Authors: Scott Hildreth
Alec Jacob is a fictitious character, but there are many like him on earth. They are sheep dogs. They protect the sheep of this earth from the wolves who attempt to prey on them. Without the sheep dog, the sheep would certainly perish, one by one, until the flock is gone. The sheep dog does what he does not for pay, or even recognition, but because he was born a sheep dog.
Before you fall asleep, say a prayer for the sheep dog who allows you to relax into the state of slumber without worry, without fear, and without shedding a drop of blood. When you sleep, sleep soundly and without reservation.
Because is out there. Waiting.
For a wolf to make his move.
To the protectors. The sheep dogs.
This one is for you.
THIS BOOK IS A WORK OF FICTION.
All names, locations, club names, and incidents in this book are a figment of the author’s imagination, and are depicted in a work of fiction. Any likeness to fact is pure coincidence. The club depicted in this book does not exist; it was created for this book. Lastly, the colors depicted in the cover and described in this book are a creation of graphic artistry, and are not actually the colors for any Motorcycle Club known to exist by the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, are coincidental.
Hard Corps 1st Edition Copyright © 2016 by Scott Hildreth
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the author or publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use the material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the author at
. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
Cover design by Jessica
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Unconditional love was something I deeply desired, but until I met Alec Jacob I wasn’t sure actually existed. After meeting him and experiencing his ability to love first hand, I knew I could never live without him.
He was more kind than any man I had ever met, and as much as I expected his kindness to eventually diminish, it never did. The few who were foolish enough to cross him were always met with a warning, and if they chose not to heed it, were dealt with accordingly.
A predictable man in many ways and quite misunderstood in others, he was somewhat of an enigma. As much as we were in love and as close as we had become, I still found him to be the most intriguing individual I had ever encountered or expected I ever would encounter.
The first day I saw him ride up on his motorcycle I was attracted to him, but any woman would have been. His body was perfectly proportioned and his face was constructed in a way that any female would be drawn to him, but it was his mysterious eyes that provided a clear warning to proceed with caution.
And I did just that.
The more I learned about him, the more attracted to him I became. As handsome as he was, and as much as his chiseled torso made my mouth water, it was
Alec Jacob was that made him more attractive to me than any other man on earth.
He accepted me for who I was, never asked me to change one thing, and assured me he would always protect me from all of what was evil on this earth.
And the earth was filled with evil, there was no doubt in my mind of that.
Alec was a war hero and a highly decorated Marine. I was well aware not only that he had killed, but that he had killed many. Not all, as much as I hated to admit it, being a casualty of the war he fought in.
But as capable as he was of administering what he believed to be justice upon those he deemed to be the deserving recipients, he was not an evil man.
He was kind, he was caring, and he was loving.
And he was mine.
Summer 2003, Al-Anbar Province, Iraq
The days seemed to last forever and as much as I hoped I might be able to defend my life and the lives of the three men I was in charge of, I had no expectation all of us would make it home alive. My belief was that prior to the war ending, at least one of us would be shipped back to the states in a casket with a flag neatly draped over the top.
Deep in my mind, a picture was embedded. Taken from the tail end of a C-130 into the cargo area, the image was haunting. The sight itself, one coffin neatly positioned perfectly beside the other – each with an American flag covering the casket – was one of dignity, selflessness, sacrifice, and freedom. I fully realized the image should not have troubled me in the manner it did, but it tormented me nonetheless. As much as I was willing to fight, I didn’t want to be shipped home in a box or a bag.
There weren’t many assurances during war, but one remained true throughout all wars ever fought.
Damned good men.
Truly believing any other option was possible, at least while in combat, was unrealistic.
I steadied my M4, glanced in Grayson’s direction, and gave a slight nod of my head.
He kicked the door right beside the makeshift lock. So many of the homes didn’t appear to be houses in a conventional sense. What seemed to be a commercial building may have an entire family living inside, most sleeping on a thin mat that had been tossed on a dirt floor. Other identical buildings may have half a dozen insurgents hiding inside, prepared to kill whoever entered without any warning whatsoever. Knowing what was on the other side of the door prior to entering was close to, if not totally, impossible.
Keep my men safe.
The wooden door swung open with a bang, revealing what appeared to be sleeping quarters for six or more people. I entered first, with the other three Marines immediately following me. As my eyes darted around the room, a tingling sensation ran along my spine. Although there was no one visible in the room, there was
about it I didn’t like. With the buttstock of the M4 against my right shoulder and my finger indexed along the side of the trigger guard, I quickly scanned the room for any signs of life. The floor was covered with bedrolls, blankets, clothes, and supplies, but there appeared to be no munitions or occupants.
