Chapter Fifteen-Reasons To Live
Propped on one elbow Gary looked at the gently breathing sleeping form next to him and was overwhelmed by her beauty, vitality and passion. Moving his hand and running across her bare smooth shoulder, April woke and turned towards her protector and lover.
“It’s time to get up. Did you get any sleep?” Gary asked
“I did…for some strange reason I just collapsed. How do you suppose that could be?” April smiled and hugged Gary kissing his neck.
“Must have been the pasta last night.”
“Smart ass, you know it wasn’t that.” April smiled
Gary kissed her quickly and rolled out of bed, putting on his shorts and stretching. “It’s going to be a busy day today. I didn’t get any sleep last night, so maybe I can take a nap in the truck.”
“And just WHY didn’t you sleep last night?” Again the smile “What time is it?”
Gary pressed the stem on his watch “Its 4:35.” Gary looked at her out of the corner of his eye “Someone kept me awake, you know us old men have to have our beauty rest” Gary paused as April poked him in the ribs. “Will said he was getting up about this time so...time to get moving. I sure hope he has some coffee on.” Gary started towards the bathroom to shower.
“I’m sure he does, you two like your coffee, don’t you?”
“One of life’s simple pleasures, my dear.”
The pressure woke him up, the never ending and recent pressure. There was so much pressure in Jack’s life now, and it was the kind of pressure that caused lesser men to have heart attacks or to stroke out. Jack sat up and plodded his way to the bathroom, trying not to wake up his wife. Turning on the light, he raised the lid to the toilet and relieved some of the morning pressure. Standing in front of the toilet, he had to smile at all of the ‘essentials’ that filled this room. His essentials could be placed in a small paper sack, while Lauren’s would fill a small car. He chuckled at the shampoos and conditioners, creams, Loofah sponges and so on and so on. Spotting a pharmacy envelope, he hoped that she wasn’t sick again, thinking that maybe she had some type of spring cold or flu; although he had not been around too much lately to talk with her about it.
Walking silently on the cool hardwood floor to the kitchen, Jack flicked on the light and saw that the coffee was ready to brew. He sure loved how Lauren made this for him every morning. With a push of a button, the coffee maker started chugging its brew out. Jack looked at the clock on the stove and saw it was 4:45 am.
The morning was Jacks perfect time. Lauren was still sleeping and the birds were just getting up, this was a quiet time, Jacks time. Jack filled his mug and went to the front door to see if the paper had arrived, it had. Jack went out in his shorts and picked up the paper, and saw that there was nothing in it that was of interest this morning, like so many other mornings.
Jack went into the kitchen and sat down with the paper and coffee. Lauren came in behind him.
“Good morning, did you sleep well?” Lauren said wiping the sleep from her eyes. Knowing that her husband was under tremendous pressure, she was definitely concerned for him.
“Good morning, same as always, babe.” Jack uttered “I’ve had a rough time sleeping for the past month. I just cannot for the life of me figure out how…”
Lauren interrupted him, which is something she didn’t usually do.”…I know Jack, I know. Losing three subs is horrible…but you have to get some rest, honey. It’s not good for you, or me.” Lauren sat down next to Jack and produced the pharmacy bag that was in the bathroom. Pulling out the contents, she passed them to Jack.
“What’s this? Jack asked
“You’re a bright man, Commander Miller…you tell me.” Lauren sat silent as Jack looked at the opened blue and white box and a 4” heat sensitive photograph.
Jack picked up the photograph and looked at it, turned around and looked at it again. He set it down and picked up a plastic probe looking device and saw a blue circle in it. “Ok, I give up, what is it?”
“Jack Miller, Commander, United States Navy…you are going to be a Daddy.” Lauren smiled.
Gary and April finished up their shower, dressed and packed their packs. April sat on the bed and said “Gary, we need to talk about something”
“Sure, what is it?” Gary said as he was checking his Kimber and placing it in his waistband behind his back
“It has to do with…my cover.” April nervously said
“What do you mean? I thought you already had your cover.”
