10 Escaped Bethesda MD - Monday

Escaped: Fighting my way home

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia




Chapter 10 – Monday 29 September 2007


Travel Day - Leadville Colorado – Monday Day Thirty-one


I felt her eyes boring holes into me even before I opened my eyes. And her mind was trying to sense my feelings, trying to catch me unaware and figure out what her huge surprise was. "Good morning my love and it's not going to work so you might as well quit trying." I said, opened my eyes and turned towards her.


She grinned at me, "You can't fault me for trying. So am I going to get my huge surprise today?"


"You're huge surprise is waiting for us in Colorado. So if we finally get the hell out of here you will get your surprise."


She scooted over on the bed and gave me huge hug. "Then let's get moving. I can't wait!"


Jens jumped out of bed and I admired the view. "I never get tired of watching you! You have great ASSets"


She turned and looked over her shoulder at me, "Thanks my love! It's great to be appreciated. Are you sure my butt's not too big?"


Damn, I needed a better answer for this unanswerable question. I quickly said, "Well, you may be too big for your britches, but you butt is just right!"


She thought about that for a minute. "I'm not sure if that was a compliment or a cut?"


I just looked at her and smiled, "Ouch that hurt!"


Jens came over, "What's wrong?"


"I keep forgetting about my lips. Every time I smile it hurts."


"You're right, in fact they split open and are bleeding." Jens went to the bathroom, came back with a washcloth, and gently pressed it against my lips until the bleeding ceased. She picked up the salve and started putting it on my lips. When she finished she gently kissed me, "Now I don't need any lip balm."


"I can't wait to get to Colorado!" She enthusiastically announced. "If you ever make me wait like this for a surprise again you're going to need Preparation H for your lips because I'm going to kick your ass so hard that your butt's going to be coming out of your mouth."


I was going to grin but remembered the lips just in time. "If that happens I can't wait to French kiss you!"


She punched my arm, "That's gross and you're incorrigible." Then she huffed off to the bathroom and pretended to be mad. The door opened a minute later and she threw her pjs at me, "Here, keep yourself entertained while I shower. And don't try any pranks, I'm locking the door."


I hadn't thought about a prank until Jens mentioned it, but there had to be something that I could do that wouldn't get me in too much trouble… I figured it out, jumped up, slipped the lock on the bathroom door, did the deed and came back to bed.


Someone knocked on the bedroom door, "Hey, it's Liz. Can I come in?"


"Come on in we're mostly decent." I replied.


She walked in and said, "I doubt that. I know both of you too well for that. Where's Jens?"


"She's in the shower."


Liz looked at what I had on the bed. "You didn't?"


"I sure did."


"This should be fun. Too bad we couldn't tape it."


We made small talk for another couple of minutes and heard the shower stop and Jens yell, "Hey, where the hell are all the towels and my undies. You-you-you, I warned you about pranks." She threw open the door and Liz and I started laughing; she blushed and quickly closed the door. "You didn't tell me we had guests."


'When did I stop being your adopted sister and become a guest?" Liz questioned.


"If you’re my sister will you please bring me my towel and undies?"


"Don't give me any crap. Hand them over." Liz ordered.


I gave them to Liz and as she walked towards the bathroom, I jumped out of bed and headed towards the door. I waited just long enough to hear Jens yell, "Wait, gross, these are the undies I just took off. Where's my clean ones. I'm gonna get you for this."


I left the room and headed towards the kitchen, my dirty deed done for the day. I tried to whistle "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" but I couldn’t pucker my lips right.


Mom and Dad were in the kitchen, "You look like the cat that just swallowed the canary." Dad said.


"I bet he's been giving Jens grief again." Mom added, "Someday you're going to push her too far and she's going to kick your butt. And you'd deserve it."


I looked at her, "Don't you remember. That day has already come once and she did kick my butt. By the way, where did your cast go?"


She looked at her arm, "They took it off at the hospital while we were there with Jens."


"How's your wrist feel?"


"It's a little stiff. The doctor wants me to exercise it some." Mom answered.


"Can I take a look at it?" I asked and sat at the table beside her.


She gave me her arm and I manipulated the wrist just a little bit. "Ouch that hurts!"Mom complained.


"You need to work this wrist some or it will never be right again. Here let me help." I started massaging her wrist and gently manipulating it.


"Mmm, that feels really good." Mom said.


Jens and Liz walked in the kitchen and saw the look of bliss on Mom's face. She turned to Liz. "I can't leave him alone for a moment because he flirts with every skirt he sees."


I stopped and Mom pouted, "He wasn't flirting with me. He was showing me how to take care of my wrist. Ben, don't listen to those silly girls, please continue." I stuck my tongue out at them and continued. They both flipped me off but I ignored it.


Jens tried to gain some sympathy, "You know what he did to me this morning?"


"If it's anything like this, I'd say you were a lucky girl." Mom replied.


She stomped her foot, "He stole the towels and my undies when I was showering and then he gave me my old undies back. I don't even know what he did with the new ones. They were the only clean ones that I have left. I had to go commando."


Dad laughed. Mom grinned at her and scolded, "Young lady didn't I teach you better than that?"


I smiled and pulled the clean undies out of the pocket on my shorts, "So…looking for these?"


Liz snatched them from my hand, "Here you go Jens." They both walked off towards the bedroom.


"Damn boy! She's going to skin you alive someday." Dad remarked.


"But not today; especially not after she sees her huge surprise," I replied.


"Oh yeah, tell us all about that." Mom asked.


"NALTS to both of you!" I said and got up to make some breakfast.


"Let me do that, you'll mess up my kitchen again." Mom ordered.


The doorbell rang so I jumped up to go get it. I opened the door and it was a news crew from CCCN. They started yelling questions and I slammed the door shut in their faces. Dad heard all the commotion and came in the living room. "What the hell was that?"


"Fucking news vultures from CCCN."


"Shit! I'm going to get those bastards. They can't be on my property." He went and made a phone call. "This should be good, let's watch out the window. We slipped the curtains back just enough to see a couple of police cars drive up and the police officers came out and started talking to the CCCN crew.  When Dad was sure the cameras were off, he opened the door, "I want these people taken down to the station and booked for trespassing. They don't have permission to be on my property."


They were raising a real stink and Jens and Liz came out of the bedroom, "What's going on?"


"Dad's having a CCCN news crew arrested for trespassing." I tell them.


Liz scooted over to the door, "Make sure you confiscate any of their tapes." Then she laughed, "Tom, you should know better than this. Just for that the price for any tapes we sell to CCCN doubles."


