05 Wounded

Wounded

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

banzaiben@gmail.com

 

Wounded Chapter 05

 

Thursday 06 December

 

Present – Ben - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

It has to be early morning because there isn't much light in the room. The pain woke me about an hour ago, but I'm not sure what hurts more, my arm or my heart. I can't stop worrying about Zarika and Yasmeen. I'm amazed at my feelings for them, I really do love them. I can only hope they listened to me and followed our plans. Somehow, I need to get back to them and bring them here like I promised.

 

I look at my right arm and determine I'm not going anywhere for a while, not with this wound. It doesn't hurt as bad as yesterday and the smell isn't as bad. Motion at the door alerts me as the nurse comes in the room to turn and medicate me.

 

"SM Blaine, it's good to see you're awake" she whispers so as not to wake Jens.

 

"I've been awake for about an hour now."

 

"How do you feel?" she asks.

 

It's the first question everyone seems to want to ask me and it's also the hardest question for me to answer. I decide to just give her the physical answer, "The arm doesn't hurt as much as yesterday."

 

"Let me give you something for pain before we turn you on your back."

 

"Please, I don't want anything for pain if it's a narcotic. Ask the doctor if I can have something non-narcotic and non-addictive," I tell her. After letting the girls down I deserve to feel the pain.

 

"I'm sorry; we don't have orders for anything else." She replies.

 

"Then we'll do this without anything. Please ask the doctor when he comes in for different pain medication."

 

"I'll try to be gentle," she says as she pulls the pillows from behind me and rolls me onto my back. It hurt some, but the pain feels good. "Here, take a drink of water for me," she whispers.

 

I took a small drink, not wanting to upset my stomach. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" she asks.

 

"No thank you, you were very gentle."

 

"Here's your call button. Press it if you need anything. I'll be back in a couple of hours to check on you." She turned and left the room.

 

I look over and see Jens asleep in the chair beside my bed. Her snoring makes me smile and I remember all the great times we've had. How can I tell her about the girls, what will she say and do when I tell her? I decide I want her close to me so I say, "Jens, hey my beautiful sleeping girl; wake up."

 

She stirs in the chair, yawns and stretches. "Huh, oh Ben you're awake!" she comes over beside the bed and holds my hand: I can see the undying love in her eyes.

 

"Jens, pinch me. I want to make sure this isn't a dream."

 

"I can do better than that," she says, kicks off her shoes and jumps into bed with me. "My love, how do you feel this morning?" Damn! It's that question again.

 

I slide my left hand down her back, squeeze her butt and laugh, "I can feel fine with this hand."

 

Even with her mask on I see her blush. "Yes, that feels fine to me too! I've missed your touches."

 

"I've missed your sweet kisses even more!"

 

She takes off the mask and gives me a hell of a kiss. "Screw the nurses! I'm not wearing this damn mask anymore." She throws it on the floor and gives me another hot kiss.

 

Almost everything seems right in the world again. If only I wasn't wounded and if only the girls were here it would be perfect. "My love, remember I can sense your feelings, but they are more hidden than before. All I can sense are vague feelings, why are you sad right now?" Jens asks.

 

I look at her and I can't bear to tell her the truth so I hug her tight. "I can't talk about it right now Jens."

 

She snuggles close to me, "I felt some of the things they did to you and I understand. If you ever want to talk about it, I'm here for you." She gives me another kiss and says, "Let's see if we can get back to sleep for a while."

 

And for the first time in what has seemed a lifetime, we slept together.

 

Present – Jens - Hospital – Ramstein AFB Germany

 

Ben slept all day and through the night until early morning. He woke me and it reminded me of the many times before he was captured when we slept together. I'm sick and tired of the hospital rules so I jump into bed with him, kiss the hell out of him and throw my mask away.

 

He's been through a hell I only know a little of and I can't sense his feelings like I could before. Now it's just a vague overall feeling of sadness. How the hell can he be sad! He escaped and made it back.

 

I don't think he realizes it yet, but his injury is going to end his career as a Marine, at least as a Marine sniper. And I don't think Ben's going to want to shuffle papers or train others - my guess is he will retire. Once he retires then we can finally get married. Just the thought has me so excited.

 

I haven't told him yet about my problems because he has too many problems of his own. I went AWOL, was thrown out of the Marines in disgrace, and locked up. To be truthful, I'm very embarrassed about it and I can't think of a way to tell him. I failed him. I wasn't able to convince anyone other than Liz he was still alive, and then I wasn't able to rescue him. The only two times I've ever failed in my life, and they have to be so fricken huge!

 

He falls back to sleep and I cuddle with him. I’m doing my best to sense his feelings but I don't have any luck. My mind wanders to Liz - what the hell is she doing now? I'm more confused than I've ever been. Ben's homecoming hasn't been anything like I imagined it would be. Ben is strange, which is sort of understandable after what he's been through. But Liz is acting almost psychotic.

 

Too many questions, too few answers, and my two best friends are acting strange.  As I ponder, I slowly drift off to sleep.

 

Flashback Natasha (Jens) - Sakirpasa airport at Adana Turkey - Sunday 14 October

 

Liz really came through for me; I never would have made it off the base if it wasn't for her. But now I have a new problem, how am I going to make it back to Kabul? I don't have a passport, I don't have any money, and I don't have anything right now except for Liz. And my poor Ben! I can sense and feel waves of pain going through his body. Hang on Honey - I'm coming to save you!