“Well, I know this is silly, and might sound childish…but” April looked at the wedding band on the night stand.
Gary came over and sat next to her on the bed. “Honey, I’m going to be straight up with you, ok?”
April nodded nervously biting her lower lip.
Gary took a deep breath “Before we first met, I had planned on ending my life. I was at a point where I just couldn’t go on anymore, so I thought I would do what they used to call, ‘suicide by cop’” Gary paused still looking at April “After being with you, I felt like I found feelings that I had lost forever. I found a reason to live.” Another deep breath “April, I am old enough to be your father…and by all social standards, we shouldn’t even have done what we did last night...I don’t hold the age thing as anything, but if you do I’ll understand.”
“What are you saying? That you’re too old for me? Or that I’m too young?” April now had a tear in her eye and an anger in her voice.
“Hold on, that’s not what I’m saying…what I am saying is that you might have second thoughts because of my age and I’m saying that if you do…I’ll understand.” Gary now had a tear in his eye.
“Gary Martin…I love you. I really don’t care about our age difference, and as far as I’m concerned, society is all but over now, so it really doesn’t matter…does it?”
“You love me?...”
“Yes I do, and I want to know if you have a problem with me wearing this ring and pretending to be your wife.”
“April Finney, I would be honored to be your pretend husband, and have you as my pretend wife.” Gary smiled and wiped the tears from his eyes and smiled again as April wiped the tears from her eyes…they hugged and kissed. “Come on, let’s go…’wife’”
Heading down the stairs to the house, they held hands the best that they could with all of the equipment they were hauling. Entering the house without knocking, the pair removed their boots and immediately smelled the aroma of breakfast.
“Good morning Will” Gary said as they came into the kitchen. “Man, this smells wonderful! “
“Morning Gary...April. The coffees on; so help yourself.” Will cheerfully said. “Breakfast will be up in a few minutes, did you guys sleep alright?”
“One us of did” Gary said smiling Terrie came into the kitchen brushing her hair; she had just finished her morning shower.
“Good morning you two” Terrie said to Gary and April. “Good morning, love” Terrie went over and kissed Will. “Breakfast smells wonderful, what are we having?”
“Let’s see; we have bacon, eggs and biscuits with gravy. “ Will was busily whisking the gravy in the black cast iron frying pan.
“Will Johns, you’ll make someone a good wife.” Gary said laughing
“Gary if it wasn’t for Will’s cooking, I’d be skin and bones. I can’t cook for anything and if it didn’t come from a jar; I’d starve.” Terrie said jokingly. Will nodded yes. Terrie looked at April and without a word the two women communicated. Aprils smile told Terrie that last night was wonderful and April held up her left hand to show Terrie the ring. Terrie gave April a smile and a thumbs up sign.
Breakfast was served and the travelers sat down to a marvelous morning feast. Gary spoke first. “We need to talk about today, alright?’ Everyone nodded knowing that Gary was in charge. “When we come up to a check point and if they search us and it looks like there will be a problem, there will be gun fire…do you understand?” Everyone nodded yes. “If there is…gun fire, you all will drive away as fast as you can. Here is your signal that things aren’t going well” Gary looked at Will “If they stop us and question me, April after a few minutes I want you to get out of the truck and come towards me. Will if you see me put my arms around April, then things are going to get very ugly, very quick. You will then get the truck headed out for a fast getaway, understand?” Will nodded yes.
April interjected concerned “What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me, you guy’s just get away as fast and as far as you can. That’s about as much as I can plan on for right now. It really will be playing it by ear, ok?”
“There are two ways we can get to Moncks Corner. Jonathan thinks that I-95 is best so I think that’ll be the best route. I figure that we’ll need to fuel up when we reach North Carolina, so if you all are ready, we can get loaded up.” Will said.
“Will, did you bring me a couple of knives?” Gary asked
“Sure did.” Will got up and went into the bedroom and returned with two large Buck sheath knives “Will this do?”
The group finished up breakfast and cleaned up. Jonathan came out of his room and wished everyone a good trip. Will had taken the packs and the Garand and placed them into a large black canvas duffel bag, which he then hid under the back seat of the pick up.
