Title: Permission To Recover (© 1989, 2008, WGA Reg. #084582-00)
Story Type: Original Novel
Disclaimer: None, other than any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters are mine.
Teaser: (tag line) In 1977, women thought they joined the peacetime Army. They were dead wrong.
Description: Two military undercover agents infiltrate the first male/female integrated basic training/law enforcement school program in hope of finding a murderer in a race against time. The two women unveil a lot more than is intended during their stint as 'trainees', encountering blatant sexism, harassment, discrimination, dead-ends, betrayals and love as the boundaries of friendship, obligation, loyalty and honor are tested to the limit.
Content Warning: This is a story about the military. There is bad language, sex (some of it is heterosexual) and violence.
Other Information: This story is my baby and it is very long, which is why I am posting it in sections. It is a complete story but I am transferring it from paper to disk, another reason for the sectional posting. PTR is as much about the trials and tribulations of basic training as it is one woman's personal journey through this time frame, which is why there will be sometimes as many paragraphs spent on military detail as on the lead characters.
Tuesday was to be the longest day of the cycle and, unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the training schedule. Nobody knew it when the wake up call came so, naturally, no one was prepared. Especially not Dale.
It started out as treacherous as Monday with heavy PT, morning chow and a cold march to Raburn Hall. Once inside, the trainees listened to a lecture on bugle calls, flags, ranks and the responsibility of a soldier by Robin. Following that, there was a drug and alcohol speech from Putnam while Henning paced in the back of the auditorium. She and Putnam were the drug and alcohol co-ordinators of Alpha-10, so she felt she should be present during that class.
Outside for a ten minute break, the topic of conversation was the weather. At twenty-three degrees, it was starting to be much colder than anyone had anticipated and the big complaint was how the damp wind blew right through the uniforms to the skin. The boots were becoming annoying, also. For some, they were either starting to rub against the tendon or bothering the arch, which made it aggravating while marching. Things didn't appear to be going much like anyone thought they might.
Back inside the auditorium, everyone was introduced to Captain Harrison, the battalion chaplain, a smooth talking yet comical fellow who gave an interesting speech on faith. It began with a long story involving the names Abigail, George, Sinbad, Ivan and Slug, which made absolutely no sense to anybody but him. Upon completion of his tale, he looked out over a sea of blank and confused expressions and decided to continue on a more traditional note. Instead of pushing the value of the relationship between religion and basic training, which was his normal routine, his main objective now seemed to be picking on Lt. Henning.
Harrison's favorite subject with her was obviously her not having what he referred to as 'the marriage fever.' It was playful banter, in good taste, and it was enjoyable for the trainees to be an audience to. The new GIs relaxed a little and some even wondered if maybe Henning and Harrison had something personal going on just by the nature of the kidding and the looks that passed between the two unmarried officers. Even the attending drill sergeants broke into an occasional grin. They may not have cared for the company training officer but they would have run into a burning building for the company chaplain.
The final class before noon chow was a film and lecture on the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The UCMJ was the military's bible, a constitution of military rules that were not to be broken. If any of the articles were violated, the punishment fell under the jurisdiction of the UCMJ, such as Article 85 for desertion, Article 86 for AWOL, Article 91 for insubordination, Article 92 for failing to obey an order or regulation, etc. The movie and speech only covered minor ground, an introduction to mainly open new eyes, not so much as to why one should follow regulations and be a good little soldier but what happens to one if one doesn't.
Jascelle Chandani Kirk had remained in the company area that morning. She had not felt well and had reported to sick call. Troop Medical Clinic number three was the facility that handled all of Tenth Battalion's soldiers. It was located on the left side of the gymnasium, which was approximately four minutes walking distance directly opposite from the Alpha-10 parking lot.
Kirk, who had started battling a deep cough and felt the distant thundering of bronchitis in her chest, and Michaelson, who had an upset stomach that prevented her from eating breakfast and kept her throwing up in the latrine while everyone else was begrudgingly participating in PT, were the only two females to go on sick call that morning. Some of the other women would have gladly traded places with the beautiful blonde trainee but Michaelson really enjoyed exercising three times a day and having to miss any sessions greatly discouraged her. Anyone who caught a passing glimpse of Michaelson just out of the shower could clearly see that she took very good care of herself. Her muscles were very femininely defined but hard as a rock.
Up until PT became a tri-daily ritual, one could always find the subtly captivating Michaelson working out on her own in the morning and before her shower at night. Had it been anyone else, the other women might have made jokes or poked fun but the fact that Michaelson's face and body just seemed so perfect and she kept so much to herself, hardly any comments were made...at least not of the negative kind. There weren't too many women with Michaelson's discipline and determination and even if there were, there were few who ended up with the same overall results. To top it all off, she had scored one hundred sixty points on her military entrance examination so there were some definite brains behind the beauty. Although Michaelson seemed very nice and polite and never laid a straw in anybody's way, with few exceptions, the other Alpha women were secretly divided into wanting to fuck her or scratching her eyes out.
At approximately 1030 hours, both Kirk and Michaelson returned to the barracks with their signed sick slips. Michaelson's was marked "quarters" which meant she was restricted to the bay for the day. They had given her something to settle her stomach that tasted like and had the consistency of blackboard chalk but it seemed to be working. Kirk had been given a 'cold pack,' which was a little brown paper bag that contained a bottle of cherry-flavored cough syrup that only seemed to make her hack more every time she took a swig and Actifed, which did absolutely nothing for her because an hour after taking the two tablets, she felt no difference and was still incredibly congested. Her slip was marked 'back to duty' but when she reported to Sgt. Fuscha, he told her to wait upstairs because the captain was going to call for her momentarily.
Momentarily turned into two hours later, just after the troops marched in from Raburn Hall for noon chow and back out again. Kirk could only imagine what Colton wanted now and impractically hoped that it was news of an earlier release. She figured what he really wanted to speak to her about was that incident with MacArthur, which she realized now had been a mistake. Oakes was right, she was going to have to keep her lips zipped from now on. The battalion commander had told her to behave and, if nothing else, she should do it for Bishaye simply because the lieutenant-colonel was giving her what she wanted.
At twelve-thirty, she entered Colton's office. Once inside, she was told to report.
"What for?" She wasn't trying to be defiant; she just didn't understand why they kept trying to turn her into a soldier when she was leaving.
Colton slammed his open hand down on his desk and stood up. "Listen to me you ignorant, ungrateful little nobody! You're in deep enough trouble as it is, I'd advise you to do as you are told!"
A little stunned by his vicious verbal attack on her, she swallowed her natural instinct to strike back. "Look, Sir , I understand what I did last night to MacArthur was wrong. I understand that when I'm with the others that I should act like them but I'm getting out real soon, why do I have to practice this stuff when I'm by myself? I'm not going to use it back in Detroit."
"After your behavior last night, you may not be going back to Detroit."
"What? Wait a minute -"
"No, you wait a minute, Private Kirk. We're doing you the courtesy of getting you out of here just like you want and you return the favor by abusing one of my sergeants? And disrespecting her in front of other troops? How are my drill sergeants supposed to get any respect or cooperation from those trainees now? Why should you be allowed to get away with such conduct without being disciplined just because you think you're due to be discharged?"
"I'm sorry. I told you that I know now I was wrong. It won't happen again."
"You're Goddamn right it won't happen again! The only way I can punish you that will have any impact on you at all is to postpone your release date. So, as of now, you will be spending another thirty days here. Maybe longer, depending on your attitude."
"On whose authority?!" Kirk raised her voice, throwing any previous semblance of respect for him away.
"On my authority! I do still command this unit." He watched her begin to unravel before his eyes and instead of recognizing it for what it was and being concerned, his arrogance pushed him blindly forward and energized him with power he didn't really have.
"You can't do that, you can't take my freedom away from me again," her tone was pleading.
