justin had reloaded the truck themselves, and I had helped! Even if Quisberg had already returned to Ripley, there should still have been one deuce left in the lot. Logic would seem to dictate that Quisberg would have had us load the other deuce, not the mystically marked truck. I had seen Justin dismounting from the KTS-D14U truck, assuming that he had been a passenger in that truck at some point, most probably during the return trip from Ripley. Why would Quisberg waste time and energy reloading then refueling the KTS-D14U truck when he could simply load up and utilize the fully-fueled left-over truck? Then again, this was Special-Corporal Quisberg we were talking about! That nickname was starting to fit poor Quizzy better and better! Still, there should have been one 2.5-ton truck somewhere on the lot at the armory, where instead there were none. Except for a few automobiles belonging to a few of the soldiers who hadn’t driven themselves to camp Ripley, the entire parking lot was empty…
03-24-2007 10:48 PM
“OK! Just hold on for one minute here!” the ranting police sergeant gasped. “Get an APB out on an olive-green 2.5-ton military transport truck, identification number… What was that number again, kid?” his expression appeared more exasperated and confused rather than concern. Between the local and state troopers, and the newly arrived Feds, I was on the verge of a break-down myself, since NONE of the law enforcement officials were listening to my tale!
“WAIT!” I cried desperately, trying to get them all on the same page once again. “The truck is not missing!” I could sense the next line coming a mile off…
“Huh?” the dogged detective yawned, canceling the All-Points Bulletin ha hadn’t even issued yet.
“I was as confused as you are, Sir…” I admitted. “Until it hit me…”
-SLAM!- The bulky steel door to the armory swung shut behind me. If the deuce wasn’t dealt yet, I assumed it would still be stacked somewhere in the deck--- inside the armory loading bay! And, since my bigger, logic-minded brother was nowhere to be found, I had to take a more hands-on approach to solving the mystery of the mystically marked military machine.
With a glimmer of hope lighting my way, and the luck of the draw hopefully in my favor, I called Fate’s bluff and decided to Go-Fish for the all-elusive olive-drab deuce. I had no idea that, in less time than it took for the door to close behind me, I would hit a snag. I was reeling in my line, to continue the analogy, searching the darkened bay with cautious curiosity, when…
“Slam!” Sergeant Jesse Graham hooted drunkenly, leering confidently from behind what must have been an excellent hand--- or and equally excellent bluff! In the game of Buck Euchre, a pair of 2-man teams faced off, trying to earn points. Each game ran to either 50, 100, or 200 points, as decided upon by the teams prior to play. Euchre is played with only 20 cards: the A, K, Q, J, and 10 of each suit, with Jacks ranking above Kings in point value, for some strange Poker reason. The teams would make bids on their respective hands, against those of their opponents, and would call a Trump suit--- generally, the suit which they held the most of, and could thereby collect the most points in. Each bid was equal to the number of tricks the bidder thought he and his partner could take in, from 1 to 5; each point bid is worth 10 points, making each round worth a total of 30 points to start.
Normally, the teammates would not bid directly against one-another, counting upon one another to keep the bidding as low as possible. The winning partner was always hopeful that his partner could be counted upon for at least one trick, but the partners would not usually wish to push their luck by bidding against each other. In that way, the game was really a team-sport, with each pair of players dependent on each other. However, if one player thought he could take every trick with the cards in his hand, with no help from his partner--- or, if he wanted to bluff his opponents into giving up--- he could risk it all, and call a ‘Slam’ hand. In the case of the Slam hand, the Slammer’s partner would withdraw from play for the round, while the Slammer played out his cards against the opposing team. If the Slammer hand succeeded, the winning team earned a whopping 48 points!
Without knowing any of the optional intricacies of the game, one might have been easily confused by the simplicity of the game. In fact, a true Slam hand was very difficult to orchestrate properly, most often resulting in the Slammer coming up just 1 card short in his quest for a quick, painless end to the game. But, Jesse Graham was a master of Euchre, and at the Slam-hand conversion, and he had soon become quite renowned—and quite rich—as a result of his skill. As the name suggested, Buck Euchre Poker was played for money, dollars, for bucks! Each hand cost each player a one-dollar ante, the pot going to the winning team at the end of the night. On those occasions wherein a game of Buck Euchre was begun after a night of hard partying and heavy drinking, the stakes would often be increased to a buck a point, rather than a buck a hand!
All to the joy of Jesse Graham, who would often leave each guard drill with a hefty supplement to his government pay check!
“Gotta have some hefty funds to please Angie…” Jesse would hoot, following each enriching game. “My Queen of Hearts! Oooooh, baby!” Jesse and his blind lust to the Fat, Hairy Bitch; I’d never understand it. Such is love, I guess…
On that particular night during the 1989 Annual Training party, Sergeant Graham and his faithful Buck Euchre partner Specialist Justin Carlson, were in the process of cleaning house on 2 of the higher-ranking troops.
“Buck Euchre’s the game, boys and gals…” Jesse’s usual line ran, “Buck a hand to start… The longer you sit, the richer we git! HA!” The crowded corrugated tin hut howled with laughter of 20 or more drunken soldiers, all potential victims to the Slam Master and his partner. Most of the troops had fallen to Sgt. Graham and Spec. Carlson throughout the years, so most were wary of the con. But, after nearly an hour of coaxing and 6 more beers apiece, the challenge was accepted.
“AH!” Jesse smiled insanely as the con took hold. “New blood…fresh meat… green horns…”
“Don’t lissssen to ‘im, Cadidiot…” First Sergeant Walters slurred, tugging his reluctant partner to the table clumsily.
“No problem…” Sorenson smirked confidently, tossing back the last of his 8th cup of Bud, belching.
“I bet we take these boys down in four… no three hands tops, Top!”
“Well…” Jesse piped up soberly, “Money talks and bull**bleep** walks! Ante up, gents, and let’s get it on!” The smirk was gone from Jesse’s face then, and the game was underway.
3 hours and 39 hands later, the ‘Buck Bowl’ series was all tied at 4 games apiece. The pot had climbed to a staggering level: $148 at stake, winner take all. Initially, the series was set up as the best out of 3 games; but, as the excitement level rose--- in direct proportion to the rate of alcohol consumption, of course--- the series was extended. 3 out of 5, 4 out of 7, and finally, 5 out of 9 games. Since they had easily dominated the first three games, it was assumed by everyone on hand that Jesse and Justin were most likely thickening the pot, urging the competition to lengthen the series. Or, perhaps, as the night wore on, Cadet Sorenson and First Sergeant Walters grew accustomed to the game’s many subtle nuances. Most likely though, was the probability that Sergeant Graham and Specialist Carlson had been worn down by their over-zealous consumption of suds, and as time wore on they were crashing. Whatever the case, the Greenhorns bounced back and even the score, and the series dragged on…
Unfortunately, as so often happens--- whether it be on a softball diamond, or over a crowded gymnasium, or in a dark and dreary loading bay of a National Guard armory--- Fate stepped in and really made a mess of things!
-SLAM!- The basic theme of this section of my tale continued to play itself out. As I scanned the dim loading bay of the armory, I hit the jackpot! Unfortunately, moments later, some crack-pot hit me! From behind, with a 2x4, across my shoulder blades no less! The forceful blow sent ripples of pain through my already aching body, driving me forward. Gracelessly, I stumbled, reaching out in desperation, hoping to find something on which to cling to break my fall. The very target of my search became my savior, as I rambled into the side of the lost deuce-and-a-half. Well, the answer to one question brought up half-a-dozen others: Who was this mystery assailant? And, why was he assaulting me? And would more mutilation follow?
“Die bastage!!” the shadowy assailant answered one of my unspoken questions, and his warning allowed me to anticipate the coming attack. Swiftly, I ducked beneath the deuce to avoid the blow.
SLAM! -CRACK!- the board shattered to splinters against the steel side of the truck, much to my relief. From my new somewhat safer position beneath the 2.5-tonner, I was given a reprieve and a new perspective on my assailant and the whole situation.