Looking at his watch Gary saw that it was 5:45 am “Looks like we have about 15 minutes until we can get stared, anyone need to use the restroom?”
April and Terrie left to use the bathroom and to talk about last night. Will said “Nervous?”
“Very much so” Gary replied
“How?...I mean…How?...When?” Jack was shocked at Laurens news
“Why Jack Miller, I do believe that for the first time since I’ve known you…you are speechless!” Lauren laughed at her husband. “You’re not angry are you?”
“Angry? No I’m not angry, just shocked. I mean, we’ve tried to get pregnant for…how many years? And then we just gave up, right?” Jack still wasn’t over his shock
“I know honey, we tried, and tried…but now…it’s a baby”
“This is really blowing my mind.” Jack paused for a brief moment “You know we went to Doctor after Doctor and they all told us the same thing. ‘There’s nothing wrong with either of you, so just keep on trying’” Jack looked at his love “Honey, this is…I mean; this isn’t a good time to bring a child into the world.” Jack was starting to ramble “we’re too old…I mean…I’m too old. We have our twentieth wedding anniversary in a few weeks; I’ll be seventy by the time…”
“Jack…” Lauren stopped him from talking further. “…get over it. I don’t know why we are blessed to have this baby now…and Jack…it IS a blessing from God. I don’t care what the world is like right now. It seems to me that babies are God’s way of saying that the world should go on.”
Lauren always made perfect sense to Jack, who got up and put his arms around his wife. “Oh baby, I love you and I am sorry if I got weird on you, I’m very, very happy over this. I just can’t believe that I’m going to be a Father, that’s all. What is it? Boy or a Girl?”
“It’s too early to tell. I’m 12 weeks, so we should know in a few more weeks. Our due date is November 25th.”
“Oh my...” Jack thought for a moment “I will be back from this cruise before he’s born.”
“So, it’s a he? What if it’s a she?” Laure wanted a girl and her husband wanted a football buddy.
“I am ok with that. I can’t believe we’re going to have a baby! Hot Damn!” The shock was wearing off and now excitement was settling in.
“Remember that you have your meeting this morning with Admiral Brown.”
“I almost forgot. I hate his meetings, what a way to wreck a perfectly good morning.” Jack went and showered, singing and oblivious to the pressure and pain he felt just a while ago. Finishing his shower, he dressed in his Whites and left to head to the base. Jack was one of the few that was living off base now, as most had moved back to the base due to the perceived troubles caused by the terrorists or at least that’s what the news report’s had said.
Jack steered his Honda Accord from his home at the Sugar Mill Plantation to the base. Stopping at the main gate he had his ID checked allowed the bomb sniffing dog to run around his car with the ever present armed Shore Police K-9 handler.
“You’re clear to go, Sir.” The polite guard said as he snapped a salute to the Commander.
Jack drove through the base to his building. Finding and parking his car, he bounded up the level of steps to his office. The sign on his door read Miller, Jack Commanding Officer Vice CMDR USS Nebraska (Gold)
Jacks administrative assistant was already at the office and had a stack of paperwork for him to go over and sign off on. “Good morning sir” Petty Officer 3rd Class Wanda Jones said cheerfully
“Good morning. Wanda guess what?”
“I’m going to be a father! Lauren is pregnant, can you believe it?”
“Congratulations sir, I’m sure you’ll be an excellent Daddy.” PO3 Jones really like her boss and knew that this was a very happy day for him. “Sir, I hate to spoil your mood, But Admiral Brown is expecting you.”
“I’m sure he is. Ok, I’m off to see to the Admiral. After this meeting, I’ll be at the EHW.”
“Yes, sir” PO3 Jones made notes on her bosses calendar.