"Don't you dare tell me what I can and cannot do!" he screamed at her. "Your total disregard for this system is what got you into this mess. You are still in the Army and until you are officially discharged you will obey the oath you took at AFEES in Detroit!"
Kirk had tears streaming down her face as she angrily confronted him. "Listen to me, you fucking son-of-a-bitch, I will not play games with you! I am going to leave her on the fifteenth of this month like I was promised! You can't go against the battalion commander!"
"The colonel lied to you, all right?" His voice rose over hers to get her attention. "She said it just to pacify you. She doesn't have the authority to release you unless it's okayed by a psychiatrist, which it was not," Colton lied. "The psychiatrist at Mental Health said there was nothing wrong with you, that you were just passing off responsibility, that you were obviously used to being indulged and that the worst thing we could do is indulge you further by letting you out. He said that if we kept you here long enough that you'd eventually give in and fall in with the other trainees. He said you have the potential of becoming a dedicated, responsible soldier." He smiled at her in pompous triumph, as if his prevarication should have automatically changed her mind.
"You're lying! You're fucking lying, man! Did he also tell you that if you motherfuckers didn't let me out of here that I would kill myself? Did he also tell you that?!" By this time she was yelling her intense desperation at him, which was a total waste of energy.
"And you are bluffing," he said, scoffing. "You are trying to manipulate me, Private Kirk, and nobody does that."
"You're trying to manipulate me , Colton! I want to see the battalion commander right now!"
"Permission denied, Private Kirk. You will go back to duty now. That's an order."
"Fuck you, Colton," she hissed. "Fuck you, fuck the battalion commander, fuck the Army, fuck everything!" Suddenly her voice was very calm. "You think I'm bluffing? I'll show you a bluff." She opened the door and ran out of his office, through the first sergeant's door to the patio and headed upstairs to the bay.
"Kirk! Get back here! Sergeant Ritchie!"
Michaelson watched Kirk with growing apprehension as the young African-American woman threw open her locker door, removed a small, plastic container and ingested the entire contents. Kirk then removed a plastic baggie from her tampon box containing approximately twenty-five dark orange and peach colored capsules and swallowed all of them. Michaelson knew that the pills had been purchased from Ingersol, the landing lizard who had more success pushing drugs than himself on the ladies. God only knew what kind of narcotics they were or what kind of effect they were going to have.
"Hey, Kirk, come on, what are you doing?" Michaelson approached her, fully willing to force her finger down the younger trainee's throat if she had to. After the throwing up Michaelson had been doing all morning, seeing another pile of vomit wouldn't have bothered her all too much, especially if it resulted in saving Kirk's life.
"It doesn't matter anymore, Michaelson. They aren't going to let me go. Colton told me so. He said it all was a lie; that Bishaye lied to me about everything. I can't stay here. I can't do this Army thing...this...it was a mistake. It was all a mistake."
"Kirk, it'll be okay. You have to go to a hospital, though, This isn't going to solve anything."
"It will for me."
"Kirk, it's not worth it, you -"
"I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!!! You understand? I'm fucked either way." She started to cry again.
Ritchie burst through the door and ordered Michaelson to go back to her locker."But, Drill Sergeant, she -"
"I said return to you area, Private Michaelson, this does not concern you."
"She took some pills," the blonde told him, quickly.
Turning promptly to Kirk, Ritchie asked, "Is that true?"
The young woman sat on her bunk with her arms folded across her chest, obstinately ignoring him.
"How many pills, Michaelson?" Ritchie inquired.
"A lot, Drill Sergeant, I can't say for sure."
"Snitch," Kirk spit out at Michaelson.
If her words stung the pretty trainee, she didn't show it. Michaelson remained by Ritchie's side, unyielding, as she and Kirk locked stares.
"I've had it with your bullshit, Kirk. Let's go. We've got to get you to a hospital, although I can't, for the life of me, think why anyone would want to save your worthless soul."
The distraught young woman stood up and thrust her middle finger practically up his left nostril. He grabbed her hand with such force, he almost broke it. With lightening speed, Kirk reached around with her other hand and punched Ritchie directly in the groin. Ritchie released Kirk instantly as he fell to his knees in a great agony. Kirk then spit on him as she ran out of the barracks.
Michaelson!" Ritchie barely got out in between grimaces and groans, "go downstairs and tell Sergeant Fuscha to call the MPs."
"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Michaelson obeyed.
At five o'clock, while the Alpha-10 trainees were standing in formation at Parade Rest on a patio they had just marched onto, they noticed an overabundance of official looking strangers and uniformed MPs running around. That was curious enough but when the senior drill sergeant ascended the podium and said, "Please cooperate with MPI. They will be asking questions about Private Kirk. Company..."
"Ah-ten-shun!" The trainees snapped to the commanded position. "Fall out!"
For the first time since they had seen him, Ritchie looked rattled, if not downright terrified. When he stepped down from the platform, he hurried back to the Orderly Room, accompanied by two plain clothed investigators.
Dale raced upstairs, trying to quell an unpleasant gut feeling that was seizing her brain and her heart was pounding so rigorously, she was sure the motion could be seen outside her uniform. She threw open the barracks door and immediately found Michaelson, who she knew had been in the bay all day.
"Michaelson..." Dale called, out of breath, "what the hell is going on around here."
"It's Kirk. She's dead," Michaelson said, without any build-up or warning.
Dale stepped back, her hand automatically going to her chest. "Wh -? Dead? What are you talking about...she can't be dead."
"She's dead, Oakes." Michaelson faced her, squarely, obviously shaken. "I was told not to talk to anybody about this but I know you really tried to help her and cared about her, so I'll try to get this out before the others come in. She overdosed. They found her in the weeds over across from Twelfth Battalion."
"No, no, no...what happened?" Some of the women were starting to pile in, so Dale and Michaelson began to walk up the aisle toward the windows at the far end of the bay, as the blonde lowered her voice.
"All I know is that we got back from the TMC and she was sent for by the captain. She came back upstairs, out of control. She started swallowing all this stuff she had in her locker, saying Colton had told her that the battalion commander lied and they weren't going to let her out. She said nothing mattered anymore. Then Ritchie came to get her. She got away from him by punching him where he thinks and, let me tell you, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," she told Dale, sourly. "He definitely escalated the situation. I ran downstairs and told Fuscha and he called the MPs but it was too late. By the time they found her, about thirty minutes ago, she was gone."
"Son-of-a-bitch! Son-of-a-motherfucking-bitch!" Dale shook her head, her eyes flashing with anger. She reeled from Michaelson and headed outside, running directly into her partner who was entering the barracks.
Shannon held onto her friend, pulling her over to the side of the landing. She could feel Dale's rage and waited until the area was clear. "Calm down," was all the blonde lieutenant could get out.
"Calm down? She's dead , Shan!"
"I know. I just heard. I'm sorry."
"Goddamn that fucking Colton," Dale's voice was coolly controlled but there was no mistaking her fury. "He told her they weren't going to let her out. That was the final straw."
"That's hearsay, Dale."
The dark haired CID agent looked directly at her partner for the first time. "It came from Michaelson who was witness to Kirk's last words."
"He was playing commander, which is what he's paid to do. He must not have felt the situation was that desperate. He tried something, it didn't work -"
" Didn't work? She is dead , Shannon. I think that constitutes a little deeper issue than just not working. He can't get away with this. I'm going to talk to him right now."
"Dale, stop it!" Shannon looked around to make sure they were still free to talk. Her voice was quiet but urgent. "You cannot say anything without letting on to the cadre or MPI who you are. You will blow it. Kirk's death is a terrible tragedy and it definitely should be investigated but not by us. It has nothing to do with why we are here. I'm not trying to be cold but I think we should use this situation to our advantage. The women are going to be scared now and so will the cadre for a while. For people like MacArthur, who seem to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown anyway, the pressure might be too much and she might talk...if she has anything to talk about. And those set up girls, if they are here in this cycle, aren't going to be so willing to play along if these people in authority here can drive somebody to the point of taking his or her own life. We may be able to clear this thing up really fast and get the hell out of here."