“Trying to sneak up on me, huh bastage?” I thought slyly, tucking myself further beneath the truck, planning to slip around the far side and surprise--- Surprise suddenly struck me, as I rethought my curse against my attacker. Bastage… Bastage?!
03-24-2007 10:50 PM
“Malcolm?” I guessed aloud, watching as the unknown pair of legs, attached to a bigger, stronger, unknown assailant, approached my location and stopped, faltered by my call.
“Slick?!” he answered, crouching and peering beneath the deuce, squinting through the haze, trying to place my well-hidden form. “I thought you were---“ he didn’t finish his thought, before he was struck by a more pressing question. “What the **bleep** are you doing here, huh?” Thought I was who??
“Good question, big brother!” I answered, pulling myself from under the truck as Malcolm fished a pen-light from his pocket and shined its beam directly into my face. “What’s YOUR answer?!” I wasn’t really interested in Malcolm’s response at the time; he was obviously involved in this situation somehow, why else was he here in the armory? I just wanted to know how deep his involvement went, and if the trickled-down theory was going to bring a 2.5-ton load of trouble down around MY ears! Was this deuce really the truck I’d heard about on the news earlier? KTS-D14U… I had to find out, had to shed some light on this whole damn mess… I had to have Malcolm’s pen light!
“Hey!” Malcolm cried as I pulled his toy from his hand.
K…T… L… G… 8… 3… R…
Huh? I know I came to the armory specifically to make sure that I had misread the ID plate to begin with; and I could now officially start to forget any wacky story I had concocted about crazed escapees and a missing military truck, once and for all. But, there’s no way I couldn’t have misread the number THAT much! Not even a blind dyslexic could have screwed up that bad! No… somebody--- Malcolm?!--- must have changed the plates or something! There was probably a second plate, the REAL plate still in place just beneath the fake tag! I need a screwdriver!
“You’ve got a screw loose all right, Slickster!” Malcolm cried, “But a screwdriver won’t help!” It made sense that Malcolm might try to defuse the situation, to distract me from my investigation, but I wasn’t falling for his game this time… no Sir, no chance….
“NO WAY!” First Sergeant Walters raged at Sergeant Graham’s bid. Under strong protests and denials from Top, Sergeant Graham eloquently ran the Slam Hand, winning the game, set, match, and tournament… and the $148 in the pot!
“ONE MORE HAND!!” Top cried again, as he had cried in between most every losing hand. Something was happening to Sergeant Walters, something nobody had ever seen before.
As Sergeant Graham reached across the table and collected his portion of the winnings, his gaze met Walters’s. In a gesture of good faith, Jesse extended his hand to Top, smiling slyly. While locked in the stone-sober stare-down with his cock-sure compatriot, something behind Sergeant Walters’s eyeballs burst, flooding his head with thoughts of anger and vengeance. From beneath the table, Vern Walters raised his hand, in which he held a 45-caliber pistol!
“ONE… MORE… HAND…” Walters hissed, charging the weapon, chambering a round, and bearing down on Jesse’s forehead at point-blank range. At the sharp click and shutter as the round was locked into place, an eerie silence fell across all who were within the over-crowded cabin.
“Top…” Cadet Sorenson spoke up quietly. “Vern… What are you doing? Put the gun away…”
“Eat it, Cadidiot!” First Sergeant Walters shifted the gun’s aim from Sergeant Graham to Cadet Sorenson. “If you knew one damn thing about thissssss **bleep**ing game, I wouldn’t be out any money tonight, you sss**bleep**!” Top slurred his words badly, wavering slightly in his aim.
“C’mon Vern-O!” Carlson cracked in his drunken daze, blissfully unaware of the very-real danger First Sergeant Walters now represented. “It’s just a game, man!”
“Right Top…” Jesse Graham joined Justin’s down-play of the situation, continuing to collect his cash. “It’s just a game… I won… YOU lost!” he tapped the wad of bills into a pile as Walters resumed his aim on Jesse’s nose. Brazenly, Jesse raised the wad of bills, and swiped sideways against Walters’s hand, tapping the gun’s aim away from his nose, once again cracking that cocky smirk.
It was that smirk which drove First Sergeant Walters over the edge, more than the actual act of defiance itself. In a blinding, vengeful rage, Sergeant Walters pulled the trigger…
The gunshot shook the tin hut, deafening the startled occupants, including Top himself. Walters dropped the gun, and began to shake, sobbing suddenly, in shock. No one had really expected the gun to be loaded, not even Top himself, it seemed; it was all just a drunken game gotten out of hand… too far out of hand to ever be rationally explained. Fortunately, the bullet merely careened harmlessly through the tin wall of the hut, and no one was injured. Not physically, not by the bullet anyway. Still, First Sergeant Walters had just signed his discharge papers in lead and gun powder. So ended the career of a 13-year National Guard veteran. Turn out the lights, the party’s over….
“What are you doing here, in the dark, any way?!” I repeated Malcolm’s earlier question, struggling to climb into the back of the deuce, still in search of a screwdriver.
“I found this paperwork stuck to the bottom of Justin’s cooler…” Malcolm explained. “It looked important, so I brought it back here for Quizzy, but I guess I just missed him…” he was waving a bundle of ‘important paperwork’ at me as I scanned the cargo bay of the truck then turned back to Malcolm. “I had thought I spotted him driving the deuce to gas up at Food’n’Fuel as I pulled up… I was on my way out, when I heard you pull in, and I thought…”
“OK, OK!” I huffed, more upset over not finding a screwdriver than I was over Malcolm’s apparently well-thought-out excuse. So, he thought I was a burglar, breaking into the armory to steal… what? The coins from the soda machine, or perhaps, some weapons or something from the Arms Room? I guess it made sense. Corporal Quisberg was probably safely on his way back to Camp Ripley with the second deuce-load of supplies.
“The second deuce…” I mused, rechecking the empty truck bed one last time. The second load of supplies, the weapons and ammunition for Alpha Company, was loaded and gone. We must have loaded the KTS-D14U deuce earlier and I just didn’t notice it. Both trucks were sitting in the lot side by side earlier; and that would explain why Malcolm had seen the truck heading to fuel up. So, what was the problem? What was left to figure out? Oh, yeah… what the hell was Malcolm doing here?! And, what was the deal with that mysterious paperwork? Hmmmm…
“Let me see that!” I demanded, leaping from the truck and back into Malcolm’s face, grabbing the paperwork from his mitts. The scrawled gibberish on each sheet was identical, carbon copies of the sheet I had acquired earlier: “…1 45cp… 5AR15… 7 9mm (5u2p)… 50 20Rmag…” The lists were the same, but what did it all mean? And, why should I care? And…
“What’s this?! I noticed, flipping past the triplicate carbon copies, to the last page of the bundle: a semi-detailed map of a familiar place--- the University of Minnesota campus, right here in Morris!!
“Let me see that!” Malcolm echoed my demand, grabbing back the bundle as forcefully as I had taken it from him, and pulling it from my grasp. In his haste, Malcolm tore the sheets from my hand, leaving me holding not but a small corner of the page with the map on it. Not much to go on, but it was more than I had a few minutes ago.
My section was the piece that depicted the north-east corner of campus, including the on-campus apartments, the softball diamond the Social Sciences building, and Behmler Hall, the main administrative office building. Behmler Hall stood out on the page, the only building marked by a large red X, which added yet another layer to this whole sordid mystery…
(INSERT MAP ILLUSTRATION HERE)
Again, not much to go on, but I did have Malcolm right here, finally in front of me, to get to the bottom of this.
“OK, bastage!” I shouted, clutching my big brother by his collar with my strong right arm, spinning and pinning him against the deuce-and-a-half. “What the Hell is going on? Did you help those escapees escape from Sauke or what?!”
“NO!” Malcolm denied. “What---“
“Bull!” I saw through him like a wet paper bag… like a cheap suit, I mean--- you know what I mean! I was so flustered, I couldn’t think straight!
