Alpha, p.7
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       Alpha, p.7

           Daniel Schmidt

  Chapter 7

  My second day with the squad was filled with exercise and practice at the shooting range. Walter made me confirm the zero on all my weapons, which meant that where I put my sights was where my bullets hit. He also ensured that I was comfortable using all the equipment, running me through several trials using each piece.

  Just like the first night, Carlos and I had to fix dinner and it went similar to the night before. Lively conversation echoed through the room and I caught Christine staring at me several times. She made me very nervous, like she knew something. I found or heard nothing to indicate these men’s motives or where the kidnap victims might be. After dinner, Carlos invited me to a poker game in the game room.

  Carlos, David, Walter, and me sat around the poker table while everyone else watched television. As Walter started to deal I was reminded of how big the man was. His muscles tested the strength of his shirt, and I wondered how someone could get so big. His bright blond hair contrasted sharply with Carlos’s darker blend. Carlos was not a small man either; he was shorter than Walter but still very muscular. David looked tiny in between the two as he had a more athletic, swimmer’s build.

  Walter won the first hand and tossed me the pile of cards to shuffle. He looked at me for a while, then said, “You were in the Army?”

  I nodded my head, “25th Infantry.”

  “Which brigade?” he asked.

  “First brigade, back when it was at Fort Lewis.”

  “I was 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne.”

  I chuckled. “Good old Fort Bragg, I really hate that place.”

  “So do I, but I was with some good dudes. I miss them but certainly not Bragg.”

  “That’s the way I feel about Fort Lewis. It was always raining there. Every single time we went out to train it was raining. I got so tired of it.” I looked at Carlos. “Where were you at?”

  “I was with the Marines, Camp Pendleton,” Carlos said.

  “We don’t like to admit we have Marines around here,” Walter said with a huge smile.

  Carlos smiled and shook his head. Walter reached over and rubbed his head. “Just kidding, you know we love you, even though you’re a Marine.”

  I started shuffling and looked at David. “Where were you at?”

  David smiled and Walter laughed, and then he said, “He’s even worse, he was in the Navy.”

  Walter slapped David on the back. “But he was a SEAL, so I guess that makes him a pretty good dude.”

  Carlos chuckled and motioned at David. “Although you’ve never made a movie or wrote a book so I don’t know if I believe you’re a SEAL. Isn’t that a requirement for you guys?”

  David rolled his eyes.

  Walter laughed loudly and I wasn’t real sure why. When he finally stopped laughing, he looked at me again, “You married? Any kids?”

  “Neither,” I said softly.

  Walter chuckled. “Not a lot of army guys around who didn’t get hitched at least once. I myself was married for a couple years but you know what deployments do to marriages.”

  I frowned and said, “And proposals.” I nodded my head towards Carlos and David. Carlos said, “I was married once, have two girls from it, but don’t get to see them very much.”

  “Never married. I like the single life too much,” David said softly, averting his eyes from mine.

  I returned my glance to Walter. “Where you from?”

  “Minnesota, you?”

  “Born and raised in Washington State,” I said.

  I asked Carlos and David the same question. Carlos said, “Born in California but spent the first half of my childhood in Mexico with my father, and then I came back to California with my mom.”

  “Born in Missouri but grew up in Virginia,” David said.

  Carlos nudged my arm and showed me a picture with two young girls, probably four and six, both with long jet-black hair. “My two girls.”

  “I bet you miss them,” I said.

  “You have no idea,” Carlos said, putting the pictures back into his wallet.

  I noticed a crucifix hanging from Carlos’s neck.

  I motioned to the crucifix. “You religious?” I asked.

  Carlos looked up at me. “Yes... I try and get to mass every Sunday. You’re welcome to come with me.”

  “It’s been a while since I’ve been to church,” I said.

  “That doesn’t matter. I can’t get any of these other heathens to go,” Carlos said.

  I looked over at Carlos’s crucifix again and noticed a large scar near his collarbone. I waited until the next hand before I asked him about it.

  Carlos rubbed the scar and said, “Iraq. We were doing a raid and my team was clearing the bottom floor of this building. We didn’t find anything until we went into the backyard. We cleared the yard and then went to the side of the house. As soon as we turned the corner we found four guys lined up against the wall. The first guy had a mortar round in his hand, had rigged it up with a pin like a grenade. He pulled the pin on the mortar round as soon as we came around the corner. Well, the round went off right when he pulled the pin, blew him into a few pieces, and showered us with shrapnel. My team leader was in front of me and caught most of it. I got one piece here and a couple more in the legs. The three other bad guys were pretty messed up and we dumped them pretty quickly.”