Dale windmilled her arm and broke Shannon's grip. She glared at her friend, incredulously. "I don't believe you! Do you realize what has happened here? A human being is dead because of our company commander. A seventeen-year-old girl who had her whole life ahead of her."
"She committed suicide."
"She was driven to it," Dale countered, not at all pleased by her partner's almost indifferent attitude. "What has happened to you? You can't tell me that none of this bothers you, that because this isn't connected to our case that we should just ignore it and the implications that go along with it...I can't believe you are that insensitive."
"I am not insensitive!" Shannon said, defensively. "I have as much compassion as you do. I keep forgetting that you don't have as much to lose as I do. This would suit you fine, wouldn't it?"
"What does that mean?"
"Blowing our cover wide open. That would be perfect, wouldn't it? Then you could go back to Vermont, do whatever it was you were doing and never have to deal with Uncle Sam again - unless, of course, they made a mistake on your disability check."
"That's unfair, Shannon, and it isn't true," Dale argued, hurt by her friend's retaliatory comments.
"The hell it isn't! Well, go ahead, hot shot, go down to Colton's office and explode! Bishaye's down there, too, make sure she gets an earful!" Before Dale could respond, Shannon stormed inside the barracks.
Completely enraged now, Dale ran downstairs and pounded on the Orderly Room door. MacArthur stepped outside and looked at the CID agent, dazed. "Go back upstairs, Oakes. Kirk's death does not concern you. If MPI needs to talk to you, we will notify you."
"Her death doesn't concern me? She happened to be my friend and, for your information, Drill Sergeant," Dale was biting off every word, "her death concerns everybody."
"Go upstairs, Oakes! Now!"
"Drill Sergeant," Dale said, evenly, trying to control herself, "I understand the battalion commander is here. I would like permission to speak with her."
MacArthur looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "Permission denied. The colonel is much too busy a woman to comfort you because you lost your friend."
"Then I want to see Captain Colton."
"Permission denied. Go back upstairs, now, Oakes or you're in big trouble!"
" Knock it the fuck right off, MacArthur, I want to see somebody now!!!"
"How dare you speak to me like that! Who the fuck do you think you are?"
Before Dale crossed that line and told her, they were interrupted by Anne Bishaye and Rory Colton stepping outside the CQ Office to see what the disturbance was.
"I want to talk to you!" Dale pointed directly at Bishaye while MacArthur called them both to Attention.
When Dale did not obey, MacArthur began to sweat. Why did these things always happen to her? Why in front of the battalion commander, who she absolutely worshipped? " I told you Attention, Oakes! " MacArthur screamed at her, praying she would come to her senses.
"At ease, carry on," Bishaye calmly told the female drill sergeant, overriding her. The battalion commander then looked at Dale, inquisitively, making a deliberate point to look at her name tag. "Private Oakes? Are you the young lady Private Kirk told me about who befriended her?" she asked for MacArthur's benefit.
"Yes, Ma'am," Dale responded, fixing her gaze on the usually warm, brown eyes of the lieutenant-colonel, which were now troubled and chilly. She was obviously disturbed but still composed and in control.
"Captain Colton, would you please escort Private Oakes to my office? I will join you in a moment."
"Certainly, Ma'am." Colton put his hand on her arm to usher her away and Dale shook him off, still scowling at Anne. "Private Oakes, please," Colton urged. She finally went with him, ignoring any attempt he made to speak to her on the way over to battalion headquarters.
"Sergeant MacArthur," Bishaye began, quietly, "under normal circumstances, we'd have to make an example of her insubordination. However, these are not normal circumstances. Private Oakes' reaction and behavior is not unusual by any means. It is probably the first of several angry responses that we're in for. I'm not saying we should put up with a mutiny but I don't think we should chastise anyone for a natural reaction, either."
"How do you suggest we handle them, Ma'am?"
"Keep them as busy as possible and keep as much to your routine as usual. Those who want to talk about it in a rational manner should be allowed to do so in private. I will advise Captain Colton and Lieutenant Henning on proper procedure and they, in turn, will inform the cadre. That will be all, Sergeant MacArthur."
"Yes, Ma'am. Thank you, Ma'am."
Colton and Dale were waiting in Anne's outer office when she got there. Unlocking the door, Bishaye let them inside, shutting the door behind her, hoping to ward off the curiosity of the staff duty CQ runners, who were understandably confused by all this sudden commotion at Battalion.
"You look like you could chew nails and spit rust," Anne observed, facing Dale. "This better be good for you to risk blowing your cover."
The undercover lieutenant stared at the battalion commander, agape. Who was this cold woman standing before her and what had she done with her beloved Anne? Had she become so much of a fantasy that Dale had completely deluded herself to the reality of this woman? Suddenly, she was not so attracted to her anymore. "What the fuck is wrong with you? A girl died today, Anne!"
Unaware of the relationship between the lieutenant-colonel and the CID agent, Colton flared up. "You address her as Ma'am or -"
"Or what?" Dale whirled toward him, menacingly, with enough attitude to make him take a step back. "Or what? Tell me exactly what you'll do, you lying sack of shit!"
Dale..." Anne warned.
Ignoring her, the lieutenant continued with Colton. "I've known this lady forever, I will call her whatever I Goddamn well please!"
"Dale!" Anne hissed at her to get her attention. "Keep your voice down! I don't need the entire battalion hearing everything that is said in this office. Now I ordered you to keep your distance from this young woman. Why did you stay connected? Was she a lead?"
Looking back at Anne, Dale shook her head, almost laughing out of frustration. "You are unbelievable. No, she was not a lead, she was exactly what she said she was. I'm furious because her death was senseless. She was a nice kid. I liked her. I considered her my friend." She looked at Bishaye, accusingly. "Were you going to let her out or weren't you?"
"Yes. I told her that. She didn't belong here."
Narrowing her eyes, Dale cut Colton a look that should have made him wet himself. "Then why did you tell her she wasn't going to get out?"
Obviously this was news to Anne. "What?" She took her focus off Dale and put it onto Colton.
"Where did you hear that?" the captain asked, clearly shocked by information that had reached Dale so quickly. He had not had time to conjure up a cover story and the MPI reports were not available yet so the CID agent's knowledge of this was unexpected. The hesitancy in his voice hinted at his guilt.
"Deborah Michaelson gave a sworn statement saying that Kirk returned to the barracks provoked and unhinged, suicidal, because you told her she wasn't getting out, that Anne, here, had lied to her."
"You told her what? " The ice in Anne's voice was positively glacial. "Is that true?" At that point, Colton may have actually wet himself. Dale didn't blame him. She'd been on the receiving end of Bishaye's wrath and it was not an experience she wanted to relive.
"She's lying! I never said that!"
"You ball-less, gutless coward! Own up to it!" Dale yelled at him. "What reason would Michaelson have to get you into trouble? That doesn't make any sense!"
"No, I never said that to Kirk!" He said, defensively back pedaling. "And besides, Michaelson isn't supposed to be telling you or anybody else anything until the investigation is over," Colton said, uneasily.
"She didn't," Dale told him. She did not want to get the trainee in trouble for talking when she was told not to. The poor woman was dealing with enough, as it was. "I overheard two MPIs discussing it. Michaelson wasn't speaking to anybody about it, as is procedure. Why did you tell Kirk that, Colton?"
"Then what did you say to her to incite that kind of reaction?" Anne pressed, knowing, as Dale did, that Colton was the one doing the lying.
"Well...uh...it seemed...uh...I was, you know, trying to use psychology on her...to get her to stay in..." He looked up at his superior officer, knowing he didn't answer her question, almost pleadingly. "She wasn't supposed to react that way!"