“What the **bleep** are you babbling about, huh?” Malcolm shook free from my weak grip.
I was sure he could have torn my head off, would have in fact, if he was somehow involved in this strange theory I had concocted; if Malcolm was a conspirator, and he knew that I knew that he knew that I knew that he was a conspirator, he would most probably be instructed to eliminate me. Since I was still standing, even after touching my bigger, faster, stronger brother, I had to assume he was telling the truth; he had as little insight into this whole twisted mystery as I did. Well, then, who…
03-24-2007 10:52 PM
“WAIT!” I paused, not completely willing to abandon my theory in favor of a wild Corporal chase. “I need a screwdriver!” I had to be sure this wasn’t Malcolm’s slick and sick way of manipulating me right out of my mind; had to make sure this wasn’t the deuce of my dreams… I shuffled to the front of the truck, to the cab, and tugged open the door, in search of the one thing that would resolve this mystery once and for all. Fortunately, the answer came in the form of Corporal Quisberg, who we found hidden in the cab of the deuce. Unfortunately…
“He’s dead…” Malcolm gulped, nudging the man’s limp body. There he was, Corporal Quisberg, slumped over across the steering column of his baby, the deuce, leaning slightly against the door, and tumbling from the cab as I opened the door. A single bullet-wound to his forehead was all the confirmation I needed--- far more than I had expected to find!--- to agree with Malcolm’s summation: Special Corporal Quisberg was dead!
“Gone, but not forgotten…” Specialist Carlson laughed, recollecting the fantastic events of that other night a year ago.
“Yeah…” Charley Andrews agreed. “It will be kinda tough to forget old Top…”
I had only been with the Morris unit a month when I first heard the tale, but I heard Charley, Justin and Malcolm concoct some whoppers in that time, so I could hardly believe the whole story of First Sergeant Walters’s departure from the Guards. Sergeant Walters’s picture was hung along with those of the rest of the A-Company Cadre, in the foyer of the armory, on the wall just outside the large loading bay, The man in the picture looked so quiet, so innocent, not the violent psycho from the end of Carlson’s story. I had never met First Sergeant Walters, but I was curious after hearing the tale of his dismissal. Since nothing can stop my over-whelming curiosity once I get something in my head, I went fishing for information almost immediately after Justin’s first-recount of the twisted tale.
“Cadet Sorenson…” I cast, hoping to land a whopper to match the one Justin had tried to feed me. I got a nibble…
“Well, Sequel…” the cadet’s story began, “The truth of the matter is…”
“None of your business, PFC King!” my line strained under the weight of this double-whopper whammy! Captain England, the commander of A-Company for the past 4 years, had interrupted my fishing expedition, asking me to explain my curiosity. The mere mention of Specialists Andrews and Carlson set the captain and cadet spinning, and England laughed.
“Now I understand! Say no more, King! But know this: First Sergeant Walters was a 13-year veteran Guardsman. He had just had enough, plain and simple. He retired, and that AT was his last, so the troops sent him out in style… Whatever else those 2 roughnecks told you is just plain nonsense! They are just trying to get a rise out of you, to incite you to riot, to join their cause no doubt! I’d be extremely wary of Carlson and Andrews and any of their shenanigans and stories, if I was you, King!” He laughed again, shaking his head before dismissing me and stepping aside to discuss the day’s training with Cadet Sorenson.
What the heck? Somebody was pulling my leg around here, and I wouldn’t rest until I found out who! What’s the cover-up? And why was I worried about it?! Why was I always the one to be left in the dark?!
“Because, fool… If you turn on the lights, someone will see us and we’ll get reamed for the murder of Corporal Quisberg!!” Malcolm tried to remain calm as he answered my original question about being in left in the dark.
“But, we didn’t do it!!” I rationalized right back in his face.
“You know that, and I know that…” he didn’t have to finish his statement for me to see where it was heading… I saw his point before he even made it; and I was amazed at how I was becoming able to think like my bigger, faster, smarter brother…
“OK!” I gave in. “Let’s just check this place out and see what else we can find out.” Malcolm was already budging past me, up the 2-step ladder into the cab of the deuce, to begin the search. “Oh,” I thought about requesting, “if you find a screwdriver…”
“Got it!” Malcolm cried almost immediately after entering the cab. Amazing! Not only am I thinking like him, but Malcolm was reading my mind as well. Since Quisberg was dead, that left me to assume that the other deuce was most likely the mystically marked truck that was involved in the escape attempt, and was most likely being utilized right now as the mental defectives from Sauke Center made a run for the Canadian border or something… If Malcolm had been thinking at all along those same lines, he would have realized that the need to check for a fake ID tag had passed… But, even though the screw driver was no longer needed, it was nice of Malcolm to at least TRY to stay involved in this little caper, even if he was 2 or 3 steps behind me again… maybe that low-crawl race was the beginning of a whole new age of understanding and development between myself and my not-so-much-bigger, faster, or stronger brother… Of course, as so often happens whenever I started having such delusions of grandeur, everything just fell apart in front of my eyes, exploding in my face, like a neutron-----
“BOMB!” Malcolm roared with anxious excitement. “It’s a bomb.” He reappeared in the driver’s seat of the truck, and turned to face me, tossing me a package of some sort. Wait, did he say…
“A bomb!!” I gasped, suddenly sweating and shaking as the square-shaped package dropped toward me. I bobbled the toss, as I usually did, and swallowed hard, wincing at the inevitable explosion that would follow. YIKES! As Malcolm stood over me on the top rung of the 2-step ladder into the cab, I tossed the mystery package back at him like a hot-potato and stepped back a few steps nervously.
“Yep…” Malcolm confirmed, catching the lob lackadaisically, before jumping from the top step and landing with a….. KABOOM?!
Strangely, Malcolm just landed with a THUD, no horrific KABOOM! As you might expect when so carelessly mishandling a supposed explosive device.
“What the hell are you doing?!” I fumed. “If that’s a bomb, why’d you throw it at me?! And, why the hell would you jump around like a mad-man with a bomb in your hands?!” I was once more afraid that I had said too much, with my ‘mad man’ reference, and would soon be regretting that little slip. Malcolm stood before me in the pale din of the darkened armory, absently bobbling the smallish square in his hands as he smirked, that all-knowing devilish smirk of his.
“Don’t worry, huh, Slick?” he soothed. “It’s C-4.” He explained that as if I had any clue what he was talking about! At least it’s not C-5, or C-6 or C-U-N-Hell!! “C-4, connected to this detonator and fuse, is totally stable and harmless. I was a Combat Engineer before transferring to Morris… I know about this stuff…” I remembered Malcolm’s initial assignment in the National Guard, through his Combat Engineer training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Both Malcolm and Charley had started their military and collegiate careers together 3 years ago, as combat engineers, in part for the huge bonuses involved in such highly-dangerous training.
I opted for the extra bonus money offered to straight-leg infantry troops---the ground pounders. Sure, they had to do all that heavy-lifting and cross-country trekking in unfavorable conditions, relying on the strength of their own 2 feet. But, at least they would HAVE their own 2 feet, rather than risk having them blown off in some ‘engineering’ accident involving any manner of explosives or heavy equipment used in bridge-building or demolition. So, rather than suffering 14 weeks of torture in the muddy, Midwestern forested confines of Fort Wood, I opted for 3 months at sandy, sultry, scorching Fort Benning, Georgia. My mistake, I guess! At least when I transferred to the Morris unit, my Basic Training skills would still be viable; the A-Company Bearcats were a gro-po Infantry unit, having no need for, and offering no advancing training to, the combat engineers. HA!
03-24-2007 10:53 PM
“20 of these could level a city block!” Malcolm was explaining, all the while flicking a switch on the LCD display panel absent-mindedly. -ARM-DISARM-ARM-DISARM-
“50 could totally decimate a small town… why with 200 pounds of this stuff, I could…”
Something clicked just then, in the recesses of my brain, as I only half-listened to Malcolm’s babbling, more intently focused of the way he toyed with the highly-explosive device.
