DISCLAIMER: None, other than any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All characters are mine. (© 1989, 2008, WGA Reg. #084582-00)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is my baby and it is very long, which is why I am posting it in sections. It is a complete story but I am transferring it from paper to disk, another reason for the sectional posting. PTR is as much about the trials and tribulations of basic training as it is one woman's personal journey through this time frame, which is why there will be sometimes as many paragraphs spent on military detail as on the lead characters.
WARNING: This is a story about the military so there are a lot of bad words. There is sex (some of it is heterosexual) and violence.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Permission To Recover
By Cheyne


Part Two


Chapter Twenty

The women of Alpha-10 officially met Drill Sergeant J.J. Cassidy the next day in the middle of a GI party.

The floors had been completely scraped of old wax with razor blades, tile by tile on hands and knees when she walked in. At Ease was commanded by Tramonte, who was closest to the door, and they stayed in that position until Cassidy was finished walking up and down both aisles.

Finally, she said, "Carry on. Everybody come over to the left side of the bay." When they all gathered, she told them to sit on the floor so she could see them better.

She apologized for taking so long to introduce herself to them. She explained that she wanted to get used to the way training was being done in Tenth Battalion first, that the entire post was talking about OSUT and especially about the, so far, successful progress of the women.

"So if you've heard anything to the contrary, let me reassure you, this is a pretty remarkable battalion and you are the pioneers." This observation from Cassidy made the women smile. It made Cassidy smile in return, a dazzling action that caused some of the women, including Dale, to secretly lose their breath momentarily. It should have been against the law for a drill sergeant to be that beautiful. Dale wondered how long Cassidy's hair really was when it wasn't up in a bun under her Australian Bush Hat and if it was really as black and silky as it looked. Cassidy had dark eyelashes that were so naturally long, they were a fashion model's envy and eyes so dark brown, they were almost ebony. She also had dimples when she smiled that just added to her physical appeal.

"You've already experienced that there is no special treatment for you because you are women," Cassidy continued. "I am an advocate of that. I have one standard of training a soldier and it does not get altered. If you want to survive in a man's Army, you need to learn to concentrate on job performance and credibility. You will go nowhere if you put your gender first. If I can instill the thought into your brain that you are a soldier first and a woman second, I'll have accomplished my personal mission. Take a little advice from someone who has been there.

"A majority of military men still hate the fact that you are here. They don't think you're up to it, especially not law enforcement. They believe you'll drag them down, even though you're out there every day, side by side with them, doing the exact same things, they don't care. And they will burn you just as soon as look at you just to eliminate you. It doesn't matter that some of you are more instinctively talented and can runs and shoot circles around them, you are a female and that is automatically two strikes against you.

"We are, unfortunately, victims of stereotyping. The men think that we operate as a whole. It's too difficult to believe that we are individuals to be taken on our own merit. In their eyes, we are only as good as the last female who screwed up and we are stupid. According to them, the military is no place for us because we don't have the ability to adapt to the environment and we are thought to be too temperamental, incompetent, emotional, immature, self-centered, cry-babies and we can't handle stress and responsibility. How many of us here think that's the ol' pot calling the kettle black?" A majority of hands rose. "That couldn't be further from the truth, could it, ladies?" She asked them.

"No, Drill Sergeant," they responded, a little mesmerized by her allure and her frankness.

"I don't know Sergeant MacArthur that well. I don't have any idea what training here was like with her as your drill sergeant or as your liaison. How she ran things up here is of no concern to me. As of right now, this day, this very second, your conduct, your progress, your reputation all reflects on me. If you think this has been fun and games so far, you can knock that thought right out of your head." She looked at Shannon when she said that. "If anyone does anything to piss me off, you're going to wish you could go face to face with the devil as opposed to dealing with me." She then looked at Chillemi, who immediately found interest in the floor. "Don't cross me and don't lie to me and you will find that I am very easy to get along with. Any questions?"

Minty put her hand up.

"What's your question, Private Minty?"

"Why are we still being treated like recruits, Drill Sergeant? We graduated basic training."

"Private Minty, I know you understand that the program you are all involved in is experimental. That, mixed with the fact that training you to be a cop is no trip to the candy store means you need to be more disciplined and in better condition than the normal trainee. You need to be driven and you need to earn the privilege of liberty. Besides, you're getting weekend passes and soon you'll be set free during week evenings from 1700 to 2130 to do whatever you like. That's as much as any other AIT student gets. You really don't need more freedom than that. All you'll do with it is get drunk, wild and promiscuous."

"Yeah!" That came from someone in the back.

Cassidy smiled in spite of herself. "Sex. That's all trainees think about. It's a bad habit while in training, ladies. All that energy you use up needs to be concentrated on much more serious things right now. Besides," she added, kidding, "did you know scientists have proven that people who think about sex too often lose one or two of their senses?"

"What'd she say?" Shannon said to Dale.

"What'd who say?" Dale said and looked around the room, squinting.

After the chuckling died down, Cassidy stared at them both, amused. "Ah, yes," she said, finally. "You two. A.J. Foyt and Al Unser. You owe me. How about coming up here and knocking out twenty a piece for me." Her tone indicated there would be no debate.

Yep, real easy to get along with, Dale snickered to herself as she stood up and moved to the front.

"Oh, and Private McTague? Why don't you come up here and join them for yelling out 'Yeah' a minute ago."

While the three women started their punishment, Cassidy strolled around their bodies and continued to speak. "Ladies, despite the opposition, the military is a good opportunity for you right now. With the right determination, you can be limitless. Look at General Mary Clarke. She's been in the Army since 1945, where she started out, enlisted, as a finance clerk. Today she's a major general who works out of the Pentagon. Your own Battalion Commander is an excellent role model." Cassidy looked down at Dale, Shannon and McTague who had finished their push-ups, were in the front leaning rest position and waiting to ask for permission to recover. Cassidy ignored them.

"Last year, General William Westmoreland was quoted as saying that he didn't believe women could carry a backpack, live in a foxhole or go a week without taking a bath," Cassidy continued. "We're slowly but surely proving him wrong. I didn't enlist to be a homecoming queen and if any of you joined up just to find a husband…or a wife…or to be Miss Popularity, then do me a favor and get out. If you don't, you'll just make it that much harder on the women who come in after you. But…I've been observing you for a while and it looks like we have a pretty sincere group here." She looked at the three women, still waiting, their arms shaking as though they were experiencing an earthquake. "Recover."

Dale, Shannon and McTague moved to a standing position and Cassidy pointed toward the group, indicating she wanted them to sit back down.

"Now, we are all quite aware we cannot match the men in upper body strength, that we are physically weaker, that we weigh less and are smaller. But research also proves that we are better educated, instinctively smarter and we score higher on aptitude tests. We usually remain on active duty longer and we lose less time than the males due to drug or alcohol abuse, disciplinary problems and AWOL. The only thing they won't let us do yet is combat but I firmly believe that will change in the future for those who want it to."

"Drill Sergeant, if we're not allowed in combat or even a combat-related MOS, why are we expected to take basic combat training?" Ryder asked.

"Essentially to give you a better understanding of your jobs in non-combat roles. You will be much more effective soldiers having familiarized and qualified with combat weapons, for having low-crawled in the mud, survived live-fire courses and for having slithered under barbed and razor wire. Especially as military police officers, you may be assigned to a unit that specializes in the processing and confinement of POWs, which usually includes rear-area protection."

"What does that mean, Drill Sergeant?" Sherlock asked.

"It means you're not in the front lines of a battlefield, you're in the rear area of it." She looked at her watch. "I'm going to let you get back to your GI party now. I want you to know I have an open door policy. Anytime you need to talk, you can come to me." As Cassidy was leaving, Michaelson came running in. Michaelson had been relieved of CQ and desperately had to go to the bathroom. At the sight of Staff Sergeant stripes, Michaelson stopped and stood at the position of Parade Rest. Cassidy also stopped and looked at the private who stared straight ahead. "Private Michaelson?"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant?"

"Drop and give me twenty."

Michaelson looked at Cassidy, puzzled. "Drill Sergeant?"

Cassidy stepped closer to Michaelson and put her face approximately an inch away from the pretty blonde's. "Do it," she told her quietly but firmly.

"Yes, Drill Sergeant." Michaelson dropped.

The other women regarded the dropping of Michaelson, of all people, as curious. Michaelson pushed up and counted off as Cassidy watched. When Michaelson reached the count of fourteen, Cassidy told her to recover. Before Michaelson could even get to her feet, Cassidy was out the door and gone.

"Why the hell did she drop me?" Michaelson wondered out loud, staring at the door.

"Because she can?" Dale responded, also wondering what drove the gorgeous drill sergeant.

Another Friday had rolled around and the company was itching for the final "Fall Out" call at 1700 hours.

The members of Alpha-10 were given their graduation pictures that morning. None of them turned out well. A majority of the women immediately hid them away in their lockers, in hopes that the photographs would self-destruct over the weekend.

That afternoon they were surprised by an unscheduled PT test. Cassidy kept a strict, watchful eye on the females to make sure they didn't take it easy on themselves. At one point, when Shannon attempted push-ups, she didn't get her chest close enough to the ground for Cassidy's liking so the drill sergeant rested her boot on Shannon's back, which made it impossibly for Shannon to push up at all. Shannon had already been counted as completing six repetitions.

"You've done nothing," Cassidy told Shannon. She then looked at Mark Morse, the GI who scored Shannon. "Start her at one." Cassidy proceeded to explain what Shannon did wrong. She took her foot off Shannon's back, got down on the ground with her to demonstrate and then stood back up. "Now, you try it." Shannon obeyed. "Again," Cassidy commanded. "Better." Cassidy turned to Morse. "Start scoring her now. If I see you cheating for her, I'll remove from your score the amount of times she incorrectly completes a repetition."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Morse answered her.

When Cassidy began to move on, Morse was in the process of making a very un-gentlemanly gesture with his finger. Without looking at him, she said, "I'd think twice about doing that if I were you, Private Morse. It's supposed to be a hell of a nice weekend; you don't want to be stuck in the barracks during it."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant," he responded, meekly.

If it wasn't for a certain sparkle in her eyes that Shannon recognized and found so familiar, she would have somehow ensured that Cassidy would not have enjoyed her upcoming weekend, either. Shannon discerned that Cassidy didn't single her out because Cassidy was right. Shannon did a horrible, below-regulation push-up and, as much as she hated to admit it, Cassidy was only doing her job. Five minutes later, Cassidy did the same thing to Caffrey and Segore, who were messing up their squat thrusts. Shannon figured that once Cassidy got through establishing her authority, she'd relax and hopefully be more enjoyable.

"I'm seeing Matt again," Shannon told Dale, reluctantly. She expected a reaction and she wasn't disappointed.

"Tonight?" Dale's eyes narrowed before Shannon could answer.

"Yeah. We arranged it last week. He's picking me up in thirty minutes." Shannon finished putting on her make-up and closed her locker.

"Shannon, this isn't fair," Dale sing-songed, annoyed. "I'm not going to go through this with you again."

"Nor am I with you." Shannon looked directly at her partner. "I like him, Dale." She lowered her voice, almost to a whisper. "I can see him and still do my job. You and I are both inventive and capable enough to work around this."

"Would you feel the same way if it were me occupied by an outside interest?" Dale asked. She also kept her voice level down. She didn't want to give the impression they were having a jealous lover's quarrel. Dale drew a deep breath and then exhaled it. "All right, let's flip a coin."

"Another coin? I don't think so."

"Fair is fair. The least you could've done is told me last week so I could've made other plans."

"I knew you'd be like this."

"I don't think I'm being unreasonable," Dale said.

"Okay," Shannon said, testy. "Flip the Goddamn coin!"

"Heads, you go with Matt," Dale said and took the quarter out of her pocket, "and tails, you stay with me."

"And make your entire weekend a living hell. Just keep that in mind," Shannon said, solemnly, as Dale flipped the coin.

"Heads," Dale announced, disappointed. "That's it. I want a divorce."

Shannon smiled, triumphantly. "I planned on compromising, anyway. I'll bring him to the EC with me. I can bring a guest, right? Then we'll just follow the crowd wherever they happen to go. I'll just be with him instead of you."

"Great," Dale said, tepidly. "What happens if we see or hear something?"

"Don't make it more difficult than it is. We can't do anything without Bishaye's approval, anyway, so we'd have to sit on it until we got hold of her or Stubby."

After Shannon had left with Matt, Dale took off with Travis, Tramonte and Lehr. They headed into Averill to stay at the Journey Inn. They got a room between McTague and Halliday and Charlene Keival and Howely. They left all three room doors open and a small party became uncontrollable within the hour with what felt like half of Fort McCullough showing up. Other than the Averill police responding to the motel twice to quiet them down, nothing out of the ordinary happened. At approximately 4 AM, Dale finally fell asleep on one of the beds next to God only knew who.

The knock on the door around 7:30 AM came much too early for anyone. When no one bothered to get up to answer it, the door opened and Shannon and Tierni peeked in.

"Jesus…who are all these people?" Shannon asked Tierni, who shrugged. Shannon stepped between and over several bodies before she even made it halfway across the room. Tierni maneuvered her way into the bathroom as Shannon recognized Dale's clothes. She made her way through the remaining sea of GIs and prodded Dale awake.

"Go away," the raspy voice told her.

Shannon lifted the pillow off the person's head just to make sure it was, indeed, Dale. "Get up. Come on, I've got something to tell you."

Dale opened a crusted eye and looked up at her. "What? Did you elope?"

Shannon chuckled. "File that under a Big, Fat No. Let's go get some coffee. I think you need it."

It took Dale a few minutes to swim into consciousness. "Okay." She sat up and looked around at the five people, other than her, squeezed every which way on the bed and then saw all the people passed out on the floor. "Who are these people?"

"You tell me," Shannon said. She carefully navigated her way back to the door. They both heard the shower start.

"Who's in the bathroom?"

"Tierni," Shannon told her.

Dale nodded and followed Shannon outside to fresh air. They walked toward the coffee shop. "Got any gum or mints or anything? I've got a rotten taste in my mouth."

"Why? What have you been doing?" Shannon rummaged around in her jacket pocket.

Dale glared at her. "Trust me, there was no protein in my diet last night."

Shannon laughed. "Despite that, I don't have a bad taste in my mouth."

"It's just plain morning mouth, okay? Complicated by what now feels like a half-keg of beer that I must've drank all by myself. I hope a bathroom is close." Shannon handed Dale a stick of gum. "I know what it looks in there but if an orgy happened, it happened without my knowledge or, hopefully, my participation. The word must've spread that there was a party and people just kept showing up. I crashed sometime before five, I think."

"Five what?"

"O'clock, smart ass."

"I'm surprised no one called the police."

"They did. Twice."

"No arrests?"

"Are you kidding? One of the cops came back after he got off duty. He took a real liking to Travis."

"How did she feel about that?" Shannon asked.

"She completely ignored him. She's beginning to worry me a little bit, Shan. She's not her normal, sarcastic, razor-sharpened, witty self. She really misses her husband. She was telling me last night that, according to her paycheck, the Department of the Army hasn't recognized him as her husband or a dependent."

"They will. You know how paperwork is around here."

"I know that but she's getting really discouraged." Dale suddenly looked around. "Where's Matt?"

"I dumped him," Shannon said, simply.

"For the day?"

"No. For good."

Dale stopped. "You did? How come?"

Shannon pulled on Dale's sleeve to get her moving again. "He started talking to me and treating me like property in front of people he knew. Last night, at the hotel, he told me that if I was going to be his girlfriend while I was here, I would have to start watching my language and my behavior."

"What? You're kidding!"

"I wish. So we argued about that a while and went to bed, where he then started in on me about my obvious experience in the sack, insinuating I was slut."

"But…you are a slut." Dale saw the look on Shannon's face and quickly added, "So am I…by our parents standards, anyway."

"By our parents' standards, we would marry the first man we ever slept with and be trapped in a miserable, dead-end marriage with men we didn't love. It's okay that men satisfy their sexual whims but I guess women aren't supposed to. I mean, I get just as horny as any man does and I have every right to scratch that itch just like they do –"

"Shan," Dale stopped her. "You're preaching to the choir."

"Right. Sorry. He really pissed me off. So I gave him his half of what he paid for the room and told him to hit the road."

"And he just went?"