Anne dropped her head, shaking it. "Well, that is just great."
"Why you sorry son-of-a-bitch..." Dale began.
"Dale -" Anne grabbed her arm before she could charge him.
The undercover lieutenant did not shake the battalion commander off. Under different circumstances, the feeling of Anne's hand on her bicep would have been pleasantly welcome. However, now Dale knew that if the lieutenant-colonel didn't have a good grip on her, anchoring her in her place, her rage might push her into doing great bodily harm to Colton. Not that he certainly didn't deserve it but Dale did not want to go to jail for what she considered a justifiable beating.
"Where's your license to practice? Huh? It's not there because you're not trained, you asshole! You didn't earn one! So why the hell are you 'trying to use psychology' on anyone? It's not about that. You just get a kick out of exercising your power by telling anyone who darkens your door, who might not happen to agree with you or want to do things your way, anyone who's troubled to knock it off and double-time it back to duty. And why? Not because you believe it; because you can . The power of manipulation is an intoxicating thing, isn't it, Colton? Well, bully for you. I hope you're happy and real proud of yourself, you just manipulated a seventeen-year-old child right into an unnecessary grave!"
Angry that a female was speaking to him in that manner, especially one who was a subordinate, he turned to Bishaye. "Are you going to allow her to talk to me like that?"
"Yes, I am. How dare you cross me like that, how dare you tell a trainee - or anyone, for that matter - that I lied to them. You and I will discuss possible disciplinary action for that later. But, for now...do you realize what you've done? We not only have to burden the suicide of a seventeen-year-old girl on our consciences, we're going to be damned lucky if the whole battalion isn't brought up on charges for gross negligence and full responsibility for her death. Alpha-10 has a swell black eye already because of the fraternization charges, we didn't need this on top of it."
Dale removed Anne's hand and took a step away from her and stared at her, contentious and puzzled. "I cannot believe that you are talking about this so Goddamned clinically! She was a person, a living, breathing human being as real as any one of us standing here! She was not a troublemaker or a bad person; she was a misfit! Why is it that the Army trains its authoritarians to have such a killer instinct?" She glared at Colton. "Why can't people like you let go without stripping somebody completely of any dignity, self-confidence and self-respect? Why must you carry on a tradition of punishing people for not fitting in? You don't solve the problem; you intensify it. Jesus Christ, send them home! Save us all a lot of money, headaches and time. Beating them until you have bled them dry may be great fun for you but it is total hell on the morale of the other trainees. Why do you think the UCMJ has AR 635-212? It's for unsuitability. It's there for a reason."
"Look, if we let them off that easy, we'd have everybody wanting to go home after the first week," Colton argued.
"Bullshit. You can tell the ones who are really out of place from the ones who are just a little shell shocked. I can. Kirk needed to be left alone until she was let go, you should have recognized that, then none of this would have happened." Dale asserted.
"Kirk needed to be disciplined!" Colton protested. "I couldn't let her get away with her antics with MacArthur. What kind of message does that send, not only to the other trainees but to the drill sergeants, as well?"
"First, if MacArthur was any kind of a drill sergeant, the very least she should have done is had every single one of us down in the front leaning rest position and she should have taken control of the situation right then and there. She should have gotten everyone out of bed, made us do push-ups until our arms shook and then kept us up half the night with an impromptu GI party. That would have made an impact. That would have sent a message. She would not have had to single out Kirk to discipline her, the other women would have taken care of that. So when you start talking about sending messages, maybe you need to look in your own back yard."
Shrugging, Colton cleared his throat. "Well, you do have a point there."
"I'm not done," Dale spit out. "Second, yes, I agree that Kirk's defiance and insolence with MacArthur should have been addressed but you could have picked a punishment more suited to the crime. You knew she was acting that way because she wanted to get out of here as soon as possible, did you honestly believe you would cure her hostility by making her stay longer? By constantly making an example out of her? You drive people to commit a crime, bait them into it, like AWOL, assault, murder at times...suicide, in Kirk's case...and then you punish them for it. It's like a fucking game to you, man, and it's obviously gotten so that it doesn't matter how high the stakes are just as long as you win."
"Okay, Dale," Anne put her hand up to halt the conversation, "that's enough. It's done."
"It's not done -" Dale stated, ready to continue to her verbal onslaught of Colton.
"It's done." Anne's elevated voice silenced the lieutenant and then she softened her tone. "There is nothing anyone can do to bring Kirk back. We obviously made a monumental mistake. I am sorry. I will do my best to make sure this never happens again in my battalion as long as I'm here. But I don't think taking this personally and avenging the death of someone you barely knew is wise, Dale. I believe you are too upset to think clearly. Just bear in mind that if you blow your cover, it doesn't just involve you and you could make it miserable for a lot of people, including me. I suggest you go back to the bay, think it over and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, if you decide that you have really had enough, come to me. Don't just announce it to whoever will listen. I expect you to do me that courtesy. I know for a fact that you are much more professional than you are acting right now."
Still fuming, Dale sighed. "I don't have to think about it. I'll stay. I owe you that. But I want something done about him," she nodded to Colton. "Can't you bring him up on individual charges or something?"
"Charges?" Colton looked startled.
"I'm going to hold off on doing anything for the moment. At least until the investigation is over and I have more information."
Dale and Colton exchanged looks of pure venom. "You're the boss. But if he gets away with this -"
"Dale, Jesus Christ!" Anne had reached her breaking point with her young friend. "The fault is not all his and I am not going to make him the scapegoat. Yes, he was wrong in what he did but we all have a hand in this from her parents to me. Now you settle down and think about this less irrationally than you have been doing. You have points well taken about the system but you are not going to change it. I do realize just because things are the way they are doesn't make them right but now is not the time for a crusade." She watched Dale glance downward. "You have exactly eleven days until Christmas exodus and then you can have some time to yourself again. Just hang in there with me until then."
Looking back up at Bishaye and then at Colton, she bit her lip in an attempt to keep herself in check. She returned her attention to the striking battalion commander and knew her feelings for the older officer had changed (although she wasn't quite sure how yet). "Like I said, you're the boss." When she turned to leave, she stepped around Colton and opened the door. "Just keep him the fuck out of my way."
After the door slammed shut, the room went silent for a moment. Colton finally looked at Anne. "She and her partner aren't real big on waiting to be dismissed, are they?" The expression on his superior officer's face told him that Dale's insubordination was the least of his worries. At any other time, he enjoyed being in her presence because she was gorgeous and what red-blooded male did not like to be in the company of a beautiful and, yes, sexy, female? And, despite the fact that she was a woman, she was an admirable and inspiring officer, one that he had often employed the fantasy of being intimate with but right now he would have settled for being in her good graces, which he was obviously not. "Is, uh, she always like that?" he asked, cautiously.
"Like what?" The battalion commander crossed her arms.
"I think she has a right."
"Is she a dyke?"
Anne's eyes flew wide open at the brazen question. "Excuse me?"
Oblivious to her indignant astonishment, he repeated it. "Oakes. Is she a dyke?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, she comes off really strong and tough and Kirk admitted that she was a dyke and she and Oakes were obviously close and -"
"And that automatically means they were the apple of each other's eye? You amaze me. I think the last thing you should be thinking about here is Dale Oakes sexual orientation. Dale cares about people. She may not always express her compassion well but she can be very emotional. This girl's death was very avoidable and it hit way too close to home. When you look death in the eye, like Dale has, and just escape it by a hair, I think you might be a little overboard by this situation, too. She's acting so tough and strong because she's scared and that's how she filters her fear."
"She sure doesn't act scared to me."
"You don't know her."
"Not sure I want to either."
"Now...whether she is or isn't a lesbian is none of your business."
"But it is the Army's."