Malcolm had moved on in his little lecture of the power of high-explosives, describing something about how the C in C-4 stood for 100 pounds of explosive force per square inch, or per foot pound or something… and the 4 meant that this particular grade of explosive packed 4 times the explosive jolt! 400 pounds of explosive force per inch, foot, or whatever, multiplied by the 2-pound brick… 2 pounds… 2lb… 2lb of C-4… oh crap!
“…1 45cp… 5AR15… 7 9mm (5u2p)… 50 20Rmag…
10k556… 25H E g… 15W S g… 2ClbC4…” 2ClbC4!! 200 pounds of C-4!!!
“What exactly do you know about 200 pounds of this stuff?!” I snapped, jarring Malcolm from his lesson in higher education.
“Huh?” he choked, “What do you mean? I’ve just been explaining everything I know! I was a combat engineer, Slick! I know everything about this stuff!” Somehow I believed that Malcolm DID know everything about the particular 200 pounds of C-4 I was referring to, which was more than he was telling me; the smooth-talking bastage probably thought he would lull me into complete compliance or utter boredom with his incessant blabbering about the good old days at Camp Leonard Wood. Still, as he stood there absent-mindedly playing with the high-explosives, something in his baffled and dumb-struck expression left me wondering if he was even competent enough to be involved in such a convoluted scheme. Seems to me that anyone crazy enough to stand over a dead body playing with high-explosives and ranting about some grand past adventure that was 3 years old had bigger issues than aiding in the escape of a few more deviants… What could a sweet young thing like Beth possibly see in this guy?!
The light bulb in my head suddenly shattered from the startling revelation I was struck with. Corporal Quisberg was dead; the second deuce was missing, but Malcolm had seen it heading South, NOT North toward Canada; Quisberg had a bomb and some strange invoices from the armory Arms Room, as well as a map of the campus and a bullet wound in his skull; Beth was on campus for Imholte’s retirement roast, along with Teddy who was pumping iron in the gym for a few hours, and Katy, in Indy, my dream date… If that mysterious deuce continued further South from Food’n’Fuel, it could and would eventually arrive on campus, loaded for bear with 200 pounds of C-4 high explosives, and if the rest of the pieces fit, as many as 6 escapee lunatics from the Sauke Center Correctional Facility for the Criminally Insane. Putting all the pieces together, in as logical a format as my limited intellect could manage, and it only took a moment for Malcolm and I to come to the same conclusion: “Beth and Katy could be in trouble!!” As nonchalantly as he had been fiddling with the device, Malcolm chucked the brick of C-4 into the cargo bay of the deuce, and grabbed me by the sleeve and pulled me toward the armory exit, and our cars…
Or, at least, to my car; Malcolm’s Z-28 was still parked in the driveway at our house, which begged the question: “How the hairy-heck did you get here, bro?”
“Charley!” Malcolm snapped without breaking stride to the driver’s side of what he knew of as Beth’s Mercury Capri.
“Uhhh…” I saw a gaping hole in this twisted tale almost instantly. “Where’s Charley then?”
Even though he was caught so completely in this little lie, the tricky terrorist in my big brother weaseled his way around the interrogation like a pro.
“We came here to grab our **bleep** for the trip back to Ripley, Charley is due to return tomorrow, and he had something he wanted to discuss with me…” he began innocently enough. “I was taking a dump, so Charley left to get some gas in the Beast… when I heard you coming, I thought you were him, so I whacked you… when you fell, I knew you couldn’t be Charley, so… where’s the **bleep**ing keys, huh?!” He almost had me convinced, then he pulled the old ‘change the subject and curse’ trick… and I fell for it! I tossed him the keys to ‘my car’ and we climbed aboard, as it became his turn to ask a question… “What the **bleep** are YOU doing here, with Beth’s car, huh?!”
“Later!” I promised. “I’ll explain it all later!” Malcolm gunned the engine and squealed from the lot, prompting me to scold him soundly. “Hey hey hey! Take it easy on my wheels, huh?!”
“What the **bleep** are you babbling about, Slick?!” Malcolm was clueless that Beth had traded me her car in her minor fit of insanity.
“The deuce!” I tried my hand at the old ‘change the subject’ trick as we cruised past Food’n’Fuel just down the street from the armory. “Slow down a sec…” I scanned the pump stations as best I could at 75 miles per hour, after Malcolm slowed from 90… there was no out-of-place olive-drab 2.5-ton truck at any of the 3 diesel-fuel pumps… moreover, Malcolm made an observation of his own.
“**bleep**!” he seethed. “Where the **bleep** is Charley?!” Oh, that was also true; I didn’t see any sign of Charley’s classic Oldsmobile station wagon at the pumps either, in that split second scan as we blew past the gas station. Of course, knowing the bizarre antics and rituals of the Slacker Squad, it would not be unheard of for Charley to buy his gas from ONE specific station completely across town from the armory, just so he would always have a built-in excuse for being late to any and every Guard drill weekend… We’d probably find Charley later, after we got to the campus and checked to see that there was nothing underhanded and evil going on. Everything would be fine, it was probably all just one huge misunderstanding after another…
05-13-2007 03:06 PM
“Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here…”
Another silly quote; this time from Dante’s Inferno, and this one perhaps fit the situation best of all. It was near dusk as we cruised from the armory, taking a strategically-planned route which would lead to the south-side of the small campus. If something insidious was going down on-campus that night, I was sure it had something to do with the Imholte retirement roast. What little I knew of Chancellor John Imholte pointed to him being some sort of Humanities expert or social scientist, or something. Nothing but a watered-down version of a glorified politician, really. But, people like that DO attract attention, so it was conceivable that a wacky batch of terrorists might wish him harm in one form or another.
By now, the celebration should have been in full-swing, most likely involving long, boring speeches, hollow applause, and pointless gushing over a figurehead of leadership. Still, judging by the crowded parking lot as we approached the PE Center, the event was well-attended. In those few moments of daylight which remained, I could almost swear I caught the out-of-place silhouette of a bus, or a semi-truck, or—
“The deuce!!” I gasped, shocked, scanning the lot again as Malcolm gunned the engine of the little white Capri, and shot straight past the entrance to the parking lot!! In that final wink of daylight as I scoured the South Parking Lot in that wink of an eye as we rocketed past, there it was; nearly hidden at the back of the lot sat the OD green deuce-n-a-half!!
“Son of a bitch!” Malcolm had to feel my glare searing through the right side of his face, but still I felt obliged to vocalize my concerns. “What the hell are you doing?! Huh?!” I raged, using Malcolm’s own unique flair against him.
“I’m heading home quick, Slick…” my baffling buffoon of a brother explained, hardly aware of my level of anxiety. Home?! Malcolm sensed my panic and the upcoming retort, so he laid into me calmly, logically, and so annoyingly!
“We’ve got to make sure Beth’s really on-campus and not safe at home, then we can check back on campus for any other trouble! And, we might need help from Teddy, or Charley, IF anything is going on at all on campus!! We don’t even know if there is anything to worry about! So, relax, Slick! I know what I’m doing!!” Again, I was SURE Malcolm knew exactly what he was doing; most likely he was stalling to let his compatriots, whoever they may be, get entrenched or reach their objectives, and escape. What I didn’t know was how much he knew about what I knew…
Once again, I was suckered by Malcolm’s warped sense of logic. Our house was only 2 blocks from campus; it wouldn’t be too much of a delay or deviation from our course, and we could make a few determinations and preparations from the side-track trip. Maybe Beth found her book-bag, made an appearance at the roast, got repulsed by Angela and the Indy debutantes, and went home ill. Maybe the mad bomber was Corporal Quisberg himself, and he had been taken out by an elite sniper squad, so there was no longer a problem. OK that solves about 50% of my concerns, but doesn’t include the missing, only-recently-relocated deuce, the escapees who commandeered the truck, and their connection to the UMM campus… if there was still that trouble on campus, then Katy and Beth might still be in trouble. Maybe Malcolm was right, and there was no trouble on campus, but if there was…
“Let’s move, Slick!” Malcolm jumped from the car before it had even come to a complete stop in the driveway. I followed in a flurry, barely processing the speed in which we shot from campus to our front door; 2 blocks in 3 seconds! Had to be a record! 3 seconds was about the space of time between my head-long trip-slide across Home Plate and Bill Webber’s fateful call… I had crawled 20 feet in about 3 seconds during the not-so-low-crawl race at Camp Ripley. Cosmic coincidence? Hmmmm…
It took only a moment (3 seconds?) to surmise that Beth was not at home. The house was dark and empty, not even the pungent nasty aroma of Teddy Henderson’s gym shoes in the entry hall was present. No sign of Charley Andrews’s station wagon out front either. With no one else available to help unravel the mystery which engulfed my brother and myself, there was only one thing to do…
“Lower me down!” Malcolm ordered, looping the rope around his waist.
