A breif romance with a blossoming woman changes a traveling man's life forever
|John Wayne Stone, Private Contractor Number Such-and-Such, his government name, dressed to the nines in his tailored black suit, marched toward Capt. Bonnie Ann Clyde’s office located in the inner bowels of Seventh Corps Headquarters, Wiesbaden Germany. He rolled his shoulders slightly; the motion adjusted the shoulder holster for his fully suppressed HK submachine gun and balanced it out against the magazine pouches under his right armpit. The only thing he knew is she was sending him outside of USAREURE, back into the real world, hence the submachinegun. The weapon made him feel comfortable, he only needed it once, and decades later he still wouldn’t feel guilty over using it, and this angry hunk of metal told him, where he was going... the real world, it was safer than Eastern Europe or El Salvador. Places like that, you wanted a submachinegun, but generally didn’t have it. The real world by the way, as defined, is the continental United States.
Before he entered her office, he had three problems. Two days ago, he completed his physical assessments, a marathon run wearing his combat load out; A field pack, flack vest and M60 followed by a one-kilometer swim in the Main and hence could hardly move. The others being his growing emotional attachment to his made-up wife, a marriage of convenience to Asexy. He didn’t need attachment to anyone, as a pasting could happen to him like anyone else and being of a strong Germanic-Slav upbringing, he didn’t like loose ends. If he was going to leave a memory behind it be Capt. Clyde, as she is a dark, cold hearted, messed up wreck as he is. That and she is just the right height being a hair under five-foot-tall, though Asexy is about the same size, Bonnie had weight on her. About twenty-pounds more, in all the right places, just like a fat beaver should have it, that and Bonnie being an older woman, at this point old is early thirties and hence more seasoned than the nineteen-year-old fake wife he had.
He knocked authoritatively on the door and walked in unannounced and uninvited. He found his not so happy fat beaver and her sidekick, Lt. Lancaster Whitehall (whose primary job description is keeping an eye on Bonnie as she was on probation for being a criminal like every other assumed sub-human in Wiesbaden happened to be) standing next to her. He wasn’t happy either. As for Stone, he wasn’t happy as having his week-ends up-ended derailed his plans of debauchery and adultery…Adultery with his favorite fat beaver or fornicate with any who happened to be in the mood other than Asexy, who never was in the mood and until recently didn’t matter.
“You’re going to Vandenberg. You know what that is?” fat beaver announced sternly. She had an annoying habit of speaking at him with schoolyardish questions that seemed condescending.
“Why?” Stone asked no more confused than annoyed. “It’s an Air Force Base. Uncle Sugar has plenty of private contractors and he has plenty of them there at Vandenberg for the Pacific Rim territories.”
“The Air Force is running DNA study on black-ops types,” she replied after a minute. “You know what that is?”
At this point Stone realized she became standoffish, haughty when she was afraid of something. Until now, he assumed it was egotism, after knowing her from several battlefields, and knowing how well she wielded physical violence against her adversaries, and after really knowing her because of their thrice weekly for the past year, boink-o-rama, he knew something scared her. As a side note, her primary weapon of violence is stealth and deception, at first glance, she didn’t appear dangerous at all, if anything maternally harmless, especially if you were a CIA KGB type of special sub-human. Then, you died as she gutted you like a trout with her sharp as the day is bright, knife.
“DNA test? Am I sick or something? Listen I know according to you guys I have enough genetic mutations at once to make me a non-human technically, something I find offensive,” he replied and then thought that he shouldn’t be offended at having the Department of Defense consider him a non-human mutant, and they did, after seeing what main stream humans were like. He considered humans, an embarrassment to apes, by the way. He then added, “These I believe in official college educated jargon would be described as ‘well documented’.”
“Do you know what it is?” she insisted and looked like she needed a two-by-four to gnaw on.
“Yeah…You could swab my mouth and Fed-Ex it over night to Vandenberg,” he replied. “I don’t have my bags packed.”
Lancaster looked over at her with another I told you so glance. Apparently, she thought he was stupid too. After a brief protest, she showed him his written orders, told him to buy his possibles at the BX, then pushed him out the door. An hour later he rode the friendly skies on the CIA owned Global Trans-Air from Frankfurt, transferred to a TWA fight at JFK bound for Vegas and from there a Janet Airlines flight to Vandenberg. One thing he noted is the closer he got to his destination, the smaller the airplanes became, the more thugs in black suits populated the cabin. As they touched down on Vandenberg, there is an enough talent and fire power to overthrow a small Central American nation. He knew who the thugs from the Marine Corps were, they acted like they were the only ones there that mattered.