"You can't do that!" Tom yelled back.


"Your right, double is not enough, I think triple is more like it." Liz quipped.


"Damn fucking bitch." He yelled.


I ran out of the house after him, the police restrained me. "You ever call her that again"… I looked at the police and the crowd… "….and CCCN will never get any tapes from us."


Then I looked at the officers, "I'd like a restraining order against CCCN and all their employees."


"Sorry Sir, we can't do that. You need to talk to the DA." The officer informed me.


Dad walked up, "Don't worry Ben, I'll talk to our lawyers." We watched them carted away. When they were gone, Dad clapped me on the back, "That was some pretty quick thinking. Good thing you didn't threaten them with violence."


Liz and Jens came out and both hugged me. Jens said, "Just when I get pissed at you, you go and do something that's gallant and right." Liz kissed my cheek and remarked, "Thanks for standing up for me ABILTB."


"ABILTB, what the hell is that? It sounds like some sort of new type of TB – tuberculosis."


Jens rolled her eyes, "Sometimes you're so dense. That's Adopted Brother-In-Law-To-Be."


"Then that makes her the PSFAGASILTB." I replied.


They looked at me funny and Liz says, "I understand the Adopted Sister-In-Law-To-Be. But what the hell is PSFAG? And the F-A-G part better not have any sexual orientation connotations!"


I walked about ten feet away, turned and announced, "Pretty Smart For A Girl!"


The both lunge at me and I dodge, "Ha missed me… missed me… now you gotta kiss me!"


Mom yelled, "That's enough horseplay. I don't want Jens getting hurt again today."


We all stopped, knowing better than to risk the wrath of Mom and went back inside. Jens was on one side of me and Liz on the other, "Don't think this is over Mister." Jens threatened. "You just wait until Mom isn't around." Liz added.


I wrapped my arms around their waists, "Just remember how ticklish you both are."


Mom looked back, "Don't you dare tickle them!"


"Ha ha, you're busted." Jens teased.


I whispered, "You two just wait until Mom isn't around. I'm going to tickle you until you pee your pants."


"Just remember. There are two of us and one of you and you have to sleep sometime." Liz hissed.


Breakfast was finished without any more interruptions. I offered to hand wash the dishes since we were leaving. Mom kicked me out of the kitchen and told me to go and get ready. I headed into Jens bedroom and she and Liz were sitting on the bed and talking.


I looked at Liz, "Can we talk for a little bit, in private?"


"Oh goodie, I bet this is about my huge surprise." Jens got all excited.


We walked into the living room and after making her promise, she wouldn't tell Jens I gave her all the details so that she could have a crew ready.


"I saw one of those once. Jens is going to love this." Liz beamed, "You sure take good care of her. I hope someday I can find a man like you."


We went back to the bedroom and Jens tried to get her to spill the beans. Liz looked at her and said, "NALTS!"


I laughed until it hurt my lips and quickly stopped. I guess I’m just a slow learner.


Jens pouted, "Now he has you telling me NALTS. I hate that!"


Liz hugged her, "Jens this surprise is worth it. You're a very lucky lady!"


She started squirming, "I'm really that lucky? Why is that?"


"You're just going to have to wait and see. Sometime today it will happen." Liz answered.


She pouted again, "You're just as bad as he is. I thought you were on my side."


"No, I'm on both your sides. Now quit pouting and acting like a little girl or I'll tell Ben you don't deserve such a huge and special gift." Liz scolded her.


I knew they were going to keep up this banter for a long while and decided I'd try to take a shower and hoped that I wouldn't be ‘pranked’. I grabbed my whole travel pack and took it in the bathroom with me, locked the door, put the doorstop under it and wedged my pack up against the doorstop and the door.


Just as I got in the shower, Jens rattled the door. "Hey, if you've blocked this door just make sure you don't hurt yourself." I thought, yeah right, you just want to take my towels and underwear.


The shower was not enjoyable. The combination of the hot water and chlorine made my raw skin burn so I finished in record time, jumped out and changed into a polo shirt and shorts. It felt good to have my legs uncovered. I loaded up everything in my travel pack and walked out of the bathroom.


Jens ran over and kissed me on the cheek, "Damn I miss kissing you on the lips! You look nice today." She looked down at my legs, "They still look pretty sore."


"No, not at all." I replied.


She stomped her foot, "Don't you start lying to me again. I can sense your feelings. Go talk to Mom and Dad, I'll be out in a few minutes." She gave me her little girl look, "And please no more pranks this morning."


I kissed her and winced, "Your wish is my command." And I took off for the kitchen with my travel pack. I dropped the pack by the front door and headed to the kitchen.


"Good morning." Mom and Dad echoed. I sat at the table with them.


"Yes it is. But I can't wait to get to Colorado."


"I bet you're excited to see the rebuilt cabin." Dad said.


"I hope I don't offend you, but I'm more excited to give Jens her surprise."


"It's so good to see how much you love my little girl." Mom said.


Liz walked in, "I second that. I hope that someday I find a man like you." She sat at the table.


Jens came in, "Well, you can't have him he's all mine." She came over, took me by the hands, and pulled me up. "Let's go!"


"Jens, be patient." Dad told her.


"Come on all you lazy butts before I have to get upset." Jens ordered. We all grumbled as we stood. "Hey, fix your attitudes. Or I'll make the driver let you run the last mile to the airport." Jens chided.


"Someone sure is in a hurry to get going. I wonder why?" Liz teased.


We all laughed and headed out to the waiting limo. I opened my mouth to complain, "Don't start complaining about the limo or I'll make you walk." Dad ordered.


The ride was uneventful other than Jens squirming most of the time; she was making me nervous, "Simmer down Honey. In about four hours you'll get your huge surprise."


She kissed me on the cheek, "Silly boy, I'm not excited about my surprise. I'm excited about you seeing the cabin. And even more excited knowing it's our house." She cuddled up against me and it felt so good. Our house - that was sure going to be a big change; Jens would be the first woman to be in that house since… mom died.


I was deep in thought, remembering the few – very few good times when I'd had a home. My Dad was a hard man, hard on both of us. And Nam didn't make him any easier to get along with. As always, I ended up justifying his actions as a way to make me strong and keep me alive. If not for what he'd taught me I would have died many times by now.


Jens hugged me and kissed my cheek which pulled me out of my memories. "Were here my dear. Don't worry, it will be a new house and all the old bad memories were destroyed with the old house. You, I and our children will make our own memories and they will be wonderful."