“WAIT!” I stopped him, whispering harshly to be heard over the ripping rumble of thunder overhead. Malcolm paused briefly in the darkness, actually taking a moment to listen to what I had to say!
I was touched; a speck of moisture rolled off my cheek just then… a tear? NO! IT was only a raindrop! In that powerful moment there, on top of the gymnasium, I took time out to reflect upon my miserable life. Maybe now, after 20 long years of rivalry, Malcolm was actually changing his attitude; maybe we could finally go on with our lives as normal brothers, no longer near-enemies. Maybe he really wasn’t so bad a brother after all. Maybe…
“What’s the **bleep**in’ hold-up, huh?!” he hissed at full volume. Maybe not! I decided.
“I think I should go first…” I suggested. “I’m heavier than you… and you are stronger than me… If you lower me down, and I make it OK, then you can tie off and climb down after me… OK?” A brilliant flash off lightning from the sky, followed immediately by a deafening crack of thunder knocked me to my knees, blocking out Malcolm’s submission to my request. Fortunately for me, Malcolm’s strong grip steadied me, and he handed me the rope.
Then, almost as if on cue, the rain began…
“I **bleep**in’ knew it!” Malcolm roared.
Earlier, as we hurried from the house after changing into costumes more suited for covert night-ops, Malcolm tuned the radio of the Z-28 to the local radio station just in time to catch the weather report.
“It looks like the Morris area might be spared the brunt of the storms, but we may be dampened by scattered showers throughout the evening and into the early-morning hours… That’s it for weather… Up next, Twins’ Frankie Viola, going, going…”
“God! I knew it!” Malcolm dribbled. “Rain!”
“He said it would miss us mostly…” I reminded, scanning the starless sky reassuringly. “It doesn’t look so bad so far…” Malcolm’s reply was little more than his usual grunt of disgust. I did try to cut my bigger, faster, stronger brother some slack though; he had been through some hell the past few weeks— and the past few hours were the last straw! Final Exams and Annual Training were big enough problems to deal with, but now Beth’s life may or may not be in jeopardy. And, to top it all off, now his precious Camaro might be pelted and soaked and stained with rain. Oh, the horror… We could have taken my car, I considered offering that little insight, but thought better of it. Malcolm needed to feel in control, in charge, and there was no better place for that to start than behind the wheel of his choice cherry Camaro. Oh well…
“It’s no big thing…” I reassured, though I myself didn’t completely believe that. “Beth’s probably not even in any danger!” Secretly, I hoped that both of my predictions were true: That this whole mess was nothing more than a huge mistake or misunderstanding, and there was no danger; and that it would not rain. Quite ineptly, I misused what little I knew about Logic and incorrectly concluded that, as long as it didn’t rain, there would be no trouble on campus. That bogus conclusion would console me somewhat, but did little to satisfy my logic-minded brother.
3 seconds later, were back on campus, and I was still batting 1000 in the predictions department. The sky, although black and ominously shrouded in a thick layer of clouds, remained quiet and calm. Malcolm guided the Camaro down University Drive, switching off the headlights as he rounded the corner heading toward the gymnasium. No sign of trouble, yet…
“I’ll park in the West Lot.” Malcolm plotted, his face dimly lit by the dashboard lights and sudden flares of heat lightning which rippled across the quiet sky. “We’ll cross the street to the PE Center on foot.” Good plan; if there actually was any trouble to be found on campus, we wouldn’t want our only means of escape parked too close!! What the heck was Malcolm’s logic in this?! I knew I should have taken my car! Of course, 2 cars are twice as easy to spot by patrolling sentries, so, again, Malcolm’s plan seemed sound. We should avoid drawing attention to ourselves for as long as possible. If there was no danger, we wouldn’t want to insight a riot; and, if trouble abounds, we would need the element of surprise on our side. The sort of surprise that required stealth, silence and a low-profile… So, we parked in the West Lot, near the street, but as far from any street lights as possible. The lot was mostly empty any way; a few vehicles parked near the back, and would throw suspicion off the Camaro. But, most of the traffic was parked in the South Lot, closest to the PE Center. So far, so good, I decided, as the reconnaissance/rescue mission was under way.
05-13-2007 03:08 PM
Why did he have to move so fast?! Hey! Yo, bro! Can’t you maybe slow---
“DOWN!!” Malcolm whispered gruffly, stopping suddenly and dropping to his stomach. Again, I complied, matching Malcolm’s movement, feeling nearly no pain as I flattened myself against the pavement in the perfect prone. Only as I nudged my way along the ground, low-crawling to Malcolm’s position, did I notice the renewed ache in my ribs. Once I was on equal footing with my belly-flopped brother, he pointed across the South Lot. Silently, we watched a group of at least 6 casually dressed men lingering around the deuce-n-a-half at he back of the lot, each carrying some manner of equipment. Backpacks, knapsacks, boxes and an assortment of small arms; these guys looked to be prepared for just about anything! We were going to need a lot of help!
“Charley…” Malcolm cheered, nodding slightly away from the deuce group to Charley’s battered and beat-up station wagon parked in its usual haphazard manner across the lot.
“So?” I huffed, not following Malcolm’s train of logic at all. What could Charley possibly do to help us here? The Supreme Slacker, the Master of Malaise and Melancholia, the Prince of Paunch and Put-Downs… what could Charley do that Malcolm and I together couldn’t?!
Oh, of course! Malcolm and I… Malcolm… and I… to Malcolm, ‘Malcolm and I’ added up to ‘Malcolm’ and--- NOTHING! He didn’t want to work with m e, his little loser brother! I’d probably just screw things up, drop the bat or trip-slide too late to do any real good. I’d get all pumped-up, get flustered, then leap before I looked; I’d just end up hurting myself or someone else. What could Malcolm and Charley--- or Malcolm and Anyone Else--- accomplish that he and I could not? Hell, Malcolm and the Slacker Squad could probably take over the campus, no, the whole world!, with their infallible line of crap! And, I could just…
“GO!” Malcolm commanded suddenly, sending me on my way. I guess I really was not wanted, or needed, and Malcolm was just now making his feelings known. “Come on, Slick! Move your ass, huh?! Charley will help us…” Help Us?! He said Us! Me and Him, Us! US! The Brothers King!
We watched the group of troops stalk into the gymnasium then slinked stealthily across the parking lot to the deuce. It was unguarded, and we soon discovered why: it was quite empty! Whatever their plans, that rag-tag troupe of terrorists had packed everything with them as they made their way into the gymnasium. We couldn’t simply walk in behind them and join the party; not if we had any serious thoughts of performing some sort of rescue without getting ourselves blown away in the process. First thoughts led Malcolm to suggest the police, but I explained about the car crash, and how odd it all seemed, and that most likely, the local authorities would be tied up with THAT investigation to lend much credence to a ‘college prank call’ about some group of terrorists taking over a gym! So, we were on our own. But, as I explained, we couldn’t just stroll cockily into the front door, like Malcolm would have liked, so…
“MOUT training, Lesson One!” Malcolm opted once we’d made our way to the building. Aha! In Basic Training, we had learned about MOUT: Military Operations in Urban Terrain. MOUT training was taught to all National Guard component troops, regardless of their specialization during later of training, in the event that their local Guard units were called upon to quell a large-scale domestic dispute such as a riot, or perhaps, an invasion. Any soldier might be faced with the task of entering and clearing any building or other structure of enemy occupation, for use or demolition by the Allies.