"I don't think he wanted to get me any more riled. He said he'd never seen a woman get as mad as I got."

Dale smiled. "Poor, sheltered boy."

"So here I am, at your disposal."

"Well, good." Dale put her arm around Shannon's shoulder. "And just for the record, you can talk and act anyway you want around me and I promise I'll never call you a slut –"

"You already did."

" - in bed."

"Oh. Well. I never had to worry about that in the first place. Anyway, I have something to tell you."

"That wasn't it?"

"No. Last night, we were driving over near Mobile and we stopped at a liquor store to get some wine for the room. I sat in the car like a dutiful, subservient girlfriend and guess who I saw sitting together in the window of the cozy, romantic Italian restaurant next to the liquor store?"

"Who?" Dale's mind started to race. She skipped ahead of Shannon then danced in front of her. "Bishaye and Colton? Henning and Ritchie? A trainee and a drill sergeant? Joe and Frank Hardy? Rocky and Bullwinkle?"

Shannon glared at her. "Rocky and Bullwinkle?"

"You told me to guess, I was guessing."

"No. Robin and Cassidy."

"Robin and…Cassidy," Dale repeated, undeniably disappointed.

Shannon missed Dale's deflation. "Yes. It probably has nothing to do with the case but it surprised me. It's good information to have possession of, don't you think?"

"Sure, but I agree the information is probably useless to our case." Hmmm, even if she isn't into women, she's still damned nice to look at. "That might explain her behavior toward Michaelson, though."


"Everyone knows Robin would nail Michaelson in a heartbeat if she gave him any indication she wanted to be nailed. I'm sure Cassidy knows it, too. She was probably establishing her territory."

"What territory? Robin's married. And unless Michaelson knew something we didn't until last night, what would be the purpose of it? Michaelson wouldn't understand. Michaelson didn't understand."

"Maybe it's something Cassidy had to do for herself."

"I think they're kind of an odd couple. Cassidy and Holmquist would've made a cuter pair."

A delayed surge of jealousy ran through Dale at the idea of Cassidy with anyone, especially male. They arrived at the coffee shop. Dale opened the door for both of them. "Okay, Yenta, let's eat. I'm starving."

"Are you sure you didn't do anything last night?"

Dale drank copious amounts of coffee but didn't do much damage to the breakfast she ordered. She wasn't sure why the idea of Cassidy with Robin bothered her so much. First, it didn't seem to make sense. Cassidy was a beautiful woman, she should have been able to find a man who wasn't married and second, she couldn't decipher why she was so disturbed that Cassidy was with anyone. It's not like there was ever going to be any promise for her, regardless of what Cassidy's circumstances or orientation were. Dale tried to put it out of her mind.

After breakfast and helping to clear everyone out of the hotel rooms, Dale and Shannon split up again until the next day. Dale stayed in town again, participating in another multi-room party, this time on the first floor, that started early in the afternoon and raged on until the wee hours of the morning. This made Dale's job easy because three-quarters of Alpha-10 were there. The regular couples paired off and nothing happened to raise Dale's suspicions.

Shannon hit all of the on-post hot spots and found everything running normally smooth. At one point, when she went back to the barracks to get a heavier sweater out of her locker to help fight off the sudden dampness of the evening, she talked Michaelson into accompanying her to the Pizza Place for a while. Michaelson drank only soft drinks and split a portion of a pizza with Shannon and Segore. When they were done, Michaelson and Segore walked back to the barracks and were in their respective bunks by ten o'clock.

Shannon had never met anyone as dedicated as Michaelson. The stunning blonde private had the opportunity to be the busiest, most popular woman on post and she shunned it all in favor of her studying and her fitness. She was never rude or unfriendly to anyone, she just didn't ever seem to break down and become quite human. Half of female population of A-10 was relieved she had removed herself from the competition but it made Shannon curious.

Michaelson had done nothing to draw attention to herself, other than being in a different frame of mind from the rest, nor did she fall into any of the other patterns of preceding women who had pressed charges or had been victims, whatever the previous situations turned out to be. Shannon decided that Michaelson's behavior was nothing to worry about. Michaelson probably wanted to be the best soldier possible and Shannon figured she was channeling all her energy into training. Some people just weren't the partying type. Shannon chuckled to herself; she just couldn't understand those people.

Shannon spent the night in the barracks and Dale, with most of the others who shared the rooms, came back to the post early. Quite a few passed out on their bunks but a small group still felt the need to squeeze every ounce of life into their time, so they went to the bowling alley. Dale hated bowling but she was not ready to take a nap, either.

Once at the alley and after they had secured a lane, Dale decided to watch the group as opposed to participating. They had to share a seating area with another group that, in the beginning, no one seemed to object to. Dale noticed that one male member was intently interested in her group's conversation. When he heard one of the males mention something about training, it was as though an alarm went off that cued him to behave like an obnoxious jerk.

On her way back from picking up her spare, Lehr made the mistake of sitting down on their side. The interested young man stepped in front of her and leaned his face into hers. "What do you think you're doing, Private?" his voice boomed at her. His friends looked on, amused.

Lehr looked up at him, confused. "I'm sitting."

"You mean, 'I'm sitting, Sergeant'," he corrected.

Lehr hesitated. She wasn't sure of the protocol when both parties were out of uniform, so she continued to stare at him.

"What are you? Stupid? You're in my seat!" he told her.

Lehr looked over at the empty chairs next to her. "There are three empty chairs right there."

"I said," he emphasized, raising his voice, "you are in my seat!"

Dale rolled her eyes. She was tired and not in the mood for the rank game garbage. She was about three days away from her period and there was rising irritability in her system so the timing of this man's folly was unfortunate.

Lehr started to get up but Dale was next to her before she could actually stand. "Stay put," Dale told her. She looked at the man who claimed to be a sergeant. "Let me see some ID."

He blinked at Dale, clearly surprised by her boldness. "I don't have to show you shit."

"I didn't ask to see shit, I asked to see your military ID. Before any of us do anything for you, we just want to make sure you're not some asshole bully private fucking around with us." Dale's voice or stance didn't waver.

He pulled his identification out of his wallet and shoved it in her face. The rank said Specialist 5th Class, pay grade status of E5. He just as quickly put it away. "Now, let me see yours," he spat out.

Dale retrieved her ID and let him take a good long look at it. "In case you can't read, I'll pronounce it and spell it for you," she said, unruffled. She was in one of those moods where she wished she could whip out her real ID and make him do what he was trying to make them do. I outrank you, you pompous shit, Dale thought. You have no idea who you're fucking with and I wish I could tell you how dangerous it is to assume.

At the sound of "Ooooooo…" from his companions, the man got into Dale's face. "You're in serious trouble, Private Oakes. I'm going to have to report you to your C.O."

"For what?" Dale almost laughed at him.

"Insubordination. In the meantime, all of you get down and knock me out some push-ups," he pointed to Dale's group.

"Fuck you," Dale said, wearily. "We're in civvies and so are you. This is not a training environment and none of us are doing squat for you, got it?"

The Spec5 was now beet red. "You are in so much trouble, young lady. I want your service number and I want it right now!" Someone handed him a pen.

"Do you have a Privacy Act Statement on you?" Dale asked.

"No," he said. Obviously he had not expected a challenge as he began to sound not as confident.

"Then I don't think so, Specialist, but I'll make it real easy on you." Dale looked at Lehr. "Go call the company and see if you can get one of our drill sergeants down here. I'm sure he or she will be more than willing to straighten this out."

Lehr left for the phone and the young specialist blanched just as Dale figured he would. Chances were that no one had ever called his bluff before. They stared each other down and Dale didn't budge. He finally spoke to her. "Well, Private Oakes, you've lucked out. I remember how it was when I was a trainee and I wouldn't want to have to deal with the kind of punishment you're going to face by getting your drill sergeant all the way down here to find out that you and your friends have a disciplinary problem. So we're just going to drop it. How about that?"

Dale's eyes tightened. "How about not? I think you're a bully and a coward and out of line and I think I'll wait here to see if my drill sergeant agrees with me."

Lehr returned. "It's Cassidy. She's on her way down."

Dale did not change her determined expression but, inwardly, was not reassured. If Holmquist had been on duty, his loyalty to them would have backed Dale up, especially if – as Shannon suspected – he was interested in her. Cassidy, on the other hand, was still a mystery and her allegiance could go either way.

Anger and embarrassment burned in the specialist's face. He turned to his friends. "Come on, let's get out of here. Now."

"We just started our second game, Gabe," on of his friends protested.

"I said we're out of here. Now let's move," he snapped to his friends. Within a minute they were packed up and gone.

"All right, Oakes!" Lehr, Mackey, Snead and another GI chorused. Two other males in their party, Wolfe and Stillwell, weren't as impressed.

"You're nuts, Oakes. What happens if he reports us?" Wolfe asked.

"Do you really think if that asshole was in the right that he would have taken off so damned fast? He was exercising authority over us that he really didn't have, showing off to his friends. If you wanted to play along with him and look like an idiot, then you should have spoken up and said so." Dale also wasn't in the mood for skeptical hindsight, either.

"Hey!" Wolfe took a threatening step toward her, insulted. "Unlike them, I'm not blown away by your big mouth!"

"Then you should have kissed his ass and got down and knocked out the push-ups," Dale countered.

"What's going on here?"

They all turned to see Cassidy standing there. Her eyes were blazing a hole into Dale and she did not look pleased to be there. Everyone but Dale surrounded Cassidy and started talking at once. Dale sat in a chair and watched her fellow trainees.

Cassidy calmed them all down and listened to their stories one by one. When she felt she had all the facts, confirmed by what the gentleman behind the shoe counter told her, she looked over at Dale. "All right. Everybody go back to your game. Private Oakes? Outside."

As Dale stood up to follow Cassidy outside, she heard Stillwell say to Wolfe, "I knew she came on too strong."

Outside, Cassidy stopped and turned to Dale. "What happened in there, Private Oakes?"

Dale looked at the ground. It was difficult to look at Cassidy and not picture her in bed, having sex with Drill Sergeant Robin. Then, of course, that visual segued into just Cassidy in bed. It was unnerving. "What happened was everything you heard in there, Drill Sergeant. The guy was trying to ruin our afternoon by being obnoxious. I asked to see his ID because, for all we knew, he could have been a slick-sleeve screwing around with us. We were just minding our own business, Drill Sergeant."

Cassidy folded her arms. Her tone was reasonable, not upset. "This is the Army, Private Oakes. There is no such thing as your own business to mind anymore. I'd prefer you look at me when I talk to you." Dale's eyes met hers. "I'm not going to tell you what you did was bad. You had every right to ask to see his ID and you were also correct to request one of us from the company. However…he was still an NCO and you shouldn't have said 'fuck you' to him." Cassidy smirked. "Whether he deserved it or not."

Dale nodded. "Yes, Drill Sergeant."

"Do you remember this young man's name?"

"Chase, Drill Sergeant. Specialist Fifth Class Gabriel Thomas Chase."

"I will track him down and we will have a chat. In the meantime, I'm going to highly suggest you watch your temper. This is not the streets, you can't just say whatever you want to whomever you want anymore."

"I understand that, Drill Sergeant." Dale was bewildered by the current of excitement she still felt around this woman that seemed…mutual. It had to be her imagination. Wishful thinking wouldn't make it so. It had to be the rush of hormones.

"I hope so. From everything I've heard, you're a good soldier. Don't get caught up on a technicality you can control."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

She held the door open for Dale, who entered the bowling alley to join her friends. Cassidy turned and walked back toward Tenth Battalion. Dale was suddenly depressed. She wasn't sure if she'd made points with Cassidy or disappointed her and then was more pissed off at herself because she wasted the energy caring.


Chapter Twenty-one

At 1930 hours that evening, the company was called into a formation on the south patio and advised that they would start a week of combat orientation the next morning. All platoon drill sergeants were present as the trainees packed up their duffel bags and prepared to move out to the Bivouac site tomorrow at 0700. The unpredictable and unusually cold weather was only a part of the reason the company faced the week with dread. Simulated wargames mixed with outdoor training for the next one hundred eight hours was not anyone's idea of a swell time and that included the drill sergeants.

The company was awakened at 0330 to draw their weapons from the Arms Room and provisions from the Supply Room. After chow, the trainees were loaded up in three deuce-and-a-halfs and, with Lieutenant Henning brightly waving them off, were transported to their Bivouac site deep into the woods of Fort McCullough.

The women were separated from the men and allocated a small area to set up their two-man tents. Dale was assigned a tent with Mroz and Shannon with Wachsman. Even though the air was bitterly cold and the ground was frozen solid, the women erected their tents to standard regulations without the help from the males or any of the drill sergeants. The exercise of digging the surrounding trenches and the pounding of the stakes kept the women warm, at least for a while.

After the tents had all been raised, the trainees were marched to an area where bleachers were set up. Once the company was seated, they had a class in D-TOC, which stood for Divisional Tactical Operation Center. In a combat situation, it would be one of an MPs many duties to not only operate from this integral area but to protect it as well.

At lunch, Alpha Company experienced their first taste of c-rations. C-rations were usually issued during field maneuvers or actual combat when fresh foods (a-rations) and food prepared in mess halls and transported to the fields (b-rations) were not available or were impractical. C-rations consisted of individual cans of pre-cooked meat (tuna, if you lucked out), fruit, cookies, crackers, coffee, jam and sugar. The meal neither satisfied nor filled anyone up. It was going to be a long week where food was concerned.

The afternoon began harmlessly enough with a class on Processing Prisoners of War. The trainees were told and shown how to search prisoners for weapons, military equipment or documents and to search the vicinity of the capture point for the same. They were told that the POWs must be segregated into groups by nationality, rank and sex and to maintain control of the prisoners by keeping them silent. The POWs then had to be sped to the rear area for confinement and the prisoners had to be safeguarded against harm or escape.

The field instructors also told the trainees that any personal property or documents taken from a prisoner had to be itemized and described in detail on a receipt, with a copy given to that prisoner. POWs or stragglers (a military person in a combat zone or maneuvers who is away from his/her unit without proper authority) were process and kept at a Circulation Control Post (CCP). If one paid attention, it was pretty easy, common sense stuff.

It was during this class that the Battalion Commander made a surprise visit to the Bivouac site. The field instructors and the cadre expected her to show up at some point during the weeklong exercise to monitor the company's progress because she usually did but no one thought it'd be the first day.

Bishaye, accompanied by her driver and Command Sergeant Major Soledad, who was also from Battalion Headquarters, stood and observed a class on Processing a Prisoner of War. When it was over and the next group assembled, she stood and discussed the instruction with three instructors, Putnam and McCoy.

Dale never ceased to be amazed by the way men acted around Bishaye. Even the hardcore bunch seemed to melt in her presence. Her looks had a lot to do with it but Dale knew they also respected her mind. Bishaye's reputation as a commander was solid but only because her character as a soldier, dedicated to the military was beyond reproach. Dale watched her laugh at something one of the instructors had said and suddenly she became melancholy; she longed for the time when her relationship with the colonel was less complicated and prickly, when she could easily make Bishaye laugh like that.

As Bishaye continued her conversation, the next class was divided into two groups: those who processed and those who were prisoners. The trainees were told to practice while the field NCOs and the drill sergeants flirted with the brass. The instructors' big mistake was turning their backs on the class.

The five sergeants stood in front of Bishaye and Soledad and outlined the schedule of the next five days as the colonel and the CSM faced the class, listening to the plan. If Bishaye had seen the tiny smile that curled the corner of Dale's upper lip, she might have been more prepared but then, with Dale, she always should have been prepared for something.

As the instructors chatted away, Dale began to help the 'POWs' to their feet, individually. Silently, she put them all in a straight line as her comrades looked at her, confused. The standing order of twelve soldiers caught Bishaye's attention but when she saw Dale back away, tighten her M16 firing adapter, aim her rifle, flip the lever to 'auto' and fire off a clip of blanks at the 'prisoners,' she clearly had all she could do to keep herself from busting out laughing. Everyone jumped and turned to see who was shooting and why.

"Is this what you're teaching your troops, gentlemen?" Bishaye asked.

"No, Ma'am," one of the field instructors said, embarrassed. It took them but a second to figure out what Dale had done.

McCoy excused himself and stalked over to Dale. "Oakes! Come with me!"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant." Dale followed him into the woods.