I was dazed and blinked my eyes a couple times, "Oh yeah. Let me get our bags." I hopped out of the limo and thought, soon I won't be riding in these any more. I grabbed the travel packs and headed to the jet. I noticed the jet had Evergreen on the tail and shuddered, remembering trips I had taken in these jets for three letter branches of the government. "Hey, this isn't Dad's Marine jet."


"That's right. We leased this jet because I couldn't justify this trip to the Marines." Dad answered.


"We could have flown commercial." I replied.


"That would have caused a riot." Liz answered. "Get used to it HERO."


"Shit! I hope I don't get used to this." I whined.


Jens swatted me on the butt, "Stop being so grumpy, Mr. Grumpy Pants. And enjoy this, it's going to better than the Chinooks or Blackhawks in Iraq."


Remembering a particularly bad crash, I shuddered, "Damn CrashHawks!"


We boarded the plane; a cute little red haired flight attendant met me at the door. "Welcome aboard, I'm Nancy and I'm here to make sure your flight is comfortable. Let me know if I can do anything for you, anything at all!" She winked at me.


We walked all the way to the back of the plane and I wanted to take my normal aisle seat. "Oh no you don't Mister; you're taking the window seat this time. I don't want Nancy accidentally brushing against you every time she walks by." Jens ordered.


"I thought you told me I should enjoy her-uh-I mean this." I teased.


Mom walked up, "You try enjoying her and bad things will happen to certain parts of your body. Simmer down and stop upsetting Jens, she's still sick."


I took Jens hand, "You still have some pain?"


"It's nothing and is less all the time." Jens answered.


I looked at Mom, "Please leave us alone for awhile." She left, "Jens you scold the hell out of me every time I don't tell you about how I feel and now you're doing the same thing to me. Now tell me the truth."


Jens smiled, "I did tell you the truth. The difference is I always ask you how you feel and you forget to ask me."


She was right and I felt about two inches tall. Nancy leaned across Jens and interrupted, "Excuse me Ben would you like anything before we take off? I have some Knob Creek on the plane that I bought myself just for you." She smiled.


"Thank you Nancy, two fingers neat would be nice." I answered and looked at Jens, "What would you like?"


Nancy didn't wait to hear Jens order and took off right away.


"Get used to it Jens. Now that Ben's the hero this is going to happen all the time." Liz sat across from us.


"I hope I didn't do anything to precipitate this." I added.


"Well, you didn't do anything to stop it." Jens grumped.


"J-e-n-s, you'd better get used to this and learn to cope with it. Before now, you've been the star of the show and – well Ben had sort of been an accessory. And that's the way it is for most men, they are like a fancy purse on our arm to make us look good to other women. And Ben was very good at doing that for you. Do you remember how you felt at the engagement party?" Liz said.


"Yes, I do remember and I guess you're right." Jens answered.


"You bet I'm right. Now Ben is the star of the show and will be for several months. You need to be his beautiful, loving and adoring trophy fiancée. You need to hang on his arm as if you two were Siamese twins. Every woman in America is going to be dreaming about being in your place and trying to take your place." Liz explained.


"Shit! I'm not going to be a vacuous blonde bimbo decorating his arm." Jens grumped. I opened my mouth to make a smart comment, Jens elbowed me in the ribs, "You'd better shut the fuck up."


Liz continued, "You don't need to become one, you just need to show the world your undying devotion to Ben."


I chuckled and earned a dirty look from Jens. "Ben, you need to show the world how Jens is the only woman in the whole world for you. You need to treat her like a queen and leave no doubts or openings for other women. When Nancy flirted with you, you should have ignored it and immediately introduced Jens as your fiancée." Liz scolded me.


"Yeah, you should have done that!" Jens added.


"Well, if she acted more like a trophy fiancée and less like an old ball and chain…" I never did get the sentence finished because I was seriously attacked by both of them.


"I'll show you ball and chain." Jens said whacking the hell out of me.


"You dufus." Liz was wailing on me.


I was trying to defend myself but was laughing too hard. All the racket made Mom come to the back of the plane. "What stupid thing did he say this time?" She asked.


Jens and Liz stopped but I got the first word out, "Why do you always assume it's me?"


Jens whacked me again, "Because it is always you! He called me an old ball and chain."


I heard Dad chuckle from the front of the plane, "Shut up Glen." Mom yelled.


"Yes dear!" Dad yelled sarcastically.


"Dammit, now you've corrupted Glen. It's taken me years to get him trained right. Excuse me I need to go take care of this." Mom marched up to the front of the plane.


I looked at Jens and Liz and I wasn't sure how I was going to extricate myself from this, they were both very pissed. Thankfully, Nancy showed up with my drink, "Here you go Ben, it's such an honor to serve such a hero. Is there anything at all that I can get you?"


"Thank you Nancy, this is excellent. Let me apologize to you for not taking the time to introduce you to the one woman in the whole world for me, this is my fiancée Jennifer Donaldson. And this is our good friend Ms. Elizabeth Morgan."


Nancy suddenly realized that she might be in big trouble because Jens and Liz were still pissed looking. "Pleased to meet both of you; would either of you like anything?"


Liz replied, "I'd like a cosmopolitan." "Make that two." Jens added, "Oh and do you have any really big and sharp knives?"


"Sorry miss we don't have anything like that on the plane, but I'll go and get both of your drinks." Nancy took off for the front.


Liz looked a Jens, "Planning on a bit of surgery?"


Jens laughed, "I was thinking that this rooster might need something clipped, and I don't mean his wings."


I quickly crossed my legs and Liz started laughing. "You go girl! Keep that rooster of yours in line!"


Liz changed the subject, "Why do you guys always sit in the back of the plane?"


Jens perked right up, "Ben likes to be able to see everyone and everything that’s going on. It's really bad on commercial airlines because he can't carry his guns or knives."


I added, "I feel naked without at least one knife."


Jens continued, "On a commercial airline he always asks the flight attendant for a tonic water in a can and he keeps the can. Then he smashes the can flat and makes a knife out of it."


"How does he do that?" Liz questioned.


"He keeps bending it back and forth until it tears. You wouldn't believe how sharp the edge of an aluminum can is when he does this." Jens finished.


"The airlines don't know about this?" Liz wondered.


I answered, "I guess not. Either that or they don't care." I pressed the call button and Nancy ran back with the girl's drinks almost spilling them on Liz and Jens, "Yes sir, what may I get for you?"


"This isn't an emergency, but do you think next time you come back you could bring me a can of tonic water?"