 

Liz went to take care of things and I'm extremely anxious and agitated. I needed to simmer down or I would attract the attention of people I didn't want to notice me. I lean back and try to remain calm and it worked for a short while until I noticed a couple of policemen looking at me. I smiled at them but it didn't work as they slowly started walking towards me. Oh Shit! I'm screwed!

 

Liz returns right before they get to me, hands me a Canadian passport, a ticket for Kabul and press credentials. I quickly glanced at the name - Natasha Akunin. The police walked up.

 

"Documents please," one requested.

 

Liz turned to face him and handed him our passport and press credentials. "What is this, are you harassing the press from the Truth Network?" she spit out.

 

The police looked at the passports and moved back a step, "Sorry Miss Morgan and Miss Akunin, we're just trying to do our job."

 

She snatched the passports back, "And is your job harassing us?"

 

"No Miss, it's just Miss Akunin seemed very nervous to us and we needed to check to make sure she wasn't a terrorist."

 

"Of course she's nervous because this is her first assignment to Turkey. Does she look like a fucking terrorist to you?" When she swore at them they blushed, apologized profusely and left.

 

I looked at her when they left, "You sure put them in their place."

 

Liz laughed, "They aren't used to having a woman stand up to them, but I wasn't going to have them push us around. Now, let's get to our flight." Liz grabbed most of the gear and we headed towards the gate.

 

I asked, "Liz, why did you choose the last name, Akunin?"

 

She looked at me like she couldn't believe the question. "Don't tell me I know something about Ben you don't know?"

 

I gave her a puzzled look, "Liz, what the hell do you mean?"

 

"Jens, I should make you suffer and not tell you, but you've been through enough already. One of Ben's favorite authors is Boris Akunin." Liz replied.

 

"He sounds Russian."

 

"He is and writes great mysteries. I especially like Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog, and all the stories about detective Erast Petrovich Fandorin are great."

 

I was upset because Liz knew this and I didn't, "How the hell did you find this out?"

 

She laughed, "I asked Ben."

 

I couldn't think of anything else to say, "Oh."

 

She giggled, "Don't be so upset, you still know many things about him I don't."

 

I smiled at her, "You're right. I just want to know everything about him."

 

"Jens, you need to let parts of him be a mystery to you. Leave something to discover later."

 

Once again Liz amazed me. We walked to the ticket counter and checked the heavy bags then we went to the gate for our flight.

 

Current - Liz - Thursday 06 December – Flight to Dushanbe

 

For the first time in a very long time I wasn't sure what to do and how to figure out what went on with Ben while he was captured. I sat and thought and decided the only thing I could do is to try to retrace his steps. That means I have to get back to Dushanbe, Tajikistan and find the guards that chased those two wives-or sisters-or girls away.

 

I called Bernie and Jon and told them to keep filming the reunion of Ben and Jens - we were making a small fortune for the videos. They could upload them to our secure server and I would do the intro and exit parts remotely. They asked me what I was doing, but I decided not to tell them. This secret cannot be shared.

 

I caught the next flight to Dushanbe and started to formulate my plan on the trip.

 

Flashback - Liz – Sakirpasa airport at Adana Turkey - Sunday 14 October

 

It was hell getting the passport and press credentials for Jens. The forger I went to demanded payment in multiple ways - several of those were uncomfortable and things I don't normally do. I sure hope Jens doesn't notice how funny I'm walking.

 

Jens was just getting ready to be picked up by the local police when I showed up. I gave them hell, partially because I was still pissed at the forger. I plan on turning his ass into the police when we get to Kabul. I'm sure the inmates in the Turkish prison he goes to will be even harder on him than he was on me. Damn! The things I do for love!

 

We made it on the plane just fine and were sitting next to each other. "Natasha, you need to try to relax. You're still attracting too much attention."

 

"Sorry Liz, I can't relax knowing what Ben is going through."

 

I shushed her, "Natasha, you can't talk about it right now."

 

She looked at me and smiled, "Yeah, you're right. But it's the only thing on my mind."

 

I needed to get her mind on something else. I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Natasha, use your incredible brain to make a plan for how you're going to find and rescue your man."

 

"That's a great idea," she said as she sat back. I could almost see the wheels turning in her head.

 

Flashback - Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan Late Day Seventeen

 

Ben was very sick and very upset at us. We were very bad, we slept and did not take care of him. So he made us sit up front while men, not us his loving wives, took care of him.

 

Yasmeen kept poking at me, "Quit poking me."

 

"This is all your fault. You did not take care of Ben." Yasmeen accused me.

 

I was tired of her so I punched her in the nose. It made her nose bleed and she jumped on top of me. We were fighting like crazy, pulling hair, hitting and biting each other. The driver and the other passenger tried to stop us. We ran off the road and into the ditch, the truck was bouncing all over. It almost tipped over and finally ran into a rock. The two men grabbed us, pulled us apart and pulled us outside of the truck.

 

I heard Ben start yelling from the back in pain. Sasha yelled, "What is happening? Ben was just tossed around and his arm is bleeding again."

 

Alexi, the driver answered, "The girls were fighting again and caused me to wreck the truck."

 

Sasha answered, "Tie them both up and if they keep talking put a gag in their mouths."

 

"You are not tying me up!" I said and fought Alexi.

 

"Me either." Yasmeen added and started fighting with Sergei who was holding her.

 

I used some of the tricks Ben taught me to break free from Alexi then I ran over and helped Yasmeen get free from Sergei. We stood facing the two men, "You cannot tie us up. We will fight all of you!" I said.