In a lecture that was conducted about an inch away from Dale's face, one of McCoy's specific inquiries was if Dale had a death wish. He spoke at her in calm intervals of five minutes and then he put her down for twenty-five push-ups between each reprimand. When they emerged from the woods thirty minutes later, Dale was as pale as a ghost and her arms hung limply at her sides. Bishaye and Soledad had since gone and the next class had replaced Dale's. As Dale passed Shannon, she mouthed the words, 'I am dying.' She told Shannon later that she never thought she'd recover the use of her arms.

Dale and McCoy caught up to her group just in time to make the beginning of the class on the duties of a perimeter guard.

"A perimeter guard must completely patrol his assigned area and, in the process, avoid setting regular patterns in his patrol. He must know and comply with all general and special orders and make required and frequent radio checks with headquarters. Any defects in barriers must be reported immediately to a supervisor. Barriers include windows, walls and doors. Once potential breaches of security are reported, immediate action must be taken to prevent all unauthorized entries and exits from the secured area." As the instructor explained what other specific breaches of security were, such as holes in or ditches under the fence line, suspicious persons, washed out areas, poles, ladders, inoperative lights, the group was gassed.

Four people failed to don their masks in time; Dale was one of them and there were two reasons for that. One was her arms weren't functioning properly yet so her speed and coordination were off and the second reason was that the canister of CS had landed right between her feet, not allowing her the nine second time limit before the torturous vapor rose and hit her full in the face.

That action was not an accident. One of the instructors who had felt humiliated by Dale's POW antics had searched the different classes until he found her. He then popped a canister of tear gas and rolled it directly at her so that when the gas escaped, she wouldn't have any time to react.

The amount of fumes she took in with one breath was enough to knock over an ox. Dale coughed from the depths of her lungs, gasped for air and teared uncontrollably. Her skin burned as though her pores were in flames and she felt on the verge of throwing up like she'd never thrown up before. The only thing she cared about at that moment was getting away from the gas and regaining control of at least one of her normal, involuntary functions…such as breathing. The three others who didn't get their masks on in time were responding as helplessly but Dale had been hit the worst.

When she felt as though she were going to live, she looked up to see the culprit standing over her, screaming at her because she'd left her M16 at the spot where she had been gassed. Dale stood upright, the effects still causing tears to stream down her face and her lungs to feel on fire. She was about to tell the instructor that if he was so worried about her M16, she'd bring it back to him and shove it up his ass and that way they could be inseparable but she looked beyond him to see McCoy and Holmquist approaching. McCoy ushered the field instructor away and Holmquist handed Dale her rifle.

"Are you okay, Oakes?" Holmquist asked.

"I am now." Dale still coughed hard, the burn in her throat, intense. "I'm just mad, Drill Sergeant. He went after me on purpose."

"I'm sure I don't need to remind you that almost an hour ago, it was him being embarrassed by you."

"And I was disciplined for it, Drill Sergeant." Dale accepted Holmquist's canteen and poured water in her eyes to help flush the residual chemical remnants. She wanted to rub her eyes but knew that would only make it worse and wiping them with her jacket sleeve would just distribute more of the gas that lingered on her clothing.

"Yes but not by him." Holmquist accepted his now empty canteen back. Before Dale could protest, Holmquist continued. "Remember, Oakes, this is a simulated time of war. In combat, you can't choose when and under what circumstances you get gassed."

"I understand that, Drill Sergeant, but –"

"No buts. Stay on your toes, Oakes. If this sergeant is targeting you, don't let him. Stay ahead of him. You're a smart soldier. Don't let him do it."

Dale was finally able to focus. She studied Holmquist, impressed. He hadn't called her a 'smart girl,' he called her a smart 'soldier,' no reference to gender at all. She wondered if he understood how much that meant. She tried to manage a smile. "Yes, Drill Sergeant." Shannon was right; Holmquist would definitely be her type if she were still into men.

Twenty minutes later that same field instructor attempted to get the best of Dale again. She had taken Holmquist's advice and kept her eye out for him, not that it mattered this time. Seconds after he jumped out of the brush, popped another canister and threw it right at her, the wind shifted and, unprepared without a mask, the brunt of the small, white cloud blew right back in his face. The troops wasted no time expressing their delight; they applauded.

Dale looked over at Holmqust and he gave her a subtle, 'thumbs up' sign. He nodded and winked at her before turning away. Maybe Bivouac wasn't going to be half bad.

After evening chow, which was brought out to them, semi-hot, by the consolidated mess hall, the trainees were again divided and transported to different areas to practice their D-TOC training. Dale's group of twenty-four was supposedly guarding a general's tent. Twelve soldiers were assigned to work two hours on while the other twelve slept or rested and then they switched and worked in that pattern until morning, when they were relieved.

Inside the general's tent was enough room for everyone's sleeping bag and a working wood stove to at least cut some of the chill. Unless one stood right next to the stove, however, it was still too damp inside and everyone was worried that the drill sergeants or field instructors were going to pull a surprise attack, using CS, so no one slept.

Shannon's group got to guide the "Command Post" that in actuality was the warm wooden dwelling where the drill sergeants slept and was right next to the warmer wooden accommodations where the latrines were. Anyone who was stationed anywhere outside, spent most of their guard time shivering from the cold. If they had put on any more clothing, they would have been immobile but the two sets of long johns plus regular underwear beneath the fatigues, wool shirt, heavy male fatigue jacket, wool scarf, cold weather cap, not to mention the two pairs of socks, wool glove liners and the leather glove shells, just were not warm enough. The women vowed that if the next night was as cold as this one, orders be damned, they would all sleep in the 5' x 12' latrine. They wouldn't be much use frozen solid so if they were going to be yelled at and disciplined, they were bound and determined to be thawed out during the process.

The effects of practically no sleep showed in the early morning Physical Security class. The company sat on the bleachers again and tried to concentrate on what was being taught but they tried harder to stay awake. Private Swan, who had been the instructors' favorite target during class room time in basic training, became the first 'casualty' out in the field. He nodded off while seated on the top tier of the bleachers, fell over to the side, off the structure and onto the frozen ground, knocking himself unconscious and breaking his shoulder in the process. After the excitement was over, the class continued as though nothing had happened.

The next class consisted of the particulars of working a gate or as it was technically called, "Security Procedures for Entrance To and Exit From a Controlled Area." The company was instructed on what was considered proper authority for entering and exiting personnel for movement control. This included personnel on foot or in a vehicle and how to check property, package and material movement to make sure it was authorized for entry/exit. The trainees were shown how to check the registration log for all vehicles to ensure the vehicle met with all requirements on the document. They were also told to report any and every violation as a breach of security.

That afternoon, while half the company learned about Route Reconnaissance and how to conduct a hasty one, the other half of the company learned how to install and operate a field telephone and prevent and reduce jamming. The instructors also spoke about how to authenticate transmissions and understand and recognize the duress codes system.

At nightfall, Dale and a large group participated in a long, exhausting blackout convoy, which turned into Night #2 without sleep. Half the night was spent getting to their destination and the other half was spent getting back. Dale shared a jeep with two of the males who had accompanied her to the Enlisted Club and although it broke some of the monotony, it did not help the dragging hours become shorter.

Shannon had been selected to stand guard at a 'missile site,' which was nothing more than a bunch of trash barrels clumped together. It was pitch black where they had assigned her and she finally chose an area between two trees as her best lookout point when she wasn't patrolling the perimeter.

Earlier in the evening, she had assumed correctly that one of the drill sergeants would try to sneak up on her. At the beginning of her fifth perimeter patrol, she heard a noise that sounded like shoes rustling through the grass. She turned around, suddenly alert, and dove toward the two trees and rolled behind one for cover. She focused and could see a figure low-crawling toward her about twenty meters away. Shannon, armed with a clip of blank rounds, flipped her selector level over to 'semi' and aimed her M16 at the shadow. She yelled an obligatory "Halt, who goes there?" with a lot of authority behind it, the only quiver in her voice caused by the cold. When she tried to locate the shadow again, it was gone

"Shit," she whispered. She stuck her head up slightly above the rifle for a better view. She switched the lever to 'safe' and stood up, carefully shielding herself behind one of the trees. She stood very still and listened for movement but heard nothing. How could she have lost him like that? After a few minutes, she decided to proceed with her perimeter patrol and as she turned around, she came nose-to-barrel with Robin's M16.

"Bang, you're dead," was all he said.

He must have based his own movements on every time she took a step so that she couldn't hear him. Although he had scared her half-to-death, she was as impressed by his performance as he was with hers.

"You did very well, Walker," he told her, proudly. "You came the closest of anyone to actually shooting me, actually even pinpointing my position." He ordered her to continue her mission until she was relieved or rounded up and then he was off to 'kill' another trainee.

Ten minutes later, she heard two shots and a scream of fright that could have woke the dead in three states. Shannon found out the next morning that Robin had sneaked up on Chillemi, whose post was closest to hers, startled Chillemi senseless, which provoked her to fire off two rounds randomly just because her finger was welded to the trigger while she ran in place, screaming in fright, peeing her pants. Despite the animosity, Shannon felt bad for Chillemi, having to remain out in the freezing cold, in wet pants for the rest of the shift. Welcome to the Army, Jarine, Shannon thought.

After breakfast, the company spent the morning being tested on what they had learned so far. Dale's high point was, after she had passed all her 'hands-on' testing, she got to participate in a little role-playing to help out with others being quizzed. Cassidy picked her to be the undercover enemy soldier trying to get through a controlled area. Out of ten trainees she tried to get by, only two of them did everything correctly. The other eight she 'blew up' with a 'bomb' in an envelope she was hand carrying. Most of the trainees were too tired at that point to care about specifics. Cassidy assured them that was what the enemy would be counting on.

The company dined on c-rations for lunch then pulled up stakes, packed everything up and marched to another Bivouac site. They had been set up for about fifteen minutes when they were allowed another c-ration break, called supper. After chow, the troops were divided into smaller groups and given their assignments for the night.

Dale had started her period the day they had hit the field. That was never fun when opportunities to change her tampon were few and super tampons were not always comfortable nor absorbent enough to leave in for the length of time she needed to until she had the chance to remedy the situation. If there was one disadvantage to women in the field, it was that. It was more of an annoyance than a deterrent and Dale was determined not to let it interfere with her training. Her cramping and her lack of sleep, however, contributed to her foul mood. She agreed that Bivouac was essential to Army training but sleep was more essential to the human body. She wasn't sure about any of the other groups but all of the soldiers she'd had classes with so far had not been allotted any real sleep time. She was at the point where she could barely stand upright.

Dale was on perimeter guard and patrolled the tent area were the females were encamped. She was in charge of that post for two hours while whomever was still at the site was allowed two hours to rest. Shannon was scheduled to relieve her and then, Dale would hopefully be able to catch some sleep, even if it was only two hours. Two hours out of two days was better than nothing.

She circled the small, outer edge of the camp for the umpteenth time and stopped when she heard the rustling of leaves close by. She listened for a moment and then she was glad she waited to challenge. She would have felt very foolish asking the two, little black, beady eyes that glared at her, "Who goes there?"

At first she thought it was a raccoon until she shined her flashlight on the furry little beast with the white streak and discovered it to be a skunk.

"Go away. Go on, get out of here," Dale coaxed, firmly, in a harsh whisper. The animal scurried closer. She didn't want to upset the temperamental creature but she couldn't let him freely wander around their camp, either. She made noise with sticks and leaves in hopes that the skunk would scamper away on its own. He didn't budge. Someone was invading his backyard and obviously, he was going to stay there until these trespassers moved. Dale tossed a few small rocks on the ground near him but not at him. Instead of sending out a warning to him, he stamped both front paws on the ground and sent a warning to her. They were at an impasse.

"Please go away," Dale pleaded. She wondered if the he was a she and there were babies around she now couldn't get to. If that were the case, Dale knew the skunk would be committed to getting to them and nothing short of death would stop her. Since Dale wasn't about to kill her, she needed to come up with another solution. While she was thinking about what to do, the skunk inched closer. "Maybe you're hungry. Are you hungry? If I gave you some crackers, would you go away?"

The skunk appeared to listen intently. Dale reached into her pocket and removed a cracker she had saved from supper. She held it out to the skunk and, to her surprise, the skunk approached and gently took the cracker from her and started to chew on it. Dale was about to feed her a second cracker when three gunshots were fired off close by. The noise startled both Dale and the skunk and, as the skunk felt threatened, it sprayed.

Fortunately, the spray was away from Dale and the wind blew in the opposite direction so no spray got directly on her. Unfortunately, the skunk's back end faced the campsite. The skunk was now gone but not with the outcome Dale had hoped for.

It didn't take long for the less-than-fresh odor to assault her nostrils. "Son-of-a-bitch," she gagged as she tried to cover her mouth and nose. She felt her dinner rise in her throat as the smell seemed to freeze and hang suspended around each tent.

It was only a matter of seconds before the perimeter Dale was guarding was alive with activity. The occupants of the tent were now awake and commenting.

"Oh, Goddamn! What's that smell?"

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what died?"

"Put your gas masks on!"

"What the fuck is that smell?"

"Hey, Beltran, did you fart again?"

"Holy Christ, I'm going to cack!"

Everyone was up and out of their tents, searching for the source. Shannon, who was dressed and ready to relieve Dale, sidled up to her. "What'd you do? Challenge Ritchie and lose? You didn't have to shoot him in the stinkpot, you know. You could have tried wrestling him to the ground first."

Dale smiled, sheepishly. "I don't know any more about this than you do."

Shannon studied her partner. "Of course not. Go get your two hours."

Dale crawled into the tent but there was no sleep to be had. The lingering odor was too strong to allow anyone any peace. She hoped no one ever found out she allowed a skunk to get that close; she'd never hear the end of it.

First order of the day was How To Lead An Ambush Against An Enemy Convoy. The troops learned about Point Ambush, Area Ambush and Hasty Ambush. They learned how to select an ambush site, determine the kill zone (the area where the shooting is concentrated to isolate, trap and destroy the target), determine equipment needs, establish communication procedures, coordination fire, execute the ambush, control the ambush element and withdraw. This took all morning. The tired and cranky troops were somewhat pacified by a hot meal brought out to them by the mess hall.

The trainees were called into another formation after chow and ordered to pack up and march to another Bivouac site, two miles away. They spent the rest of the afternoon setting up their tents and digging trenches and foxholes around them. At dusk, the company began to guard their areas and because they were told there would be an 'all-out attack,' they were warned to stay alert.

Dale and Shannon managed to finagle a tent together on their fourth night in the field. They hadn't had but four hours of sleep between them since Bivouac began and, ready to collapse from exhaustion, they built a dummy so it looked like someone was sitting in the foxhole in the dark. They created a cross-figure with two sticks, outfitted it with a dirty set of fatigues and stuffed it with whatever they could find to fill it out. Shannon rolled up and packed her sleeping bag cover so that it looked round enough to be a head and Dale stuck her steel pot on it. Satisfied with the appearance of the "soldier" standing perimeter guard, Shannon and Dale crawled into their sleeping bags and were in deep slumber in a matter of minutes.

About an hour later, in the pitch-blackness, Lieutenant Henning, who had come to the field later that afternoon, decided to make the rounds. She was accompanied by Silva, the company driver. Henning was tired of challenging and being challenged, so when she got to the next soldier, she decided she would like to sit with him or her for a while and discuss the reasons for such security precautions. She had conversed with this unusually quiet and cautious GI for a few minutes before she realized something was not right. She placed her mouth right next to what she decided was an ear and shouted, "What's the matter, soldier? Can't you hear me?"

As she was about to shine her flashlight on the 'trainee's' steel pot to read the name, Silva tapped the soldier's helmet with the butt of his rifle. The 'head' jerked spasmodically off the 'shoulders' and thudded heavily to the bottom of the trench. Henning let out a yelp and then covered her mouth to stifle it. She recovered and lit up the dummy with her flashlight and began to burn. "Whose foxhole is this?"

"Well, Ma'am, I don't know," Silva answered as he reached down to pick up the steel pot.

"Private Walker! Private Oakes!" Henning yelled. She stormed toward the tent and ripped the flap open. She got down on her hands and knees and crawled inside. "Get up!" she hissed at one lump. She slapped the other lump. "I said 'get up!' I want you both outside immediately, if not sooner!"

When she was gone, Dale slowly peeled herself out of her sleeping bag, shivering. She reached over and repeatedly poked Shannon until Shannon made a noise. "We have to get up. Henning's here and she sounds pissed," Dale said, groggily.