"Would you like some gin to go with that? I have a bottle of Broker's Gin that I also bought just for you, I know it's your favorite." Nancy beamed.


I thought for a minute about a gin and tonic, but I don't like to mix different types of alcohol, "No thank you, just the can of tonic water."


She left again for the front of the plane and came right back with the soda. "Here you go Ben. Could I ask you a favor?"


I looked at Jens and Liz and knew I'd better answer this one right, "That depends on what the favor is?"


'Would you please sign an autograph for me?" She handed me a sheet of paper.


"Uh - I don't know how to do this. What do I say?" I asked.


Nancy grinned, "How about all my love…"


Jens interrupted, "I don't think so."


Liz suggested, "How about you sign: To Nancy the world's best flight attendant, H&K Banzai Ben."


So that's what I wrote, Nancy grabbed it and took off. I opened the tonic water, chugged it down and realized that it made my lips sting. "That hurts like hell." I started working on the empty can.


Jens laughed, "That's what you get for calling me an old ball and chain."


Liz looked me in the eyes, "You need to be careful about signing autographs. Many people want them just so they can turn around and sell them. You should always make it personal. Not only does it mean more to the person that receives it, it makes it harder for them to sell."


I was done with the can, tore it in two and handed a piece to Liz and Jens, "There's a knife for each of you."


Liz ran her thumb over the edge and cut herself, "Shit, that's sharp." She took off to find Nancy to see about a band-aid.


Jens snuggled up close to me, "Do you really think I'm a ball and chain?"


I held her close, "You are a ball to be around and have ‘chainged’ me into a better man. That's what I was going to say before you two attacked me."


"’Chainged’, that's a pretty bogus word." Jens sighed.


"Sorry, you don't like it; it's the best I could come up with on short notice. I'm going to sleep." I slammed down the rest of my bourbon, tipped the seat back and was out of it.


I felt a big bump and Jens was shaking me awake. "Time to wake up sleepy head. We're at Denver International Airport in Colorado."


I opened my eyes and had to rub the sleepers out of them. I could not believe the incredible vision of loveliness in front of me. Jens always looked beautiful to me, but I had never seen her dolled up like this, not even at our engagement party. She was wearing a really short black dress, and her hair and makeup were perfect.


I leaned over to kiss her, "Ah-ah-ah, looky but no touchy. I don't want you mauling me and messing up my makeup. From the look on your face I guess you approve?"


"Approve hell! You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen! What's going on?"


Jens grinned, "I thought about what Liz said and figured it was time that the beauty of this outfit earned her keep. If I'm going to be your arm candy I want to be the best damn arm candy that you'll ever see. Just remember you can look but don't touch! Liz took an hour getting this makeup right and I don't want it messed up."


I was just stared at her, my mouth was open and I swear I was drooling.


Liz walked up, "Close your mouth hero, you're looking stupid again."


I did and then remembered about the surprise and I thought, it won't be long until that makeup's a mess.


Jens sensed my feelings, "Why is my makeup going to be a mess?"


I grinned, "NALTS, but you will know soon enough. Let's get moving." Jens jumped up and the view from the back was… incredible. Her dress was so low-cut that I could almost see her undies.


I reached up and touched her back. "Mmm, that's nice." She purred. I slipped my hand lower, "Hey Mister, don't get rushin' hands and roamin' fingers the camera's watching." I blushed and Jens didn't even look, she just said, "You're so cute when you blush."


She walked up the aisle. Damn someone taught her how to walk s-e-x-y, she should get a penalty for backfield in motion, I couldn't take my eyes off her and followed her like a silly puppy following its master. She stopped at the doorway and motioned me beside her, "We're going out this door together and I'm not letting go of your arm. Take it slow on the stairs because I'm not very good in these heels yet."


We stepped outside and there was a huge crowd of people, they started yelling and screaming the minute, they saw us. Jens leaned over, "This is your fifteen minutes of fame so enjoy it. You're making us bunches of money from the news feeds." Then she kissed the heck out of my cheek and hugged me tight. We slowly walked down the steps, into a waiting limo as the driver closed the door. Jens smiled at everyone, "That was so much fun. I like being the arm candy of my handsome hero."


We took off and headed down Peña Boulevard towards I-70 and Leadville. We went a couple miles and I called to the driver, "Hey I forgot to use the bathroom on the plane. Stop at the Circle K Conoco up here on the right." I looked over and winked at Liz.


Mom, Dad and Jens started complaining about having to stop, "Well, if we don't stop then there's going to be an accident." That shut them up!


The limo pulled in the parking lot and I smiled even though it hurt my lips some. There was a small crowd in the parking lot a short distance from the building - I knew what was attracting their attention. The limo pulled up to the building and I jumped out. "Move your ass Arm Candy!" Jens looked at me funny but obeyed me; Liz hopped out behind her and took off towards the crowd.


Jens assumed her position on my arm and fought me a little when I turned and walked in the same direction as Liz. "I thought you needed the toilet?"


I smiled - damn lips, "I lied."


Her eyes got big, "You lied to me and I couldn't tell?"


"No, I lied to the driver. If I had tried lying to you, I would never have gotten away with it. So are you ready for your huge surprise."


She started jumping up and down almost falling and breaking an ankle, "It's here?"


"Stop jumping for right now and close your eyes. And keep them closed."


She did and we walked over and the crowd parted, I saw my old friend and he walked up. "Jens stand right here and don't move." I walked up to him and gave him a big hug and whispered in his ear, "Thanks it looks perfect."


He handed me the keys and stepped back. I walked over to Jens, "Hold out your hands." She held out her hands and I dropped the key ring in her hand.


"What-what-what's this? It feels like-like-like keys."


"Open your eyes my dear."


She opened her eyes and saw for the first time her new car. It was candy apple red and was gleaming in the sun. Hand lettered on the driver's door was Jumpin' Jens.


"Ben this is the most beautiful little car I've ever seen. What sort of car is it?"


I smiled, "This was my Dad's pride and joy and now it's yours. It was stored in a garage in Leadville that's why it wasn't destroyed when the barn and house were destroyed. It's a nineteen-sixty-six AC Cobra 427 s/c."


Jens started crying, "Ben this is too much. It's probably the only thing that you have left from your Dad."


Liz walked over, "You don't know the half of it. This is one of only 30 ever produced. It's a street legal race car with a top speed of close to two-hundred miles an hour and is worth over a million dollars."


I caught Jens as she almost fell; she was crying like a baby and hugging the hell out of me. This lasted for about ten minutes I was even getting some sloppy, messy kisses. Liz broke in, "Come on, we need to go and change you two into your drivers uniforms." I looked at her funny, "That's my surprise for you two."