 

"We will kick your guts." Yasmeen added.

 

I looked at her, "She means we will kick your butts."

 

Sasha and Oleg jumped out of the back to help.

 

Alexi rushed me and I punched him in the nose very hard and he fell to the ground. Oleg grabbed Yasmeen. "Zarika, help me!" she shouted. He had his back to me so I ran over and kicked him in the crotch. He let out a yell, let go of Yasmeen and fell to the ground. The other two men were more careful.

 

We heard Ben yell from the back of the truck, "What the hell is going on."

 

Flashback - Ben – Tajikistan Late Day Seventeen

 

I was snapped awake by the pain as the truck was bouncing all over hell. I didn't know what the fuck was going on, but I was sure Zarika and Yasmeen had something to do with it. It didn't take long for the suspicion to be confirmed when I heard they were fighting again and caused the truck to wreck.

 

I heard a fight outside the truck, Oleg and Sasha left the back to help. If I wasn't so sick I would have chuckled because it sounded like Zarika and Yasmeen were holding their own. I knew I needed to do something so we could get moving again so I shouted, "Girls! Zarika and Yasmeen come here now!"

 

"Ben, we cannot, the men are trying to tie us up." Zarika yelled back.

 

I'm so sick and tired and fed up with this crap, "Okay everyone, quit it and come back here right now."

 

I heard some low talking I couldn't make out and a couple minutes later four of them peeked in the back of the truck. "Where are Oleg and Alexi?" I asked.

 

Sasha replied, "Zarika hurt both of them, so they won't be here for a while."

 

I stifled a chuckle, "Sasha, how bad is the truck damaged?"

 

"Ben, I think the truck will be okay. Alexi didn't hit the rock very hard."

 

"Girls! I need to talk seriously to both of you." They made sure I could see them, "You two are a big disappointment to me. You keep fighting all the time because you are both being selfish. Do you realize if you have caused the truck to be broken I will probably die?"

 

They both look down at the ground and start crying. I continue, "You will both ride up front until we reach Dushanbe."

 

"But Ben, who will take care of you?" Yasmeen asked.

 

"Sasha is taking very good care of me and I want him to continue. Do you both understand me and my orders?"

 

"Yes Ben," they both said.

 

They both looked so sad, it was breaking my heart. "I've changed my mind. One of you at a time will ride with me back here and help Sasha; the other will ride up front. You will switch places every two hours as long as you don't fight. If you fight even once then you will both sit up front."

 

They started squabbling about who was first in the back, I cleared my throat and they both shut up. "Yasmeen, you can be with Ben first," Zarika said shocking me.

 

Alexi and Oleg finally made it to the back of the truck. "Ben, are we ready to go?" Oleg asked.

 

"How's the truck Alexi?" I replied.

 

"This is a strong truck and it is fine." He replied.

 

Sasha and Yasmeen climbed in the back with me and everyone else jumped into the cab. Yasmeen was putting cool washcloths on my head and it felt very good.

 

"Yasmeen, I need to sleep for just a little bit. Please wake me up in two hours when you and Zarika switch places." Sasha said.

 

"Yes, Sasha. What should I do for Ben?"

 

"Just keep the cool washcloths on his head and give him a little water to drink." Sasha said and went to sleep.

 

I remember Yasmeen giving me a big kiss on the lips as I slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

Flashback - Yasmeen – Tajikistan Late Day Seventeen

 

I was very happy I could take care of Ben. I hated sitting up front with the men; they smelled like goats and things even worse. Even with his smelly bad arm Ben still smelled better.

 

Sasha did the hard work and left me to give loving care to my husband and I really liked it. Once we got Ben all settled in Sasha decided to take a nap and gave me time to show Ben how much I loved him. I know I shouldn't have, but I gave him a big kiss as he drifted off to sleep.

 

As Ben slept I continued putting cool cloths on his head and giving him kisses. I even lay down beside him and cuddled very close to him, pretending it was our wedding night. I don't know about this Jens girl he thinks he's in love with, but I know she can't be as pretty as I am.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 Heading back to Jack's house after the briefing

 

It was exciting hearing about our next mission because I could finally use some more of my training. And if this target was as much of a rat bastard as the last one, and I'm pretty sure he is, it's one more dead and deserving asshole in hell.

 

I was on pins and needles while Jack was driving home.

 

"Hey Banzai, you'd better simmer down or you're going to wear a hole in my car seat." Jack laughed.

 

"Sorry Jack, I just can't wait to go on our next mission." Then I realized that ever since I was with that little girl Jennifer I hadn't thought about the bitch Susan. I remembered the pencil Jennifer gave me so I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at it. It had teeth marks and a bunch of hearts on it. She'd even written BB+JD on it. What a strange little girl she was. Then I wondered could BB be me? No fricken way as I dismissed it with a chuckle.

 

"What's so funny?" Jack asked.

 

"Nothing Jack, I was just daydreaming. Hey Jack, can we swing by and pickup my car?"

 

"Sure, you have your keys with you?"

 

"Right here."

 

He changed directions and we headed back to my old apartment as I started humming again. I saw him glance out of the corner of his eyes at me and I stopped humming realizing it was the bridal march again. Damn, I hate it! Once I hear a song it's stuck in my head forever.

