2 Hearts Beating Boldly: Route Irish

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the second part of a seven part addition to the Rose Houston saga. In this story, Sergeant First Class Rose Houston and her MP platoon meet Defense Department contractor William Travis Austin at the Military Passenger Terminal at the Baghdad International Airport. Things could have gone smoother.

Submitted: February 19, 2017

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Submitted: February 19, 2017

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The Texas Army National Guard MP platoon pulls into the Military Passenger Terminal parking lot, in a remote corner of Baghdad International Airport, and comes to a dusty stop about fifty feet from a herd of milling civilian contractors.  Rose Houston, the platoon sergeant, riding in the lead gun turret behind the fifty cal, evaluates them and sees a crowd of self-important political hacks, wealthy men in designer safari jackets, trying to live down the shame of having stepped bravely backward, 35 years earlier, and volunteered to development themselves “in a different direction,” as was their favored saying, rather than serve in Viet Nam, too stupid to get out of the 120 degree plus sun.  She thinks, “Maybe they’ll die of heat stroke before they do much damage.”  Her mission is to find the man her platoon will be transporting around Baghdad for the next year and transport him to the Presidential Palace.  She’s not sure how she’ll identify him, but there is one old guy who is standing apart from the rest.

The old man, William Travis Austin, is standing in the shade of the dust covered passenger terminal.  He is wearing light clothing, a baseball cap, and old style Ray-Ban sunglasses with boxie frames.  Even with the sunglasses he looks like he has a permanent squint.  Most of the others aren’t wearing hats and are beginning to look bright pink. 

She thinks, “He looks like a cop.”

She has an angry swagger and she marches up to the old man, stopping just short of a collision, “You William Travis Austin of Fort Stockton, Texas?”The question is more of an accusation. 

He’s been hired by a defense contractor to advise the Iraqi National Police.  Since retiring from his Southern California police department, he’s had a few jobs like this.  He has worked for the State Department and United Nations as an advisor for developing civilian police forces.  This time he’s working for the U.S. Department of Defense.  His interview, in Austin, Texas, consisted of a brief one-sided diatribe by the interviewer about how the State Department and the Congress were sabotaging the President’s policies.He tried to engage the interviewer in police talk but the interviewer said, “I don’t know anything about cops or what you do.  All I know is that one of our people in Los Angeles recommended you, and you’re hired.” 

They flew him to Washington, put him up in the Marriott for a week and didn’t return his phone calls.  Eventually, someone he’d never heard of called him and told him to go to the Pentagon Travel Office and pick up tickets to Kuwait.  At the Pentagon, the phone number he was told to call had been disconnected and he couldn’t get beyond security to the office.  After two days of talking to Pentagon ticket agents who had never heard of anyone, a non-English speaking Vietnamese woman met him in the Pentagon entrance lobby with a beaming face and a hand full of tickets and travel orders.

In Kuwait, he and his fellow travelers stayed in another expensive hotel, on the beach, and ate expensive free food for several days while arrangements were made to transport them to Baghdad.  By their mannerism’s he knew that they were all very important men.  Some of them even told him so.  Some of them were best friends with  the President, and told him that, too.

Now in Baghdad, his fellow travelers seemed out of place.  When they first collected outside the plywood/canvas tent passenger terminal, he had overheard constant conversations about political connections and what they had told the President or his advisers.  Each endeavored to outdo the other with his importance.  After a short time in the hot desert sun, he hears nothing but the labored breathing of overweight, middle aged men, dressed in sweat stained but stylish Banana Republic safari jackets, a few with rakish safari hats, unaccustomed to being outside in the heat, who had consumed too much expensive scotch or bourbon over the past few days.There is nary a JC Penney’s windbreaker in the whole bunch,

He feels sweat trickle out of his armpits and down across his ribcage. 

He has doubts about his mission, “It can’t all be this screwed up.”  On the other hand, he really doesn’t care anymore. 

It’s been a long time since he cared about much of anything.

Without warning, a pissed off Negro female Army NCO abruptly materializes out of the shimmering heat waves.She’s stands too close and smells like road dust, MOGAS, gun lube and sweat.  Except for the dark areas around her eyes, where her goggles kept the light colored road dust from covering her skin, she’s covered with lightly colored desert dust.  She reminds him of an angry raccoon.The dust kerchief that she wears across her face and nose is dangling cowboy style from her neck.  She has coal black eyes, coal black eye lashes and coal black eye brows, surrounded by cinnamon brown skin.  She carries herself like a belligerent man--her feet apart, her weight spread between them.  Her M-16 hangs gunfighter style from a shoulder harness.  Her face is hard as stone.

His mind briefly wanders back to the black thugs he dealt with as a street cop.  Back then they joked about the “angry Negro male” personality disorder.  He briefly wonders what the odds were that he would have to come to Baghdad to encounter the female equivalent. 

He also wonders, briefly, how much trouble it would be to simply say “Fuck it,” and get on a C-130 cargo plane and go home.

But he doesn’t. 

His friends and enemies back home all believe he has gone to Baghdad looking for a place to die.At night, alone in the dark, he wonders if it is true. 

And, what is there to do at home?

He’s looking at the woman thinking, “Where the fuck does she get this anger?”

“Your taxi service is here.  Get your stuff and come with me.”  She spits her words more than speaks them.  She turns to walk away, dust rises from beneath her boots. 

He doesn’t move.  “Who are you?” 

She stops, turns again, and looks at him hard as if questioning his sanity.  “I am Sergeant First Class Rose Houston of the Texas Army National Guard.  Are you the William Travis Austin who is going to be working with the Ministry of Interior to develop the Iraqi Police?”

“Yes.”

“The William Travis Austin who is so special he can’t ride the armored bus, the “Rhino,” from the airport to the Green Zone like everybody else?”

He stands silent, locking his eyes with hers.  He’s beginning to wish he hadn’t quit drinking.  It’d be nice to get drunk and bitch slap her into a pulp.  On the other hand, he thinks, she might just kick his ass, too.

She doesn’t wait for his answer.  “I’m your taxi driver.”  She nods at her platoon, “This is your escort parade.  We’re here to transport you to the Palace.”  She turns sharply and walks toward the gun trucks.  Her platoon members watch him intently. 

A blonde female soldier, expressionless, stands in one of the gun turrets, resting her elbows on the fifty cal.  Expressionless, she looks at him the way a shopper might look at a stale side of beef in a butcher shop.  She’s chewing gum and blows a bubble.  The gum is pink.  The bubble pops and her expression doesn’t change.

“I didn’t ask for a special ride.  I can take the bus.”  Fuck this bitch.

She turns backs and stands as if challenging him to a fight.  “No, you can’t.  My people just drove down 6 miles of a death alley called “Route Irish” to get you.  You’re riding back with us.”  She turns to the gun truck, then back to the old man.  “We gave your predecessor a ride from the palace to this very terminal when he processed out eleven months early because it’s just too dangerous to work here.”  Her voice is heavy with sarcasm.  “Think you’ll make it four weeks?” 

“Who sent you to pick me up?”

“What difference does it make?  We’re here.”

He picks up his duffle and carries it to her gun truck.  The female soldier springs from behind her 50 cal and jumps to the ground.

He is trying to fit the duffle inside the cargo net on the rear of the gun truck and she stops him, “Let me do that.”

“I got it.”

She grabs the duffle more firmly, “I know you do, but I’m the safety NCO.  It’s my job.  I’ll do it.” 

He releases the bag and climbs in the passenger door. 

It looks like this is going to be one hell of a year.

 


© Copyright 2018 Eddie C Morton. All rights reserved.

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