Authors: Sarah Greyson
C l o s e r
(The Unit #1)
Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Greyson
Print Version ISBN: 978-0-9904123-0-4
EBook ISBN: 978-0-9904123-1-1
All Rights Reserved.
Ebooks are nontransferable. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted book is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded, or distributed via the internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the copyright holder’s permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Photo © Anita Vela Photography
Editing by Deborah DeNicola
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“Get out,” Leroy shouted to Michael. Michael was almost finished rigging the last bomb set to blow up one of the Al-Qaeda base camps. “Get out! They’re coming fast.”
Michael could feel the zing of the bullets narrowly missing his head. A little more to the left and half of his face would have been gone. Michael stood six foot two, fully erect, and headed towards the door of the compact mud building.
“Leroy? Which direction are they holding?” Michael shouted.
“The east. We have to get behind that house,” Leroy pointed to a compact mud hut with holes in the walls that served as windows as he continued to supply cover fire. “We’ll rendezvous with the others there.”
“Cover me,” Michael yelled to Leroy.
Michael ran for the hut as Leroy sprayed bullets to the east. He made it to the house and turned back to lay down cover for Leroy through a hole in the building. Michael fired as Leroy sprinted to him. He heard it before he saw it. The homemade explosive resounded through the dust that swirled like a cloud in front of Michal. When the dust cleared, Michael saw him. Not five feet from him, Leroy lay on the packed desert ground, blood spilling from his stomach. A piece of his intestine hung loosely to the left of the hole the 762.54 caliber bullet exit wound left in his body armor. An Al-Qaeda extremist armed with a Russian Squad automatic rifle had shot his brother in the back. There would be no way to save Leroy from the damage that high caliber bullet caused, but he had to try. Out of the twelve-man team Michael was deployed with, he and Leroy, along with a few others, had served five tours together; he had to reach him. He laid down fire with his weapon while he ran into the open space
the buildings. He grabbed Leroy by the shoulder strap of his rifle and started to drag him behind the building.
Where were the others? He needed the medic, Rob
. Michael pulled Leroy to safety and peered through the hole in the wall watching for the armed extremists. He stared in horror when he saw a little boy, no more than ten years old, walk into the midst of the gunfire. The boy just stood there, eyes filled with fear. The bullets whizzed by the boy leaving him untouched. Michael motioned for the boy to take cover, but the boy stood still. Watching in anguish, Michael saw the crying boy lift his right hand with the detonator attached to it. Michael’s eyes were glued to the boy’s right hand whose thumb was reaching to depress the detonator.
Michael bolted straight up in his bed. Sweat was dripping from his face and body. Thank goodness he had taken to sleeping naked or his clothes would have been wrecked. Another nightmare; another sleeplessness night.
He got out of bed and meandered his way into the kitchen and flipped the light switch hoping to chase the shadows away. Needing to rid his mind of the engrained image of that ten year old boy, Michael reached up above his refrigerator and grabbed the bottle of scotch. He pulled down a glass from the cupboard and poured himself four fingers. Walking into his living room to his favorite recliner, he sat down and took a nice, long swallow. Grabbing the remote control, he flipped through the stations trying to decide which infomercial to watch at 0100 hours. This was quickly becoming his routine: try to sleep, have nightmare, drink scotch, pass out.
The sun rose and glared through the blinds that hung on his double pane window in the front room of his apartment. Michael lifted his head to an aching throb and a stiff neck. He squinted his eyes at the sunlight that managed to make its way into the living room. He remembered looking at the clock at 0400 and watching part of the “Snuggie” infomercial. He must have passed out in his chair. His body would pay for it today during his run.
He got up and headed into the kitchen, a small galley with just enough space for one person to stand. Counter space was non-existent. There was a breakfast bar above the sink that separated the kitchen from the living room. Six months out of the military; this was his life. He wished his father hadn’t given his life for America so he could talk to him about the horrors of war. His dad would understand.
Who else did he really have to talk to that would understand war?
He couldn’t talk to his teammates; they were all tough men and surely not suffering like he was. He would never admit to his suffering anyways.
His brother wouldn’t understand, not that he would even care. Justin was so dedicated to the almighty dollar that when Michael finished with the service, Justin didn’t even bother to visit him. Justin had made a glitzy career for himself on Wall Street. He wouldn’t take the time to come and see his brother. Being the younger brother, Michael was lucky his brother called him at all, no doubt after a guilt trip laid on him by their mother.
Michael’s mother, on the other hand, thanked God the day her baby came home for good. She had been so frightened his life would end the same way her husband’s did. Part of Michael’s mind wished his life had ended in Afghanistan so he wouldn’t have to relive the war in his mind day and night. He fidgeted around with the coffee pot, placing a filter inside the basket and scooping in the coffee. Advil and coffee were the best cures he had found for his hangovers. Drinking during the day was not his thing, not yet anyways.