"Where are you going with this, Rory?" She inquired, already having read his mind. "Did nothing she say to you in here sink in? You don't like her because she stands up to you; she challenges you. She isn't impressed by your good looks so that obviously makes her gay? So if that was the truth, instead of accepting her and leaving her alone to do what she needs to do to finish out her career, you want to make as much trouble for her as possible, maybe even be responsible for getting her dishonorably discharged just because she goes against your grain. You should be ashamed."
But he wasn't. "She wants to have me brought up on charges!"
"Because you actually did something wrong!" she told him, exasperated. "Listen to me...Dale Oakes is a good officer and a better cop and if you want this case solved then you should be damned grateful that she is here. She is very good at what she does. You, on the other hand, are skating on very thin ice. Clean up your act, Rory, it may be your last chance. Now, have a seat and make yourself comfortable. We're going to discuss you calling me a liar."
All activities were cancelled the next day and anyone who wanted to visit the chapel was allowed to at ten A.M. JC Kirk had not been very popular during her short stay but no one had wished her the unfortunate and untimely ending she came to. And, for some, it was proper alleviation of their own guilt to pray for Kirk's "worthless" soul, as Ritchie had called it, to reach the arms of God and finally find the freedom she had been so desperately seeking.
No one in the barracks, with the exception of Michaelson and Dale, knew any of the details surrounding Kirk's death and the cadre reacted as though struck mute when Kirk's name was mentioned.
Dale had decided not to attend church. She felt it was just a tad sanctimonious that the Army had driven Kirk to her death and then graciously held a memorial service for her. She wanted no part of it.
Yesterday's meeting with Anne and Colton lingered in Dale's head. What the hell had happened to Anne Bishaye? Of course she held a higher rank and a lot more responsibility now but...was the pedestal Dale had placed her on now crumbling? She used to be relaxed and amusing and enjoyably unpredictable and, although her presence had always been commanding, she never let her power go to her head. Now she seemed strained, which was only natural under the circumstances but she had appeared uneasy and anxious even in Vermont. She had arrived as Anne and left as Colonel Bishaye, apparently unbothered by the fact that she had used her position and influence to get what she wanted. And now an innocent girl had paid for the mistake of being imperfect with her very own life and Anne seemed only concerned with the political repercussions not about Kirk and what she must have gone through and that, to Dale, was the actions of a stranger.
Dale was standing on the north patio, leaning on the railing, looking over at Bravo-10's barracks when Shannon leaned in next to her.
"Hi." Dale answered, without looking at her.
"Heard some big brass was in Bishaye's office this morning."
"I'm not surprised. The post commander and all his mafia have to figure out a way to cover all this up. Nobody needs bad press; especially not Uncle Sam. He got enough of that with Viet Nam." She looked over at her partner, who lit a cigarette. "I see you're still talking to me."
"I see we're still on the case."
"Shan...I'm sorry about yesterday. I just...I just don't understand this..." she let her voice trail off as she pounded the railing with her fist.
Leaning in closer, Shannon touched her shoulder to Dale's. "Yeah and I said some things I shouldn't have, too. You're a lot more emotional than you used to be."
"No. I'm as hard as a rock when I have to be. When it's necessary."
"I really am sorry about Kirk. I never meant to sound as if I wasn't. How did your talk with Bishaye go?"
Dale shrugged. "Let's just say it went."
"In other words, she was about as sympathetic as I was."
"In other words, she was very military."
"I was in the CQ Office this morning, sweeping up, and I heard that Bishaye met with a representative from the Army Legislation liaison. They're going to issue a statement saying, 'proper care and caution were exercised in regard to Private Kirk's treatment'."
"Oh, gee, how noble of them and I am sure if further statements need to be issued, they'll parade out the long-standing personality problem bullshit. I just can't swallow the injustice of this."
"I guess, so far, either the press has been kept at bay or they really don't care. So...what really happened, Dale?"
"Colton played a vicious headgame with Kirk and it backfired. Ritchie got into the act but by then she had swallowed a slew of pills, which Michaelson thinks she bought off Ingersol. Anyway, she got away from Ritchie by punching him in the balls. By the time he got up off his knees, she had booked."
Shannon shook her head. "God. So Michaelson thinks she bought them off Ingersol. Why is that?"
"She told me this morning that Ingersol tried to entice her up to his room by offering her a baggie of pills just like the ones Kirk took."
"Interesting. Do you know if she told anyone else about that?"
"I don't think so." They exchanged glances.
"Don't you find that odd that she wouldn't tell anyone except you?"
"Not really. I was the only one she told what really happened, so no, I don't find it unusual."
"But why not MPI?"
"As we have already observed, Michaelson keeps very much to herself. And I think being thrust into the spotlight like this made her very uncomfortable. She seems the type that wouldn't want to point a finger at Ingersol if she wasn't positive. Besides, who wants the tag of snitch their first few weeks of basic training? She may be doing us a favor by not mentioning it. That way, we can keep an eye on him, see who he hangs out with, who buys from him...if nothing else, maybe we can weed out the possible druggies in the company."
"What good will that do?"
"Well, you know, it's just my opinion, Shan, but I believe that if one is serious about law enforcement, one does not break the law. I find it rather hypocritical that someone would get stoned or purchase illegal substances either before or after a shift and then go out and bust somebody for doing exactly what they do. And, to me, anyone who has a drug habit is not serious about enforcing the law. So anyone who buys one of Ingersol's little baggies should be watched closely because I, personally, wouldn't want somebody like that as my partner and I don't feel like standing around, watching that person being trained and turned out and permanently assigned and end up being partnered with someone like me."
"You want to hop down off that soap box for a second? I agree with you to a point but let's face it, Dale, the pressures of police work are unlike that of just about any other job. Just because I may go home after a hard shift's work and occasionally fire up a joint or two doesn't make me any less of a cop that you are."
"The point is it's still breaking the law."
"So is drinking an driving. Tell me you're not guilty of that."
"All right," Dale conceded, holding up her hand, "so we all have our guilty little vices. You know what I'm saying and I wasn't leveling any accusations at you. Maybe we have fallen into some bad habits but we never did it in training..."
"And never on or before duty and to set the record straight, I have never busted anyone for pot except one sleazeball on a grade school playground on post. Now let's get off this discussion. One fight a week with you is about all I can handle. One a day with you would be too much for even Henry Kissinger."
Dale smiled. "Okay. Back to Michaelson."
"Do you think she's protecting Ingersol?"
Shaking her head, Dale said, "If she was, she wouldn't have mentioned him to me at all. I think she wanted at least one other person to know what she knew in case it does turn into something. And I think she's scared."
"You join the Army to train for law enforcement, you're not even in basic training one month and someone practically kills herself right in front of you? Wouldn't that spook you a little? This kind of stuff doesn't ordinarily happen."
"That's true but what's going to happen when the real investigation starts? About how Kirk got the downers to kill herself?"
"For all they know, she could have come in with them. Nobody checks that closely. She could have been hiding them in a tampon box, you know how the male drill sergeants avoid those as if they were electrified. She could have packed them, brought them in on her, who knows? Unless they already suspect Ingersol or someone else of pushing pills around here, I imagine they are going to assume she brought them from home. Regardless, you can bet your ass we're going to have a massive shakedown within the next twenty-four hours and they're going to check for anyone else's drug supply."
"I bet Ingersol is sweating bullets as visions of criminally negligent homicide charges dance in his head." Shannon took the last puff on her cigarette, field stripped it and stuck it in her pocket.
"Well maybe not that particular charge, but..."
"Probably no charges at all knowing this place but it gives me great pleasure to think the son-of-a-bitch is shaking in his boots. I'm going back upstairs. You coming?"
"Naw. Not yet. The air feels good."
Virginia MacArthur walked out of the CQ Office and spotted Dale leaning on the railing by the laundry room. Approaching her, MacArthur saw the distant look in the ‘trainee's' eyes and knew she was oblivious to the drill sergeant's presence.