 

My mouth dropped open as we pulled up to my old apartment. I opened the door, got out of Jack's car and looked at what used to be my car. All the windows were broken out and the interior was trashed. It even smelled like someone had peed in the car. The tires were slashed, the hood was open and the engine was destroyed. Jack walked up beside me, "Looks like someone decided to get even."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

Jack told me about the fight between Anna and Susan. I didn't know whether to believe everything he told me. "Jack are you BS-ing me?"

 

He gave me a hurt look, "Listen, I'm not BS-ing you. I'll never lie to you. You can even ask Anna."

 

"Sorry Jack, Anna just doesn't seem the type to do what you said."

 

He laughed with his deep baritone laugh, "Banzai, there's one thing you need to learn. Never, ever get a woman seriously upset at you."

 

I looked at the car one more time and it was a mental image reinforcing what Jack said. "This car was a piece of junk anyway. Let's take the plates off it and call a junkyard to come pick it up."

 

Jack went to his trunk and came back with a screwdriver and we recovered the plates. "I'll call a junkyard when we get back to the house." Jack said.

 

Susan came walking up right as we were getting ready to leave, I barely recognized her. Her face was swollen, bruised and she had tape over her nose, plus she could barely walk. "Hope you like your precious car now you little prick." She gave new meaning to the word nasty.

 

Any love I had for her had turned into hate. I coolly replied, "It looks almost as beat up as your face. And is probably only half as screwed as you are."

 

Jack let go a huge laugh, "That's telling the nasty slut. Let's go home."

 

We didn't make it to the car because a couple of sailors showed up. One looked at Jack and said, "Hey stupid fucking jarhead, did you just insult my girlfriend?"

 

Jack bristled and replied, "Shit, I'd always heard sailors would stick their dick in any hole, even each other's."

 

He took a swing at Jack but was too late since I was waiting for it. I blocked his arm, brought it down in an arm bar and palmed him as hard as I could in the chest. I heard his ribs crack as he fell to the ground wheezing. His friend tried to hit me with a roundhouse. I grabbed his arm, stepped in close, brought my elbow up into his throat and threw him to the ground.

 

Susan came up and started beating the shit out of me - I just stood there. Jack came over and time seemed to travel in slow motion as I watched him deck her. When she hit the ground I turned to the side, started shaking and threw up.

 

He came up beside me, put his arm around me and walked me back to his car. He even fastened my seatbelt for me. I was still shaking as we pulled up to his house. He came around and helped me into the house.

 

Flashback - Anna – Late 1999 Jack's house after the briefing

 

I was waiting for Jack and Ben to come home because I'd made a big dinner to celebrate Ben's first mission. We were going to have Yankee pot roast with all the trimmings and some cheap wine to go with it. I'd even dressed to the nines and shaved my legs.

 

I went to the door when I heard Jack's car pull up and right away knew something was wrong. Jack was almost carrying Ben into the house. Ben was shaking like a leaf in a thunderstorm and was as white as a sheet. "What the hell happened?"

 

Jack gave me the look that said, shut up. So I did and held the door open for them. He took Ben right into his room and came out a few minutes later.

 

He came up and gave me a hug, "Thanks Anna for not asking anything else." He looked past me to the table, "It looks like you went all out for dinner tonight."

 

"I wanted to celebrate Ben's first mission. So can you tell me now what happened?" He told me about how Ben's car was trashed. And then how the little slut showed up and how Ben stood up to her. I laughed when Jack described Ben's comebacks.

 

"Anna, you should have seen him take out those two sailors. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone faster. He reacted before I could even move."

 

"So what messed him up my love?"

 

"Well, Susan came up and started hitting him and kicking him and he just froze. She could have beaten him to death and he wouldn't have done anything about it. So I went over and decked her and that's when he started shaking and then he puked. He's been that way ever since."

 

I was damned pissed off, "Jack, I'm gonna go over and kick her ass again. The little slut didn't learn anything."

 

He grabbed me and hugged me, "Don't go doing something stupid. We got away with it once, but do it again and you might end up in trouble."

 

"You think we should hold dinner for Ben?"

 

Jack looked towards the second bedroom, "I don't think he'll be out tonight. Let's put a plate at his place on the table just in case."

 

I set the table and even put food on Ben's plate and wine in his glass.  We finished dinner but Ben never came out of his room.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 Jack's house after dinner

 

Anna had such a nice dinner planned; it was a shame Banzai missed it. I made sure we left the food on his plate and the wine is his glass so he would see he was welcome in our house.

 

There were things I wanted to talk with her about, but Banzai's room was too close to the dining room. After dinner I said, "Let's take a little walk."

 

I left Banzai a note and told him not to worry, we'd be back later and we took off hand in hand. "Anna, I have a real problem and I'm not sure how to handle it."

 

She looked at me with concern, "It's about Ben not being able to defend himself against a woman, isn't it."

 

She was so astute, that was one if the things I loved about her, "That's right, someday he's either going to have to kill a woman or be killed himself."

 

She squeezed my hand tight, "Have you ever had to kill a woman?"

 

I looked at her, "Unfortunately twice. They were both going to kill me."

 

"How did you feel about it?" she probed.

 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done and it bothers me to this day."

 

We walked for a while in silence then she said, "Jack, something in Ben's past has him overly sensitive to hurting women. Maybe his dad beat his mom, but from what you've told me about her I don't think so. So it must be something else. The problem is Ben can't distinguish between a woman that wants to kill him or seriously hurt him and a woman that's just angry at him. Somehow we need to teach him the difference."

 

We walked on awhile and I said, "I've got a couple of ideas what do you think about this?" And I told her my ideas.