We walked over to the Circle K, Mom and Dad smiled at us. Dad yelled, "You think I can drive that?"


Jens yelled back, "When pigs fly!"


Liz held out packages for us and we went into the bathrooms. I smiled as I slipped into a new Nomex driving suit with Jens and Ben on the back and my title as co-pilot. When I stepped out Jens had a matching suit but her title was driver. She'd even cleaned up her face.


She ran over, jumped in my arms, and smothered me with kisses. Then she whispered in my ear, "I think you should get lucky tonight. It is the first night in our new house." I leaned over acting like I was going to whisper in her ear and stuck my tongue in it instead, "Ewww gross, that's not what I expected."


"Let me go show you your new car." I told Jens.


We headed over to the Cobra and could see a huge crowd, "Are all the people here to see you?" Jens asked.


"This wasn't planned; they are just here to gas up their cars and noticed your new car. You'd better get used to it; this car will draw attention wherever we go."


When we reached the car I showed her how to open the hood and taught her the family tradition of how we check the fluid levels before we even start the engine. I opened the door for her and she sat in the driver's seat, "This fits my butt like a glove." She remarked. I leaned over, "It should, it's custom made for your butt." She blushed at that, "I don't know how you got a mold for that and I'm not sure I want to know."


I walked around and got in the other side, "Press the gas down once and pull halfway out on the manual choke. Then start her up."


She did as told and the big V8 rumbled to life with a throaty roar. "Blip the throttle a couple of times."


She did and the staccato sound of pure power filled the air. Liz walked up, pulled Jens hair back and tied it in a ponytail. "You don't want to drive this without your hair tied back or it will take hours to get the tangles out." Then she gave us each an AC Cobra hat, "Put these on so you don't get sun burned."


I pushed the choke in and Jens blipped the throttle a couple more times, the Cobra settled down to its normal lopping idle. I looked at the gauges - things looked great and the temperature was okay to start. I leaned over and yelled over the exhaust, "This is an easy car to drive really fast, just be careful because it has more power than anything you've ever driven. Drive me to Leadville my Arm Candy Chauffer."


She grinned at me, pressed in on the clutch and slipped in into first. I motioned for the crowd to move back, Jens gave her Cobra some gas and let out on the clutch a bit too fast, and she smoked the rear tires. She pushed back in on the clutch and looked over at me. I laughed, "This is a hell-of-a lot of car that you have. Take it easy and try it again."


This time she got it moving and we headed out the parking lot and back onto Peña Boulevard. I could see a huge grin on her face and remembered how much fun it was to drive it for the first time. That was the week after Dad died because he never let me drive it when he was living. Driving the Cobra was more fun than the racing go-cart that I used to have; it was faster and handled better. We hit the on ramp, she punched it just a bit, and shifted into second, we merged without any problems.


She went through the other two gears; we were passing cars as if they weren't even moving. We even dropped the motorcycle camera operators that Liz had videoing us. She looked down at the speedometer and quickly let off the gas and jabbed at the brakes until she slowed it down to seventy.


She yelled at me, "Did you see how fast I was going?"


I nodded my head, "Good thing there weren't any state patrol cars. You would have spent the night in jail. They don't like it when you're doing fifty over the posted speed. I forgot to tell you, this car is a ticket magnet so try to drive it sane. We’ll take it out to a racetrack someday and let you really open it up. Slow up a little and let the limo catch up."


She tried to keep the speed down but at sixty, the big engine was loafing and every move of her foot on the throttle made the car jump. "I thought the Mustang in Hawaii was hard to drive slowly, this is even worse."


"Wait until you drive it in downtown Denver, that's going to make you go crazy."


"How fast have you gone in this?"


I grinned and my lips again reminded me to take it easy. "I plead the fifth. Let's just say that a certain Corvette saw nothing but my taillights fading from view when we raced in SouthPark1."

1 SouthPark Colorado is not the stupid city that an equally stupid cartoon made popular. It is a high mountain valley outside of Colorado Springs on Hwy 24 just west of Wilkerson Pass. There is one spot that the road is straight as an arrow and smooth as Jens's behind.


People were driving by us and honking and waving, Jens was too busy driving to wave back so I was doing the honors for her. Some kids pulled up beside her in a rice grinder2 and started revving their engine. Jen looked over at me, "Should I?"

2 Rice Grinder – Slang for Japanese car.


"Just blip the throttle a little, they'll leave you alone." She blipped the throttle and her Cobra took off like a rocket leaving the rice grinder as if it was standing still. We slowed back up and they roared past us and kept going, "Good, they'll be the ones that get the ticket. I-Seventy almost always has patrols."


The limo pulled up beside us and Jens looked over and waved. "Keep it under seventy-five and we shouldn't be hassled by the state patrol." I told her.


She was getting the hang of driving it and even honked at the rice grinder getting a ticket as we drove past. I waved and noticed that we got the finger in return.


It was a great day to be driving a convertible in Colorado, the sun was shining and the air had just a little bite to it. Plus, I was getting to enjoy the scenery, I don't mean the mountains, I mean Jens. She was having the time of her life! As she was getting more comfortable with her cobra she was playing around with the gas, she'd punch it a little, run the speed up to eighty-five or ninety and then let it drop back to seventy. It was driving the limo and the motorcycles crazy trying to keep up with us.


We drove past Dillon and I wondered if I had to tell Jens where to go, I figured that she probably knew the way as well as I did. I leaned over, "Let's not take highway ninety-one. Go through Vail and take highway twenty-four, there's a place I want to stop."


Jens smiled, "I know where you want to go. Don't you think it would be quicker to take ninety-one and then head back up twenty-four?"


"You're driving, it's your call."  I sat back and enjoyed the mountains and the joy that I saw on Jens face. We hit the Copper Mountain exit and Jens took highway 91 I think she was in a hurry to get to the cabin. We had one stop to make first. We went through the sleepy old mining town of Climax. Robinson Lake had quite a bit of water in it. I looked over at Jens as she saw the city sign. "Someday?" I asked. She laughed and blushed, "Many times someday."


We caught Poplar Ave. and she turned right onto highway 24, it was a short 10 miles now to our temporary stop. She was anxious and let the speed creep up until we were doing almost 100. We came around the little turn right before Tennessee Pass road and Jens hit the brakes hard, there were two sheriff cars sitting by the side of the road. "Shit we're busted," She said. As we passed the cars they pulled out, one came up beside us, waved then pulled in front of us as the other followed us. They escorted us all the way to the Ski Cooper exit and we pulled into the 10th Mountain Division war memorial.