"Oakes." MacArthur's voice startled Dale into the real world.
"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Dale responded, unenthusiastically moving to Parade Rest.
"What's your second special order?"
"'I will obey my special orders and perform all my duties in a military manner'."
"What's your fourth special order?"
"There is no fourth special order, Drill Sergeant."
"Very good. You didn't even have to stop and think about it." MacArthur was obviously impressed. "At ease, Oakes, carry on."
Dale leaned on the railing again and MacArthur leaned with her, studying her. Great , the CID agent thought, a tête à tête with the third of her four least favorite people in the world right now. What the fuck does she want?
"Why aren't you at the service? I would think you, of all people, would be there."
Dale half-smiled and said, "I'm not big on church, Drill Sergeant."
"That's too bad, Oakes, you'd be surprised what a good religious reprimand could do for you."
Dale shook her head. This is not an area you want to go with me . "I'm beyond God's help, Drill Sergeant. That's why I joined the Army." They locked stares and MacArthur broke out into a grin, which made Dale blink in astonishment. A smile changed this woman's entire appearance. "I'm sorry about yesterday in front of the battalion commander, Drill Sergeant," the CID agent reluctantly told her. She hated apologizing to a person who should have been openly sharing the responsibility of the tragic circumstances that brought them together at that very moment but if she were going to continue this charade, she knew she was going to have to make nice with MacArthur. She exhaled a deep breath, trying to sound her most confused and puzzled for the drill sergeant's benefit. "I thought everything was starting to go so smoothly for Kirk and then bang, it's over. Like she never existed. I, uh, know things were wild for you yesterday, too, but I needed answers...maybe not really answers, we'll probably never get any real answers...I guess I needed some direction. And I didn't think you could give that to me and I thought the battalion commander could. So...I just wanted to say I am sorry if I made you look bad, Drill Sergeant." I'm sorry you made yourself look bad, Drill Sergeant.
"I'm sorry too, Oakes," MacArthur admitted, sincerely and her voice and attitude softened. "I'm not used to this kind of stuff myself."
"Has something like this ever happened before, Drill Sergeant?" Dale's curiosity sounded genuine.
"Suicide? No since I've been around here but there's been a lot going on in this company that doesn't add up." She seemed to be talking to herself more than Dale.
"Like what, Drill Sergeant?"
"Nothing," MacArthur said. "Nothing that I have a right to discuss with you, anyway."
"We, upstairs, have heard stories...rumors..." Dale prodded.
"That's all they are, Oakes. Every cycle starts in on things they heard about the cycle before them. It's all garbage."
"Well, whatever is going on around here, it looks like it's beginning to take its toll on you, Drill Sergeant. Maybe you should take a vacation." Please oh please oh please...
"I plan to. I have sixty days coming to me and I really need this leave. Especially after this."
Dale blinked and took a moment to vocalize. Wishes like this weren't usually granted. "Are you going to be going before our cycle ends?"
"I'm leaving in January."
"Are you coming back at all after Christmas exodus?"
MacArthur looked at her and smiled. "Why? Don't tell me you're going to miss me, Oakes."
Dale returned her grin and said, "Drill Sergeant, honestly, if I ever saw any of your faces again, it would be too soon for me. But I am starting to get used to you."
This made MacArthur laugh. "Your honesty kills me, Private." She cleared her throat and straightened up, becoming official again. "Well, I suppose I have said enough. Again, I am sorry about Kirk. I honestly didn't think she'd end up this way." The drill sergeant sounded as though she truly meant it. "I hoped the colonel helped clear things up for you."
"She was really nice about it, Drill Sergeant." Dale's senses were suddenly overcome by the memory of Anne's intensity and it sent a shiver of pleasure down her spine. Well, so much for her being pissed...
"She's a terrific leader. We're lucky to have her here," MacArthur stated, her voice thick with hero worship. "Well, you'd better get back up to the bay and study your three special orders."
"You sure you don't want me to study the fourth one, Drill Sergeant?" Dale teased. "Are we having a test on them?"
MacArthur shrugged and donned a guilty expression. "You never know. I wouldn't take any chances if I were you."
Dale didn't really want to leave the patio yet but MacArthur's 'request' was much better than an order. Dale double-timed it across the concrete floor and took two steps at a time to get upstairs to the bay.
"MacArthur's leaving," Dale told Shannon, who was polishing her brass. The dark haired lieutenant sat on the floor, leaning her back against Wachsman's bunk. Chrissie was on the other side of the bay, talking about Kirk's death with some of the other women, which left no one around the two CID agents. Most of the others were doing their best to avoid Dale. They had heard about her scene with the battalion commander and they felt awkward about approaching her until they felt she'd had time to cool down.
"Why? Did this Kirk thing get to her?"
"I think it contributed. But she has leave time in January. She's taking two months."
"Not soon enough or long enough for me," Shannon commented, slightly tipping the bottle of Brasso onto a diaper and rubbing her brass insignia with it. "How'd you find out?"
"She told me. She came out and talked to me after you left."
"Lucky you. How did she treat you?"
"Fine. You know, I think she'd be okay if she just got that wild hair out of her ass. You were right about her being wound up. I tried to get her to talk about it but she said it was nothing she could discuss with me."
"Well, we know what that means. I wonder who will replace her."
"With our luck, it will be someone who knows us both."
"Jesus, that's all Bishaye needs." Shannon inspected her nice bright, shiny brass and then set it down. "What do you think is really going to happen with this Kirk case?"
Dale pinched the bridge of her nose to relieve the tension that had built up in her head. "Probably nothing. She signed all her insurance papers but because of the suicide clause somebody is out twenty thousand bucks...hopefully her folks. Anyway, I doubt her parents will press charges. They didn't want her around in the first place so, in a roundabout way, they got their wish."
"Yeah but that's just the type who would make a big deal out of it."
"Doesn't matter. Uncle Sam will cover it up. If they can cover up the bullshit that still goes on up around the DMZ in Korea, as you well know, they can handle a simple suicide. They'll foot the bill of the funeral expense and burial and it'll be over. No repercussions. Nice and clean. And by the time the cycle is over, JC Kirk will have become a faded, misty, bad memory. If anyone remembers her at all."
Shannon nodded, noticing Dale's changing attitude of dubious acceptance. "Life goes on," Shannon concluded for her.
"And on and on, regardless. Jesus, I'd love a drink right now."
"Mmmm. Hey, I heard Hanley is leaving tomorrow."
"Now, there's some more good news. For a while I thought she might be going through all over again because she doesn't trust us."
Picking up her Athena insignia with her cloth as not to get fingerprints on it and recapping her bottle of brass cleaner, Shannon stood up. "That wouldn't surprise me, however, I think things are getting just a little too hot for her to handle. Has she given you anything, by the way?"
"Other than a perpetual migraine? Nothing. You?"
"Hell, no. Maybe she's talked to Stubby."
"No, I think she's avoiding Stub...Henning, too. Henning spoke to her about the cycle spy rumor she tried to start. Hanley said she told Lanigan that shit to throw any attention off herself."
"Bullshit. It was to draw more attention to her. I'm glad she's going. Let's just hope she doesn't make one grand gesture before her dramatic exit."
Dale straightened up next to her partner and yawned. "I'm going to bed early tonight. I didn't sleep too well last night."
"I'm sorry this Kirk thing has hit you so hard."
"It's not just that...when I did finally get to sleep last night at God knows what hour, I dreamed I was marching all night long. I'm exhausted."
"And so it begins," Shannon thought out loud and grinned. "She starts dreaming like a full-fledged trainee."