"She'll get over it," Shannon mumbled.

"No, seriously, we'd better get up."

Henning paced outside with her arms folded tightly across her chest. She stopped, kicked Shannon's side of the tent and heard an 'ouch' from within. "Get up!" Henning ordered again.

While Shannon arose, Silva chuckled, thinking about the audacious cleverness of the two trainees. Henning cut him off with a sharp glare and shined her flashlight directly in his eyes.

"I find this incident neither amusing nor ingenious, Private Silva," she snapped. "Furthermore, you will mention this to no one. No one. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Ma'am." Silva stood at rigid Attention.

"Not to any of the other platoon members, not to the drill sergeants, not to Sergeant Ritchie and especially not to captain Colton. Is that understood, Mister?"

"Yes, Ma'am." He stared straight ahead, trying to avoid the glare of her flashlight.

Dale and Shannon squirmed out of the tent and stood up. Henning turned around to face them. "You two, stand at Attention." Her voice wasn't loud but it was firm. "Silva, get out of here. Take the jeep, go to the command post and bring me back a cup of coffee. And remember, you say nothing." She looked at him before he walked to the jeep. "I'd better not hear this story coming back to me from any source other than this little group right here."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Henning waited until Silva drove away. She knew she had to keep her voice down because sound traveled during the quiet of the night. She took several deep breaths before she got right in their faces. "Walk with me."

The two undercover lieutenants obeyed and they followed Henning to an isolated area about a quarter mile away.

"I know you two outrank me by time in-service but I feel, in this case, overstepping my boundaries is necessary. What if I had been Ritchie or McCoy or Robin? They might have caused you some real trouble, trouble resulting in restrictions and discipline that prevented you from doing your jobs! Fun is fun and I enjoy a good laugh as much as the next person but this was downright foolish and arrogantly careless!"

"I thought it was rather brilliant, myself," Dale mumbled.

"Oakes -!" Henning thrust her finger forward, nearly stabbing Dale with it.

"Hey, come on, Karen, we're running on empty here," Shannon jumped in.

"That's right. We're as used to this kind of bullshit as anyone," Dale protested. "We've been through it all before, remember? They don't have to drive us this hard."

"For some of us, this is our fourth night without sleep," Shannon said. "The human body cannot function without proper rest and that's a scientific fact! Everybody is run down, they're sick and they are not learning a fucking thing. Now I don't think expecting a few hours sleep is asking too much, do you?" Shannon was suddenly wide awake.

"You've been given sleep time," Henning said.

"Two hours on and off?" Dale asked. "Who can sleep on a schedule like that? You just get settled down and it's time to get up. And if you do manage to fall asleep, there is too much commotion going on, outside the tent, with testing to allow you to stay asleep."

Henning drew a deep breath and blew it out. "I understand your need for sleep and I'm not angry about that. I'm angry at the way you went about it."

"Agreed. We took a chance," Shannon said. "We just reached a point where we got desperate and we didn't care whether we got caught or not. I bet we aren't the only ones you caught sleeping."

"You're not," Henning confessed.

"Then could you please talk to Colton and tell that little SOB that most of the people you challenged were dying from exhaustion? Tell him that a majority of the trainees are using the initials I and G a lot and not in a very loving tone of voice. Tell him to alter the schedule to that we're not doing something every Goddamned minute of the day. Because if he doesn't? We won't bother with complaining to Bishaye, we'll go right to the post commander."

"Sedakis? Yes, I believe that will make the statement you wish to," Henning reassured them.

The next morning after chow, Colton announced during formation that there would be a schedule change. He told the company that they would be given four hours of 'commander's time,' during which he would allow a rest period for those who felt they needed it. With few exceptions, everyone went to sleep, voluntarily giving up their c-rationed cuisine for noon chow.

One o'clock formation completed, the trainees reviewed everything they had learned that week. They packed up and policed their Bivouac site and then were transported back to the company in three deuce-and-a-halfs. They turned in their equipment to supply and cleaned their rifles for the rest of the afternoon. At five o'clock formation, they were set free for another weekend.

It seemed to be when they were in line for a shower that it hit the females that they had just survived five days out in a cold, filthy, nasty environment, playing wargames. The women were pretty proud of themselves and what they had accomplished.

The hot showers revitalized mostly everyone and gave them a surge of energy they thought would be impossible to achieve after their week. While standing behind Michaelson, Shannon asked her to go with them for the evening.

"No, I don't think so," she said, politely. "I'm really very tired but thank you anyway."

"Come on, Michaelson," Dale said, "you've been through a very hard week. You need to wind down. Relax. Have a little fun. You know as well as we do that if you stayed here and tried to sleep, you'd be too hyper. You don't have to stay out with us. Just for a while. What do you say?"

"Well…" she hesitated, "I could use a beer. Are you sure you don't mind?"

"We'd love to have you join us," Shannon confirmed.

"Okay, I'll go," she said, looking pleased with herself. "I'm not sure how long I'll stay, but –"

"That's fine," Shannon said. "Stay as little or as long as you like."

Two hours later, the trio walked into the Pizza Place looking and feeling like entirely different human beings. As packed as it was, as soon as a group of young men from another company took one look at the three women, especially Michaelson, she, Dale and Shannon had themselves a table. After they split a pizza and a pitcher of beer, while Shannon debated a woman's role in the military with the men who gave them the table, Dale and Michaelson partnered off against Buckman and Kulick, two male A-10 members for a game of eight-ball.

Dale and the two guys watched, amazed, as Michaelson expertly cleared the table, calling every shot precisely. After four, easily won games. Dale turned to Michaelson and said, "Is there anything you don't do well?"

Michaelson gave her a noncommittal shrug. "I just like to try and be the best at everything I attempt."

Buckman smiled adorably at her. "Oh yeah? Had any sex lately?"

Michaelson didn't answer him but she laughed. She and Dale turned the pool table back over to Buckman and Kulick, grabbed Shannon and left for the EC.

The trio walked up to the door and paid their two dollar cover charge. "How do you feel about overwhelming attention?" Shannon asked Michaelson.

"I hate it. Why?" Michaelson looked at Shannon and Dale, confused.

"Then this probably wasn't the best place to bring you," Dale said, as they walked through the doorway to the main disco area. Both lieutenants instinctively knew what was going to happen and they were right. It actually felt like time stood still for a minute. Every eye, male and female, seemed to be on Deborah Michaelson and she felt it.

"Oh shit," Michaelson whispered. In the next moment, six men at once asked her to dance.

At first, Dale thought that Michaelson might panic but then it seemed as though she blinked herself into feeling somewhat comfortable with the situation. She displayed a confident smile and declined all six offers in a charming but firm manner. She told Dale and Shannon she liked to dance but she'd rather have a drink first. By the time the three women made their way to the bar, all six men were already there, climbing all over each other to buy the three women drinks.

Michaelson grinned at the blatant display of testosterone overload in the men as more joined the crowd.

"Seriously," one of the men said to the bartender, "give these women any drink they want for the rest of the evening. It's on me." Four others held up money and chimed in with "Me, too!"

"That's really nice of you all to be so generous but let's get one thing straight up front," Michaelson said. Her smile was still in place but her intent was clear. "I can't speak for my friends but if you're buying me a drink because you think it buys me for the evening then don't waste your money. I'm here to dance and have a good time. If you want to buy me a drink just to be nice guys with no strings attached, then have at it. Any other reason? I can afford my own drinks."

The men, along with Dale and Shannon, were stunned into silence. The men weren't used to hearing 'no, thank you' and the two lieutenants weren't used to hearing Michaelson assert herself. The confidence with which she expressed herself only made her more attractive and the men held firm to their offers. Dale was positive that at least one of the males thought plying Michaelson with enough alcohol might change her mind. She was positive Michaelson wouldn't.

The three women drank free for the rest of the evening. Even though Michaelson relaxed quite a bit, she never came close to losing control. She was fascinating to watch as she handled all the adoration thrust upon her and, at one time or another, it appeared as though the entire capacity of the room was either sitting at or gathered around their table. Dale and Shannon might have been insulted if they hadn't agreed that Michaelson deserved the attention. It was obviously good for her quiet ego.

By the end of the evening, both lieutenants deemed the night a rousing success. Michaelson, the belle of the ball, could not stop thanking them and telling them what a great time she'd had. Dale and Shannon invited her to go into town with them, to spend the weekend away from the post but she politely declined. She told them she'd be the rest of the week working off the pizza and beer she'd already consumed. Dale and Shannon told her they understood and packed some necessities and left the barracks.


Chapter Twenty-two

"This is really odd, Dale," Shannon said, the next afternoon at lunch. "We're practically in our fourteenth week. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened."

"Maybe it won't. Maybe whoever is behind all this is skipping a cycle to let things cool down or to throw us off. It shouldn't take a genius to figure out they'd put spies in the cycle to look for it. If I were behind it, I'd skip a cycle."

"So this has been a waste of time."

"I guess we won't know until it's over," Dale said.

Shannon sighed. "At least the worst part is over. LE School is a piece of cake. Hopefully I'll be able to take some leave after this TDY is over and I have to go back to Texas."

"How is old Texas these days?"

"The same; hot, dusty, dry." Shannon finished her coffee. "It could be worse, though. They could've sent me back to Korea. Or to Bayonne."

"No!" Dale said. She mocked horrified. "Not the armpit of New Jersey!"

"Where do you think you'll go?"

"Vermont, remember? I was promised my freedom."

"You won't stay there," Shannon said. "I know the gypsy that possesses your soul."

"I will for a while, until I get bored. Then maybe I'll move where you are," Dale said and grinned. "Just to haunt you."

"You'll have to find me first." Shannon laughed.

"I'll have Bishaye track you down. She found you this time."

"That she did. Just exactly how much does our battalion commander know about me anyway?"

"Probably a hell of a lot more than you want her to," Dale said.

Shannon picked up the bill and looked it over. "Great. Maybe I will find my ass in Bayonne."

The undercover CID agents were brought back to post while tracking down their fellow trainees. For some reason, a majority of the company decided to party closer to 'home' this weekend. Even the individuals and couples who had rented hotel rooms in town were either found at the Pizza Place or the EC.

At the Pizza Place, Dale was ready to leave within the hour. Buckman had been there all day, was completely intoxicated and wouldn't leave Dale alone. He constantly touched her with some part of his body and came on to her overbearingly in the process. Diplomatically, Dale continued to refuse him but her patience wore thin. She waited until her suitor went to the men's room and she left the building, only to run into Shannon, who was on her way in.

Shannon couldn't help but notice Dale's annoyed expression. "What's wrong?"


"Ah. He finally got the balls to go after you, huh?" Shannon chuckled. She lit a cigarette. She had just come from the bowling alley via the barracks.

"Walk with me to the EC," Dale said. "What do you mean, 'he finally got the balls'?"

"Jesus, Dale, Stevie Wonder could see how Buckman lusts after you, I don't know how you can miss it. He's a cute guy. Maybe you should get together with him, Dale. You're getting out after this, it's not like you can get punished for fraternizing and God knows, you need to get laid."

"I need to get laid? Are you saying I'm being bitchy?"

"If the broom fits…"

Dale glared at her partner, then softened. "You're right. I do need to get laid. But it won't be Buckman."

"Why not?"

She wanted to tell Shannon, to just blurt out 'because he's the wrong gender' but she couldn't. She wasn't sure how to say it or, if she did, how her partner would react. As far as Dale knew, Shannon was okay with homosexuality in general but would she feel the same about a close friend? Dale decided not to test her friendship in that direction. She and Shannon needed each other until the end of the assignment and Dale didn't want anything to come between them. Until Dale established herself in a relationship, she didn't feel the need for Shannon to know. After all, Shannon got married and divorced and Dale wasn't aware until after, so maybe the subject of Dale's sexuality should be kept personal until there was a reason to tell Shannon.

"Don't tell me you're waiting for someone special…" Shannon said.

"I don't even know what that means, Shan, much less waiting for it. Buckman is a cute guy, no doubt, but he doesn't do anything for me. Am I horny? Yes. But if I'm going to sleep with someone, I want to be a little more attracted to them than I am to Buckman."

"More like Holmquist?" Shannon teased.

"Would you drop the Holmquist thing? I'm not going to sleep with a drill sergeant, either. I would never hear the end of that if it ever got back to Bishaye."

"And how could it get back to Bishaye?"

Dale stared at Shannon. "Have you learned nothing about her since you've been here? I know she doesn't look green and ugly but I wouldn't be surprised to find out she has a crystal ball and flying monkeys."

Shannon opened her mouth but shut it just as quickly. Finally, she said, "I don't think I have a comeback for that."

The moment they entered the Enlisted Club, they were in the outskirts of a fight. The two lieutenants inched their way around the mob and made it to the disco room, unharmed. They surveyed the room first to absorb the atmosphere. Everything appeared routine until they were at the bar, ordering drinks, and Shannon saw a couple of men giving Hewett and Segore a hard time. Another male GI approached their table, pulled a reluctant Hewett to her feet and dragged her to the dance floor. Shannon poked Dale and made her aware of the situation. They set down their beers.

"I hate this kind of bullshit," Dale said, steamed. "I'll take Fred Astaire." Shannon nodded and headed toward the table. Dale approached her target on the dance floor and stood next to a frightened Hewett. She assumed that Hewett wasn't so much intimidated as trying to figure out how to get out of the situation without her name ending up on a list. Dale ignored the GI and shouted to Hewett over the music. "Hi, Kerrie. I thought you said you'd never come here."

A look of relief crossed the young Mormon's face and she said. "I should have stuck to my guns."

"Hey! What are you? Stupid? We're dancing here! Get lost!" The GI's tone was nasty and his words were slightly slurred.

Dale looked at him, blandly. "Is that what you call this? A dance? Looked more like an abduction to me." She quickly reached over, snatched his wrist and used a pressure point to cause him to release his death grip on Hewett. "Kerrie, go help Shannon and Marilyn, okay?" Dale didn't take her eyes off the soldier. "Gene Kelly and I need to have a chat."

As Hewett left them, the young man tried to break away from Dale's grasp but Dale turned his hand in a direction it wasn't physically designed to go, causing him agony. It was a simple, discreet move that brought little or no attention to either of them on the crowded dance floor.

"Pretend you're dancing with me or I'll break your hand," Dale said in his ear. "If you make any sudden moves, I'll drop you and then I'll break your balls." Dale looked him in the eyes so that he could make certain she wasn't kidding. He danced.

In the meantime, Shannon had stepped between Marilyn Segore, who was still seated and the young man who was giving her a hard time. "The lady obviously doesn't want your company," Shannon told him. "Go find someone who does."

He took a step toward Shannon that would have been more threatening if he hadn't been off-balance. "Fuck you! I'll be with who I want when I want."

"You boys are drunk," Shannon said to the two male GIs at the table. "Don't get yourself into more trouble than it's worth. Let's all just say goodnight and you guys walk away."

"Let's say we don't," the seated soldier told her.

"So you just want to ruin everybody's good time," Shannon said.

"You go away and we'll continue our good time," he said.

"Yeah. I just bet you will. Okay," Shannon said, "I wanted to make this easy but we'll play it your way." She gestured to Dale on the dance floor. "See my friend out there with your friend? As soon as you two leave our friends here alone, your friend will be released. But if you stay here and insist on being foolish, your friend will not be very happy. He will be very sore and walking and talking very funny. Understand?" It was difficult sounding like she meant business when she had to practically scream to make herself heard over the music and noise.

The two men looked at their friend, dancing, and then back at Shannon. "He doesn't look like he's any trouble to me," the one who was sitting said. He stood up and took a step toward Shannon. "Now unless you want to join the fun, get-"

Shannon stuck two fingers directly under his left collarbone, hitting a pressure point, and easily pushed him back a few steps. "Kerrie, go get Sergeant Bascomb at the door and tell him what's happening."

Hewett wasted no time following Shannon's orders and knowing where she was going made the two GIs stand still. Shannon nodded her head toward Dale and the men looked at their buddy. His expression registered discomfort. Dale took a step back, enough to let them see that she had a handful of their buddy's genitals. It wasn't a loving grasp and the sight of it made them wince. She stepped back into the dance and continued to 'guide' the GI around the floor.

The young man who had been pushed away by Shannon looked at his friend. "Come on, Dave, let's get out of here."