The stucco-like inner structure of the building was cracked, damaged, and dirty. The blankets, positioned around the perimeter of the open room, were the only sign of life. Even seeing everything the room had to offer, it was unclear if it was an insurgent hideout or the home of a local family. As I stood, staring at the pile of dirty bedding, the smell of stale sweat filled my nostrils, providing only an indication of the space once being occupied, but nothing more.
I felt like spraying the piles of blankets with a few dozen rounds from my weapon, making certain no one stood from the piles of rubble and shot me or one of my fellow Marines, but I knew better than to do so. If I did, there would undoubtedly be women and children sleeping under them, and I would find myself being court-martialed for the murder of civilians. As Cunningham was turning toward the door, mumbling something about yet another lost opportunity to cleanse the world of all living al-Qaeda, I noticed one of the blankets move slightly. I raised my left hand in the air and clenched my fist as I lowered the barrel of my weapon toward the movement.
With the room eerily silent compared to the sound of our entry and quick search, the passage of time seemed to come to a complete stop. I suspected to whoever was beneath the blanket, the same was true. As much as I hoped the person hiding was friendly, my first tour had taught me to assume everyone was a threat.
I fixed my weapon on the pile of blankets. “Raweenee edeek.”
Show me those hands, motherfucker.
The pile of bedding remained motionless.
“Raweenee edeek!” I said in a more demanding tone.
As the mound of blankets began to move ever so slightly, I recognized the unmistakable shape of the barrel of an AK-47 as it exposed itself from the cover of the bedding.
My vision narrowed to the threat, and I could actually hear my heart beating. My throat constricted and instantly went dry. Everything surrounding me became distant, and the only thing that mattered was the location of the barrel. The AK-47 was the weapon of choice for the majority of the resistance against us, and had become a common sight. Although there was no doubt whoever was beneath the blanket had the
to resist, so far they hadn’t actually done so. The fine line we were required to walk regarding the use of deadly force had cost the life of many a Marine, but was a requirement nonetheless. Until the person with the rifle became an actual threat, the possibility existed that they were prepared to turn over the weapon and surrender, and we were required to treat them as such. Until he pointed the weapon at us or fired it, we were to treat him as if he were friendly.
I stood firm, anxiously waiting on whoever was beneath the blankets to reveal themselves.
“Weapon!” I heard Grayson shout.
“Shut the fuck up, Private. I see it,” I said over my shoulder as I maintained focus on the tip of the barrel.
“Raweenee edeek!” I shouted in an attempt to get him to release the weapon and show his hands.
A thin man jumped from the blankets without any warning, and the barrel of the weapon swung toward where I was standing. It was all that was necessary for me to act in self-defense. Without thought, the tip of my index finger slipped inside the trigger guard and pulled against the trigger twice.
His body jolted from the impact of the two bullets, and his hand instinctively pulled the trigger, discharging a few rounds into the far wall. As he dropped his weapon to the floor and fell to his knees, his eyes revealed the unmistakable regret he felt for doing what he had done.
“Hold your fire,” I said flatly as I watched him collapse.
On his knees, staring up at me with hopeful eyes, he held out his weathered hand.
Why didn’t you fucking surrender?
I kicked the weapon to the side. “Someone secure that weapon, and get this bedding searched.”
I shifted my gaze to meet the blank stare of the man I had shot. His eyes appeared to be that of a thirty-year-old man, but the sun damaged skin of his face seemed to be sixty, common for the people of Iraq.
“He’s alive. Cunningham, get a Corpsman in here and see if you can find a Terp,” I shouted.
“Fuck that Haji motherfucker,” Grayson blurted as he kicked along the pile of blankets positioned around the perimeter of the room.
“Find me a Corpsman and a fucking interpreter!” I demanded.
Just hang on for a few minutes, I’ve got help en route.
I glanced down at his wounds. One of the rounds struck him in the left side of the upper chest, and the other slightly higher, closer to his clavicle. With quick medical attention, he might survive, but the chest wound needed immediate action if he was going to live. I reached for his outstretched hand, held it in mine, and waited for a Corpsman. As he looked into my eyes, he calmly spoke in a manner and tone I perceived as apologetic. Although I had learned a few of the necessary phrases, I was not fluent in Arabic, and needed an interpreter to not only understand what he was saying but to interview him before he died.