The Air Force in processed them, handed out questionnaires, mentioned it take two days to run them through the blood-work, the physicals and so on and so forth. The first thing that passed through Stone’s mind of blank curiosity is they already knew that about his details, as they would’ve everyone else, thusly this surpassed a duplication of services by civilian sector chumps or for that matter anything the Air Force could wreck with aplomb. He would also guess Bonnie knew all this and dropped the ball again. Therefore, he did what he was good at, he remained quiet and didn’t ask questions. After they shuffled him around and noting they divided into groups and shuffled off to billets the other thugs, they shuffled him off in a taxi, only three others went in separate vehicles to different billets ( it took time though as he overheard from the background chatter, they had to be kept separate).
At the front desk of his billets, a Federal Police Officer sat. This told him to be afraid, very afraid, as he just stepped outside the protective envelope overseen by the DoD, into the netherworld of a realm run by civilians. The police officer issued him a key to his billet room, answered his questions to where the BX is and wasn’t surprised, he came from the U.S. Army. Apparently, Bonnie didn’t drop the ball, she was following standard operating procedure. For Stone being both agitated and tired he elected to follow his nose to the Base Exchange and walked. The weather is hot, and he realized he’d need his suit cleaned as he walked into the store.
The Army Post-Exchange system resembled a poorly kept bargain basement from the 1970’s. The Air Force version is very modern and a bit presumptuous in its successful attempt to resemble an upper-end retailer. They even had a candy stand in the atrium, staffed by two women, one over weight in her forties, another quite young, both wearing blue AAFES vests. The younger of the two stood there eating candy by the handful from a bowl on the counter top. As for Stone he ignores them and stands there stunned at the scene before him, as they had a kayak suspended from the ceiling in the sporting goods section. He took it all in, awestruck and as he found a shopping trolley the younger of the two side-swipes him introducing herself as Marilynn. When Stone told her his name, she didn’t believe him and after seeing his green card asked him if he was Special Forces or Special Operations and yes, she knew the green card is authentic but she adamantly refused to believe his name is John Wayne Stone.
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” she giggled as she handed him his green card back.
“Nope,” he replied sternly, imitating the personality of a potted plant.
“You Army guys are all the same…So, are you Special Forces or Special Operations?” she insisted. “You look like a Green Barrette….”
“No,” Stone replied annoyed.
“You’re big in the chest and walk like a gorilla, that makes me think Green Barrette,” she laughed. “However, the black suit is Special Operations…So what do you do for them? Transportation? Explosive Ordnance? Oh! You’re sniper huh?”
He stared at her blankly, pretending to see through her.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“Well, we can’t get to know each other if you only speak in one syllable words…” she went on gaily. “Maybe you should ask me a question.”
“I don’t have any questions to ask,” he proffered as it was the only thing, he could think avoid an unfolding almost certain situation.
“You Army guys never show up prepared, that’s how I know you’re a soldier,” she laughed. The she grabbed the shopping trolley and began dragging it through the BX tittering like a schoolgirl while blabbering about everything. “How long are you staying?”
As she chatted, she also threw shaving items in the cart, saying he looked like an ice blue ‘Aqua Velva’ man as she fitted him with a fedora. On those two points she pegged him, he wore fedoras and did use Aqua Velva aftershave. Eventually he returned to his near empty billets with a few bags and a date. As he signed in, he asked the Federal Police Officer where such-and-such parking lot was, as the situation required him to meet a young woman there, she had the car. This perked up the Federal Policeman as he was trying to get an audience with Marilynn. As the conversation devolved into gossip, Stone learned what made her popular. She only dated rarely, and seemed to go for a class of men that defied description.
Later as he walked to the employee parking lot wear the Hawaiian print shirt and beige slacks, she selected for him, his embryonic moral consciousness arrived with aplomb. Fortunately, he talked her out of the slip-on leather loafers, he preferred his jump-boots anyhow, as Asexy handled the money, as he came with a drinking and gambling problem. The shopping spree left him with about two-hundred dollars. That too, his nascent moral brought up, the affair with Bonnie, the excessive drinking, his fascination with playing the slots, hence the metaphorical Angel on one shoulder did thunderous battle with the Devil on the other. The only thing he knew is that he didn’t need Marilynn. Before he found her, he did stop at a small AAFES concession stand and buy two colas, one for him, one for her, as it is a hot, blindingly hot day in Southern California…Not the cooler, damper climate of Germany.