Dave, the other belligerent male, shook his head, defiantly. "No! Fuck these chicks, man. Don't be a pussy!" He then looked at Shannon. "Get lost, bitch, or you'll have a face-full of my fist."

"Oooh, tough guy, huh? That make you feel like a real man? Intimidating women and threatening to beat them up? Is that the only way you can prove your manhood? Huh? Tough guy?"

The man called Dave grabbed both of Shannon's wrists and held on so tightly, it began to cut off her circulation. "Now what are you going to do? Huh? Tough girl? Maybe you and I should get on the dance floor with your friend," he said to her, triumphantly.

From the corner of her eye, Shannon saw Bascomb in the doorway with Hewett, who pointed in their direction. Bascomb signaled to someone and started toward them but Shannon wanted this one all to herself.

She tried to force her wrists together, knowing that would automatically make Dave try to keep her wrists apart. Then she changed momentum and tried to force her wrists further apart, which instinctively made him resist her effort by forcing her wrists toward each other. At that point, Shannon gave in to the impetus and when her wrists swung together, she passed her right wrist just below her left and, suddenly, without Dave even realizing it, he was holding on to her left wrist with both hands. With her free arm, she used the heel of her right hand to smash him in the nose, sending him sprawling backward, blood everywhere.

Bascomb and the other bouncer reached the group and, witnessing what just happened, the doorman burst out laughing. He looked at Shannon. "Next time, we'll call you," he said.

Dale saw that everything now seemed to be under control and assisted her dance partner over to the group. She let him go and he immediately fell to his knees in front of Bascomb. Bascomb and the bouncer then escorted the three young men out of the disco and to the EC main office.

Segore and Hewett gaped at Dale and Shannon, who wiped blood off her hand with a napkin dipped in beer. "Where did you learn to do that?" Segore asked Shannon.

Shannon looked at her hand. She gestured to the napkin and the glass of draft beer. "It made sense. We didn't have any water and –"

"No, all that karate stuff you just did," Segore said.

"I don't know karate," Shannon said, laughing it off.

"Well, what was that you just did?" Segore asked.

"She picked that up on TV," Dale said, quickly. "Kerrie, what are you doing here? In a bar? Drinking?"

Kerrie Hewett looked at both of them as though they had lost their minds. "Don't you think I've earned it?"

Dale and Shannon exchanged glances. "True. If anything can drive you to drink, the Army can."

The two lieutenants sat down with Hewett and Segore and spent the rest of the evening there. Predictably, there was no more trouble from overanxious GIs but there was this one sergeant on the EC staff who kept propositioning Dale. I'm going to have to change my perfume, Dale thought. It attracted all the wrong attention.

At first, the NCO seemed very nice but after several of Dale's polite but firm refusals, he became persistently obnoxious. Dale hated to be pressured for sex and being that this was the second incident in four hours, she was ready to call it a night. She knew she had to be careful how she dealt with him and his ego; she didn't want to offend him to the point of banning her from the EC. When the sergeant left her to take care of a problem in a different section of the bar, Dale turned to Shannon and said, "I have to get out of here. This guy is driving me nuts."

"Hell, Dale, he's a handsome guy. Why not go for a little ride with him? All he wants is sex and you agreed you need to get laid."

"I don't know him. And, last time I went for a ride with someone I didn't know, I almost didn't come back."

Shannon looked at her partner pragmatically. "I forgot about that. I'm sorry."

"Unfortunately, I can't forget it." She patted Shannon's shoulder as the NCO returned and sat down next to Dale.

She finally got rid of him by telling him in a suggestive tone of voice that she would love to go for a ride with him. Then she asked him if he knew if penicillin went into effect the first day of the shot. When he asked what she was on penicillin for, she winked at him and told him he wasn't the only guy she went for rides with. He suddenly had other things to do and when he left the table this time, he didn't come back. Why didn't I think of that sooner? Dale thought.

Segore and Hewett left the EC an hour earlier. Dale and Shannon decided to leave when the lights came on and the bar closed down. On the way out, they thanked Bascomb again for his rapid response.

Once Dale and Shannon were outside and around the corner of the entrance with no one in sight, they were confronted by the two GIs they had hurt earlier.

"You broke my fucking nose, bitch!" Dave, the bandaged soldier, yelled at Shannon.

Shannon took a deep breath, tried to stay calm and act unfazed. "You're 'fucking' nose? Jeez, I'm sorry. If I'd known that's what you used it for, I would have aimed much lower."

"You two think you're real cute, don't you?" the other man asked.

"Look, anything you got, you deserved," Shannon said.

A balisong materialized in Dave's hand. He held it toward them and flicked it open in a display of well-practiced ease. "Just like anything that happens to you, you're going to deserve."

Both women blanched at the sight of the butterfly knife, realizing this incident had just taken a much more serious turn. They knew, in purposes of defending themselves that a knife was just an extension of the attacker's arm but if miscalculated, it could be a lethal extension.

"That's going to get you real far," Shannon said. "You use that thing on us or to force us to do something, you know we're going to turn you in."

"If we don't kill you first," Dale said. This was a tone of voice Shannon had never heard in Dale before. It was even, controlled and cold. It made the little hairs on the back of neck rise. Shannon was well aware of Dale's fighting skills and she instinctively knew that Dale was not going to be taken down alive again.

"Look, guys, too many people saw what happened in there tonight. Even if we didn't say anything or you thought it was important enough to kill us, you'd be the first people to be questioned. Is a little hurt pride worth the rest of your lives in Leavenworth?" Shannon said.

"We just wanted to have a good time tonight and you took that away from us," the soldier Dale had injured said. "So we think you owe us some fun."

"You're idea of fun is not our idea of fun and you'll still get thrown in jail," Shannon said.

"If we don't kill you first," Dale repeated. She hadn't lost any edge to her voice.

"You said that already," Shannon reminded her.

"I mean it," Dale said, quietly. She hadn't taken her eyes off the knife since Dave pulled it out.

"Come on, Dave," the other man said, finally. "Let's go. They're right. I don't need any more trouble."

"No! They humiliated us!" Dave yelled at him.

"How does it feel?" Dale asked. "What do you think you did to those girls in there? What do you think you'd be doing to us if we didn't resist your plan to 'have some fun'? And we only made you feel a little bit of the way you make women feel when you don't take no for an answer. Let me tell you something, if you boys get thrown in Leavenworth, you'll know exactly how it feels when someone doesn't take no for an answer."

Bascomb and another club worker walked around the corner and stopped at the sight of Dale and Shannon with the two offenders. "Don't tell me these yay-hoos are bothering you again."

"No, Sergeant," Shannon said, as Dave quietly closed the knife and put it in his pocket. "These gentlemen were just apologizing for their behavior tonight and promised not to do it again. Right, fellas?"

Dave and his friend looked from Dale and Shannon to the two massive NCOs standing next to them. "That's right, Sergeant. We were just leaving."

"I think that's wise," Bascomb said. He and the other sergeant waited until the two lower enlisted GIs were out of their sight. "So what really happened?"

"Nothing," Dale said. "Although, next time they come in, you might want to check them for weapons."

"Why?" Bascomb's eyes narrowed.

"Just a hunch."

"They won't be allowed back in for a month and I'll have to send the report to their C.O. so I assume they'll be cooling their heels on company restriction for that thirty days," Bascomb said.

"Why thirty days? I thought the norm was fourteen days," Shannon said.

"It's at my discretion and I figured in thirty days, you two will be out of here and I don't want guys behaving like that to chase away two of my best customers." Bascomb grinned. "Come on, we'll give you a lift back to your barracks."

After they were dropped at the corner of Bravo-10, Dale and Shannon jogged to the company area. Dale did a walk-through of the bay as Shannon visited with Wachsman, who was fireguard.

"Where is everybody?" she asked Wachsman, who just finished polishing her boots.

"Some went to Atlanta. The rest? Who knows? Hey, Segore and Hewett couldn't stop talking about what happened at the EC and how you and Oakes really cooked in taking control of the situation."

Shannon sighed. "I wish they hadn't. If it gets back to the drill sergeants, Oakes and I could get into a lot of trouble for fighting and the four of us could get into hot water just for admitting to having been at the EC. How many people did they tell?"

"Oh, just the twenty of us who were hanging around the barracks."

"Great. I guess we're just going to have to put ourselves at the mercy of everyone's better judgment and beg for secrecy in the morning."

"I don't think anyone will say anything. Good thing Snow wasn't here, though."

Shannon smirked. With what she had on Snow, she was pretty sure Snow wouldn't have said a word. If that was her biggest threat then she was positive they were home free on the EC incident.

Dale had CQ starting at noon the next day. While she performed eight hours of that tedious task with an extremely apologetic Buckman as her runner, Shannon traveled around the post and in town trying to find out who went where and with whom.

At nine that evening, when Dale was off-duty, she showered and changed into civilian clothes and headed to Averill to join Shannon. The Journey Inn had no vacancies but that didn't stop them. They partied with a majority of the company and sacked out on the floor in a room with Mackey, Lehr, Wachsman and Lange.

This was the first three-day weekend the trainees had. Washington's birthday was a celebrated holiday on military reservations also. If Dale had not had to work that day between, she and Shannon would have certainly tried to devise a valid excuse to have landed somewhere in the vicinity of the Atlanta Underground. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be.

After they wandered around Averill for a while, most of the company members who were in town, returned to McCullough and wound down at the Pizza Place. Tramonte, Jaffe, Minkler and Newcomb, who had used the three days to take a trip home, also returned. Travis had planned to either head home or have her husband fly down to Averill but she was scheduled for CQ right after Dale, so that ruined her plans. Dale had mentioned to Shannon that she thought Travis having been scheduled for duty was done purposely. It didn't help Travis like the system any more and her attitude continued to sour.

Dale used the ay phone close to the Pizza Place to try and call Bishaye. After three attempts with no answer, she gave up.


Chapter Twenty-three

Shannon reported to sick call the next morning with an upset stomach. While she was gone, Ritchie held a surprise locker and gear inspection. With few exceptions, no one passed. The senior drill sergeant was unreasonably angry at the condition of the barracks, the lockers and the equipment and ranted at the 0700 formation. He informed the troops that there would be another inspection Wednesday morning. Anyone who didn't pass that would be restricted for the weekend.

Shannon was given something to help settle her stomach and she rejoined her company at the gym. Today was the start of their twenty hours of self-defense training.

Before the class began, Travis approached Robin and asked him to please tell her by Wednesday evening if she was going to be restricted for anything because her husband planned to fly down for the weekend. If she was not going to be available, she did not want her husband to waste the time or the money. Robin assured her that he would let her know.

The first hour of self-defense training was mostly an introduction to the type of moves they would be learning and the three hours after that would be spent applying and rehearsing defense against choke holds. The instructors told the class that action against those particular holds must be swift and successful. Speed was imperative, the instructors emphasized, because within five-to-seven seconds, one could be unconscious and within ten-to-fourteen seconds, one could be dead.

The trainees were made to partner off with someone of the same gender and practiced moves called the Throat Push-Off, Front Windmill Defense and the Rear Windmill Defense. They were told to not hold back or be gentle with their "attacker" so when everyone was released for noon chow, it was suddenly difficult to do tiny little things like stand, sit or swallow because everyone's body was rebelling against the abuse it had just received.

Shannon still felt out of it by the afternoon and wondered if she had picked up a stomach flu or something. She forged ahead even though she felt like running to find Ritchie, stick her finger down her throat and throw up on his carefully spit-shined boots.

Staff Sergeant Duane Halloren and two others conducted the Interpersonal Communications class while one or two company drill sergeants monitored. The purpose of the instructors in this class, among other things, was to attempt to provoke the trainees into a negative response, in spite of themselves. This was to see how much stress they could take because, after all, as they were repeatedly told, as MPs they would sometimes be under an unbearable amount.

For some unknown reason, Halloren selected Shannon to pick on. She reasoned later that it was most likely because if she looked as sick as she felt, she probably came across as weak. She was not in the mood for verbal sparring and she let Halloren get away with humiliating her with his situational attacks at least three times. She stayed calm but after the third time she started to do a slow burn that began to rival her fever.

Ten minutes after his last strike against Shannon, Halloren incorrectly sensed he had a prime target in her and pounced again. He presented her with another nonsensical, hypothetical situation and, although she answered correctly, he was less than pleased with her response.

"Private Walker, can you produce evidence to support that statement?" Halloren asked.

"I'm sure I could produce it," Shannon answered him.

"Do you have it on you this very minute?"

"Well, no, but –"

"Then again, I have no choice but to label you an incompetent liar," Halloren said, triumphantly. He got smiles from his fellow instructors and hope he had finally proved his point to this irritating female student.

"Sergeant Halloren," Shannon said. She did not look up at him.

"Yes, Private Walker?"

"Can you produce your parent's marriage certificate?"

"Yes," he answered, cautiously, "I can produce it…"

"Do you have it on you this very minute?"


"Then I guess I have no other choice than to label you a bastard," Shannon said, with more strength and confidence in your voice than she'd had all day. They locked stares as her classmates hooted, hollered and clapped their approval for her comeback.

"Private Walker, I'd like to see you outside," Halloren said. His tone of voice wasn't as triumphant as it had been. He headed toward the door.

As Shannon rose from her desk, she heard, "That's okay, Sergeant Halloren, I'll deal with Private Walker later. I'd rather not have her miss any of this class, if that's okay with you." The voice belonged to Cassidy, who had been monitoring in the back.

Halloren stopped and glared at Cassidy but she didn't back down. He gave in and continued the class but he wisely chose to leave Shannon alone for the duration of the course.

Outside the classroom, during a cigarette break, Cassidy ushered Shannon away from everyone. Shannon looked at her defiantly, expecting a lecture on insubordination. Cassidy couldn't help but break into a grin. "At ease, Walker, I'm not going to yell at you. As a woman – as an individual – I agree with what you did. As a sergeant…" She took a deep breath and released it. "Oh, what the hell, I still agree with what you did but that doesn't give you free rein to do it again. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Shannon said. She suddenly felt better. Cassidy was turning out to be not half-bad.

"Good. Consider yourself chastised, should anyone ask."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Shannon said.

"I want to know if he says or does anything to you out of line when I'm not around. Now get back with your group."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant."

Halloren ignored her the rest of the day.

The locker inspection was held after 0700 formation. The word spread quickly that everyone had passed.

At 0800, the company was put back into formation and marched over to the gym for more self-defense training. Again, the instructors partnered the females with each other and the males with other males. Dale and Shannon were not the only two to think this was unfair but, being it was only the second day, they remained silent and did what they were told.

They practiced what they had learned the day before and then there were shown what were known as "come-along holds." The come-along holds were used to control movement of an unwilling individual from point A to point B without injuring that person. The holds produced pain and discomfort because pressure was applied to sensitive areas and temporarily bent specific joints into positions nature did not intend them to go. Those particular moves also had to be executed with speed for success.

That morning, they practiced holds called the Fingers Come-Along, the Reverse Grip Come-Along and the Front Hammerlock. Once more, the trainees left the class unable to perform simple tasks such as barely being able to button back up fatigue shirts.

The IPC class went a lot smoother that afternoon. The instructors left Shannon alone and because they no longer seemed to be on the warpath, the class was borderline enjoyable. The instructors released the trainees earlier than scheduled but it wasn't a blessing. The drill sergeants took advantage of the opportunity to give their troops extra PT. To the aching self-defense students, added exercise time was not welcome.

When PT was over, Alpha-10 had to put it into overdrive to keep pace on their march back to Tenth Battalion.

Drill Sergeant Cindy O'Brien from Twelfth Battalion slowed as she passed Alpha Company again. She searched for that familiar face she thought she had seen last week. J.J. Cassidy was a good friend of hers and if she could identify a cycle spy, O'Brien felt it was her duty to inform her friend before J.J. did something out of carelessness she might regret.

Dale recognized O'Brien right away and took that opportunity to hop off to the side of the road into the trees. Dale watched as O'Brien and Delta-12 passed and nearly jumped out of her boots to catch a branch several feet above her head when she heard a voice behind her say, "What are you doing?"

She almost broke her neck turning around and sighed in relief when she saw it was Henning. "Thank God. Listen, we might have a slight problem."

"We?" Henning put her hands on her hips.

"Yes. That company we just marched by? I know one of those drill sergeants. We were once drinking buddies at Fort Jackson. Staff Sergeant Cindy O'Brien."