"Please leave the car running Jens." I asked as I jumped out. I slowly and reverently walked up to the war memorial and touched the cool pink granite letting my fingers trace the names indelibly etched into the surface. It brought back the many days of summer I spent here worshiping my heroes, dreaming that someday I might be like them.


Jens walked over and held my hand, "This place means a lot to you. You visit here every time you come back home."


"Jens, as long as I can remember I wanted to be like these men. They've always been my heroes. Every time I've cross-country skied or rock climbed I've relived that dream. I've memorized all nine-hundred-ninety-two names on this memorial and I've sent letters to the surviving families thanking them for the service done by their heroes."


She squeezed my hand, and kissed me on the cheek, "And now you’re a hero. I wonder if someday you'll have a memorial."


I leaned over and touched my head against the wall, a few minutes later I pulled away. Jens asked me, "Did you just pray?" I blushed, "That's about as close to a prayer as I've ever done. It's for each and every family that lost a husband, a father, or a brother."


We walked back to the car and the deputy sheriffs started clapping. I blushed something terrible. They walked over and shook my hand, "We're here to escort you to your parade in Leadville. It's good to see a local boy turn his life around and become a hero." I blushed again and wondered if my hell-raising youth after Dad died would ever go away. And realizing that with the good changes that Jens had brought to my life they probably would – someday.


We jumped in the car and headed to Leadville, sandwiched by our escorts. They had their lights going and as we approached town they turned on their sirens. This was fricken embarrassing! If I had been driving, I would have punched it and gotten the hell out of Dodge. Jens barked, "Sit up straight, don't slouch and wave to your fans."


Thank God, Leadville was small. We were quickly done and headed to the cabin. "Jens, you want to leave your Cobra in town or bring it to the cabin?" I asked.


She smiled, "Since it's all a paved road I thought I'd drive it to the cabin."


I looked at her, "You had all eight miles of the road paved?"


"We certainly did since I didn't want to be washing cars all the time." Jens answered.


I'd always wanted to pave the road but had never gotten around to it, now my curiosity was peaked and I couldn't wait to see the other changes. We turned off the road and started towards my old and our new home. The new tarmac was very nice and was wider than I thought - almost wide enough for two lanes. "This is really nice; I'd always wanted to do this. Thank you my dear."


"Thank Mom and Dad. They're the ones that paid for all of this."


"I've been feeling bad about that. I mean we have all this money now and they pay for this, it doesn't seem right." I answered. "You're right; I think we need to talk to them." Jens agreed.


One of my fears was gone as we pulled up to the cabin, I was worried that they would have cut down some of the trees but they were all there. In fact, it looked remarkably the same; only with my trained eyes could I see some minor differences. The major difference was some funny looking antennas on the roof. Jens stopped the Cobra, "Well, what do you think?"


"This is amazing. Other than a few differences, it's practically the same place. What’s going on with all the antennas on the roof?"


"I'll show you when we get inside." Jens answered and drove her car up to the house. The limo was right behind us and Liz and the crew piled out to get videos as soon as it stopped. Mom and Dad followed them. Jens shut off the cobra and we walked over to them, "Here are the keys to your new house." Dad smiled and handed us each a key.


I looked at the cabin; damn it looked almost the same, just newer. All the nicks in the logs that I remembered were gone. I did notice all the windows were covered with metal shutters. I walked up to the door and noticed a new keypad, "This is different. I assume that this turns off a burglar alarm."


Jens grinned, "Then you just made and ass you of u but not me! This turns off a full-fledged security system." She entered the code and the shutters rolled up on all the windows and I heard some clunking noise from inside the house. "Now our keys will work." She said and unlocked the door, "After you my dear."


I thought, no way in hell, I grabbed her and said, "What! If you think I'm not carrying you across the threshold the first time we enter our house then you're making an ass out of both of us."


She cooed and pulled me close, "This is sort of like we're married. I like this!"


I walked in the entry way and damn near dropped her! It looked almost like my old house with some of the pictures, furniture and colors a little different. She grabbed me tight around the neck, "Don't you dare drop me. I don't want a broken butt." I sat her down and started walking around the living room looking at the pictures – there were pictures of Mom and Dad that I was sure were lost when the cabin was destroyed - Jens must have had copies. There were pictures of the General and Evelyn, Jens, I, and of both of us – I looked and figured out – it was a pictorial history of our life together.


I looked at Jens and tears were running down my cheeks, she had a smile a mile wide on her face. "Do you like the changes Honey?" I couldn't speak because of the lump in my throat so I went over and hugged her. "Hey! Not so tight my love that hurts. I guess this means that you approve." I kissed the hell out of her even though my lips felt like they were on fire. She pulled away and wiped the blood off my lips, "Wow! That was the best kiss I've ever had, and to think you did it with those messed up lips. I can't wait until they're well! I've missed your kisses."


I looked at Liz and the news crew and motioned her over, "Liz, I think I'm going to cry and I don't want it all over the TV."


"Okay crew! That's it for right now. Let's leave these lovebirds alone and come back later." She the crew and even Mom and Dad left. I was finally alone with just Jens and the tears just rolled down my cheeks. She kissed each one away and smiled at me, "It's okay, even big strong Marines can cry, remember when you were at the Beirut3 memorial?" That was all I needed to hear and the tears flowed even more freely down my face. Jens kissed and wiped them away.

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing. One reader yelled at me earlier for mentioning "bombed out Beirut" I did that on purpose to remind people of this.


She held me until the light started fading and night was falling. "Come on my big strong Marine, it's time for bed." She called everyone else back into the house and helped me to the bedroom. I fell on the bed exhausted and went to sleep.


China Northeast of Khudabah, Pakistan  – Day Ten


I'm not sure what time it was last night when I crawled in Aamir's house, but everyone was asleep. I would have stayed out longer but the scorpions started bothering me - damn I hate scorpions. Zarika and Yasmeen were cuddling each other so I lay on the far side of the cushions to avoid waking them. Sometime in the middle of the night they must have figured out I was there because when I woke up in the morning I was smashed in a girl sandwich.


Waking up at my normal time feels good and I'm beginning to feel better all the time. How I can sleep with these two smothering me all night is a mystery, and it's even worse trying to escape in the morning without waking them up. Today, I don't need to let them sleep because it's time we get moving. I yell, "Rise and shine sleepy heads." It scares the crap out of them and I laugh as they jump up.


