Combat Ops | Chapter 9 of 42

Author: David Michaels | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2186 Views | Add a Review

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PROLOGUE
“You think I’m guilty?” I ask her.
She smirks. “My opinion doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me.”
“How do you expect me to formulate an opinion when I don’t know your story?”
I sigh through a curse.
My name is Captain Scott Mitchell, United States Army. I’m a member of a Special Forces group called the Ghosts. When I’m on the job, out on a mission, I don’t exist. I’d thought we operated with impunity.
But when I was ordered back home and confined to quarters, I realized everything had changed. The same organization that helped conceal my operations and erase all evidence of the people I’d killed had been forced to make an example of me. They had changed. I had changed. And we could never go back.
People don’t have to talk. They can invite you to kiss them . . . or even kill them with their eyes. Talk is cheap, but I’ve crawled through enough rat holes to learn that for some, life is even cheaper.
I had permission. I did what I had to do. They say I had a choice, but I didn’t. I have never done anything more difficult in my life.
And now they want me to pay for my sins.
I haven’t slept in two days. The growing humidity here at Fort Bragg makes it harder to breathe, and when I go to the window and run a finger across the glass, it comes up sweaty. The humidity is all I have to keep me company.
My father taught me that it’s easier to cut wood with the grain rather than against it, and I carried that simple metaphor into the Army. I promised myself to remain apolitical, do the missions, go with the grain, not because I was trying to cop out but because I just wanted to be a great soldier. I’d already seen what torn loyalties and jealousy could do to the warrior spirit, and I wanted to protect myself against that.
But for what? My life is now a blade caught in a heavy knot, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared out of my mind. I’m fourteen again, and Dad’s telling me that Mom just died, and I’m worried about how we’ll get along when she did so much—when she was the person who held our family together. When I think about going to prison, I lose my breath. It’s a panic attack, and all I can do is hide behind sarcasm and belligerence.
Blaisdell, who’s shaking her head at me now, showed up three hours late with some bullshit excuse about a deposition running long, and I told her to have a seat at my little kitchen table so we can talk about saving my life. She gave me a look. She’s a major with the JAG corps, probably about my age, thirty-six or so, with rectangular glasses that suggest bitch rather than scholar. I hate her.
Now she lifts her chin and grimaces. “Is that you?”
“What do you mean?”
“That smell . . .”
I scratch at my beard, rake fingers through my crew cut. All right, I hadn’t bathed in a couple of days, either, and I’d been growing the beard for the past month.
“You want to wait while I take a shower?”
“Look, Captain, I’m doing this as a favor to Brown’s sister, but you can hire your own attorney.”
I shake my head. “Before I shipped back home, Brown told me about some of the other cases you did, maybe a little similar to mine.”
She sighs deeply. “Not similar. Not as many witnesses. Some reasonable doubt—the chance that maybe it was just an accident. Everything I’ve read in your case says this was hardly an accident.”
“No, it certainly wasn’t.”
“And you understand that you could lose everything and spend the rest of your life in Leavenworth?”
I stare back at her, unflinching. “You want a drink? I mean as in alcohol . . .”
“No. And you shouldn’t have one, either. Because if you want me to help you, I need to know everything. The narrative they gave me is their point of view. I need yours.”
“You don’t even know what unit I work for. They won’t tell you. They just say D Company, First Battalion, Fifth Special Forces Group. You ever hear of the Ghosts?”
“No.”
“I didn’t think so. They want plausible deniability. Well, they got it, all right, and now I’m the fall guy.”
“You’re not the fall guy. From what I read, no one forced you to do anything.”
I lower my voice. “I went to a briefing. They showed me a PowerPoint slide of the situation over there. It was supposed to illustrate the complexity of our mission. Somebody said the graph looked like a bowl of spaghetti, and guys were laughing. But you know what I was thinking? Nothing. I didn’t care.”
“Why’s that?”
“They gave me a mission, and I tried to put on the blinders. I went in, and I got the job done. Usually I never give a crap about the politics. I don’t feed the machine. I am the machine. But this . . . this wasn’t a mission. This isn’t a war. It’s an illusion of understanding and control. They think they can color-code it, but they have no idea what’s going on out there. You need to stand in the dirt, look around, and realize that it’s just . . . I don’t even know what the hell it is . . .”
She purses her lips. And now she’s looking at me like I’m a stereotypical burned-out warrior with a new drinking problem and personal hygiene challenges. Screw her.
“You don’t care what I think, do you?” I ask.
“I’m here to defend you.”
I take a deep breath. “That sounds like an inconvenience.”
“Captain, I know where this is coming from, and I’ve seen it before. You’re angry and upset, but you’d best not forget that I’m all you’ve got right now.”
“I’ll ask you again, do you think I’m guilty?”
She dismisses my question with a wave. “Start at the beginning, and I need to record you.” She reaches into her fancy leather tote bag and produces a small tablet computer with attached camera that she places on the table. The camera automatically pivots toward me.
I make a face at the lens, then rise and head toward the kitchen counter, where my bottle of cheap scotch awaits. I pour myself a glass and return to the table. She’s scowling at me and checks her smartphone.
“Oh, I’m sorry if you don’t have the time for this,” I say, then sip my drink.
“Captain . . .”
“You got any kids?”
She rolls her eyes. “We’re not here to talk about me.”
“I’m just asking you a question.”
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
I grin slightly. “How many?”
“I have two daughters.”
“You don’t know how lucky you are.”
“Can we get on with this now? I assume you know about attorney-client privilege? Anything you share about the mission will remain classified, compartmentalized, and confidential, of course.”
I finish my scotch, exhale through the burn, then narrow my gaze. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing: I am not a murderer.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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