Jack walked down the long hallway to Admirals suite. The sign on his door read Brown, Lawrence RADM, Commanding Officer, Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay
Jack had his hat under his arm and knocked before opening the entry way door. The Admirals Assistant, Ensign Jennie Marsh greeted him. “Good morning Commander, the Admiral is expecting you.” ENS Marsh buzzed the intercom and simply stated “Commander Miller is here sir” the reply was simply “Send him in”
Jack opened the door to the Admiral’s office, walked in and saluted “Commander Miller reporting, sir.” Admiral Brown stuck to the traditional ‘reporting when you enter’ protocol.
“Have a seat Jack” The Admiral looked up from attending to some of the reports that were perfectly stacked on his immaculate desk.
Jack simply sat in one of two chairs in front of the Admirals raised desk. “Yes, sir”
“Jack, I know this is your first cruise since you left the Pentagon last year. I’m not concerned about your abilities as a skipper; I am concerned about the losses of the two boats recently. There hasn’t been one shred of evidence about the Wyoming or Maryland in three weeks.”
“Sir, don’t you mean three boats?” Jack questioned, with respect.
“I’m not concerned with the Houston. That was a West coast boat and a Los Angeles class at that. They probably ran into a mountain like the San Francisco did a few years back. I am concerned that the Nebraska is up to speed as we certainly wouldn’t want any more accidents, would we?”
“No, sir. Sir? Surely they haven’t ruled out that the Wyoming or Maryland were sunk and not accidents have they?”
“They haven’t ruled it out, but there is talk that the UN and Pentagon are leaning towards ‘operator error’”
Jack held his tongue as he was ready to spew out a very long string of expletives that RADM Brown might find ‘offensive’ “Sir, we’ve gone over the Nebraska from stem to stern three times and are starting a fourth with divers today. The Nebraska is due to load weapons today, and I will personally be there to supervise.”
“Very good. Commander, you are scheduled to set sail in 72 hours; when you return I’ll be gone and the look to this command will be very different the when you left.”
“How’s that sir”
“I have an order from SECDEF Thomason that as of 1 May all SSGN’s will have UN observers aboard. It seems that we are all becoming part of a One World Force. So all forces will co-mingle, especially the nuclear forces; which will all have UN observers.” RADM Brown paused “So Jack, you will have a couple of these observers on board when you set sail. When you return, it wouldn’t surprise me to have a lot of UN personnel on the base and part of the Operational Team.” The Admiral looked at Jack “Any questions?”
Jack was stunned at the Admiral’s lack of concern over having foreign crews on the Nebraska, and simply dismissing the loss of three submarines. “No sir”
“One other thing, Jack.”
“It seems that the terrorists are starting to raise hell again. Just a few days ago 20 UN Peace Keepers, or World Police or whatever they are calling themselves; were killed in Maryland. Washington wants to have 24/7 protection for the Subs and their crews, especially the Commanders.” As the Admiral was dropping this bomb the intercom buzzed.
“Sir, Commander Toland is here” Said ENS Marsh
“Good, send him in”
The door opened and “Commander Robert Toland reporting, sir” Cmdr Toland was as fit as a professional athlete and stood in front of the Admiral as solid as any rock had stood. Jack knew Cmdr Toland, but kept the personal greetings to himself.
“Commander Toland is from SEAL Team 2. Commander, this is Commander Miller of the Nebraska. Jack, this is your 24/7 protection. I’ll leave you two to get acquainted. You are both dismissed.”
Both Commanders stood at attention and saluted, pivoted and left the room. The two soldiers left the room and walked down the hallway, Jack turned to the SEAL “Rob! Damn good to see you again!” The two men shook hands and gave a football team type hug.
“Jack, you old goat! How’s Lauren?”
“Brother, you’re not going to believe this…Lauren’s pregnant!” Jack forgot about the past meeting temporarily.
“No shit! Jack that’s fantastic! Imagine that, you being a Poppa! Boy or Girl?”
“We won’t know for a couple of weeks. Let’s put it this way, there will be Baltimore Raven’s jerseys and flags in the nursery, either in purple or pink.” Jack beamed “Rob, I’ve got to go over to the EHW. They are loading the Nebraska today; do you want to join me?”
“Jack, I don’t think you understand. I have nine of my SEALs here; we WILL be with you 24/7, until you ship out.”