"What is wrong Ben?" Yasmeen asks as she trembles from head to toe. Zarika gives me a dirty look, "Nothing's wrong. He just likes to tease people when he wakes them up."


"Well if you two didn't snore so loud, I could sleep later and wouldn’t have to wake you up so early." I lie to them.


Zarika stomps her foot, reminding me of Jens, "We don't snore and you know that. I think you are just hearing yourself snore."


"There's no way I could be hearing myself over all the noise you two make." I tease back.  Just as with Jens, I push too far causing Yasmeen to sniffle. "Look, now you've made Yasmeen cry. I hope you're happy." Zarika scolds me.


I hold my arms out and Yasmeen and Zarika come beside me, "Don't cry my little sister, I was just teasing both of you." They cuddle up close to me, "We need to get ready and leave so I can get both of you back to America with me." That excites both of them and they leave the group hug and head to the kitchen.


A few minutes later Aamir, Dhuha, and Ivan and his two lovely wives walk in. Ivan's wives look very happy. "Greetings Ivan, it does my heart good to see that things are well in your household. Before any of you get started, I don't want to hear any crap about the gold. Please translate for me." Ivan tells them what I said and his wives come over and kiss me on the cheeks.


"My good friend, things are indeed good in all our lives. You coming here is a blessing in many ways. My wives are now very happy."


"Perhaps you need several more?" I tease.


"Oh no, two is more than enough for any one man."


Ivan tells Basma something and she takes off, "She will be back soon with the information and maps you will need for your journey."


We stand around bullshitting and it isn't long until Basma comes back and gives him the maps and a big kiss. We go to a table and spread out the map. Ivan traces the route and shows me several places to watch out for, and locations where I can escape back across the border if we need to. "I wish I was going with you Ben. This will not be an easy trip. If the worst happens know that you can avoid China but the trip will be slower."


"If it was easy everyone would do it. I need to get back to Jens."


"And you need to take us to America with you." Zarika adds as she walks in the room. "Breakfast is ready."


We all walk into the kitchen and eat our last meal together. There was tension in the air and the conversion was practically non-existent. After breakfast I look around, "My friends, do not be sad. We need to take this trip but know that we will be back someday. There is still work to be done. Aamir, I will take very good care of Yasmeen and she will be happy. Ivan, please take good care of your two wives."


Ivan breaks out a bottle of vodka and we follow the Russian tradition of having a shot and then sitting down before we travel. Fulfilling the ritual, we walk out to the truck. "Ben, I am driving today, Yasmeen is sitting in between us and you will fire any weapons if we get into trouble." Zarika announces.


I laugh, "Zarika, you are not ready to drive yet."


She gives me an impish smile, "I most certainly am. I have been practicing and I'm an excellent driver." So many times she reminds me of Jens! I want to ask her about Rainman but I know she won't understand.


"We will test you today, and if you drive well then you can drive much of the trip." I reply.


"Ben, I have been practicing too, and would like to drive some." Yasmeen says.


"So when did you two do all this practicing?"


"When you were hurt we took turns watching you and practicing. And then when you were busy doing man things we both practiced driving. Ivan let us use an old truck that he has." Zarika answers. "You don't think we were just wasting our time, do you?"


"I didn't know what you two were doing. But I'm very proud that you both have been practicing driving."


Yasmeen says, "Zarika told me that all girls in America drive and have their own cars so I want to make sure that I will be a good wife-uh-sister for you."


We climb in the truck, Zarika starts the engine, and we're off again. She is doing an excellent job driving. "My little dove, you are driving very well and I'm proud of you." I praise and her face lights up.


Yasmeen heads into the back of the truck – she comes back up a few minutes later and looks like a younger version of Aamir she even had some fake wrinkles and a mustache. I start laughing, "If I didn't know better I would think that you were a man."


"Ben, do you think that only men can make plans? We have decided that when we reach the border you will hide in the back of the truck and Yasmeen will pretend to be my husband. While you might be able to fool some people, you will not fool the Chinese guards. This way you will be able to surprise them if you have too."


I thought about it and decided the plan was good, but I wanted to make sure they knew we should have discussed this together. I said in an angry tone, "Do I have a say in this Zarika?"


She stops the truck, "Yes my Ben you do. I am sorry if we have offended you."


I look at her and see that she is worried, "It is a very good plan and I would not have thought of it myself because I would not want to risk the life of either of my sisters. We will try your plan, but know if the guards give either of you problems I will kill them."


They both smile at me, "We knew you would say that and know you will keep us safe. Now get in the back of the truck, and don't mess it up. The border is ahead."


I grab my Dragunov and hide in the back. I even loosen the flap some so I can see what's going on. My hands are sweating as Zarika pulls up to the border crossing. Even though they're not my wives, I've grown attached to my girls and I don't want anything to happen to them.


I can see and hear them talking to the guards, I hear the unmistakable banter of barter - each side trying to talk the other down or up in price. An agreement must be made as the next thing I know we're moving again. I want to shout for joy that the plan worked and we're finally on our way again. Yasmeen peeks her head into the back, "Stay hidden for a while longer and wait until we turn to head north." I waited for what seemed like an eternity, and Zarika finally turned the truck and we were lumbering north.


I have an uneasy feeling. I know why when I checked out the back of the truck and could see dust clouds coming up behind us. I yell up front, "Looks like we have vehicles coming up behind us. Zarika, please see if you can drive this truck faster. Yasmeen come in the back and help me." The truck roars off at a crazy speed bouncing over bumps and throwing me around the back, Yasmeen comes in the back and is falling everywhere. "Hey! Slow down just a little. You're killing us back here." I yell.


The truck slows a bit and I'm able to look out the back. Yasmeen comes up beside me, "Ben what do you see?" I point to the dust cloud following us. "Oh, that is at least two vehicles and one looks to be big." She remarks. I grab the binoculars and look. She's right there's a black car and a big truck following it.


"Ben, can I see?" Yasmeen asks. I hand her the binocs. As she looks she remarks "Those aren't Chinese, they are chewchemeks."


"Are you sure? How do you know?" I question.


"I can see the drivers and they do not have the face shape of Chinese."


I thought, damn young eyes are nice. It looks like Hussein is still after us, he must have figured out we'd go through China to get to Tajikistan. "Zarika, please slow up a little. I want you to let the vehicles chasing us catch us."


"Ben! Are you crazy?" I hear back from the front.


"Crazy like a fox." I answer, "Just slow up a little and when I let you know hold the truck as still as you can." I hand an AK to Yasmeen, "Do you know how to shoot?"