"Drinking buddies? Fraternizing, were you?" Henning arched an eyebrow.

"No. Well, yes, but – that's not important. Look, if she recognizes me, she might unintentionally blow everything. I can't keep diving into the bushes every time she marches by. I think Cassidy thinks either I have a serious bladder problem or an uncontrollable tree fetish because she always sees my butt dashing into the forest."

Dale made sure O'Brien was out of sight before she and Henning walked back to the road. They jogged to catch up with the rest of the company. "What would you like me to do?" Henning asked.

"I don't know. Talk to Bishaye. Get her transferred. Send her TDY somewhere. Convince her it's time for a vacation."

"Why don't you just make an appointment to see her and beg for her discretion? You said you were drinking buddies, shouldn't that count for some honor between you?"

"I could but I'd rather not. That might open up a whole new can of worms."

"Whatever you decide, do it fast because if she makes you or your name comes up in casual conversation at the NCO club for most amusing trainee of the cycle, it'll be too late."

"I hope Cindy would recognize it for what it was and keep her mouth shut."

"Unless she thought you might be out to burn a friend. Or a lover," Henning said.

Dale immediately thought of Holmquist. It wouldn't have been impossible for Cindy to have been involved with him. They were a lot alike and he was her type, too…when her bisexuality swung her toward men. "I guess I'll give her a call. Maybe I can sneak out and see her tonight."

"Think about it. If you make the wrong decision and it backfires –"

"I know, I know." Bishaye would have her ass and not in a way Dale would enjoy.

"Just let me know," Henning told her.

"Fuck it. Call Anne and have her take care of it," Dale said.

"Oakes, you better not be bugging the lieutenant!" Holmquist yelled as they caught up with the rest of the company.

The morning did not start off well. In self-defense class, Dale raised her hand and finally questioned the pairing of women with women and men with men for the third day in a row.

"What's your reasoning, Private?" the NCOIC asked.

Dale tried not to gawk at him but she knew he couldn't be that dense. "My reasoning, Sergeant, is that the women should be given more of a challenge. We're not always going to have the choice of subduing just females. We should know what it feels like to go up against someone bigger and stronger than us."

Sergeant First Class Greenlaw openly laughed at her. "I suppose you have a good point. But we are trying to get you through this course as quickly and effectively as possible. We don't have a lot of time to do this in, Private, and it will eat up valuable time we don't have if we have to stop every other minute to make sure you ladies aren't getting too badly hurt. Do you understand my point?"

"No, Sergeant, I don't. If we don't learn in class the difference between using these moves on men and women then we're going to be in serious trouble once we're on the road."

"Private, if we make it fair for you," he argued, annoyed, "we make it unfair for the males. I mean, they'll have no contest with you females."

"Sergeant, don't you agree," Dale countered, patiently, "that it would be good practice for the males to work with the females at least one day? They might come up against a female criminal in the line of duty. Not subduing her properly out of gallantry or an old-fashioned attitude about touching her might get them killed. From what I understand, female MPs are few and far between and there won't always be a female available to come out and assist. And," Dale added, knowing she shouldn't have but she was already too worked up, "if this class is being taught correctly; if the instructors are ensuring that the women are learning the same way the men are, these moves should be effective on either sex. There should be no challenge."

There was dead silence as Dale and Greenlaw stared each other down. Dale was almost sure she saw steam come from his nostrils and ears. "Private, come up here."

Oh, shit, Dale thought, me and my big, fat mouth. Some of the women started to clap.

"At ease!" Greenlaw commanded everyone. Dale stood before him. "Well, Private Oakes, do you think you, personally, could be a challenge to me?"

"Sergeant, I was just trying to make a point," Dale said, wearily.

"And now I will make a point. You and I will show the class why we'd be wasting everybody's time right now. I want you to defend yourself against me, utilizing positions you've already learned."

"I don't want to fight you, Sergeant," Dale said, firmly. She knew he would try to embarrass her and 'put her in her place' by using moves they had not been shown defensive tactics for. Dale also knew her enormous, stubborn pride wouldn't let that happen; which is precisely why she did not want to fight him. As it stood, the trainees had only been shown enough to get them killed.

"What's the matter with you, Oakes, are you a coward?" he boomed at her. He really seemed to enjoy the moment. "I gave you an order. Now let's go."

"Yes, Sergeant." Dale felt she tried her best to get out of it. She got close enough to take a few obligatory swings and made sure the fake punches didn't reveal anything about any former training she'd had.

Greenlaw grabbed her arm in an attempt to put her in a hold. Dale was prepared for it and she counter-grabbed him and the next thing he knew, he was on his back with Dale's foot a hair away from his Adam's apple. He couldn't move. If he did, she could not have only wrenched his arm out of his shoulder but crushed his windpipe, as well.

"Let me up, Oakes," he told her, among the cheers of the entire company. On his feet again, he rubbed his shoulder and faced her as the drill sergeants calmed the troops. "You got lucky," he muttered. The look on his face, though, was still somewhat startled and she could tell he wondered just how lucky she did get.

Dale turned away from him on purpose and pretended to acknowledge her peer praise but was peripherally alerted on Greenlaw. Greenlaw took the opportunity to get his revenge. Two breaths later, he was flat on his stomach, Dale's foot resting on the back of his neck, her hands holding his other arm in such a position that, if he moved, she could have easily broken it. She allowed him to get up without asking this time.

"You're not using what you've been taught," Greenlaw spit out.

"That's not really what this is about, is it, Sergeant?" Dale asked, her volume as low as his. She glanced up to search out the faces of her drill sergeants. She wanted to see their expressions before she continued. The four she saw looked impressed and amused. McCoy clearly got a huge charge out of it.

"Why don't we just stick to the stuff we've learned?" Greenlaw asked. "I will be the aggressor."

"Yes, Sergeant," Dale said, respectfully.

Greenlaw lunged toward her, not unexpectedly, just sooner than she thought he was going to. He got a decent grip on her neck but she easily broke the grasp by counter-grabbing him and enforcing a binding hold he could not free himself from. He then threw four consecutive punches that Dale effortlessly blocked. By that time, the company was going nuts.

Finally, Greenlaw put his hand up, signaling a truce. Dale was guarded until he broke into a smile. "Okay, ladies," he announced. "Private Oakes has proved her point. Find yourselves a male partner." Before she returned to her group, he gestured her over to him. "Just out of curiosity, what is your experience?"

"Shaolin Kenpo, second degree black belt. As you could probably tell, I'm not as strict with the style as I should be. Now, I just use it as a base for whatever works," Dale said.

"You're very good. I'll definitely remember this for the next company I teach," he told her. His tone was now more sincere than conciliatory.

"I didn't hurt you, did I?" Dale asked, as she watched him rub his shoulder.

Greenlaw laughed. "Just my ego and my reputation for being a hardass but, no, you didn't hurt me. You just surprised the hell out of me."

The rest of the class went well, except nobody willingly wanted to pair off with Dale. She finally talked Bigfoot into it but because of the eleven-inch height difference between them, some of the choking techniques were a struggle for her.

The trainees also learned moves with their nightsticks that morning. They were shown exercises called the Figure Four Strangle Hold (with and without the club), a Groin Lift, a Wrist Takedown, Elbow Smash Defense, Reverse Wrist Grip, Cross Bar Stranglehold, two come-along holds (with the club) and the Bar Hammerlock Takedown.

The thing the trainees learned the most about the multi-step Bar Hammerlock Takedown was that if they were the 'attackers,' their faces were smashed to the mat as many times as it took whoever was playing the 'cop' to get it right. That's if the aggressor didn't get out of the hold first. The smart-alecky trainees who were able to escape the first steps usually decided to not struggle as hard after the fifth or sixth time their faces were slammed against a cushion that was harder than the floor, in most cases. This particular maneuver was the most difficult to learn correctly and was usually one of the moves they were tested on, a Go/No Go situation that would take place the next morning.

The IPC class that afternoon was much more mellow than it had been most of the week. Since the incident with Shannon, Halloren seemed to go out of his way to be pleasant to her and the rest of the class. She returned the courtesy but she still didn't like him.

After the class, the company went on a two-mile run, then marched back to the company area for 1700 formation. A majority of the trainees were preoccupied with visions of the upcoming self-defense test. The fact that the IPC test was scheduled for the next afternoon didn't lift anyone's spirits, either.

Once back in the bay after evening chow, quite a few women approached Dale about helping them with their self-defense moves. She provided a few pointers but declined to physically demonstrate anything. When Segore and Hewett reminded the group that Shannon was pretty good, too, the throng moved to Shannon, who also declined.

Dale had just finished folding her laundry when Michaelson entered the laundry room with an armful of fatigues. As she loaded them into an empty machine, she turned to Dale. "You really surprised a lot of people this morning in class."

"Yeah, surprised me, too," Dale said, laughing. "I'm surprised I still had it in me."

"Think you could show me a few things?"

Dale shook her head. "I'm not a qualified teacher, Deborah, it's not a good idea. I'm not a clean fighter anymore. I've betrayed the style and I don't feel right passing on what I know."

"I suppose you're right. I've had some training myself." She blushed at the admittance.

"Really?" Dale smiled and playfully shook Michaelson's shoulder. "Don't be embarrassed. I think that's great. I think all women should be taught how to fight."

"My parents always thought fighting wasn't 'lady-like'."

"Neither is getting raped and murdered," Dale said, sighing. She hated that misogynist argument. "What style have you been trained in?"

"Just some Hapkido." She started the machine and faced Dale squarely. "I really respect what you did for the women in class today. It took a lot of guts to stand up to Greenlaw in front of everyone like you did."

Dale shrugged, now feeling a little awkward, herself. "Thanks. I just felt it needed to be done. He wasn't doing us a favor by being so chivalrous."

"Do you think you'd feel like sparring sometime in the gym?" Michaelson asked.

Wrestling, maybe, Dale thought as she discreetly studied the pretty blonde. Damn, Dale, when did you turn into such a hound? She blinked the R-rated thought out of her mind. Michaelson was indeed attractive but she was a trainee and one who showed no particular interest in either gender, much less fooling around with one. "As I told some of the girls upstairs, that's probably not such a hot idea. How much training have you had?"

"Well…I'm a 5th degree Black Belt." Again, she hesitated, coming across as very shy about it.

Dale's eyes snapped open in surprise. "No kidding? I was right; sparring with you wouldn't be a good idea. You'd kick my ass."

Michaelson laughed. "I'm sure not. I may have the belt but you have the practical experience. For me, it started as a way to stay in shape, you know? And I just paid attention, passed classes and tested for the next degree of belt. Anyway, that's what I've been doing with my Wednesday nights, when you guys are all out partying. I head over to the WAC recreation center and work out."

"They hold Hapkido classes over there?"

"No but have equipment that is vital to my training."

"I'm sure our gym has newer equipment," Dale said.

Michaelson smiled. "But nobody from here goes over to the rec, so nobody bugs me."

"Why are you so…unsociable isn't the word I want to use…I guess aloof is better…"

"I like being alone. I know that sounds strange but I really enjoy being by myself. I have never liked the feeling of having to rely on someone else."

"You might be in the wrong MOS for that, you know. And sometimes forming those bonds require a lot of time spent with your partners."

"You almost sound like you're talking from experience."

Dale had to think fast. "I sort of am. My family is peppered with military and civilian cops."

Michaelson nodded in comprehension. "I feel like if I open up, I lose a little of myself and we have such little privacy here as it is. Once I get assigned to my permanent duty station, I know it'll be different."

You have no idea, Dale thought. "Any idea where you might get assigned?"

"Yeah, if all goes well, I was promised Hawaii. My career counselor said my GT scores were high enough, so I got to pick my MOS and my first permanent duty station."

"Hawaii? Cool."

"What about you?"

"I'm going to go wherever Uncle Sam needs me the most, I guess. I didn't score high enough to get a choice. My dream sheet says California or Southern Europe. Who knows?" Dale said, doing her best to sound unconcerned. She gathered her folded laundry, ready to leave the laundry room.

"Sure you don't want to spar?" Michaelson asked one last time?

"I'm sure." Dale grinned. "I really don't think I'm up for you. Your training is recent and probably by the book. Mine is not. I didn't do what I did this morning to show off, I just wanted the women to get an even break."

"I kind of figured that. You didn't look too thrilled to be out there."

"I wasn't."

"Can you, um, you know, keep my fighting experience just between us?" Michaelson asked.

"Sure. I wish I hadn't had to expose mine."

She foolishly believed she had made her point to Greenlaw and the others, which was why Dale was furious when she was told she 'NoGo'd" twice on the self-defense test. Everyone else was shocked and immediately saw it for the head game it was. Even though Dale was positive her drill sergeants were confident of her experience and training and would not let the instructors fail her a third time. She also knew, as a last resort, that Henning would say something to Bishaye and the battalion commander would step in and not let her get eliminated from training, especially in a situation where it was obvious to everyone Dale could take care of herself. Regardless, Dale was livid to the point where Cassidy had to order her outside.

"Calm down, Oakes," Cassidy said. "You've got to get a grip on that temper."

Dale paced and sputtered and was so irate, she didn't stop and take the time to enjoy being in the sensual drill sergeant's company. On any normal day, when the opportunity presented itself, Dale took full advantage of being able to admire Drill Sergeant Cassidy from afar. Now she had a private audience with the beautiful woman and was wasting the moment.

"Oakes! At ease!"

Dale stopped and assumed the commanded position. Her body still seemed to vibrate.

"Let's try something. Relax, first." Cassidy watched as Dale let her arms drop to her side. "Good. Close your eyes and stretch your arms out to the sides." Cassidy couldn't help but smirk at the look Dale gave her. "Just do it, Oakes."

"Yes, Drill Sergeant." Dale obeyed, closed her eyes and made her body look like a "T".

"Now, take a good, deep breath. Exhale. Take another. Now try and touch your index fingers together."

Dale opened an eye and looked at her.

"Close it!" Cassidy waited until Dale did. "Go ahead, touch your index fingers together."

Dale attempted it and missed the first time. The second time she was successful. "Okay…what does this do?"

"Nothing. I just get a kick out of watching it."

Dale opened her eyes to see Cassidy laughing. Dale's breath caught at the sight. Cassidy's dark eyes sparkled and her dazzling white smile revealed those dimples that humanized her movie star beauty. Cassidy's chuckling was contagious and Dale smiled.

"Feel better?" Cassidy asked.

At being face-to-face with you? Absolutely. What a waste, you being with Ted Robin, Dale thought. "A little."

"You had to know when you humiliated him that he would retaliate somehow," Cassidy told her. What did you No Go for, did he say?"

"Lack of motivation and improper execution. If he really wants to see a proper execution, I'll be happy to accommodate him."

"Oakes…" Cassidy's tone was warning.

"Yes, Drill Sergeant." She smirked.

"We all know what you're capable of, Oakes, you don't have to worry about passing this course. He's just getting even."

"I will never understand the male ego, Drill Sergeant."

Cassidy nodded. "I don't think most men understand it either." She extended her arm toward the entrance and gestured Dale back inside the gym.

The IPC test that afternoon was a breeze to get through and no one failed. After that, Dale and a few others were returned to the company area to receive counseling statements for having two consecutive failures in one class. This got Dale angry all over again but since Cassidy was present, she controlled it. When Dale found out she was restricted Saturday for her two No Go's, she hit the roof. A glare from Cassidy calmed her down.

Later, after a little digging, Dale discovered the real reason she had been restricted. The company needed forty people for a detail and, miraculously, forty people were restricted for one reason or another. The restriction started at 1800 hours that evening and, unfortunately, one of the trainees confined to the company area was Tracy Travis Novak.

Travis had not heard anything negative from Robin regarding her earlier request and had made definite plans for her husband to fly down and spend the weekend. By the time they gave Travis the news, Mr. Novak was already on his way, his plane scheduled to land at 1400, his bus getting to the post at approximately1830.

Travis furiously confronted Robin, who told her that she shouldn't have gotten married and that would have solved the whole problem. Robin had also been in possession of the knowledge that their free time wouldn't have been a full weekend, anyway, but he didn't inform Travis of that little detail, either.

That evening, everyone met Travis' incredibly handsome husband. The cadre had graciously allowed him to spend time with her in the dayroom…along with at least thirty other trainees. Once again, military head games resulted in pushing someone who would have most likely turned out to be a dedicated soldier over the edge. At 2300 hours that evening, Tracy Travis Novak went AWOL.