Determining the locations of any other resistance we were likely to encounter would be helpful, and I had learned a dying man was more willing to be truthful than one who believed he was free from the threat of death.
In seeing as many men die as I had, there seemed to be one common thread in the few seconds immediately preceding death – regardless of race, religion, or skin color.
Death took the dying to a peaceful place.
I positioned my weapon over my shoulder, knelt in front of him, and cut the front of his shirt open. The chest wound was considerably lower than I expected it to be, and was discharging blood with each heartbeat. If he didn’t receive medical attention immediately, he would undoubtedly be added to the long list of men I had killed in my 16 months of combat.
“Anyone got a chest seal or catheter?” I asked over my shoulder as I studied the wound.
The sound of shuffling boots and a few light sighs was my only response.
With our eyes locked, he blinked a few times before his mouth curled into a shallow smile. It was a smile not of joy, but of comfort. I silently studied him, wondering if he had a family, kids, or a wife. I wondered if he was forced to fight, did so out of a feeling of need, or if he was simply guarding what was once his home. As he continued to gaze at me and smile lightly, I did my best to return the gesture. A few seconds later he released his grip on my hand and slumped against me.
Killing was not complicated, and had become more of an instinct than a decision I consciously made.
Dealing with death, however, was different.
I released his hand, frustrated that he had chosen to point the weapon at me, but feeling no regret for the action I had taken. I turned toward the entrance and walked through the room, gazing blankly beyond the walls and into the dusty street as I did so.
“How many is that?” I heard Grayson ask.
I tapped a cigarette from my pack, raised it to my mouth, and lit it. As I watched the smoke slowly rise from the tip, I bit into the cotton filter and spoke through my teeth. “How many is
“Kills. Cunningham said you killed a bunch of these sorry motherfuckers,” he said.
I glared at him, capable of answering, but not necessarily feeling doing so was warranted – at least not to him.
He narrowed his eyes as he gazed into the street at the children playing. “God damned Muslims, we should drop a motherfuckin’ bomb on this son-of-a-bitch if you ask me. Turn this sand to a fuckin’ sheet of glass.”
I closed my left eye, took a long drag from the cigarette, and studied him with my open eye. As I exhaled a cloud of smoke into the space between us, I responded in the only manner I saw fit.
nobody asked you. And we’re not fighting
, dumb fuck. We’re fighting terrorists.” I paused and took a long pull from the cigarette.
I stared down at the toes of my boots and exhaled the smoke from my lungs. After a few long seconds of staring blankly at the dirt floor, I shifted my gaze upward and studied his eyes. A replacement for a Marine who had been killed by an IED, and all of eighteen years old, he would more than likely be dead in a matter of weeks if his attitude didn’t change. As he looked back at me with the eyes of an over eager inexperienced Marine, I continued.
“I’m not here to condemn a man for his religious beliefs, but I’ll send one straight to an early grave for his stance against the United States of America or one of my fellow Marines. You’ve got a lot to fucking learn,
,” I said, making sure he understood that I was not only aware of his military rank, but that he was as low and as inexperienced as a Marine could possibly be.
His eyes went wide as if I had slapped him in the face.
He stared beyond me for a moment, shifted his eyes to me, and gave a slight acknowledgement of my condemnations.
“I’ll do my best, Corporal Jacob,” he said in an apologetic tone.
As I turned and walked out of the building, I considered Grayson’s initial question, and wondered why I didn’t accurately respond. I bent my knees and lowered myself into a squatted position beside the opening of the door and gazed into the street. The length of the deserted dirt road was littered with pieces of brick and chunks of concrete, a reminder of the many bombs dropped before our arrival. A young boy played with a soccer ball, bouncing it from his knees onto his chest and shoulders, oblivious as to what was going on around him. As I watched him balance the ball on his upper chest, I tried my best to recall the lives I had taken.
I wasn’t ashamed, nor was I proud. Killing the enemy was something that had happened, and if given the same circumstances to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. As far as I was concerned, there was only one thing that really mattered – if I didn’t kill the men who were trying to kill me, my objective would never be reached.
At the end of each tour of duty, I needed to make it home for one reason and one reason only.
To hold my wife in my arms.
I looked out into the dusty street. The boy was gone. The sound of small arms fire echoed in the air like distant music. I stood, raised my hands to my face, and rubbed my tired eyes. No matter how much I rationalized ending the lives of the men I had killed, the details of each of their deaths lingered in my mind, playing over and over like a slow-motion scene from a horror movie. It was the price I paid, I supposed, for doing something so contrary to man’s religious, moral, and spiritual beliefs.