This was MOUT training, and Lesson One was simple: To begin clearing a multi-level structure, it would be in the best interest of the soldiers involved to start at the top. Usually, insertion on the roof-top level was made via helicopter; from there, the teams could move down through the structure, clearing level by level quickly and easily, driving any possible aggressors out of the building rather than into a corner where they could dig in and lash out. Such a technique gained surprise for the assault force, and forced the enemy from their covered and concealed positions, into the open where they became vulnerable.
Unfortunately, we did not have a helicopter at our disposal. But, we did have the next best thing: a sturdy steel rain trough, which extended from the roof down the back of the Phy-Ed Center, offering access to those of us whose weight it would support. Being a lean, mean wrestler, weighing in at a limber 125-pounds soaking wet, Malcolm opted to test the tin rungs of the trough first. I’m sure I was heavier than Malcolm, and would have tested the give of the gutter myself had Malcolm not been so limber and so quick! Before I could say, “I’m heavier… I should go first…” Malcolm was half-way up the make-shift ladder and not looking back! Going, going, gone… just like Frankie---
“Voila!” Malcolm whispered with a flair and that wickedly cocky grin, peering back down on me from his new perch on top of the gym roof. “Come on, Slick! Move it!”
“Yeah… right!” I muttered begrudgingly, beginning my one-armed climb. “Walla-Walla, Washington… Voila!” He KNEW I didn’t speak Spanish!! As I climbed, my attention turned from my study---or lack of study--- of a second language, to the squeaking and groaning which rose up from the thin tin rungs beneath my feet.
Even as I hyperventilated with excitement as I gained altitude and watched the top of the trough draw ever nearer to me, my confidence would waiver with each step, as the wobbly trough wagged beneath my weight. Malcolm’s outstretched hand was in my face as I neared the top, beckoning me. “Grab on, Slick… I won’t let you fall!” For an instant, my mind reeled to Jesse Graham’s helping hand, and I was certain that the trough would….
“Ho!” I barked involuntarily as the tin strip broke under my foot and I tumbled forward, onto the tarred surface of the roof with a thud.
SHHHHHH Malcolm hushed, kneeling over me, cupping a hand over my mouth while I whimpered over my skinned shins.
“I’m OK, really…” I muttered meekly, “Thanks for your concern… I knew I should have gone first!” All right, I was ranting, getting my juices flowing, getting all worked up, just as I thought Malcolm feared I would! Malcolm wasn’t listening to me any way. Instead, he had moved away from my fallen form, working his way across the roof to one of the large vents which led down into the auditorium. After righting myself and rubbing my sore calves and elbows, I moved to assist Malcolm in removing the large exhaust port cover, which sat loosely over the square shaft. Hesitantly, we peeked into the dank, dark, stale-smelling chamber, Malcolm’s pen-light hardly able to pierce the blackness. We soon, suddenly and essentially simultaneously realized: “We need a rope!”
For once, Malcolm was drawing a blank. Where would we find a rope on top of the Physical Education Center roof, at night, with a thunderstorm fast-approaching and a group of escapee mental patients on the prowl? Judging by his blank expression, Malcolm’s head was about as clouded as the night sky overhead! Not even a twinkle of an idea was forming behind his shifting eyes, just as not even a twinkle could be seen from the heavens above. The only visible stars were those sewn into the blue field of Old Glory, our nation’s flag, as she waved stiffly in the gale force winds.
“Glory, glory Hallelujah!” I cheered, inspired by the banner of our country which flapped in the breeze at the end of the flag pole atop the gymnasium. A long loop of rope ran from the flag, looped over a hook near the base of the pole, and returned to the flag, for the purpose of raising and lowering the flag; 20 to 30 feet of strong rope!
“Perfect!” Malcolm concluded, following my gaze to the flag, then beating my body to the pole, claiming my idea as his own! In no time, Malcolm had lowered the flag and made quick work of the knot which held the rope in a loop. Then, another in the series of strange and wondrously curious events which would speckle this night occurred.
“Come here a sec…” Malcolm ordered. Oh now what, Great One? I wondered. To coil the rope for you? Or boost you into the ventilation duct?
“Help me with this!” again he demanded, offering me not the rope or his foot to heave him into the shaft, but a corner of the flag, which he had draped over his shoulder while he worked on that knot. To my amazement, we worked together, to fold the flag into the standard triangular shape for storage.
“Your cap!” In the powerful wind that swirled round us, I at first thought he must have said ‘You’re fat!’ another insult, just to keep me in line. But, I was mistaken again… “Your stocking cap! Give it up, Rick!” His order puzzled me, but I found myself complying, maybe because for once in the past year and a half, Malcolm had called me by name. Awestruck once more by the many-faces of my bigger, faster, stronger brother, I offered him the black knit cap.
Respectfully, Malcolm used both of our caps together to shroud the triangular-shaped symbol of our country, to protect it from the elements and the dirt, before tucking it beneath the large air-conditioning unit near the shaft. All this I watched in awe. Perhaps that awe, the utter admiration I now felt toward my brother, the true patriot, was what drove me to my next fateful judgment call. Maybe Malcolm was just a pawn in all this as it unfolded and engulfed us both, not a part of the Communist insurgent squad after all. He was my brother, and he was an honest-to-goodness—though not necessarily honest or necessarily good—American man! I couldn’t allow him to risk his life just to save mine, so I spoke up loudly, clearly, bravely, for what I believed was right…
“Maybe I should go first… I’m heavier than you…” Ooops! The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and I tied a poor knot in a slippery wax-coated rope. The rain began to fall then, as did I, and my plummeting batting average for predictions… falling, into oblivion… To the rescue!
06-04-2007 01:32 PM
Some rescue attempt! Suicide attempt was more accurate! Since the beginning of this nightmare, I had been lowered into a dark ventilation shaft, only to fall free from the rope which held me, left to free-fall 10 feet or more, crashed through an ancient, soft and soggy piece of sheet-rock, somehow managed to stop my plunge by clutching a ¼-inch thick steel girder with my partially broken arm, and left to dangle 30-feet over the heads of a large group of my peers in a crowded gymnasium. As a follow-up to all that excitement, I took it upon myself to launch my battered and bruised body lengthwise along the expanse of steel, while bullets zinged all around from the terrorists below; I somehow managed to fling myself from the girder bounding over the steel guard-rail for a few moments of safety, bolted to the bathroom, beat one bad guy, and made a break for the border! All of that in about 5 minutes, and with a busted arm, bruised ribs, and possibly a bullet in the back to boot! Beat that, Bruce! John McClane, HA! I’m a die hard, too!
“Forget about him…” A voice commanded from my hip, rather than my head.
“Manuel, let Raoul handle that little trouble-maker! Your have your assignment… Recover the Egg! Nothing else matters!” the voice spoke with a vague Spanish accent, that didn’t sound quite right; something seemed artificial, or fake about the accent, and his use of English at all led me to believe that Espanol was used as just a code of some sort. For a moment, there followed only silence.
Then, “Si, si Capitan. I know where to look. I’m on it!”
Me too, Manuel! I searched my pockets, recovering that corner section of the map I’d found in the armory. That tell-tale red X told the tale: Behmler Hall, the main administrative office building, was obviously marked as a location for this Egg Hunt, whatever the Egg was! Think, Slick, think! What connection did Chancellor Imholte’s roast have to Behmler Hall? Obviously, Imholte’s main office was there, so that would be the first place to look for this mysterious Egg. I’m on it!
As I slipped from the bathroom, crouching low to avoid being spotted over the guard rail 10 feet across the concourse from my position, I was given cause to pause. Beyond the guard-rail, down on the gymnasium floor, I heard a distinctive and familiar whine cry out above the murmuring of so many panic-stricken students.
