Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Tempest in a Teapot" - Excerpt

I decided to post this because it may not make it into the final draft of 'Tempest in a Teapot.'

Until then I thought my readers might like to get another glimpse of the new book. "Tempest" takes place at Fort Knox and in Vine Grove. This scene has Tag McTaggart from 'Let's Do Lunch' and Leo Stephenson from "Tempest" in the Warriors Transition Unit on Fort Knox.

This is the old barracks building - not the new one which is more like a hospital.


June 29th, 2006
There was a knock at his door just as Leo was getting out of the shower.
"Sergeant Stephenson?"
"Come in," Leo said as he wrapped a towel around his waist.
"We need you down to the ward." The solider stuck his head in the room, using the door as a prop for his shoulder, crutches clutched in the other hand. "Things went to shit this morning, it ain't getting better. Boomer said I should come get you."
Sergeant Bonner called 'Boomer' was a Sergeant Major. He ranked everyone in the Unit including Leo. He was the unofficial commander of the Unit – but he'd lost both legs and wasn't mobile. 
"What happened?"
"There was a shooting in E'town yesterday. It was one of the Out Patient men. Dr. Lakhdar had MPs bring him back here. First she said it was for evaluation, now she says she's going to have him locked up for murdering a civilian."
"Who? You know him?"
"It's Sergeant McTaggart," the young solider hopped on one foot to keep his balance. "He's pissed as hell, says it's a bullshit charge."
"Fuckin' aye." Leo had to put on a uniform if he was going to do McTaggart any good. He had to look the part in order to play the game.
Leo knew McTaggart had a bad attitude when it came to Lankhdar. He'd shit-canned all his meds and gone back to work, defying all the odds; he even had a girlfriend. The younger soldiers looked up to him.
Dr. Lakhdar was in rare form, he thought as he walked down the corridor. Three former Spec Ops soldiers were slinking out to smoke like feral cats. They didn't meet his eyes as they went passed.
Damn Fish-eye was making them all into pussies.
"There is nothing fucking wrong with me. Let me out of here!" The man's voice would have carried across a parade ground. 
"You just murdered a civilian!" Fish-eye shouted. "You cannot leave this ward!"
"It was a hostage situation – he had a knife to her throat. What was I suppose to do? Let her die? Those cops were too scared to make the shot. So I did."
"Going Rambo on Main Street is not acceptable!"
Even Leo had to grin at that.
"It was necessary! Ask the cops! Ask the DEA! I don't care who you talk to! Get the story straight and let me out of here."
"You're out of line, Sergeant!"
Leo thumped his cane at the doorway.
"Can you repeat that a little louder, for anyone in unit who didn't hear it?"
Dr. Lakhdar turned and glared at Leo. She was a tall thin woman of Middle Eastern descent. She wore her hair up, but covered it with a fine black net. She always had her hair covered, even though it was against regulations. Everyone knew she was a Muslim – the brass tip-toed around her because she hit too many hot-buttons. A man would have gotten hell for the way she treated the men, but she wasn't a man.
"I warn you, Sergeant Stephenson, you're a patient in this ward."
Leo bared his teeth. He was going to enjoy this.
"Tell it to my CO – he'll be interested to know you're yanking civilians off the streets. Taking hostages is against Army policy."
"McTaggart killed a civilian."
Leo raised an eyebrow at McTaggart, who was standing at attention, even though he'd been out of uniform for months.
A young woman in uniform walked in, saluted smartly.
"The charts you requested require your signature, ma'am."
"What?" Dr. Lakhdar turned to McTaggart. "Stay right here."
The young woman paused before she followed. She winked at Leo before she turned smartly and followed Dr. Lakhdar. The woman deserved a medal.
"What happened, McTaggart?" Leo walked into the room. The tall man in civilian clothing shifted to at-ease. An amputee with severe PTSD, Dr. Lakhdar called McTaggart 'a hard case' for his attitude. He came in once a week for the Open Group, the Group that Fish-eye didn't attend. Like Leo, he was book-shelved – he would be leaving the Army but his paperwork wouldn't go through until he was discharged.
Until a few weeks ago, McTaggart had refused to shave or cut his hair. Now he was clean-shaven, wearing his hair close to military length. There was no doped up haze in his hard eyes. He was royally pissed off.
He had the right to be pissed off.
"Report, McTaggart."
"The DEA fucked up a drug bust at Lynn's restaurant. When I got there, the cook had a knife to Lynn's throat, threatening to kill her. The cops wouldn't take the goddamn head shot." He was tense, ready to explode.
"So you did?"
"Hell yes!"
"How did you get a weapon?" Leo asked. He wouldn't be surprised if McTaggart used force to get the gun. Everyone knew how much that girl meant to McTaggart.
"A DEA agent gave me his backup." McTaggart shrugged. "It was close range."