“Well that’s sweet!” Marilynn chirped taking her almost cold Coke when he found her polishing her classic antique car in the lot. She then added with her guiltless coquettishness, “There’s some hope for you yet!”
She offered to let him drive, he declined as it was a personal policy of his never to drive somebody else’s car. She then offered to teach him to drive a stick-shift if that was a problem. No that wasn’t the problem he smiled, truth is, unconsciously, more than a few near lethal vehicular accidents left him mutilated. Something that hid under his personal policy. As they left post, he asked her if she did her own work, and assumed she did, and in his paradigm that made her a lesbian and that lifted a weight off his shoulder. If she wanted to give him the big brother act and be friends, he was fine with that. Just friendly socialization, and no questions to answer to if Bonnie or Asexy ever found out.
“What year is this?” he asked as she noted the wicker picnic basket in back. He noted she dressed like his grandmother, and the basket resembled something he’d see in a 1940’s romance.
“It’s a 1969 AMC Nash Rogue,” she announced. “I just had Mike…We’re just friends…Over at the auto hobby shop paint it. In a few paychecks I’ll get the interior reupholstered.”
“Hmm,” Stone grunted. “Thought maybe you did your own work….”
“I inherited it,” she sadly smiled. “My last boyfriend was Special Operations like you. They killed him in El Salvador. He was a bomb man…”
Stone nodded and grunted sympathetically as they passed through the back gate and left post. She did chat a bit with the Federal Police Officer in the guard shack, apparently, she knew allot of people. As they sped down a flat highway past several palm trees across what he would consider a vast sandy desert, littered with house size rocks he rolled his shoulders around, readjusting his shoulder holster.
“You always carry that gun?” she nervously commented.
“Required to by law and SOP,” he soullessly replied.
After a moment of thoughtful silence, she asked, or more appropriately observed, “You don’t like what you do…Do you?”
“Want to talk about it?”
“Why not? Getting it off your chest might be good for you….”
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me, and if you did, you’d be afraid of me,” Stone finally forced the words out of his mouth. At that junction in conversation, the familiarity of shame balled up in his gut and he could feel himself begin withdrawing into his self-imposed exile from humanity. John Stone knew he was a liar, and they, his employers sent him to school to learn that dark art. However, this time, in that sentence, an unvarnished truth became known. He is afraid of himself; he knew he lived with a cold dark heart and a vile temper. What agitated the condition was being there, with her.
He wondered how exactly it happened, he didn’t want to be anywhere. She seemed, and turned out to be, a nice girl blossoming into a woman, too good for him. She wasn’t Asexy, a misplaced girl pretending to wear the big girl’s blouse, stumbling through a dark forest. She wasn’t Bonnie, nobody was like Bonnie, a miserably twisted wretch who like Stone, constantly fought with her inner demons.
They pulled off the road and she said she hoped this part of the beach would be empty. It was. Once they climbed over a smaller outcropping of rocks they settled on a small secluded cove of beach, with a changing tent and a permanently affixed charcoal grill. Stone stood there awestruck by the infinite blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. She asked him if he ever saw the ocean before, with a giggle.
“Just the Atlantic…” he answered as his soul began to untwist. “Its so different. Its like it almost has a different color of blue to it…”
“Here,” she laughed and threw him a plastic tube. “We’re going swimming before we eat…”
She then pushed him into the changing tent and told him not to come out until she was ready. He shrugged the coyness off and did just that. Moments later, with his slacks and other garments neatly folded in the tent, his firearm neatly wrapped in the shirt under his arm he walked out and watched her pull up bikini bottoms. She left her dress and such, in a pile on the beach.
“Since it’s just us, I didn’t think you mind me being topless,” she announced, without a blush or a giggle as she turned around.
The first thing to rush across Stone’s mind, though remain unspoken is, “My God! You’re beautiful...” His intentional responses are a well-conditioned, iron clad discipline. He looked her in the face and thought of his sisters.
“It’s the hair on the legs huh?” she then spoke, blushing. “I’ve been working a month of weekends and I just didn’t have time…”
“Not a problem sweetheart,” he finally said, the words natural and easy to speak. He then turned to walk into the ocean, stopped turned around and grabbed her by the hand. She seemed unsure at this point, mildly self-conscious.
“You like European women don’t you,” she finally said, returning to her friendly nature.