"A little, but I'm not very good." She answers.


"Do you drive better or shoot better?"


"I drive better." She answers. "Please go up front and change places with Zarika. You'll have to do this without stopping or wrecking the truck." She heads towards the front and the truck lurches like a drunken sailor as they change drivers. It straightens back up and slows just a little as Zarika comes running to the back and falls beside me.


"Sorry Ben, we have never changed places driving while the truck was moving. It was exciting. Will we have to try that in America?"


"We'll talk about that later. Right now, get a rifle and grenades ready. We're going to let the vehicles get close enough so I can try to pick off the drivers. If I miss you're going to be my back up."


I set the Dragunov on the tailgate and look through the scope and range the car. It's hard as hell to hold things still while the truck is jostling around so much. "Yasmeen, please slow up just a little more and try to hold the truck still." She complies and I get an okay sight picture on the driver of the car. Yasmeen was right, they're chewchemeks and they look excited to be gaining on us. I bet they don't know I've got a real rifle now - but they will soon.


They are finally close enough and I take aim on the driver of the car. I'm not going to try for a head shot but I'm hoping that I can hit his body. Before I decide to pull the trigger, another thought comes to my mind and I reach over and adjust the iron sites on Zarika's rifle. "As soon as I shoot, you aim for the front part of the car and don't stop shooting until you run out of ammo. After you run out of ammo reload."


I take aim again and try to wait for things to smooth up. I don't think it's going to happen so I squeeze off my first shot and hit the driver and I can see him slump. Zarika's rifle starts barking and I take aim at the passenger and fire off a shot, I hit him in the shoulder but it's not a kill shot. Zarika must be hitting something because steam is boiling out of the front of the car and it runs off the road.


The truck starts slowing and I yell, "Yasmeen, stop the truck now!" She hits the brakes and I almost slide to the front of the truck. I crawl back and bring the Dragunov up on the tailgate. Both trucks have stopped and chewchemeks are jumping out of their truck. I start taking aim and firing and it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Soon they figure out what's happening and start hiding behind their truck. Zarika starts firing again and empties a whole magazine into the front of the truck, steam clouds are boiling out of the truck.


I want to blow the hell out of the truck and the car with our RPGs, but the smoke would bring the Chinese running. "Yasmeen, can you back the truck up slowly." "I will try Ben, but I'm not very good at backwards." She slowly starts moving our truck backwards. Zarika is still giving them hell with her rifle but using way too much ammo. I love the look on her face - she's having so much fun. "Zarika, try slowing down and aim your shots instead of just spraying bullets." She stops firing and a couple chewchemeks peek around the side of their destroyed truck, I take them out.


Zarika notices a couple over to the side and starts firing at them, pinning them down. She stops, they stick their heads up and I nail them. "Ben we make a good team," Zarika says with a big smile.


We keep inching our way back and shooting any hostiles we see. "Yasmeen, please stop here." I order.


I lean over to Zarika, "Let's just wait and see what happens." We wait and watch to see if anyone moves, I see movement off to the right and pull up the Dragunov and kill the bastard. After ten minutes nothing has moved, "Zarika, you cover me. I'm going to go check and make sure everyone's dead."


"Ben, be careful."She admonishes.


I hop out of the back of the truck and hide beside the edge of the road, scanning the area again. Something doesn't feel right to me. This is the sort of feeling that I can't ignore, so I reconsider and jump back in the truck. "Yasmeen, please get us the hell out of here and make it fast." She floors the truck and I almost fall out the back. Damn! I'm going to need to teach her to take it a little easier.


I'm watching the area behind us and I figure out what didn't feel right to me. SHIT! I see a Mi-24 Hind helicopter pull up to the battle zone. If we'd stayed we would have been sitting ducks. "Zarika, quick get me two of the stingers that I showed you earlier." Then I yell to the front of the truck, "Yasmeen, slow up the truck."


Zarika brings me the stingers, "Listen to me and don't give me any crap. I'm going to bail out of the truck and wait for the helicopter to come get you two and then if these stingers still work, I will shoot it down. When I bail out have Yasmeen drive as fast as she can. You watch and keep the truck moving until the helicopter crashes. If it doesn't crash and the helicopter tries to stop you, then stop the truck and both of you get out without any weapons. Make sure they know you are girls." I see tears form in her eyes, but she doesn't complain.


The Hind spots the truck and starts heading towards us, "See you two soon." I say as I bail out of the back of the truck and roll to the side of the road, crouch in a bush, and start getting the first stinger ready. I slam the BCU4 home and wait for the acquisition indicators and missile to power-up. Thank God this one lights up - you never know whether the old BCUs will work. I decide to wait until the Hind passes over me and then shoot it in the ass end. As low as it is and as fast as the stinger travels they won't have a chance to deploy any counter-measures. Besides, if this stinger doesn't work, I might have time to fire up the second one before the Hind blows the hell out of me.

4 Battery Coolant Unit.


Just as I anticipated, the Hind came straight down the road towards the retreating truck. It flies over the top of me, so low that the rotors kick up some sand. I close my eyes to avoid the grit. When I don't feel any more blast from the rotors I rise up and take aim at the Hind. Shit, this is going to be so easy! I wait and wait and wait but the damn stinger won't acquire because the Hind is too close. Shit! It's getting close to the truck. This is going to be a race, will the Hind get to the truck first, or will the stinger acquire. Finally, I get tone, the stinger locks on and I fire. For once everything works like it's supposed to, the stinger exits the firing tube with the ejection motor working, it falls off and the main motor starts and in seconds the stinger slams into the Hind blowing the hell out of it. It's beautiful watching pieces of the helicopter fall to the ground. I pick up the other stinger and my Dragunov and start jogging down the road towards the truck.


I'm almost to the truck when the girls come running towards me, they are both crying and scared and don't stop. They tackle me in the middle of the road! They are making nonsensical noises and hugging the hell out of me. "Okay you two, I missed both of you. But we need to get the hell out of here because the Chinese are bound to send out something to figure out what happened to the helicopter."


They simmered down some and we run back to the truck. I throw the stinger in the back, jump in the driver's seat and take off. I want to get as far away as possible, leave all this shit behind and try to find a different route. I thought Pakistan was going to be bad, but it can't as bad as China. I drive as a man possessed for hours until the sun finally starts setting, then I find a place in a side canyon to pull off the road and hide for the night.


I think we need a new plan, because it feels like we've jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Now Hussein, the Taliban and the Chinese are all after us.