Monday May 20, 2024 – Chapter Twenty-Eight “The Bad Seed”

David arrived at his apartment after a twenty minute drive. His neighborhood was far different from where Susan lived. The roads were covered in trash as he drove home and away form the large boulevard that cut Phoenix, nearly in half.

It had taken just half an hour for Susan to remove the make up from Jay and David and put the beards, mustaches and wigs all back on those creepy faceless heads sitting in her closet. David couldn’t shake the images. They reminded him of is time in Afghanistan for some reason.

The other side of the wide road from his small bachelor apartment was a land of plenty and success. This side where David lived was just the opposite. The apartments were overflowing with people who mostly spoke English as a second language. They made the lives of those living on the other side of the road possible.

David stood out in this area as one of the few “white” guys living there. The radios usually blared latin music and there were cars parked everywhere. Even some of the front yards had cars parked on them.

David was living on the second floor of his building in a bachelor apartment. He climbed up the steel framed stairs and unlocked his front door. The apartment was not much bigger than his mother’s walk in closet. He looked out over the parking lot and saw many people outside on this hot evening working on their cars, playing with their children and selling drugs.

The scene was a recreation of society lying in front of him. He remembered from Sunday school that there had always been many more poor people than rich people throughout history. Some folks were honest and followed the law and others didn’t. These people below him were like all of those people. Many still had dreams of riches and success. Even those selling drugs had those dreams. They were just willing to pay a higher price for them if they were caught trying to reach them.

David entered his apartment and looked around. He hadn’t been home much in the last week. Just passing in and out for a quick meal or a change of cloths. The apartment was furnished. He owned little himself. If the apartment came unfurnished, there would have only been a cardboard box with a few house hold items, a suitcase and a sleeping bag in it. As it sat now, there was little more than a couch, bed, and two side tables. David ate off of the bar and sat on the one stool. He was content until Jay had found him and given him a new task to complete. That was what David thrived on.

He wet his face and scrubbed off the residue of the spirit gum that held on his false beard and mustache, tossed his keys into the empty jam jar on his bar and walked across the room to his bed. He sat on it and removed his boots and sat them at the foot of his narrow bed. He then removed his clothing. He folded each item as he took it off and placed it on an end table. “Old habits die hard,” he thought as he did so.

He rolled under the covers to the loud bump of a radio playing music and soon was fast asleep. The bump, bump, bump of the music on the radio became the thump, thump, thump of the rotor blades of an army helicopter rising from the valley floor to the top of the Kush Mountains as he fell asleep.

Fourteen men sat waiting for a quick exit down the long ropes to the ground. A drone had seen a small convoy of very important men heading down a small valley thirty minutes earlier. Two men in the company of fourteen were snipers. One was David.

The men swooped in over the top of the rugged mountains and were soon hovering at thirty feet above the ground, then twenty and kicking up dust all the while. The men stood up, walked to the doors on both sides and slid down the long ropes, landing heavily on the ground. It was an uneven surface and not a great spot to land, but it was all they could find that had any good qualities about it.

There were some large boulders and small trees for cover. below them in the distance. The men carried thirty pound packs with extra water, ammo and little food. All landed safely as the helicopter move away quickly and disappeared below the mountains. There was no small arms fire aimed at the “chopper” as it tilted away from the men and slid over the ridge and out of site. It was nearly dark and perhaps most people were inside eating diner. The men wore brown uniforms and two wore false weeds and grasses for more cover.

The men moved out downhill and fanned out in all directions as the two snipers headed down hill in the most direct way possible. David and the other sniper climbed down about a hundred feet to a spot where the three large boulders sat close together. It gave them perfect cover. The men soon set up in their positions and laid down watching the road passing beneath them with night vision googles. Their targets were to arrive in an hour or so. They would spend the night on the hillside and attack in the morning as the targets left the buildings to head to the next town.

The snipers slept as their buddies watched over them in two shifts.

The snipers were awakened before sunup. When the sun came up, the village came back to life. Several men and boys came out of two buildings and congregated around the three trucks and one car. Most were armed. The trucks had .50 caliber machine guns mounted in the beds.

Some men were already heading toward them with sheep some fifty yards down below them, rifles hanging from their shoulders. The wind was starting to blow and a rusty red dust was rising and swirling across the floor of the narrow valley.

The two snipers looked at each other and acknowledged with hand gestures that they had picked their respective targets. Two each if possible. The sniper on the left was to take the men down nearest the car on the left. The sniper on the right picked the two standing by the car on the right side of the group of men.

They fired at the same time at an agreed moment and four men went down almost instantly. They were longish shots and the men fell before the sound of the guns loud crack reached the ears of those around them.

But almost instantly many armed men were rushing for cover. Some men were pointing in the direction of David and his men. Soon small arms fire was coming their way. They were invisible at first, but soon the enemy below had a good idea of where they were located due to the smoke and sound from their guns. the those below concentrated their fire at David and his squad.

Men started falling around David. One man was on the radio asking for a helicopter to come in and pick them up, as planned. “This is Zebra Johnny Black, we have made contact, over. Four targets down, over.” The helicopter sat waiting just on the other side of the mountains in the next valley, a few minutes away. “We read you five by five, Zebra Johnny Black, over. We will lift off now. ETA five to seven minutes, over.” Ok, hurry, it’s getting pretty hot here, over.”

The wind was getting stronger than the weather man had expected and the dust made it hard to find where the men were as the copter came over the ridge. they were running up the face of the mountain as well as they could. they needed to gather together for a quick evacuation. Soon several men were seen climbing up the trails down on the mountain below them and the situation had become dire. RPG’s were firing at them from below as the came with in range. David’s fellow soldiers were shooting at the men approaching. More men fell on the ground below and around David as grenades exploded.

The sound of the thump, thump, thump came quickly over the ridge before David could see the helicopter. Then the chopper rose over the ridge and was peppered with small arms fire. Dust swirled and got in the eyes of some of the men. The gun ship return fire from its machine gun and the shooting from below slowed down. The chopper sat slightly above and in front of the men for a moment to protect them as two men tossed out the climbing ropes. One man was hit and fell from the rope hanging from the chopper.

The four crewmen men in the chopper laid down heavy cover fire as David’s group of men climbed up the ropes and tried to made their escape. They had little idea if they had killed their targets but saw several men fall below them.

As they swopped up and away, on man in the chopper did a head count. Four men wounded and two men missing. David was safe but would would never be the same. Two of his best friends were left behind. He had no idea what fate awaited them.

He woke up to the thump, thump, thump, of loud music playing down below but thought he was in the helicopter escaping over the rough mountains again. He was covered is sweat. His mouth, dry. He had had the same dream every night for three years. He could smell the rusty dust. He was getting sick of it, to say the least.

His psychologist had little to offer him except the passing of time and sleeping pills. David rolled over and put his pillow over his head and was soon asleep and back in Afghanistan, once more.

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More to come tomorrow afternoon.