“Women are women…” he shrugged, throwing her into the surf.
For the next twenty minutes or so, they played like happy fools in the tide. As the sun began to set, he threw her one last time, and then physics came into play. Her bikini bottoms went farther then she did. He watched her stand up from the thigh deep waters and stand there smiling. For him he tossed his thong as in his words, he didn’t want her to be left out. For the longest time they stood there just staring at each other wearing silly grins. Finally, as a cool breeze wafted across them, he walked with her to shore.
“I know you’re interested in me,” she finally said as she pulled him down to sit by her on the beach. “At first I thought you were gay…Are you an asexual male?”
Stone chuckled, and at that point conceded to his inner demons that, that determination years ago by the CIA psychologist may have merit. He then said “What gives you that idea?”
“The way you act…Plenty of aces in Special Operations. My last boyfriend was…I like it like that. It puts me in charge of the sex…That kind of man focuses on the relationship, focuses on me, and I don’t have to worry about competition….”
“No,” John nervously chuckled. “Not that…”
“Size? That’s doesn’t matter to me…” she prodded. She then gasped. “You’re married!”
“Problems huh? Do you love her?”
After a minute of staring into the dull glow of the setting sun, seeing the distance, taking a measurement of the infinite he changed his mind. He decided not to be a liar this once. “No, I don’t…”
“Where’d you meet her? Why’d you marry her then? You have to have some feelings for her…” she questioned him, her curiosity getting the best of her.
“Met her at work…She’s in a related field to mine…”
“And?” she grinned, salivating at the potential juicy story that unfolded from the turning pages of John’s mind.
“You’re right I do like European women,” he admitted. “Like Slavs…Like Russian food, the mystery of the Caucasus…They arranged it…Wanted to tie me to the West…”
“Why? Who are they?” she chirped now lost in the drama.
“Just they…It’s a security measure. If I defect, they shoot her…”
“My God! Your serious!” she salivated. “Are they the CIA?”
“No…Other people, and I don’t consider them human.” He then turned away from the infinity of the setting sun, looked her directly in the eyes, then produced another phrase of undiluted honesty. “I don’t want you to think I’m a monster. I’m not. However, the people I work for are.”
“Wow,” she whispered, enthralled by the revelations. She then pulled him onto her, then reminded him, “Marriage never stopped any man before…”
“I can’t,” he whispered hoarsely. He was thinking of Bonnie. “You’re too nice…”
He kissed her, right there in the surf and for a brief instant the wall of exile that surrounded him began to decay. As she worked her wiles, he heard a click. In that brief instant, in that flash of lightening, he forgot about her, looking up he saw him. Another man, a thin stick man, wearing the same black suit he did armed with a camera. He left her there on the beach rushed for his weapon and flew up the rocky precipice to the crown. Automatically he pulled the wire shoulder stock back, mounted the firearm and slipped the safety off, by-passing semi-auto resting it into the full auto position. He aimed, and knew, he had the running stick man and the driver in the car, as in that brief instant he killed both in his mind first. Before the trigger’s sear could break, the body heat and heavy breathing of her broke his concentration. He flipped the selector switch to safe, while watching the photographer leap into the get away car and speed off.
“Why didn’t you kill them?” Marilynn gaped, salivating excitement. “I’ve never seen anyone killed before!”
At first John thought she was a nutcase, like Bonnie or lost like Asexy. The he realized she was a good girl that like dangerous men. After allowing his heart to slow down, regaining his grip on the location and the circumstances he considered his words carefully as he held her hand, returning to the beach.
“Why didn’t you do it?” she stuttered quickly, chopping her words as he blithely ate. “You’re really not bothered by that are you? You’re eating like a fool! And I’m too excited to even touch food right now!”
“If I shot them, everything would change for you, you’d stop being sweet and innocent” he answered between bites. “You’d become like me…”
They returned to post an hour later and she, the only daughter of a mid-west cattle-rancher passed into the memory of a traveling man. As for Stone, the next day he was poked, prodded, X-rayed and insulted by several psychologist he referred to as shysters. ‘They’ those monsters that owned him, escorted him to an elevator shaft on Vandenberg and he descended into the netherworld of ‘Them’ and learned the secrets they keep. As a side interest, the descent to the underground creation took ten minutes and he lived in that realm another three days before returning to Germany.
That is another chapter and another story for another time. What it do for Stone? What Marilyn did for him is she gave him the opportunity to be the better man, something decades later he would remember her for, and warmly smile.