 

She smiled and said, "You know this just might work. How about if we go home and put phase one of this plan into action."

 

We hurried home.

 

Flashback - Anna – Late 1999 Jack's house after the walk

 

I walked into the house, stormed into Ben's room, throwing the door open and yelled, "You sorry excuse for a Marine. Quit lying on the bed feeling sorry for yourself, get your ass to the table and eat the nice dinner I made just for you."

 

I had to keep from laughing. Ben jumped up so fast it scared me. "Yes Miss, sorry Miss." He ran to the table and sat down.

 

I walked in and stood by my chair acting all snotty and like a bitch, "Aren't you going to get my chair for me?" He jumped up knocking over his chair and held my chair for me. I sat down and he went back to his chair and sat down and began to eat.

 

"Thank you Anna, this is really good."

 

I looked him straight in the eyes, "Ben, why did you just act the way you did to me? I was a real bitch to you."

 

He looked down at the table, "I-I-I don't know." I called Jack into the room, "Jack if I would have treated you that way, what would you have done?"

 

He looked at Ben and said, "I would have asked you if you were PMS."

 

"Why would you ask me that Jack?"

 

"Two reasons: First you didn't treat Ben with respect and second no one deserves to be treated badly."

 

I looked at Ben, "Ben, you treat women with more respect than they deserve. Don't you think you deserve at least some respect from them?"

 

He looked down at the table, "I guess so."

 

I grinned at Jack and yelled, "What the hell did you just say to me Ben?"

 

He didn't answer right away, instead I could see him thinking. He looked up at me and said, "Anna, are you PMS?" and then he smiled. Jack and I laughed.

 

Jack poured us another glass of wine and we all sat at the table while Ben finished his dinner.

 

Jack looked at Ben as he swirled his wine, "Banzai, I debated about telling you this. But I think you need to hear what I'm going to say because someday it might save your life." Ben stopped eating and looked at Jack.

 

"Now listen to what I say and don't go getting sick on me." I watched Ben and he seemed to change a little, it was almost as if the smooth edges were gone and he became hard. Jack continued, "The day will come when you will face a decision and the choice you make will determine whether you live or die."

 

Ben sat up even straighter in his chair and the soft boy was totally gone, he was a Marine. "If we end up going to war in the Middle East, and you know I think we will, they will use women and children against us."

 

I watched and for a second Ben looked like he was going to get sick. He got himself back under control and said, "Jack, you're telling me someday I might have to kill a woman or a child?"

 

"Unfortunately, that's what I'm telling you."

 

Ben looked down at his plate and played with his food, I could tell he was thinking. After several minutes he looked up at Jack and asked, "Jack, tell me the truth. Have you ever killed a woman or a child?"

 

Jack looked down at the table, "Banzai, I've never had to kill a child. But twice I was forced to kill a woman. Both times they had been shooting at us. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's something that had to be done."

 

I switched between watching Ben and Jack. They were both looking down at the table and Ben was still playing with his food. The five minutes they kept looking at the table seemed like an eternity, but I knew I needed to keep my mouth shut. Things I didn't understand were being worked out. Ben finally looked up at Jack and the adoration was still there, "Jack, that had to be hard for you to do and even harder for you to tell me. Thank you." And he started to eat again. Jack looked across the table at Ben and I swear he had a tear in his eye.

 

He took a big drink of his wine, "Damn! I hate cheap wine." I laughed and said, "I wondered when you were going to complain about it. If you don't like it, next time you can go buy the wine."

 

He grinned, "Anna, are you PMS?" Ben was taking a drink of wine at the time and it came out through his nose as he started laughing. That broke the ice again and Ben finished his dinner in a better mood, even joking some.

 

He kept thanking me for the dinner and it was almost embarrassing. I decided Ben was a good man and needed a nice girl. I racked my brain trying to figure out someone for him. I smiled when I remembered a cute young waitress I worked with, she'd be perfect. Now, how to get the two of them together?

 

Flashback – BG Donaldson – Late 1999 At home after a "busy" day

 

I was trying to relax at home after working all day, today was SSDD1. The only excitement was the sniper team and then when Jennifer got Banzai Ben to walk her home, she didn't tell anyone and we were all worried. I was damned pissed off at her and Banzai Ben until Evelyn told me Jennifer acted happier than she been in a very long time.

 

1 Same Shit Different Day

 

I was watching TV when Jennifer came into the room and jumped into my lap. She was back to wearing the BDUs Evelyn hated. "Hello daddy, thank you for letting me come to your office today, it was a lot of fun. Sorry I was a bad girl."

 

I looked at her and she looked just like a younger Evelyn. "Sorry, I had to yell at you, but there are conversations you must not hear."

 

"I know daddy. Daddy, will you answer a question for me?"

 

I looked at her and worried because it might be about the 'birds and bees.' "That depends on the question young lady."

 

"First I want to thank you for teaching me how to shoot because I love shooting. I want to know how to shoot better - like snipers do. Could you or one of your Marines teach me?" She batted her eyes at me and smiled.

 

"Jennifer, I don't have the time to teach you how to shoot better. But we might be able to find a gun club you can go to. Would you like that?"

 

She hugged me tight, "That would be wonderful daddy. Do you think mommy would let me go?"

 

"Let her go where?" Evelyn asked as she walked into the room. I felt Jennifer tense up.

 

I looked at Evelyn, this could cause a fight. We had fights all the time about how I was turning Jennifer into a tomboy. "Jennifer wants to join a gun club to learn how to shoot better. I told her I thought it was a great idea."