  “Team leader make it through?” I asked.

  “Yeah, he had shrapnel wounds all over his body but he’s still walking and talking today.”

  Walter lifted up his arm to show us the bottom of his forearm. A scar ran from his palm down to his elbow. “Got this in Iraq too. We were on patrol, got hit and needed to get out of the street. We ran to the nearest house, squad couldn’t get through the front door so I busted out the window with the butt of my rifle. The rifle went through the window just fine, followed by my forearm. Glass cut it up real bad. I call it my idiot scar.”

  I had plenty of scars to show. Several of them I didn’t like talking about though. There was one from my first deployment that didn’t hold much emotion. I brushed my hair back to reveal a scar that ran across the top of my forehead and was normally hidden by my hair. “IED flipped our truck over and I caught an ammo can.”

  David then stood up and unbuttoned his shirt to reveal several scars on his side and lower stomach. “Afghanistan, RPG hit the ground right near me, showered me with a bunch of shrapnel.”

  We all inspected David’s wounds and then went back to playing cards. After another hand, Carlos looked over at me. “I didn’t ask you, do you have any brothers or sisters?” Carlos asked.

  I smiled. “It’s got to be the same in the Marines – you don’t tell the guys about any sisters you have. You have to be careful even mentioning your mother,” I joked.

  Walter let out a huge laugh and said, “I know exactly what you mean.” He pointed to his hair. “You see this hair? This beautiful blond hair? I got three younger sisters with the same stunning locks. I can’t tell you how many boys I’ve had to beat and run off. My little sisters all flew in here one weekend and these vultures couldn’t keep their hands off!” Walter yelled motioning his hands around the room. Walter then pushed David off of his chair, “Especially this one.”

  David hit the ground and laughed. “You know she’s still in love with me and she’s coming out to visit this weekend.”

  Walter threw his cards up into the air and kicked David’s chair out of the way. It went flying across the room and crashed against the wall. I backed away from the table, fully expecting Walter to start hurting people. But to my surprise he had a smile on his face, even as he jumped on top of David and they started to fight.

  Someone from the couch sprinted over and jumped on Walter’s back. He screamed, “You know your youngest sister is coming out to see me.” Walter let out a roar and then threw the man off but he was back into it in a flash. Another man jumped onto Walter who then screamed at me,
“Paul, help me out! I’m defending my sister’s honor here!”

  I rushed forward and tackled two men off of Walter. As we fell to the ground, one of them worked his way on top of me and started choking me. This lasted for a few seconds before Carlos bulldozed him off of me. Before I knew what happened the whole squad was grappling, knocking over chairs and tables, and throwing each other around.

  This continued for a few minutes and then Christine walked into the room. She screamed at us, “Boys! Boys! Stop it!”

  After a few more screams everyone but Carlos and the guy he was fighting with stopped and stood to face her. Carlos and his opponent were still going at it and Christine walked over to them, quickly wrapped her arm around Carlos’s neck, and tightened her grip. Carlos let out a cough and a couple seconds later he slapped Christine’s leg. She let go and Carlos slumped to the ground coughing.

  “Boys, someone’s going to get hurt.”

  Walter pointed at David and said, “He started it, said some nasty things about my sisters.”

  Everyone chuckled.

  Christine cracked a smile for a second and said, “I don’t care who started it. You all need to get some rest. You’ve got a long day tomorrow.”

  “Sorry,” Walter said. He then reached over and pulled David into a bear hug. “You know I love you… but if you talk about my sisters again I’ll kill you.”

  David tried to laugh but only coughed as Walter tightened his grip. I started to leave with everyone else but Christine touched my arm and said. “Can I talk to you before you go?”

  As the last man disappeared from the room, Christine stood a couple of the toppled chairs back up. She shook her head but smiled. I helped her push a couch back into place before she looked at me and said, “How are you liking it here?”

  “You were right about the camaraderie. I feel right at home with these guys, but I haven’t been told what we’re fighting for.”

  Christine nodded her head. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

  I raised my eyebrows but didn’t say anything. Christine reached out and touched my elbow. She paused for just a second, like she was thinking about what to say. After a second or so she looked at me, smiled, and said, “I just wanted to thank you for coming. We’re going to need all the help we can get.”

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