Though they tried to talk her out of it, neither Dale nor Shannon blamed her; they almost wished they could have gone with her.

AWOL or Absent Without Official Leave had such a stigma about it, Travis probably felt like she would have to hide the rest of her life. Shannon wanted to tell her that because of budgetary problems, the FBI had started to steadily phase out the standing search for military deserters and concerned themselves with AWOL cases that involved violent crimes. The Department of Defense had put less money and effort into the search for deserters since 1973 because the congress' General Accounting Office had been accusing them of spending too much money in that area. Shannon wanted to tell her that even though her decision to desert had not been a wise one, she would not be hunted down and shot for it, as officials liked to infer but Shannon couldn't tell her. That, indeed, would have been knowing too much.


Chapter Twenty-four

Travis' absence was reported at 0700 hours the next morning when the thirty-nine restricted trainees showed up for formation. Another company's M16s were passed out to be cleaned and, still angry about her restriction, Dale took all day to clean just one.

Ritchie was in the area all morning because of Travis' unscheduled departure but he left the troops alone. Dale monitored his comings and goings along with Cassidy's and Putnam's. Their expressions were rather grim and Dale wondered if they had contacted Bishaye yet and, if they had, what reason they had given for Travis' motivation for departure. If, in future conversation, the subject was brought up, Dale wouldn't hesitate to tell her about what a good soldier Travis had been up to that point and what did provoke her to take off.

At 1700 hours, after Dale turned in her spotless weapon and stood in formation, the restriction was lifted for the evening. Before they were dismissed, they were reminded that the entire company had to be back in the barracks for a 2300 hours bed check that night.

Shannon had been over at the WAC recreation center swimming most of the day with Wachsman and Kotski and wasn't back yet so Dale hit the Pizza Place. She drank a beer and waited for Shannon, who came in alone. They agreed to go to the EC for an hour before the mandatory bed check and stopped by the office first, to call a taxi.

"Hey Oakes," Jerry Renaldi, the CQ, said, as she and Shannon entered the Orderly Room, "some chick has been trying to get you on the autovon line all night."

"Really? This chick have a name?" Dale tried to act confused but she was concerned. She couldn't think of who would call her on the autovon line as only a privileged few military people knew she was there. She looked over at Shannon, who flirted madly with Rutledge, the CQ runner, then returned her attention to Renaldi.

"Yeah, here." He tore a sheet off the message pad. "A Sergeant Burke. Said it was real important."

Dale snatched the note from him and read the name and number. "It must've been. I have to use the phone."

"To call her back?"

Dale nodded and Renaldi shook his head. "Come on, Renaldi, you know it's a matter of urgency or I wouldn't ask you. Please."

"No way. Use the pay phone outside."

"There's a line six deep waiting for that pay phone," Dale protested.

"What if the Staff Duty NCO walks in while you're on the phone?" He asked.

"Who is it?"


Dale rolled her eyes. "Great."

Shannon burst out laughing. "I wouldn't worry about it, then. If anyone can handle Bradbury, Oakes can."

Renaldi looked at her with a sly smile. "Oh yeah? Why is that?"

"No reason," Dale said to him and glared at Shannon. She returned her attention to Renaldi. "If she comes in, I'll pretend I'm calling a cab. We were told we could use the phone for that."

"I don't know, Oakes. It's late. Where would you be calling a cab to? Everyone has to be back in an hour and a half."

"I'll tell her we're going to WacVille. She doesn't have to know we've already been there. Come on, Jerry," Dale pleaded, "you won't get caught."

"That reassures me coming from one of the great escape artists of the company," Renaldi said, dryly. "Alright. Go ahead but make it quick." He watched Dale pick up the phone and start to dial. "Hey – how do you know how to use the autovon line?"

"It's in the CQ instruction book. Besides, I had to call a number for Henning once. She showed me how," Dale lied. She listened for the connection.

"Who's Sergeant Burke?" Renaldi asked.

"She's…uh…my recruiter."

"A female recruiter? I didn't know there were any female recruiters."

"You probably didn't know there were any female MPs, either." Dale smiled. She heard the phone being picked up at the other end and Sharon Burke identified herself. "Hey, it's Dale," she said, uncomfortably, as Renaldi watched and listened.

"Thank God," Sharon's tired voice said. "I thought I was going to have to sit here all night. Where've you been?"

"It's Saturday night, where do you think I've been?"

"Well, then, to what do I owe the honor of your return? Or should I say, to whom?"

"I forgot my birth control pills." Dale smiled and winked at Renaldi.

"I'm so happy I don't have to worry about silly little things like that," Burke said.

"Careful. This is not a secure line."

"Really? Who's listening at your end?

"The entire 7th Division. Why do you think I need my pills?"

"That must have been some trip. Last I knew they were still in California."

"Not after they heard me and my buddy, Walker, were in town." Okay, enough banter. "So what's up, anyway? I know you didn't call me just to chat."

"Hurry up, Oakes," Renaldi prompted. Dale waved him off with her hand.

Burke chuckled. "Someone hassling you about staying on the line?"

"I'm still a trainee, I don't have any privileges yet."

"And if they really knew you, they'd keep it that way," Burke kidded. "Okay, I know it took a while but I may have some information for you."

"May have?" Dale grabbed Renaldi's pen and the notepad off the desk.

"Yes. It's not much but it's from Carolyn Stuart's lover, so…"

"What was it?"

"She doesn't know a lot, and I'm not just talking about the case, either. She must be one hell of a lay because there's no way Stuart was with her for the intellectual stimulation. She said she never saw her actually with anyone but she recalled her on the phone one night and Stuart was very, very upset. She said she overheard Stuart tell that person that she knew she was going to get caught and, if she did, she wasn't sure she could keep quiet. Now, this is the interesting part: She said Stuart then said was revenge against that lieutenant really worth all this bullshit. What do you think?"

"What lieutenant?" Dale looked over at Shannon who suddenly alerted to their conversation.

"I have no idea," Burke said. "What rank is your C.O.?"

"Captain, 03."

"Then I would say it's your training officer."

"That would surprise me but it's not impossible. What else?"

"That's it. That's all she remembers, other than she asked Stuart and Stuart refused to discuss it with her," Burke said.

"Why didn't she say anything about this before?"

"I don't know. I told you she was helium from the shoulders up."

"Just how did you come by this information, anyway?" Dale asked.

"How do you think?"

"You're amazing. You'll do anything for your country, you incurable patriot, you." Dale said.

"Actually, it wasn't me. It was somebody else's pillow talk. Can you use it? It's got to be related to why you are there."

"I would say you are right. Certainly gives us a little meat to chew on. Hey, thanks, Sharon, I owe you –"

The door swung open and hit the wall with a bang and Bradbury popped in as if she had been sprung from a toaster. "This is not a congregation area, people! If you don't have business in here, get out!" Bradbury bellowed and looked directly at Shannon. She then turned toward Dale. "CQ, what's this trainee doing on the phone?"

"Calling a taxi, Drill Sergeant." Renaldi looked at Dale like he wanted to kill her. "Fuckin' A," he swore under his breath.

Bradbury strolled over to Dale, who was still on the phone.

"Yes, that's right. Building 1801 South and could you get here sometime within the next millennium? This is the third time I've called." Dale said, for Bradbury's benefit.

"What?" Burke asked, confused.

"Ten minutes? That's what you said the last time and that was an hour ago."

"Oh, I get it. The Staff Duty NCO walked in, right?" Burke asked.

"That's right," Dale said and hung up the phone. "Sorry, Drill Sergeant but we've been waiting a long time."

Bradbury compared the time on her watch to the time on the wall clock. "Doesn't your company have a mandatory bed check at 2300?"

"Yes, Drill Sergeant," Dale answered.

"We've been trying to get out of here, Drill Sergeant, but the taxi hasn't come yet," Shannon said.

Bradbury whirled to face Shannon. "Are you still here?" Shannon nodded. "Well, get out." She turned back to Dale. "Hot date?"

Dale maneuvered around her, attempting to diplomatically avoid her closeness. "No, nothing like that, Drill Sergeant. It's just that I've been cleaning weapons all day and I wanted a drink before mandatory bed check."

"Then I suggest you be satisfied with a beer at the Pizza Place and leave it at that. You obviously can't depend on these taxis to get you there and back in time and, with one female in your company being AWOL today, I would think you wouldn't want to run the risk of not being there for headcount."

It was good advice but considering she wasn't talking to a cab dispatcher, they didn't need it. "Yes, Drill Sergeant. The Pizza Place it is."

"Good girl," Bradbury said. "Now, get out of here."

Renaldi breathed an audible sigh of relief as Dale and Shannon left. They heard Bradbury ask him if he had a problem as she went over to check the CQ log.

Once outside, Dale checked the time. They had less than an hour before they had to return to the barracks so they headed back to the Pizza Place for another couple of beers.

"What was the phone call about?" Shannon chose not to discuss Bradbury's favoritism toward Dale as she knew what that was about. Dale explained to her who Sharon Burke was and then related the phone conversation to her. "She said that? Revenge on a lieutenant? That's what Stuart said?"

"That's what allegedly was said with what seems like selective recall. Stuart's supposed exact words were: 'Is revenge against that lieutenant really worth all this bullshit?"

"Is the source reliable?"

"Burke is reliable, I don't know about her source. I trust Burke's judgment so I don't think she would risk calling me here if she didn't feel there was something to it."

"How'd the source get this information?"

"Pillow talk."

Shannon rolled her eyes. "Right and that method is always fail-safe."

"Look, why don't we just accept the information as is. At least it's something after all these months of nothing. And if it's about this company, it's got to be Henning. She's been the only lieutenant here since just before this bullshit started," Dale said.

"So what do you think? Stubby did something to piss somebody off to do all this?"

Dale shrugged. "Or maybe someone developed an obsessive crush on her and she shot down his – or her – feelings."

"But why go to all this elaborate and dangerous game playing? Why not just set her up, personally, and burn her?"

"I don't know that, either, Shan. I guess this is where we start earning those big bucks Uncle Sam has been secretly sending to our Swiss bank accounts. I will try to call Anne right now and tell her this piece of news if you will go in and please get me a beer." Dale handed her the money and walked to the pay phone. She looked around to make sure no one was lurking or in hearing range.

Dale wasn't surprised to find Anne not home on a Saturday night. Jack Bishaye told Dale that his wife was out to dinner with his sister who was in town for a visit. Dale flirted with him a little and then told him she and Shannon needed to meet with Anne in a secure location. Jack suggested the Cloud Club on Monday night. The Cloud Club was an exclusive, downtown Averill men's bar that one needed a pilot's license to qualify and a membership card to get into. Anne had access to the wives' lounge, which was an annex to the building the club occupied.

It was a sexist organization that Anne despised, so much so that even though Jack kept his membership current, he only attended for emergency member meetings. Anne had only been in the wives' lounge once, for her 'welcoming ceremony.' Jack was right, though, it was a safe area and no one from the battalion would be in there or anywhere near there. Even on the off chance that one of the drill sergeants possessed a pilot's license, it was a pretty sure bet he wouldn't be milling around the wives' lounge, which had its own separate entrance.

Dale advised Shannon that the colonel wasn't in and of their Monday night meeting. Shannon wondered out loud if they should bring any of this information to Henning's attention yet, that maybe it would jar her memory toward recounting any incident that could motivate someone to want to get revenge on her.

"Let's wait and see what the boss says first," Dale said. She and Shannon drank their plastic cups of beer outside the Pizza Place. "She may have other ideas. We're too close to getting out of here. I don't want to think about doing anything without her approval first. If I mess this up, I will never hear the end of it."

Shannon finished her beer in four gulps. "True. Well, partner, let's hit the bunks for bed check. I wonder what's in store for us tomorrow."

"Nothing that I think we really have to be doing on a Sunday, unless they're going to force us into worship services."

Guard duty training was what the company was roused out of bed for at 0500 hours. They stood at a 0520 formation and then they were all herded into the dayroom, only allowed to leave for a morning chow line up at 0600. They were then dismissed to hang around either the dayroom, the north and south patios or the laundry rooms. They were not allowed back in their bays, the parking lot or anywhere else out of the Tenth Battalion area.

It wasn't until 1100 hours that the company was divided up and sent to specific guard posts. Shannon was sent to guard the Twelfth Battalion Arms Room while Dale, Bigfoot, Judd and Zachary went sent out to patrol and guard Fort McCullough's Ammo Dump.

The Ammunition Dump was a widespread, hilly, woodsy, dark and desolate area and the four GIs were literally locked in behind a cyclone and razor-wire fence after they had been dropped off by a deuce-and-a-half. The quartet was speechless when they were told that their duty would be two hours on and two hours off until 0500 the next morning. The four would interchange their shifts with four Delta-12 trainees. The off-time was spent in a guard shack, outside the fence line that contained absolutely no heat.

Bigfoot and Judd went off in one direction while Dale and Zachary headed in the other. They explored and familiarized themselves with the territory so that after it got dark, they'd have an idea of where they were going. Dale had never been to the ammo dump before but she had heard ghost stories of strange noises and sights emanating from the deep cluster of woods that had to be traversed in order to complete a full perimeter check.

Dale and Zachary, for reasons they could only attribute to fatigue, dwelled on conversations about the real Bigfoot, UFOs, ax-murderers, evil spirits and alien abduction. By the fourth cycle at 0030 hours, they had understandably scared themselves and each other into what felt like eternal consciousness.

Dale eagerly shared the small flask of brandy Zachary had hidden in his jacket. Regardless, it did help fight off the bitter cold that was battering them internally as well as externally. At 0500 hours, when the deuce-and-a-half returned to pick them up, Dale had never been so happy to hear those familiar grinding gears in her life. She felt like she'd never be warm again.

The trainees were returned to the company area and given enough time to turn in their M16s to the Arms Room and eat breakfast. Their next formation was at 0700 hours. Dale would then head over to the gym for her make-up test in Self-Defense. She was tired, cranky and a mite hungover from imbibing with Zachary. At least she got to wash her face and brush her teeth. That helped a little.

Dale was partnered off with Tierni and Dale opted for testing second. Dale did her best to help Tierni along without making it obvious that Tierni just didn't have the momentum. When they gave Tierni the news she had Bolo'd out, she fled the gym in tears; this left Dale with no partner and, as she was the last one to test, a slight dilemma.

"Private Oakes, it looks like one of us is going to have to be your partner," one of the scoring instructors told her.

"Then I want Sergeant Greenlaw," Dale said. She watched as the two scorers exchanged glances. "Look, Sergeant, I've been up all night on guard duty. I'm exhausted and, as you can see, very crabby – not that either of you care a hang about that, I know. I shouldn't be here today and both of you know it. If I have to pick one of you as a partner then I think it's only fair I have the guy who failed me so I can show him – and you – how well I can handle myself in this area. I was promised a nap after this test and I really need it. So can I get this over with?"

Unmistakably, neither instructor wanted to go up against Dale. They'd seen what she could do and instinctively knew whoever went up against her would be put through their physical paces. One instructor excused himself and approached Greenlaw at the other side of the gym.

Dale heard him sputter and swear and yell he didn't give a shit what Private Oakes wanted, that she was just a fucking trainee but when the instructor said, "You're the one who No Go'd her, and since neither Sergeant Boyer nor I want to feel her wrath, you should be the one to do this…or are you too chickenshit?"

Dale tried to hide a smirk as she knew that would be bait he wouldn't refuse. Greenlaw reluctantly agreed to Dale's request and, as anticipated from all, she showed him no mercy. All of her moves were precise and strong and when she finished her last required takedown, Greenlaw could barely get off the mat. It wasn't completely one-sided, though; Dale also left the gym looking as if she had been put through a wringer.

On her way out, Dale heard Greenlaw say, "There's one future MP I would not want to fuck with."

When Dale got back to the Orderly Room to present her Go paper, she found out that particular round of testing had not only eliminated Tierni but also Sager, Beltran, Ferrence and Hewett. Dale found Hewett crying outside the CQ office and gave her a hug.

"I really wanted this, Oakes," Hewett said and sniffed back her tears. "I needed to prove something to myself. Now I have to go home with my tail between my legs."