 

I saw the look start on Evelyn's face, but Jennifer added, "I would also like to take ballet lessons." She smiled at Evelyn.

 

Evelyn gushed, "Jennifer, you will look so cute in a nice pink tutu. But I don't know if you will have time for both ballet and a gun club."

 

She stood up, stomped her foot and said, "Then I won't do either one." She stormed off to her room.

 

Evelyn and I looked at each other in disbelief, "What the hell was that?"

 

"Glen, I think our little girl is growing up and is starting to get a mind of her own."

 

"Well, I think if you want her to take ballet then you'd better let her join a gun club. Otherwise it doesn't look like she'll do either one."

 

Evelyn thought for a few moments. "I think you're right. I guess the gun club won't hurt anything." She left the room and headed towards Jennifer's bedroom.

 

I sat there and wondered because it sure felt like we had both been manipulated by our young daughter. Surely not - not by sweet Jennifer.

 

Flashback – Jennifer Donaldson – Late 1999 My room after throwing a fit

 

I waited in my room on my bed. I knew mommy would come to my room to talk to me so I had this all planned out. I really wanted to become a sniper, just like Banzai Ben. To do that I would need to learn how to shoot much better. I had dreamed daddy would let Ben teach me, and I almost made a mistake and asked him. Daddy would have become suspicious if I asked.

 

I was a little disappointed when he talked about a gun club, but it was better than nothing. I was hoping he could talk mommy into letting me learn, but I could tell when she walked into the room it was going to be a big fight. So, I used my first 'secret weapon' - the ballet class. I knew she would love for me to study ballet (just the thought of it almost made me sick). All those mindless girls giggling and prancing around in ugly clothes, yuck!

 

When she tried to tell me I couldn't do both, well that's when I used my second 'secret weapon.' I pretended to be upset and threw my pretend fit. I never did this before, but I saw it on a TV show and I thought it might work. Now I just need to be patient and see if mommy comes into my room like on the TV show.

 

I heard a knock on my door, "Jennifer, it's mommy can I come in."

 

Now I needed to act just like the snotty little brat on the TV show. "NO! Go away; I don't ever want to talk to you again."

 

"Jennifer, come on be reasonable. Let me come in and talk to you."

 

I almost giggled because it was working, "Okay, you can come in. But I don't want to talk!"

 

The door opened and I buried my head in my pillow so I wouldn't laugh. "Young lady talk to me!" Mommy demanded.

 

"No, I don't want to talk to you, I want daddy." I pinched my arm under the pillow until it made me start crying.

 

Mommy tried to touch me and I scooted across the bed away from her, just like on TV. "Don't touch me ever again. I want daddy."

 

After several minutes she gave up and left the room. I was worried I might have been too mean and she might not send daddy to me. I knew I could talk daddy into anything, he was easier to work with than mommy because I was 'daddy's girl.'

 

I heard a knock on the door, "Who is it?"

 

"Jennifer, it's daddy. May I come in your room?" I smiled, now I would get my way. I might even be able to get away from doing nasty ballet.

 

"C-c-come in daddy."

 

Daddy came in the room and set on my bed beside me, I pretended I was crying and he believed me.

 

"Now Jennifer, what's wrong."

 

"Daddy, I want to go to the gun club like you promised me."

 

"I never promised you…" Daddy started to say and I pretended to cry even worse. "Shhh, Jennifer, don't cry. I'll make sure you can go to the gun club, but you're also going to take ballet to keep your mother happy."

 

Rats, I had only won half the battle, but half the battle was better than not winning at all. Besides if I was bad enough at ballet they might make me quit the class. I sat up and hugged daddy, "Thank you daddy for keeping your promise to me."

 

"I'll go talk with Evelyn and make sure things are okay with her." He left the room.

 

I lay back on the bed and pulled out the picture of Ben and looked at it. Then I kissed it and hugged it close to my chest just like I wanted to hug him. I hid the picture in my secret place and fell asleep dreaming about our future together.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 Jack's house after the dinner.

 

The meal Anna cooked was very good, even though it was cold. She and Jack had given me a bunch of things to think about. I did the dishes again because it looked like Anna had plans for Jack. If the noise coming from their bedroom was any indication, Jack was getting lucky tonight.

 

I didn't mind doing dishes because it gave me time to think about what Anna had told me. She's right! I do give women more respect than they deserve. Seeing Jack deck Susan made me sick, but secretly I was glad he did because she was beating the hell out of me.

 

Ever since that awful time dad beat me, I had never hit a woman. Just thinking about it makes me…

 

Flashback – Ben – Eight years old

 

Warning: There is an account of child abuse in this section. It was hard as hell to write but very therapeutic for me. If it bothers you please do not read it.

 

It was a beautiful fall day in Leadville. The aspen were just starting to turn and the hills were blanketed in golden hues. It was a rare time since the whole family went to town together and I was extremely excited. I was excited because I might get to see some friends I knew from school. We almost never went to town so for me it was like a holiday.

 

I asked dad if I could run around town while he was at the hardware store. He told me to be back in thirty minutes and told me not get in any trouble. I took off down Main Street looking for my friends. I'd never been to any of their houses so I didn't have any idea where they lived.

 

I didn't have any luck finding any of my friends, but I did run into Beverly Cooper and a group of her girlfriends. I hated them because they thought they were better than anyone else. Beverly was the prettiest girl in our class and she always teased me.