“Yeah, yeah! Don’t get so pushy, bitch!” Matt Hess was having an altercation down below. I couldn’t resist sliding to the rail, chancing a peek at the weak geek. There he was, being forced through the crowd, Uzi 9mm at his temple, held at bay by an unrecognizable thug. I also noticed Chancellor Imholte, similarly detained on a dais across the gym, where he had been calmly giving his retirement speech only a few moments earlier, before the lights went out.
“What did you see?!” the muscle-bound meat head demanded, shoving Matt head-long onto the raised platform. “Who was it up there on the beam?!”
“You leave that poor student alone, you… you fiend!” John Imholte rebelled, pulling away from his captor and lunging at the meanie who towered over Matt. From behind him, Imholte’s captor cocked and aimed his pistol at the older man, as Imholte knelt and consoled Matt.
“Enjoy your retirement, Doc!” the bad man behind Imholte bellowed, firing a shot point-blank into the back of Imholte’s skull. I cringed and turned away, unable to look back, horrified by the frightened wails as much as by the scene itself. Chancellor Imholte was dead; Matt was soon to follow. How long would it be before they got to Katy or Beth, or anyone else I cared about?
“Hang in there…” I consoled both Katy and myself silently, hoping that I’d find some miracle and save the hostages before they all met Imholte’s fate at the hands of these sicko psycho Communist scum! I had to get help, reinforcements of some kind; had to get to the parking lot and Malcolm’s Z-28! With my goal firmly set in my mind, I moved out, through the lobby door, Raoul’s equipment strung across my chest, grenades clipped to my waistband, and M-16 in hand. With a heavy sigh over leaving my Dream Date in the lurch, abandoning her to the mercy of at least 6, severely hostile assailants, I slipped back into the cool, dark night.
“DIE BASTAGE!!” a threatening cry from behind halted me in my tracks as I exited the building. Oh, great… Maybe he hadn’t yet seen the M-16; maybe I could surprise whomever it was who was about to surprise me with a back-full of lead! With a quick pivot on the heel of my left foot, I came face to face with my destiny, arching the barrel of the weapon at and at an angle toward the sound of the shout. I was ready to spring away from any incoming fire, to leap from the sidewalk and sprawl into the ditch that ran along the walk, dipping down to the parking lot. As my aim came to bear on the shadowy figure lurking on the rooftop, the sniper submitted.
“Slick! Don’t shoot!” Malcolm… There he stood, my older, (smarter??) brother, on the roof over the lobby, holding only a black triangle of cloth as a ‘weapon’. Malcolm cringed and dropped to his knees at the edge of the roof, lowering his faux-weapon, and waving me off emphatically. I lowered the M-16, and relaxed slightly, exhaling deeply. Malcolm had been waiting up there this whole time--- all 5 minutes!--- since my plunge into the dark gym, while I was being stalked by the Communist terrorist bastards inside!
“What the **bleep**’s going on, huh?!” Malcolm interrupted before I could get on his case about abandoning me.
“It’s all about something in Behmler… some Egg, or something…” I explained, almost shouting to be heard above the pounding rain. “I’m headed there now to Imholte’s office to check it out…” I took a breath, then let loose with the other barrel.
“Now, what the—“
-SLAM!- the door from the lobby flew open violently, and a massive shape lumbered forth.
“**bleep**!” I finished the phrase, but lost my train of thought completely, caught like a deer in the headlights of the madman at the gate. “Raoul!” Without thinking further, I instinctively raised the M-16 on my hip once again, this time targeting the terrorist. With a glorious grin, I gunned down the greaseball…
No -RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT- ??
No blood-curdling death gurgles?
-CLICK!- No bullets! Ooops!
The grin was gone, and the M-16 was next to go, tossed in a half-hearted effort to make Raoul flinch, and allow me to make an escape. As I turned down the sidewalk, I shrugged the awkward and burdensome backpack from my shoulders and let it drop to the ground, opting for sleek mobility instead of being weighed down with extra equipment as I fled. The bandoleer, grenades, and radio I kept, only because I didn’t take the extra few seconds required to free myself from their weight; and considering their combined weight and burden was negligible, I was certain those few items would not slow me down as I sprinted away from Raoul. I raced down the walk, slowed only by my sluggish steel-toed combat boots, Raoul hot on my tail. I had half-expected Raoul to tackle me momentarily, as the seconds passed, each an infinity, and I kept running. 3.54 seconds later, I was half-way down the walk when I heard a sharp CLICK!
“Stupido gringo!” Raoul roared, recovering his rifle. “You have to charge the weapon first!”
Dammit! I hate having my every move critiqued and criticized! Dealing with Malcolm’s derogatory defamations on a daily basis was bad enough; now I had to put up with a Mexican meanie explaining the proper use of an American-made firearm, to me, and American National Guard soldier?! How utterly depressing! Still, I couldn’t help but be devastated by the Hispanic hate-monger’s heckling, because, like Malcolm, he was right this time! After returning from Basic Training, it was almost 3 full months before I laid my hands on an M-16 again. Without a refresher course in the proper use of the weapon, I was left to recall the intricate details of the weapon’s function by myself. For some reason, I would always, ALWAYS forget to pull back the charging handle at the rear of the barrel assembly, which would be required to chamber the first round behind the firing pin. Thus, the weapon would not fire when the trigger was pulled; until that first round was fed into the chamber and the spring-loaded magazine of ammunition was ‘charged’ and readily feeding rounds into position, the only sound the weapon would make was that metallic -CLICK!- as the hammer smacked the firing pin and the firing pin reverberated hollowly inside the barrel… Now, I remember!
Of course, now Raoul had the weapon, and that CLICK meant he had charged it, and was most likely drawing a bead on the base of my skull at this moment! There was really no place for me to go on foot; I had to get to the parking lot and Malcolm’s Camaro. But, I’d have to get THERE on foot! Oh, the irony… maybe, in this case, the upper hand could be gained through some fancy footwork. Hmmmm…
“Die!” Raoul demanded dementedly, squeezing off a quick burst of bullets in my direction. Evasively, I dove from the sidewalk, rolling into the ditch near the South Lot. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated there being a drainage culvert extending beneath the sidewalk at the very location of my dive! What luck! I paid for my lack of foresight by re-injuring my seriously bruised ribs. The pain might have even been unbearable, had it not been for the partially packed bandoleer which acted as a sort of cushion against the crushing fall.
From my new position, I figured I had about 7 seconds before raging Raoul would home-in and paint a target on my skull again. Fortunately, I hoped my previous oversight would be turned to my advantage.
I heard Raoul’s huffs of anger over missing me, nearly felt his thunderous footsteps as he trudged down the sidewalk toward me…
Raoul pounced where he had seen me fall…
I was all assholes and elbows again, working my way through the cramped culvert… 3.54 seconds later, I cleared the far side of the tunnel just as Raoul peered into the opposite end…
-SLAM!- A quick leap back across the sidewalk, followed by a forceful slide-kick-sweep to the forehead of the flustered foreigner, and Raoul was grounded yet again. A second kick to the groin, as I leaped to the ground near Raoul, left the fallen foreign-emissary foundering feebly . “Unnngghhhh…”
Onward, to the parking lot, to the Camaro… to freedom! I didn’t have the keys, but I knew Malcolm kept the spare set wired to the inside of the gas tank cover, so that was not the problem. The problem was my lack of experience with the manual transmission automobile! It became immediately apparent that the whole trip to wherever it was I was going to flee was going to be made in whichever gear I found first! I just had to pray it wouldn’t be Reverse! If I would have had time, I would have taken a few moments to peruse the Camaro’s Owners’ Manual--- if I could only find the manual! A quick search of the car turned up only the cooler of beer in the back seat. The top was cracked just a bit, tempting me; and with the night I had been having thus far, temptation was the last thing I needed.