The Chevy Pick-Up traveled from Frederick along I-270 to Washington DC. The travelers noticed as they were leaving Frederick that there were numerous destroyed vehicles along the side of the freeway. The vehicles were of two types, the first type had machine gun bullet holes in the sides and the second were just shells of vehicles that were blown up.
“See how the blown up vehicles are ripped out?” Gary said to no one in particular “That’s from Hellfire missiles” Gary started to count the vehicles and it looked like about 3 per mile. “I hope that Jonathan has us set up solid for this trip. I sure don’t want to deal with any Hellfire’s or the Predators that launch them”
“Me either” Will said
As the truck passed Washington and into Virginia the destroyed car count grew larger. Ahead of them tractor trailer trucks were stopped due to a check point. April, who was sitting close to Gary, sat closer in fear. Gary twisted in his seat as the Kimber was digging into his back. When the pick up approached the soldier, who was Middle Eastern in origin, scanned the vehicle and read the information on a lap top computer.
“Will, if you see him notice anything from your mirror, let me know.”
The soldier looked again at the list of people, Will could see his eyes widen. “Looks like he’s noticed something.” The truck passed the check point after being waved through.
“Stop the truck” Gary commanded
“What?” all three said as one voice
“I said, stop the truck and back up.”
“What are you doing?” April asked incredulously
“Let’s get this shit taken care of first thing. I don’t want to end up like that.” Gary said pointing to a blown out sedan. “Remember what we talked about.”
Will had the truck stopped on the shoulder of the freeway and was lowly backing the vehicle up. The soldier that noticed the trucks occupants looked menacingly at the approaching pick up.
Gary got out of the truck and walked to the rear. He looked at the soldier and motioned to him with a one finger ‘come here’ motion.
“Oh God, he’s crazy” Terrie said petrified
The soldier walked to Gary with his AK-47 held at port arms. Gary noticed that there were four others in various poses around the olive drab Humvee. The other soldiers were not paying attention to what was taking place. The soldier approached and said “Why are you stopping?”
The act began “I am Gray Wolf of the Creek Nation” Gary mustered up a monotone voice, remembering how Hollywood had made Indians sound from the movies. Gary stood rock still and looked directly into the eyes of the soldier, trying as best as he could to be intimating, without being aggressive.
“Why did you stop?” The soldier’s eyes darted from Gary to the truck
“I want to know whether you plan on treating us the same way the White man does!”
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.” The soldier was now on the defensive
Gary motioned to the burnt out and blown up vehicles. “White man has killed our people for many years. I want to know whether our travels will be like…” Gary pointed a vehicle “…those.”
The soldier looked at the vehicles and then he understood “Oh, no sir, you have been cleared through to…”
Gary interrupted the soldier “Are you the Warrior Leader?”
“I don’t know what you mean, sir”
Gary looked at the soldier impatiently and with a stern look “Are you the Warrior Leader?”
“Am I the leader?” the soldier pointed to himself
“Yes, as you say.”
“No sir, I am not the leader, that would be Lieutenant Hassain.” The soldier looked at Gary “Are you really an Indian?”
Gary looked at the man and said “I am a Native American. My peoples were here long before the White man arrived. The term you use ‘Indian’ is an insult to me and my peoples.”
“Oh sir, I am very sorry. I do not mean to insult you. I have never seen an actual In…, I mean ‘Native American’.” The soldier was flustered “Wait a minute, I’ll go get the Lieutenant” The soldier turned and ran to the others, who by now had noticed something going on…while Gary took a deep breath.
The group of soldiers looked at the lap top computer and read who Gary was, then looking at Gary began talking amongst themselves in a very animated fashion. One soldier who was the leader, stepped forward with the others following. Gary watched the group and sized them up as they came towards him. Gary thought to himself “Good boys, now come on in nice and easy…let’s stay bunched together, nice and tight, so I can kill you all.”
The leader came forward to and introducing himself, “My name is Lieutenant Hassain, is there a problem?”