 

"Oh look, the little half-breed came to town," Beverly said and all her girlfriends giggled. I blushed, "Look he's really a red man now." She kept it up.

 

I tried to walk past her and ignore her but she grabbed my ear as I walked past and yanked it really hard.

 

"Ouch, quit doing that and leave me alone!" I yelled at her.

 

"No I won't and you can't do anything about it, dirty half-breed."

 

I was angry and looked at her, "Stupid little bitch!" I'd heard dad use the bitch word before and I knew it was bad.

 

Her friends gasped and she was shocked. The next thing I knew she was punching me so I started fighting back. I gave her a bloody nose and knocked out a loose baby tooth. She was lying on the ground crying when my dad ran up.

 

"He attacked me and knocked my tooth out." Beverly lied to my dad.

 

"Boy, I told you not to get into trouble and look what you did - attacking a defenseless little girl. What in the hell do you think you're doing you worthless piece of shit!" He backhanded me and knocked me to the ground, it stunned me and I saw stars.

 

The next thing I knew he was dragging me by my arm to the truck. We reached the truck, he grabbed me and threw me in the bed. I slammed head first against his tool box, it split my head open and I started to bleed. Mom tried to stop him until he yelled at her, "The worthless little shit attacked a girl and I'm going to beat some sense into him so he never does it again." I saw Beverly and the other girls laughing at me as we drove towards home.

 

I knew dad and when he got mad, I got hurt. I waited until we slowed making the turn off the main road onto the dirt road towards our house when I jumped out of the back of the truck and took off running across the field as fast as I could. I didn't know where I was going to go, but I knew I had to get away. I heard the truck stop behind me and dad yelled, "Stop running you worthless little shit or I'll shoot your sorry ass." I didn't listen until a round hit to the left of me, and then one to the right of me. "If you don't stop you worthless cocksucker, I'm gonna shoot you and leave your carcass for the coyotes."

 

I stopped running, turned and looked at him. He looked like pure evil to me. "Get your ass over here boy, you made me waste two rounds and you're going to have to pay for it." I slowly walked towards the truck, dreading what I knew was coming. "Hurry up you worthless shit." I trotted to the truck hoping it would please him. I stopped and stood in front of him, he just looked at me and I was scared, but I didn't show it.

 

"Come here you worthless little shit." He pulled me around to the back of the truck, got out a piece of heavy rope. I'd been through this before so I assumed the position, with both my hands on the tailgate of the truck and waited for the beating. "This is for the two rounds you made me waste. Next time you run from me I'll shoot your sorry ass. Do you understand me?" He was swinging the rope as hard as he could as it hit my back. I slowly retreated into the secret place in my mind where no one else could go and I became hard, as hard as nails, until the beating didn't even hurt me.

 

"Do you understand me? If you run again I'll shoot your sorry ass."

 

I nodded my head.

 

He tied my hands together and then tied the rope to the back of the truck. "So, you like to run do you? Well we're gonna let you run all the way to the house. And you'd better not fall or I'll drag your worthless ass all the way home." Mom started to get out to stop him and I shook my head at her, I didn't want him to beat her.

 

He jumped in the cab, rolled down the window and yelled, "See if you can keep up you worthless little shit." I wasn't ready for him because he floored the truck and I fell to the ground. He was laughing like a maniac as he dragged me about ten feet and then stopped.

 

I fought my way back to my feet. He was laughing the whole time. "What's wrong worthless little shit, you couldn't keep up?" This time I was ready and started running before he took off in the truck and had some slack in the rope. I made it about forty feet before the truck pulled me over again. This time dad floored it and dragged me for about a minute. He stopped the truck, "Come on worthless shithead, get up or I'll keep dragging you."

 

I stumbled to my feet and took off running towards the truck. This time dad didn't floor it but drove just fast enough to keep the rope tight. He'd occasionally punch it and I'd have to sprint to keep from falling. He kept this up until we were almost home when he floored it and dragged me into the yard. I stood up totally exhausted and puked my guts out.

 

He jumped out of the truck, grabbed the rope and pulled me into the barn. Taking me over to the sawhorse he tied me face down on top of it - I'd been here before and I knew what was coming. "I'll be back later to teach you a lesson about attacking little girls. You just wait until you see what I have in store for you."

 

I slowly slipped back out of the hard Ben to my 'normal' self and the tears streamed from my eyes. The pain wasn't too bad, I was strong and I could take it. But the humiliation of having Beverly and the other girls see what happened was almost too much to bear.

 

I took some deep breaths and began to prepare myself for what I knew was coming. First dad would eat dinner, then he'd get drunk again, then he'd come out and teach me the lesson I needed to learn. He was angrier this time than I'd ever seen him and I was scared.

 

Finally I heard the barn door squeak as it opened and I slipped back into hard Ben. Hard Ben could take anything, hard Ben protected me. Someday, hard Ben was going to kill him. I could smell the booze before he even got near me. He walked up and slapped me on the back of the head, "You awake you worthless little shit?"

 

I knew the routine and answered, "Yes Sir!"

 

"What have you been doing worthless shithead?" He laughed.

 

"I've been thinking about how I messed up and waiting for my punishment Sir!"

 

"And what did you fuck up this time, worthless shithead?" He shouted in my ear.

 

This was the most important part because I had to make sure I told him exactly what he wanted to hear or it would be even worse. I remembered what happened with Beverly and remembered what dad said. "Sir, I attacked a little girl, gave her a bloody nose and knocked out one of her teeth."