0200 hours. The barracks door flew open and slammed up against the wall. The lights went on and there were various shouts of "man on the floor!" and "at ease!" Everyone was rousted out of bed one way or another and the women stood at Attention by their bunks until their platoon sergeants got to them. At that time they were commanded to open their lockers and watch while all of their belongings were meticulously searched and then thrown on the floor. Nothing in the locker was sacred or left untouched and some of the women felt naked, standing there, in their sleeping attire, which, for some, consisted of nothing more than a t-shirt and panties.
Captain Colton oversaw the whole project and shadowed the drill sergeants as they conducted their shakedown. When McCoy reached Dale's locker, Colton stood directly in front of her and glared into her eyes. She tried to look straight ahead, as was required for the position of Attention but her eyes eventually strayed to meet his.
"Don't look at me, Private," he snarled. "You're breaking position. If you're staring at anything other than my upper lip, you're wrong."
Dale said nothing but made sure he knew before she resumed looking straight ahead that the feeling of contempt that passed between them was undeniable.
The shakedown easily took an hour and putting their belongings back into their lockers neatly and according to regulation took almost as along as the drill sergeant's surprise visit. Most of the women, jolted awake, forgot about going back to bed and just got ready for morning formation, which was to take place in forty minutes.
The outcome of the impromptu inspection resulted in Beltran, Lehr and McKnight getting counseling statements for not wearing their dogtags and also in the first Article 15 of the cycle. It was awarded to one Emily Zelman; who had minor quantities of drugs shoved in every nook and cranny of her locker. By the time 0520 formation came around, Dizzy had not only lost her pills, she had lost two weeks pay and gained two weeks of extra duty. As with everything, Dizzy took the news with a shrug. She didn't care. She could get more whenever she wanted and she had a roof over her head, three meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and all the sex she wanted.
At night, after bed check, when everyone else was unconscious, Dizzy would arrange her duffel bag in her bunk to look like a sleeping body. Then she would sneak out the rear fire exit door, stick a penny down by the base to hold it open just enough not to lock so that she could get back in and then run one flight up where the men in first platoon slept. They kept a penny in their fire exit door, too.
Hanley left at 0600 hours, bag and baggage, with an uncharacteristic whimper instead of a bang. She told everyone she would be stationed in Germany, that her orders came in yesterday and Shannon and Dale secretly wished her a tower and shook her hand along with the rest of the women who thanked her for her help and advice. Even when she told them 'good luck,' they refused to feel guilty for hoping she might eventually draw a tour of seclusion on a missile base in Iceland and they waved with the rest as her bus drove her out of their field of vision. Both undercover lieutenants breathed a sigh of relief and returned upstairs to attend to their details.
Kerrie Hewett, an innocent young woman from Utah, used a floor buffer for the very first time in her life after all the other details were done and pissed everyone off by not being able to control the contraption. She switched it on and it careened away from her like a horse stung by a bee, knocking all of the beds out of alignment on the right side of the bay. Several women took an extra fifteen minutes and showed the mortified girl how to handle that nasty old machine with a mind of its own after they put their bunks back in line. If the cute Mormon hadn't heard obscenities before that point in her life, she certainly was familiar with them before 0700 formation.
The temperature hit zero degrees that morning with a wind chill factor of eight below so the trainees were transported to their classroom. They stood down by the bus stop at the end of building 1801 North in formation for at least thirty minutes and waited for the repainted school bus to arrive. In that allotted time, they could have marched or double-timed to Raburn Hall and stayed warm through the exercise of it.
The trainees were scheduled for two tests that morning on the UCMJ and Court Martials. Before anyone even took their seats, Henning singled out Shannon and spoke to her so everyone could hear.
"Private Walker, I would like to see you outside to discuss your barrette. It's not very military," the A-10 training officer said, crisply. She stepped off the low platform in front of the classroom and walked out the door.
"Yes, Ma'am," Shannon responded and followed her outside.
After making sure the coast was clear, Henning said, "Where did you find that thing you are wearing on your head? From Peter Max? That's disgustingly civilian."
Shannon grinned. "It got your attention, didn't it?"
"It got everyone's attention. That thing could land aircraft. What's up?"
"Well, first on behalf of all us lowly trainees, I'd like to thank you for that shakedown last night. We didn't need the sleep anyway. Dale and I expected it but that doesn't mean it was appreciated. I mean, you could have pulled it earlier so that we might have had the option to go back to sleep. Now anything anyone tries to learn today will be a waste."
"Welcome to the Army, Private Walker," Henning said and smirked with an almost coltish tone to her voice then she got serious. "We just wanted to make sure no one else had any drugs like Kirk did. One overdose death is enough."
"I bet Zelman's supply surprised you...although I don't think she has suicide on her mind. In fact, we're not even sure she has a mind yet. I'll be curious to see if she behaves any differently after her Article 15."
"Better. Still pissed off. How close did she come to blowing it?"
"Not at all. General consensus was that she reacted in a normal, angry, confused manner. No one would have thought a cycle spy would have put herself out in the open like that. And, she did not make a friend out of Captain Colton."
"Well, that should cheer her up. She doesn't hold much regard for our illustrious C.O. Can't say he's exactly my cup of tea, either. Did you find anything out about Beltran?"
"Yes. She's a sneaky one. At first she denied the whole thing, told me that Sargent doesn't like her and is trying to get her into trouble but then I used that call logging crap Dale came up with and Beltran freaked out. I guess she's not used to getting caught. Anyway, she called her boyfriend, who is stationed at Devens. He taught her about using the autovon line. She gave me the number and I confirmed it. It's legit. She's on warning and knows if she tries it again, she will be severely disciplined."
"I hope she believes you."
"If she doesn't, she's going to exhaust herself by polishing one of those three foot silver bullets in the stones near the stairwell between the patios."
"And Hanley and the cycle spy rumor?"
"Colonel Bishaye took care of that."
"Oh...Dale told me that you had."
"I spoke to her about it but Colonel Bishaye took care of it...if you get my drift."
"My sentiments exactly. Hanley did tell me to keep an eye on Minty, Sherlock and McTague, though. She said they seemed more interested in becoming wives than soldiers."
"Sherlock and McTague, maybe but Minty knows where to draw the line. I think because she's an Army brat, she's testing how far she can step on that line before she crosses it and gets reprimanded. And I've watched them myself. I don't think their behavior warrants any special concern. What's going to happen with the Kirk thing?"
"Basically nothing.""Yeah. That's what we thought. I hope this incident shook enough people up so that it doesn't have to happen again."
"Hard to say. I mean, how much more has to happen to this company, period? How's Michaelson doing? She refused counseling."
"Michaelson seems to be very strong, emotionally. I think she's fine, under the circumstances. She keeps very much to herself, anyway. Dale and I will keep an eye on her, though."
"Good. Anything else?"
"Not at this time."
"All right. You should probably get back inside. And don't wear that barrette again or I'll have you polishing that other silver bullet with Beltran."
Flashing Lt. Henning a grin, Shannon said, "No task too tough, Ma'am."
"Oh, God I hate that Ritchie," Travis stated after she walked in the bay door and leaned against her locker. "If I hear one more time, 'Far be it from me to start any shit...' I'm going to jam my disgustingly dirty combat boot right up his nasty, funky ass," she said, after she had been singled out by the senior drill sergeant for having soiled footgear after her platoon had just finished doing PT in the dusty field. Everyone else had blemished combat boots, too, but for some reason, known only to Ritchie, he picked on Travis.
"I know it. He's just so arrogant and obnoxious," Tierni grumbled and removed her LBJs and field jacket.
"I think he's just the opposite," Travis remarked, slamming open her locker door. Tierni looked at her, confused. "I think he's obnoxious and arrogant," Travis clarified.
"The fucker provokes me just by saying my name," Sherry Lehr said, still stung by receiving a counseling statement earlier that morning.
"I can't believe they actually gave us tests today. I had to concentrate just to keep my eyes open. Who could think about answering questions? I'm surprised any of us passed," Melanie Mackey said and yawned as she put her fatigue jacket away.