Gary stood in front if the diminutive Hassain and again repeated “I am Gray Wolf of the Creek Nation” Gary paused momentarily “I want to know if you are a man of honor?”
The Lieutenant was taken back “I don’t know what you mean, a man of honor “then realizing what he just said “Yes, of course I am a man of honor.”
Gary continued and mispronounced his title like he had heard from a movie many years ago. “Lieuten-tant, my wife and friends are traveling to our homeland in Georgia. How do I know that you will not treat us like the White man?”
“I’m sorry, sir I don’t understand what you are saying.” Lt Hassain was confused
“Lieuten-tant, I see the destroyed cars along this road...” Gary was waving his hands and making quite a show “…the White man made promises to our peoples many years ago. Promises they would never keep. The White man stole our lands and killed our peoples. Are you like the White man? Will you kill our peoples and steal our lands?”
“Oh no sir, we are also the enemy of the White man.”
“My ancestors had a saying from many years ago; it was told to them by a very wise man that ‘The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend’ Gary knew where the saying came from.
“Oh! That saying came from our people” Hassain pointed to himself and smiled broadly “It is Arabic! Sir, you and I have much in common!” The Lieutenant came over and put his hand on Gary’s shoulder. Gary also detected something else about the man. “Are you really an Indian?”
“As I told your soldier...” Gary pointed to the soldier who had no idea what he was saying, smiled at him “…the term Indian is very derogatory and insulting…I am Native American. Why do you ask?”
“Well sir, you don’t look like one.”
“I see…” Gary paused “…Lieuten-tant, many years ago…”Gary paused and put his arm around the man “…my great grandmother was raped by a White man. I’ve had this cursed gene in my body since I was born. I spent my entire childhood fighting over this White man gene…”Looking at the Lieutenant “…my heart is pure Creek, but my skin says White man” Gary turned the Lieutenant and faced him. “What does your heart say, Lieutent-tant?”
“My heart says that you are a good man, Mr. Gray Wolf” The Lieutenant said, who obviously liked having Gary’s arm around him.
April got out of the truck and started walking towards Gary. He could see a look of fear on her face, as she did not know what to expect.
Gary looked at her and with an extremely harsh tone “WOMAN! Get back into the truck! You know better than to come where men are talking!” April looked hurt, and she turned and got back into the truck. Turning to the gathering soldiers “I apologize for the behavior of the woman. She is my wife and she is a good woman but has not learned that when men talk, she is to keep away.” Gary bowed his head as if in shame.
“Gray Wolf, that is alright. Your ways are very similar to ours...we have much in common. We also do not allow a woman to be around other men.” The group looked as if they had found a long lost cousin.
“Lieuten-tant, it is good for two warriors to talk like men. You must come to our Nation in Georgia, I would be honored.”
The Lieutenant was sold hook line and sinker on the ruse.
“I must leave, but before I go…may I give you a gift?”
The Lieutenant nodded vigorously yes. Gary turned and went to the truck and Will rolled down the window. “Well?” Will asked
“I need that knife. I think we are going to get out of this alright. I’ll be right back” Gary took the knife and went back to the soldiers.
“Lieuten-tant, please accept this…from one warrior to another.” Gary handed the Buck knife to Hassain who looked as if the Prophet Mohammed himself had given it to him.
“Thank you! Thank you, very much!”
“Lieuten-tant…will you make sure our way is safe?”
“Gray Bear, it is as good as done, my friend. I will mark your group as VIP, you’ll be safe.”
Gary walked to the truck and climbed in. The soldiers waved to him as they drove down the road. Once out of sight, April slugged him hard “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again, Gary Martin! Cause if you do, I’ll kick your ass!” April said pointing her finger in his face.
Gary smiled at her, and then told the laughing group what had just taken place. Gary put his arm around April and pulled her closer to him “I’m sorry for the words...I didn’t mean it and you know it.”
“I know you didn’t mean it…but it still hurt.” April said as Gary kissed her on the forehead, they held each other tightly.
“Ok, Will, let’s make some time.” Gary said as he half reclined in the back seat, trying to catch a little nap.