“What the heck!” I declared. If I was going to die that night, in a gunfight or in a horrific car wreck, I was going to go out in style--- or at least, in a drunken stupor! I would have a perfectly acceptable Malcolm-esque excuse if I was totally sloshed at the time of my death! I really needed to take the edge off; my throat was tight and parched, my hands trembling with the chill and the fear of the night. A quick shot of bitter Budweiser might just calm my frazzled nerves enough to put some sort of rational plan into action.
06-04-2007 01:34 PM
“A smoke grenade?!” I realized, checking the white lettering in the dim light. Instead of BUD as I had expected, I read ‘DOD-w’ which any properly-trained soldier would know stood for ‘Department of Defense---White’ a white smoke grenade canister! In the cooler in the back of Malcolm’s car?! I **bleep**ing knew it! Malcolm WAS involved in this whole mess deeper than he let on! That little--
"**bleep**!” I cursed for the 4th time since this whole adventure began fraying my fragile mind, tugging the cooler close to me and peering inside.
There were a wide array of smoke grenades standing in the bottom of the crate, along with a few pineapple-shaped fragmentation grenades, some cases of 5.56 ammunition, and a few bricks of that C-4 high-explosives. On the floor between the driver’s seat and the rear passenger seat lay a broken Styrofoam tray with a few cans of Budweiser beer. The tray appeared to be the same length and width as the crate, only about half as deep, to allow for a secret compartment beneath it, to hide the arms and equipment; when the tray on top was filled with 10 or 12 beers, the whole cooler would have appeared full, which is why I had been so easily duped earlier as we left the armory. This whole thing was a set-up from the start! The cooler of ‘beer’ was nothing more than a smoke-screen, literally!! And, that meant…
“Malcolm?!” The revelation hurt more than any of my past injuries; my bigger, faster, stronger brother truly was a Communist terrorist scum-sucking bastage!! Forget the police; this had just become personal! In all likelihood, Malcolm had been sent to dispatch Corporal Quisberg at the armory earlier. Then, of course, he would have to cover his tracks, so he set that C-4 bomb in the cab of the deuce, hoping to destroy the truck, Quisberg and the entire armory (‘this stuff could level a building…’) Only, I interrupted his evil scheme, surprising my Communist pig of a brother, forcing him to alter his plan, attack me with the particle-board beam.
Then, after finding out everything I knew--- or thought I knew--- about the whole escapee escapade, then about Beth being on-campus, Malcolm must have had second thoughts.
For some reason, Malcolm didn’t kill me, didn’t knock me out and leave my body to disintegrate when the bomb went off in the bay of the armory. Maybe he thought he could use me to free Beth, or perhaps he did feel overwhelmed by the strength of our familial bond. A third possibility was that he was stringing me along, in order to have a scapegoat to pin the whole entire scheme on later; the hand-me-down theory always stuck in my head as being so very Malcolm! Well, I wasn’t falling for it this time!
I fired up the engine of the red racer and ground the stick-shift round and round, punching the pedals on the floor, until I found a gear. The car jolted forward harshly, and I pounded the accelerator to the floor, zooming from the lot, headlights blazing through the cold, dark night. So much for the dark and silent routine; I just hoped no innocent bystanders got in my way! I wouldn’t mind so much if I was suddenly forced to run down Bill Webber, or Jesse Graham, or even Angela, that fat, hairy bitch! Or…
“RAOUL!!” That slimy little bastard just wouldn’t stay down! I had managed to guide the car from the parking lot to the street, into position to make a bee-line for the gymnasium lobby entrance, Malcolm’s last-known location. The Z-28 was easier to control than I expected it to be, even as it slowly built up speed, the engine whining and whirring as I had obviously locked into a rather high gear. I was going nearly 30 miles per hour when Raoul the cool jewel from Rio de Jenero appeared directly in my path, his forehead bleeding profusely from where my steel-toed boot caught him and dropped him.
There he stood, hunched over awkwardly, still pained from the second steel-toed slug to the mid-section, but still able to raise the M-16 against me. Only 2 choices, I knew: I could leap from the car and roll safely away--- if the 30mph leap and roll didn’t kill me--- or, I could plainly and simply---
“DIE!!” I read Raoul’s twisted lips as he spoke that word again. How did that lesson we’d learned in school during Fire Prevention Week go? If you catch on fire, Stop, Drop, and Roll? What about if you come under fire? Hmmmm…
Well, 2 out of 3 aint bad; I did drop from the car, moments before Raoul fired, moments before the car slammed into the poor slob; and roll, did I ever roll! I rolled so far so fast that I thought--- no I wished!--- I had gone backwards in time! I didn’t think I would ever stop! Of course, stopping was the one thing I couldn’t control, from my haphazard roll to safety, to the Camaro’s race toward the PE Center.
In an instant, Malcolm’s cherry red convertible Camaro was customized with a red-forehead, sweaty-backed Communist bastage hood ornament! Somehow, either from the tremendous force of impact, or from some strange quirk of Physics or Fate, Raoul’s crushed body remained in place, plastered over the crumpled hood and windshield, both of which were suddenly stained red from his blood. Less than 3.54 seconds later, none of those minor details mattered much at all any more…
The car crashed into the brick and steel divider between the double-lobby doors, exploding brilliantly. Much of the lobby collapsed in on itself following the explosion, and secondary explosions quickly erupted, as the grenades and other articles of ammunition ignited. Over half of the roof--- including the section where just moments ago, Malcolm had threatened me from the shadows--- came crashing down, burying the Camaro and essentially sealing the lobby entrance/exit. Undoubtedly, Raoul was finally dead. Most likely, so was Malcolm... Up in smoke, ALOT of smoke, leaving only the single black canister which had fallen from the car and rolled as I had.
“Bastards!” I hissed, rolling to my battered knees and rising sorely, scooping up the smoke grenade and inspecting it for damage, even as I inspected myself for damage. Nothing serious in either case. Unfortunately for them, the same could not be said for the Communist terrorists! 2 down, at least 5 more to go! They had to be stopped! Katy’s and Beth’s lives depended upon me, as did the lives of so many others, including Charley Andrews, and even Matt Hess and Angela Williams. All I could think about was that grisly execution scene as it played out on the gym floor, that burly bastard bearing down and blasting Chancellor Imholte’s brains across the podium. Cold blooded, heartless bastards, all of them, and my bigger, faster, stronger brother was one of them!
If only I had gotten a clear shot at that creep who executed Imholte, to draw attention from him to me! Of course, then, instead of only Raoul, I would have the whole lot of terrorist freaks tracking me, and I would most likely be dead in the gym now, instead of somewhat safe for the moment outside! No, I did good… Malcolm was gone now, and that left me alone with the rest of his Communist compatriots. I needed to gain an advantage, something that would offer me leverage in negotiations for the lives of the hostages.
I knew I couldn’t out-gun the multitude of malcontents; but maybe I could out-think them, out-maneuver them, beat them to that Egg they were after. I knew the layout of the campus better than they did, and I had that section of map to lead me. What I didn’t know was just how these creeps would react now that they knew that someone had escaped them. Had I just gone too far, crashing the Camaro into the lobby, killing Malcolm and Raoul, and effectively cutting off one of the main avenues of approach to the gym? How would the sleazy escapees handle the loss of 2 of their agents? They had already illustrated a blatant disregard for human life with the public impromptu execution of Chancellor Imholte. What would their next move be? I couldn’t just sit back wondering about all the unanswered questions as they floated around inside my head; I had to MAKE something happen myself!
From the PE Center to the main administrative offices in Behmler Hall, I crept, staying in the shadows as much as possible. The whole campus was dark and quiet. Of course, most of the students and faculty either lived off-campus or had finished their Finals and moved away for the Summer, or had been caught up in the siege in the gymnasium. So, the eerie silence was somewhat justified. Still, a lonely chill shivered through my cold, aching body as I stalked toward Behmler. Well, at least it wasn’t quiet for long…
Oh solitude! Where are thy charms…?
08-09-2007 07:24 PM
08-11-2007 09:18 PM