"I think I got the highest mark..." Tramonte spoke up, "...of anyone who failed."
"The best thing of the whole day was Sergeant Mercer and the Human Relations class," Tierni said.
"I think she's gay," Donna Guierrierre commented.
"Who cares? She's a good teacher. She made the class interesting. If we had to have a female NCO in the cadre, why couldn't we have someone like her instead of..." Travis looked over at Snow, deliberately baiting her, "...Ragmop."
Snow glared at her but wisely decided to keep still.
"Yeah, she was pretty cool," Sherlock agreed, as she stripped off her outer clothing.
"How about when she asked us to present her with a situation," Tramonte said, "and one of the guys said, 'you're on duty and it's a pitch black night and somebody sneaks up behind you and wraps his arms around your neck, what would you do?'...And she said, 'I'd say not now, honey, I'm working'."
Tanya Swinegar was laughing. "She was funny. I wouldn't mind having a class with her again. At least she kept us awake."
On the other side of the bay, the conversation was dominated by the subject of Drill and Ceremony. That afternoon, the trainees had been taught and practiced Left Flank, Right Flank and Rear March.
When the trainees first started to learn Drill and Ceremony, they looked very much like children on a playground. Incorrectly anticipating commands and not being able to read a drill sergeant's mind resulted in several wrong turns, bumping into each other and what the drill sergeant's described as 'clusterfucks' and open confusion. Dale and Shannon purposely followed directions so badly that it was almost as if they had always done it wrong.
The drill sergeants also increased the trainees' vocabulary by adding two predominantly military acronyms: SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) and FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition). Both terms were used repeatedly that afternoon by the drill sergeants in reference to their troops. Since flanking movements were difficult to anyone, even some experienced soldiers, the drill instructors didn't ride their platoons too heavily about it. Most of them remembered all too well their own failure to immediately pick up the drills.
Michaelson ran into Dale coming out of the shower and they stopped in the hallway. "How are you doing, Oakes?"
"Oh, I'm okay, thanks. How about you?"
"Still a little shaken, I guess, but I'm getting over it. I didn't know Kirk that well."
"Have you had to make any more statements?"
Michaelson shook her head. "No. They were satisfied with what I had to say and I'm glad because I would have hated to implicate Ingersol in anything and then be wrong. The last thing I need is a jerk like him trying to get revenge on me."
"I can understand that. I don't think I would have mentioned his name, either."
She nodded. "Well, I just thought I'd ask how you were. They've been keeping us so busy I haven't had the chance."
"Yeah. I know. Thanks."
Dale watched the pretty blonde walk away from her, then headed to her bunk. Michaelson's beauty was undeniable but Dale did not find herself attracted to her. She was grateful for that. She had enough going on without that added into the mix.
She missed Kirk, truly surprised at the physical loss that she felt, especially since she really didn't even know the young woman. She often looked over at Kirk's stripped bunk and pictured her on the rare occasions when the seventeen-year-old genuinely smiled. Small pangs of guilt tugged at the undercover lieutenant, wondering if there might have been anything she personally could have done to help Kirk. But as time progressed, Dale would also come to think of Jascelle Chandani Kirk as nothing more but a faded, misty, bad memory.
Friday morning, the trainees were marched to one of the many rifle ranges to see a demonstration on the M16A1 rifle. They were joined by troops from WacVille, who were also there to observe.
While she stood in formation, waiting to be seated on the bleachers, Dale saw Helen Zerby, the young woman she had flown down to McCullough with, as Zerby stood with Delta-2 but Pvt. Zerby failed to notice the undercover lieutenant. The Delta drill sergeants made their troops sound off and do a few cadences to impress the MP trainees but as soon as the females' shrill voices pierced the air, the Delta women looked more embarrassed than their cadre.
Dale looked around just in time to see Henning as she tried to hide behind third platoon. Henning facetiously pretended to be a cheerleader as the Delta women chanted. She was comical, regardless of how unprofessional and, when she was caught by McCoy, she stopped immediately and smiled meekly, her eyes avoiding his amused stare and she said, sheepishly, "I guess I'd better stop before I become Private Henning."
During the ceremony that demonstrated the power and range of the M16, one of the shots ignited a small spark in the area where a truck had been camouflaged and that section of the range suddenly erupted in flames. The trainees sat, mesmerized, while they waited on a fire truck to arrive and extinguish the burning area.
The range commander, flustered, cleared his throat and announced, "You won't see that happen again in a hundred years."
Ten minutes later, after the small blaze had been doused and the demonstration resumed, the cluster of camouflage caught fire again.
"A hundred years, huh? Boy, time sure flies on this range," Dale cracked to Gil Hibbon, who was seated next to her.
At that point, the presentation was cancelled and the Alpha drill sergeants rounded up their troops. They marched them five miles, in a roundabout route, to the company area, just to kill time. Once back at Tenth Battalion, they practiced Drill and Ceremony.
Staff Sergeant Walter Van Es conducted the class on the M16A1 rifle that afternoon. He was a no-nonsense man who tolerated no violations of his classroom code, which included no talking, no disrespectful behavior and definitely no sleeping.
He strolled around the room, lecturing the trainees on how to engage targets during daylight, load and unload the rifle, prevention and correction of malfunctions, how much time was allotted during qualification, in what positions they would be learning to fire and weapons safety. He touched on the subject of night fire and how the recruits would practice primarily the same fundamentals of day fire, keeping in mind the problems of limited visibility. This meant, he informed them, that they would have to be so familiar with their weapon that they could disassemble and reassemble their M16s in the dark if they had to.
In the middle of a sentence, Van Es stopped abruptly, reached into his pocket and pulled out a marble, which he proceeded to throw with great skill and velocity at Pvt. Freddie Swan, who had fallen into a deep sleep. The instructor's aim was impeccable and the marble ricocheted off Swan's head, into a wall and out the door, waking the private up with such a start, he wondered if he had been shot.
The behavior of Van Es had alarmed the other trainees to the point of forced alertness. He must have had radar directed at sleeping trainees. He hadn't even so much as glanced Swan's way and he instinctively knew Swan was asleep. No one wanted to suffer the same demeaning, if not somewhat painful fate, so everyone made a mental note to keep an eye on Van Es' whereabouts at all times. To Dale and Shannon, the action brought back a flood of almost forgotten memories. It seemed some rituals never changed.
Both Shannon and Dale felt the temperatures in the classrooms were purposely high enough to rival saunas so that the trainees would immediately nod off during the sessions which justified the NCOIC to wake the poor, unsuspecting soul up by throwing at him anything the instructor could get his hands on. Sometimes the instructors liked to try the 'skipping stones on the lake' pitch and hit as many dozees as possible in one throw. It must have been interesting to go home on leave and boast about a battlescar that was made, in all actuality, by a blackboard eraser. After a while, the sound of someone's head cracking against a desk because he or she had fallen asleep or hearing a solid object whizzing by and fracturing a skull or two became familiar sounds.
Van Es, satisfied with the overall reaction, continued the class and explained how to maintain the M16. Displayed on his desk was a general purpose cleaning brush, a bore brush, a chamber brush, a pipe cleaner, a cleaning rod, bore cleaner, rifle patches, clean dry rags and LSA lubricating oil.
"You will constantly clean your weapon free of water, carbon, grit, rust, dirt and gummed oil," he told them. "You will disassemble your weapon and clean it by parts: the magazine, bolt carrier group, upper and lower receivers and the barrel." As he spoke, he took apart the rifle and demonstrated, naming each section as he laid it on the desk. When he was through, he reassembled the M16 and the class with Van Es, for that day anyway, was over. Then it was back to the company area for one more hour of PT, chow and an individual platoon inspection and then lights out.
The cadre was definitely keeping the trainees busy.
To Be Continued
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