 

"That's right you worthless little shithead. I think I need to teach you to never hit women, especially little girls. Do you agree?"

 

"Yes Sir!"

 

"Yes Sir what?" He yelled in my ear.

 

"Yes Sir, I need you to teach me to never hit women, especially little girls." I echoed.

 

He pulled out his knife and I thought for a moment he was going to finally stab me and end it all. I silently prayed he would. He took it and cut the back of my shirt open. I knew soon I'd be feeling his leather belt on my back again and I braced myself for it.

 

"You know, you really fucked up this time." He said, "And I think I need to teach you a lesson which will stay with you the rest of your life. No worthless little shithead son of mine will ever hit a woman, never. You've disgraced me boy, all the men in town will be talking about how my worthless son attacked a defenseless little girl."

 

This was different than what normally happened and even hard Ben got scared. He walked over to the welding cart, pulled out a welding rod and started swinging it through the air - it made an ominous swish. "Yes you worthless shithead, you're going to learn this time to never, ever hit a woman or a little girl. Aren't you happy you have a dad like me to teach you these lessons?"

 

"Y-y-yes Sir!" I stuttered which was a big mistake.

 

"What the fuck did you just say?" He was angry.

 

"Sorry Sir, I said Yes Sir!"

 

He walked around me swishing the welding rod. "Yes, this should teach you a lesson you'll never forget. Have you ever heard of caning?"

 

"No Sir. I have not."

 

He let go a wicked laugh, "Caning is what they do to criminals in Asia. I've heard they never forget the experience and they never repeat the crime. They take a small rod like this and whip the criminal with it; each stroke breaks open the skin."

 

I shuddered a little bit. He saw me and laughed. "Normally it's done on your butt, but I think I'll use your back. Just imagine what this welding rod is going to feel like on your back as it rips your skin open."

 

Hard Ben took over, "Sir, it will be an excellent way to remind me to never hit women, especially little girls." He stopped swishing the welding rod and looked at me, I'd changed the routine and it surprised him.

 

"Well maybe you are finally getting some sense in your hard head," he said. I heard the welding rod swish through the air and connect with my back. Hard Ben was in control and I didn't feel any pain.

 

"That's one," he cackled.

 

"Thank you Sir, may I have another," I said also changing the routine. I'd never asked dad to beat me more.

 

He stopped again surprised, "Damn! Maybe I'll make a man out of you yet." The rod swished through the air again and hit my back.

 

"That's two." He continued.

 

"Thank you Sir, may I have another," I repeated. He kept it up and hard Ben kept asking for more until we reached ten.

 

"That's ten." Dad said. I tried to ask for one more, but instead the room slowly became dark and I drifted off into unconsciousness.

 

Flashback - Jack – Late 1999 Jack's house after the dinner.

 

It was getting late and I was thirsty, Anna had given me a great workout and I was going to get some water for both of us. I walked in the kitchen and Banzai was still standing at the kitchen sink, he looked like a statue. "Banzai, hey Banzai! Wake up!" I shouted.

 

He turned and looked at me. His eyes were vacant at first and then returned to normal. "Oh hi Jack, I guess I was daydreaming."

 

I noticed he was holding a broken plate in his hands and his left hand was bleeding. "Banzai, what happened to you? Your hand is bleeding."

 

He looked down at his hand, "Sorry Jack, I don't know what happened."

 

I went over and looked at his hand but it wasn't bad. "Come on; let's fix it up for you."

 

Anna came out of the bedroom in a robe, "What's taking so long?"

 

"Ben was still doing dishes, broke a plate and cut his hand." She looked at me and I gave her the look to not ask any questions. Ben set the plate on the table and we walked into the bathroom. The cut wasn't bad so Anna cleaned it up for him and put on a dressing. "You're lucky it's not your right hand," Anna said, "Otherwise it might mess up your shooting."

 

Banzai still seemed in a daze, "Thank you Anna for taking such good care of me. I'll go back and finish the dishes." He walked out of the bathroom and Anna looked at me, "What the hell?" I shushed her, "Later when we're in the bedroom." We walked into the kitchen, Banzai had finished the dishes.

 

"Well I'm tired and I'm going to sleep," Banzai said and went to this room.

 

We got a drink of water and went back to our bedroom, "Okay Jack, what was that all about?"

 

"Anna, I'm not sure. But I have a good feeling about this - I think our boy grew up a little tonight."

 

She spooned me and slowly drifted off to sleep. I thought about what I'd just seen with Banzai. He's sure a strange kid, strange but good.

 

Flashback - Ben – Late 1999 Jack's house after finishing the dishes.

 

I was in bed but I couldn't get to sleep right away. It was embarrassing that Jack and Anna found me in that condition. Wow, I hadn't remembered that beating for a very long time. I guess Anna's little show and talk opened up the floodgate of my memories. I looked at my bandaged hand and realized I had snapped the plate in two.

 

That particular beating was a real turning point in my life since it was the reason I couldn't hit a woman. I reached around and touched the scars on my back and remembered each one with a shudder, the son-of-a-bitch really taught me a lesson.

 

Anna's little talk made sense to me, but it was hard not to freeze when I was confronted by a woman. Jack shocked me when he told me about having to kill two women. At first I didn't know what to think, but then I realized he was right and someday I might have to do the same. I felt the food start to rise in my throat and took control over it, suppressing the urge to vomit.

 

I rolled over on my side, curled up and went to sleep thinking about tomorrow's mission.