Halfway through his first cup of coffee there was a knock at the door; it was only 0700. Someone better have a damn good reason to be at his house so early, while he still felt like shit. His training had him grabbing for his 9mm Berretta before laying his hand on the doorknob. He placed the gun at his side as he opened the door.
“Michael,” sighed Rob.
“Rob man, what the fuck? What are you doing here so early?” he demanded as he walked back into his kitchen and placed his gun on the counter.
Rob ran a hand roughly over his stubbly face and then through his hair. He fidgeted, scratching his forearm with his long fingers. Michael had never remembered seeing Rob so agitated. To be a Green Beret meant a solider was always steady under pressure. They had only been out for six months. He hadn’t forgotten after eight years of service; he doubted Rob did either.
“I have job I thought you might be interested in,” Rob explained walking into Michael’s home.
“What? And it couldn’t wait until a decent hour?” retorted Michael.
“No man, the client is in a big hurry. Wants it done yesterday.” Rob continued as he advanced into the living room and peeked out the window.
Was he looking for someone? Was someone following him?
Michael considered Rob one of his closest friends. More like a brother than his own. Michael would do anything for Rob, and Rob knew it. They had served together on the last five tours in Afghanistan, together with four other men: Tony, Steve, Kevin, and Leroy. All of the men, with the exception of Leroy left the Army at the same time and had aspirations of making it big in the private security sector. Most of the jobs they took paid well enough, but were limited contracts: Guarding a celebrity, providing security detail for a diplomat while in a foreign country. Michael had taken three jobs and all of them had come through Rob. Rob had connections at a security firm that wanted to bring Rob, Michael, Steve, and Tony in to work strictly for them. But Rob hadn’t yet convinced his brothers. Lately Rob had been so sidetracked he failed to check in with Michael over the last week. True, they only spoke weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, but they were still the two closest out the six men that have served the last five tours together.
Rob had a nasty scar on his leg from the shrapnel that tore through his body when the Humvee in front of theirs blew up. Rob was the medic. His cross-training came in handy because it was up to Michael to save his life. Rob felt liked he owed Michael, and Michael knew it. In truth, Michael loved the guy so his dying was not an option.
“What’s the job? Michael asked.
“The client wants you to kidnap a scientist with ties to the GIA, the Armed Islamic Group,” Rob disclosed as he paced back and forth in front of Michael’s flat screen television that hung on the wall opposite the recliner.
“Kidnap? What the fuck? That’s not what we do,” Michael warned.
“But this scientist is going to help the GIA with a new breed of weapon. We must stop it, Michael. You know that,” Rob concluded.
“How much does it pay?” asked Michael. After all, if he was going to go to jail, it was going to be for something worth his while.
“Two hundred grand,” Rob said plopping himself down onto Michael’s yellow-faded hand-me-down couch.
“When will I get the details?” Michael asked Rob, as he considered taking the job.
“They will be sent via courier tomorrow morning at 0700,” Rob answered.
This time it was Michael who was pacing. “Why don’t you take the job if it pays so much?” Michael questioned.
“My bum leg,” Rob replied. “They need someone strong and fast, like you. You know I can’t move like I used to, not with my muscle damaged from the shrapnel.”
“Fine, but I want to see half the money in my account before I make any moves,” Michael conceded.
“Same account?” Rob questioned raising his eyebrows.
Michael nodded. He could do a lot with two hundred grand; move out of his shit-hole apartment for one thing. He had been living in this small one-bedroom, saving money to buy a cabin in the Sugarloaf Mountains. The mountains held his fondest memories; memories of skiing and laughing with his father.
Rob stopped pacing and rushed to Michael, throwing his arms around him. “Thank you man! You have no idea what this means to me.”
“It’s just a job man, calm down,” Michael said as he cautiously backed away from Rob’s embrace.
“I know. I just really needed you to take this job. It will be an easy two hundred grand. That should set you up real nice. Then I’ll feel like I am paying down my debt to you,” Rob explained.
“Whatever man. You know I don’t expect anything from you. If it had been me lying there, you would have done the same thing. You don’t owe me anything,” Michael said as he stood and walked to the door.
Rob followed him and stepped past him. Catching Michael’s eyes, Rob stuck out his fist and Michael bumped it. Rob turned and disappeared down the stairs while Michael shut the door and returned to his coffee.
Later, as he pulled out his laptop to verify the money had been deposited in his account, Michael couldn’t shake his feeling of apprehension. Why would Rob be so happy he took this job, or that he was the one making all of the money?
Maybe Rob was getting a kick-back off of the job
. Michael made his way over to the same window Rob was focused on earlier and peeked outside. The only thing Michael noticed were the heavy, gray storm clouds that blocked out the sun.