"Good shot."
"The cops thanked me for it, but Dr. Lakhdar had the MP's come get me." He glanced at the door. "How fucked up is that?"
"Is your girl all right?" Leo leaned on the back of a chair.
"Shallow cut to the throat, just skin. Last time I saw her, she was with her parents." Tag scowled. "I should be with her."
"Roger that."
"I hate being treated like this!" Tag clenched his fists and his whole body tightened. He pulled back a fist to punch the wall. He let fly with all his weight behind it.
Leo took the blow in the palm of his open hand. The meaty smack of knuckle against palm echoed, but he ignored the pain.
"Chill. Broken fingers will only prove her right."
"I gotta get the fuck out of here!"
"She's playing you," Leo dropped his voice to a low growl. "Don't let her win."
"Fuck the bitch."
"Don't fall for her shit." He kept eye contact until McTaggart nodded, then he released McTaggart's fist.
"Just chill awhile." Leo picked up his cane. "I can make some phone calls."
Going back to work had changed McTaggart. A shave and a haircut told them that he'd met a girl. They dogged him into taking her out on a date. The group gained strength watching McTaggart put his life back together. It was a no-brainer why he'd killed a man to protect his girlfriend, any of these men would have done the same. If Fish-eye locked McTaggart up moral in the entire Unit would drop through the floor.
Leo made his cell phone calls outside, where no one in the Unit could hear him. He told key people McTaggart was sane, just worried sick about his girlfriend. It was up to the other's to do their part.
Less than an hour from his last phone call - Leo's blackberry chirped with a text message. General Fischer sent a terse summons 'butt hut 1400."
His teeth flashed, aw, too bad, he would miss group. Well he couldn't blow off a one-star general. Fish-eye couldn't argue with that – General Fischer was her CO.
Leo was chewing a Bic because he was out of cigarettes again as he crossed the street to the smoker's hut near the General's Office.
Fischer was sitting on the table, smoking. His dark-chocolate complexion gave little away, his sunglasses hid his eyes, but the tension in his body spoke volumes.
"What's going on, Sergeant?"
"Lankdar pulled one of the guys, a civilian, back into the unit."
"Said he went Rambo on Main Street, sir."
"Which one?"
Fischer swore.
"He had a good reason," Leo explained. "There was a drug bust. His girl was taken hostage. He shot the insurgent."
"On goddamn Main Street?"
Leo chewed the pen in silence.
 Fischer swore again. Then he looked at Leo with piercing eyes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
"Here," he tossed the pack to Leo. "You're wasting a good pen."
Leo grinned, stuck the pen behind his ear. He lit up, took a good hard hit, felt the rush of the first cigarette of the day.
"Thank you, sir." He started to toss the pack back.
"Keep 'em," Fischer said. "You're to keep me informed."
Leo nodded.
"There is another matter we need to discuss." He growled, taking off his sunglasses. "Why the fuck are you driving under the influence and causing accidents?"
Leo braced to take the ass-chewing. He had it coming.
"There's no excuse for my behavior, sir."
"That's not my point. What-the-fuck is going on here?" Fischer stabbed the air with his cigarette. "McTaggart is shooting civilians and you are DUI and causing traffic accidents.
"Are you falling apart on me, Stephenson?"
Leo said nothing.
"At ease, for godsake." Fischer grumbled. "Don't waste the smoke, damn things are expensive."
"What the fuck is going on in my Unit?"
Fischer looked at Leo with narrow eyes.
"Don't bullshit me, Sergeant. I've seen you out of uniform, not shaved, sloppy dress – you don't even shine your goddamn boots." He gestured again. "Today is the first time I've seen you look like a soldier."
"I'm being doped into submission, sir."
"I'm not the only one, sir."
"How many meds are you on?"
"Ten, sir."
"What are they?"
"No idea, sir."
"Find out." Fischer stepped back, took a drag off his cigarette. "No, I will." He studied Leo for a moment.
"Jackson saw you pull in front of an SUV. He thought you were dead."
"Mrs. Truesdale has good reflexes, sir."
Fischer smoked in silence for a moment.
"What the fuck is going on in my Unit?"
"There is tension between the men and the staff, sir."
"That doesn't explain McTaggart." Fischer rubbed the ember from the butt then stepped on it. "Shooting a civilian gives the Unit a black eye. We look bad to the public and it fucks up my day with paperwork."
"It was a hostage situation. McTaggart was given the weapon by the DEA." Leo's teeth flashed. "They didn't have the stomach for the shot, sir."
Fischer grunted agreement.
"I will look into this." He put his sunglasses back on. "I need you, Stephenson. Don't let me down."
"No, sir."
"Dismissed." Fischer walked away.
"Christ in a fucking cornfield."
Leo took a deep drag on the cigarette. He wanted a drink. Instead, he walked to his SUV, a bike ride would be better.

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