Dale sat with her on the picnic table. "Nah. It doesn't mean you're out of the Army, Kerrie. It just means you can't be an MP. Being a cop probably wasn't for you anyway because it can be a violent job sometimes and you're not a violent person. I'm sure they'll find something suitable for you to do. They could recycle you into confinement or maybe even tag you for interrogator or something interesting like that. What would your choice be if not this?"

"Well…I like languages and I've studied Mandarin Chinese."

"There you go. Make sure they know that. They might send you to the Defense Language Institute and turn you into a translator."

"Ugh. More school?"

"It wouldn't be like here, like you'd still be treated like a trainee. My recruiter told me the DLI is at the Presidio in Monterey, California, right on the ocean."

"That wouldn't be too hard to take." She wiped her tears on her sleeve.

Dale patted her shoulder. "Something tells me you'll be happier wherever they put you." Dale hated to tell Hewett that she just wasn't MP material. She shied away from confrontation and shrunk back when someone displayed an attitude. She didn't have to be aggressive but she did have to be assertive and she had a hard time with that. She excelled in studying and keeping the barracks clean but Dale assumed, from Hewett's Mormon upbringing, that she felt completely out of place performing any task that wasn't officially a "woman's place." Dale felt Hewett would do well in an MOS where the job itself wasn't male oriented or male dominated but where her superiors were men. It fit in with her conditioning.

Back up in the barracks, Dale and a few others were allowed to sleep until eleven-thirty A.M. Dale also chose to skip noon chow and set her alarm for 1230 hours. She felt refreshed and alert and ready for the rest of the day.

At one o'clock formation, the company was informed that they were now all on what was called self-pace. Self-pace allowed the trainees to study the remaining required classes to complete LE School by taking as much time as they needed to grasp the individual subjects. It also meant that they were permitted to make their own decisions as to which class they would take in which order, as long as all mandatory classes were completed.

Dale's choice was to attend an Apprehension class and could barely keep her eyes open through it. Her alertness after waking had given in to not really feeling rested enough to concentrate. Her body had begun to tighten after the morning's workout and everything suddenly felt exhausted. She wanted to go back to the barracks at five o'clock and go right to bed after she was dismissed from formation but she knew that was impossible.

Self-pace had its advantages but for the two cycle spies, it had more disadvantages. Alpha Company was not the only company to have students in these classes as there were other LE School trainees from other battalions also on self-pace. This made it increasingly more difficult for Dale and Shannon to keep track of their fellow trainees because self-pace made it easy for Alpha trainees to hook up with members of other companies, which only complicated the art of spying.


Chapter Twenty-five

Anne Bishaye showed her husband's membership card with her military identification at the door of the Cloud Club wives' lounge. Bishaye led the way as Dale and Shannon followed. They sat at a corner table and ordered a round of drinks.

"Would you mind telling me what's with all the cloak-and-dagger stuff? You know I hate this place," Bishaye said. She removed her leather bomber jacket and placed it over the back of her chair.

"It wasn't my idea, it was Jack's," Dale said. "And it was a good one. No one will see us here." Her hands were ice-cold and her heart was hammering in her chest. She hated that the sight of Bishaye and being in her presence could do that to her. She tried her best to act blasé.

Bishaye smiled warmly at Shannon. "And how are you?"

"Ready for this to be over." Shannon smiled back.

"Cheer up. It shouldn't be too much longer. One way or the other you should be out of here in another month." She looked at Dale. "Okay, now you've got me here, what's going on?"

There was still heat between them. Dale didn't know how Shannon could not see it or feel it. "I got a call from Sharon Burke on Saturday."

"She called you? How?" Bishaye was suddenly alert as they accepted their drinks at the table.

"You're buying," Dale said. She held her beer bottle out to Bishaye in a salutatory motion before she took a sip.

"I'd planned to. How did she call you? The autovon line?" Bishaye moved her strirrer around her drink.

"Yes. I passed her off as my recruiter to the CQ. He believed me."

Bishaye looked at Shannon for confirmation.

"Yeah, he bought it a hundred percent," Shannon agreed.

"I hate it when you do that," Dale mumbled.

"It's habit, it's not personal," Bishaye said and sipped her drink.

No, it never is with you. Dale bit her tongue, then said, "She had a message for us allegedly from Carolyn Stuart's lover. The lover recalled that she overheard Stuart on the phone and Stuart talked about knowing she was going to get caught, not being sure she could keep her mouth shut and then supposedly asked the other party if getting revenge on that lieutenant was worth all this bullshit. What do you think that means?"

Bishaye's expression had changed. She bristled and was all business. "How reliable is Burke's source?"

"I don't think she would have called me if she hadn't been reliable. You know her, Anne, she's not going to disturb me here unless she thinks it's serious. So what do you think?"

"What do you think?" Bishaye asked and looked at them both.

"It's got to mean Henning, right?" Shannon said. "A-10 hasn't had another lieutenant since this started, right?"

"We were wondering if we should tell her what we know and –"

Bishaye shook her head. "No. Let me think about this. The way things have been going, for all we know, she could be tied into it all."

"Henning? You hand picked her to liaison this," Dale said.

"I know this will shock you, Dale but I can and do make mistakes," Bishaye admitted.

Dale opened her mouth to comment. Her eyes flashed to Shannon and she snapped her mouth shut.

"Henning may not know she might be someone's target. If she is, I don't want her to panic. Until we get more information – if there is more information to be had – and I figure it out for what it is, then I will call a meeting with her and tell her myself."

"Will you share it with us?" Dale asked.

"Of course I will share it with you," Bishaye snapped. "What good would it do to keep it to myself?"

Shannon looked back and forth between Dale and Bishaye at the visible tension. "Do you want us to watch her more closely?" Her question broke the sudden uncomfortable silence.

"Yes, when she's around," Bishaye said to Shannon, "but she's gone back to school."

"Is that why she hasn't been around the company much lately?" Dale wondered out loud.

"You mean you haven't noticed?" Bishaye asked.

Dale and Shannon exchanged guilty looks that did not go unnoticed by Bishaye. "Sure we did," Dale said, unconvincingly.

"You did not," Bishaye argued, mildly aghast. "And I hired you two as spies?"

"Okay," Dale said, "we've been concentrating on other things. We're not supposed to be watching her, anyway. She's in on all this, remember?"

"Yes, I remember," Bishaye said. "You're supposed to stay in communication with her."

"We have been…well, when we've had a chance to inconspicuously talk with her. She's been around enough," Dale said.

"When was the last time you saw her?" Bishaye asked.

"Last week. Didn't she call you about that drill sergeant I recognized from another battalion?" Dale's tone had a hint of victory to it.

"And before that?" Bishaye looked at both of them.

"Bivouac," Shannon said.

Bishaye immediately focused on Dale. "About that POW 'massacre' I witnessed?"

"Don't worry your pretty little head about that. I was disciplined. I'm still surprised I can use my arms," Dale said.

"And the perimeter guard business?" Bishaye asked with an arched eyebrow.

Dale grinned. "Oh, come on, that was classic. If Henning hadn't come along, we would have gotten away with it." Both lieutenants beamed so proudly that even Bishaye broke into a reluctant smile.

"I knew you were incorrigible, Dale, but I'm honestly surprised at you, Lieutenant Walker. I brought you in on this to hopefully be her anchor."

"That was your first mistake," Dale said, smugly.

Bishaye nodded. "Evidently." She drained her glass and waited for the two lieutenants to finish theirs. "Is the Burke call all you wanted or is there something else we need to discuss?"

"No, just that. Don't you think that's an interesting lead?" Dale asked.

"Yes, especially if it turns out to be something that can result in solving this. I'll let you know where we go from here. I'll need to make a few phone calls first and do a little more research on Stuart and her training cycle. I still don't see why you couldn't have called me on the phone about it because you know how much I hate this place." The last sentence was directed at Dale.

"It's not as bad as I thought it would be," Dale said, looking around. "I kind of expected something like, I don't know, Rue Morgue after the murders."

"Or the way Dale explained it to me, the Stepford Wives Club," Shannon said. She looked at Dale. "Did you want to bring up Travis?"

Dale yawned. "You just did."

"Travis? The female who went AWOL? What about her?" Bishaye asked.

"She was a good soldier," Dale said. "I don't know what you've been told or what you may have heard on your own but the cadre fucked her over too much. I would tell you if I thought she was useless or irresponsible but she wasn't. Prime example of how Uncle Sam can turn a good attitude bad."

"It happens," Bishaye said and shrugged.

"It shouldn't," Dale countered. "Just like –"

Bishaye shot her a sharp look. "Don't start."

"What was going on with you two tonight?" Shannon asked Dale after Bishaye dropped them off a block away from the PX.

"Nothing, really," Dale said, as they began to jog toward the company area. "She gets pissed off when I remind her about Kirk."

"No, it started before that. You both were on the edge."

"My best guess is that we're getting on each other's nerves. This case hasn't seemed to work out the way either one of us wanted."

"And what way was that?"


They picked up their pace to get back to the barracks faster. It was cold and they were both tired. Dale hoped that answer satisfied Shannon's curiosity as the atmosphere this time did seem to feel more choleric than sexually charged. Dale and Bishaye were clearly exasperated with each other; the big question on Dale's mind was why? She understood her own frustration with Bishaye but was confused at Bishaye's obvious aggravation with her. It couldn't have been the stunts in Bivouac because Bishaye certainly knew her well enough by now to expect some playing around and Dale couldn't fathom that they shared the same frustration. Even if they did, Bishaye had made it very clear that she could and would control hers. Maybe she was just in a bad mood, Dale thought, and it has nothing to do with me.

Her resignation on the subject still didn't stop her from dreaming erotically of Bishaye that night. It was most difficult to have arousing dreams in room with forty other people. Dale had never been known to talk in her sleep; she hoped she didn't start now.

Dale breezed through the Apprehension test not so much because of her precision in the powers of arrest but more for the NCOIC's attraction to Saunders. The sergeant waved Dale and McTague through the procedure so fast, they practically got windburns. Dale hung around to see what developed and was glad to see that Saunders played it smart; after she received a Go, Saunders thanked him and left the classroom before he could get any more persistent with his flirting.

Dale moved on to the Report Writing class that, for her, wasn't hard. She knew the basic requirements of a majority of the paperwork was to record the who, what, where, when, why and how and the other forms were pretty much self-explanatory. The first section was on how to fill out DA Form 3975, a pre-printed document containing questions that requested all the pertinent information concerning a committed or allegedly committed crime. The report had to include a brief summary of what occurred, who was involved and the circumstances surrounding that occurrence. Dale had completed so many of those forms, she could have written one up blindfolded.

The next section was on How To Write A Sworn Statement (DA Form 2823). This form was a little trickier because what was written on it was the testimony of a victim, witness, accused, etc. Again, this statement dealt with the who, what, where, when, why and how of a crime so questions and answers had to be specific. The form was also used as an integral part of an investigation, so it was imperative that it was as accurate as possible.

The third section dealt with preparing a Rights Warning Procedure/Waiver Certificate (DA Form 3881). This form was a military equivalent of the civilian police department's Miranda warning. The document stated in print that the accused did not have to answer questions or say anything and that anything the suspect did say could be used as evidence in a criminal trial. For others, the class was interesting; for Dale, it was monotonous.

That evening, as Dale hung around the Pizza Place, Shannon finished up eight hours of guard duty at the Charlie-12 Arms Room. It was uneventful, except for witnessing one of the C-12 male drill sergeants openly fraternize with a female she recognized from Bravo-10. After she watched about thirty minutes of their heavy making out, she decided to ignore it. If they were both that obvious and stupid, she didn't need to turn them in; they'd be caught on their own.

The next morning, Dale was selected for eight hours of guard duty at the Charlie-11 Arms Room. That company was in their fourth week of basic combat training and as Dale observed them, she was relieved her company was well beyond that stage.

Shannon caught up on the classes she had missed the day before. She flew through the Search and Seizure instruction and decided to take her time on Protecting A Crime Scene class with Sergeant Montemurro.

Montemurro was a mild-mannered, jovial, by-the-book (but reasonable) NCO. He admitted he didn't like failing anyone but he wouldn't give away answers, either. This was a class one had to take their time with because with his method of teaching, there was no other way to do it. Montemurro made sure that when someone left his class, they knew how to protect a crime scene and preserve evidence.

"Private Walker, in your opinion, what is evidence?" Montemurro asked.

"Evidence is anything – photographs, weapons, fingerprints, footprints, clothing, broken glass, tire tracks – any physical objects that directly or individually establish the facts relative to the particular incident under investigation. Written or oral statements can also be considered evidence."

"Very good. Tell me about protecting a crime scene."

Shannon looked around at the five other people in class with her and wondered why Montemurro was making her the star of the show. Montemurro must have mistaken her blank expression to mean she misunderstood the question.

"What I mean is, how do you protect a crime scene?"

"By not touching anything." Shannon purposely answered vaguely. She could have given him the correct response of 'by preventing the destruction, removal, rearrangement or concealment of any physical evidence and to prevent the departure of suspects, victims and witnesses until the responsibility of the investigation of the scene is taken over by proper authority' but she wanted him to call on someone else.

"Can you be a little more specific?" Montemurro gently probed. "Refer to your notes, if you must."

Another trainee raised his hand and Montemurro acknowledged him. "Protecting evidence from people and weather," the student answered.

"Anything else?" Again, he directed his question at Shannon.

"Clearing the crime scene of anyone not related to the incident," Shannon said.

"What else?" Montemurro finally looked at another trainee.

"Keeping witnesses separated and guarding the scene to prevent entry of unauthorized personnel," the trainee answered.

Another ninety minutes of Montemurro's class was the equivalent of ingesting a couple valium. Shannon was glad the day was over because by the time he released the class to return to their company areas for their five o'clock formations, she was ready for bed. She was scheduled for the class test first thing in the morning.

As Shannon cruised through her exam, Dale easily passed the Report Writing class and the partners hooked up for their personal favorite, Questioning A Witness class.

The instructors explained that questioning a witness was a very delicate and important procedure. It had to be done correctly or serious problems could result. To insure the trainees understood the exact process, the instructors handed out several situations written in dramatic script form for the class to study and practice among themselves in groups of two, three or four. After that they met with an instructor individually, who went over the program with them and then they returned to their group to study again and prepare for their test in which they pretended to be the interrogator while the instructor played the witness.

Dale and Shannon paired off and were lucky to get an area partitioned off away from the two sergeants overseeing the course. They had done this routine before and waited for an unsuspecting victim. Their patience was rewarded ten minutes later when a marine insert from Bravo was added to their group by one of the instructors.

Dale flipped a coin to see who played the questioner and who played the witness and when fate had decided that, Dale and Shannon began their little act…a little too realistically for the jarhead.

"I want that man placed under apprehension!" Dale said, desperately. She brought actual tears to her eyes. She pointed accusingly at the unsuspecting marine. "He…he…oh, it was just awful!"

"Now, now, calm down," Shannon said, soothingly. "Let's get the whole story in chronological order. What did he do first?" Shannon glared daggers at the AIT insert who looked at both of them a little stunned but stayed silent. Both lieutenants knew he had been told that he was only supposed to be an observer and not a participant at this point. The sergeant had placed him with them because they were in advanced stages of the class and he was supposed to learn the technique of questioning a witness from them. LE School was big on peer instruction.

"First he locked the door," Dale said and looked at the floor.

"Kidnapping! Ten years!" Shannon shouted joyously and wrote it down. "Then what did he do?"

"He pulled down his pants," Dale spat and moved her chair away from him while she gave him dirty looks.

"Indecent exposure, one more year." Shannon wrote it down. "Then what?"

The marine frantically searched his limited text for this conversational exchange which didn't seem to be in any of the ten examples they were supposed to practice.

"He put his hand on my…on my…" Dale pretended to be upset.

Shannon nodded. "It's all right. I understand. Attempted battery. Five years. Then what?"

"He threw me on the bed!"

Shannon glowered at him. "Pervert." She scribbled quickly on her note pad. "Mayhem and felonious constraint. Ten to fifteen years." She looked at Dale, who played this role to the hilt. "Then what?"

"Then he…he…did it to me." Dale looked away.

"That does it! Twenty years, easy. Maybe we can even get him the chair." Shannon looked at Dale. "And all the while you were struggling and screaming…"

"Well, no, not exactly. I mean, it was kind of late and I didn't want to wake anyone up and –"

"Well, shit," Shannon said. She sat back and let out an annoyed sigh. She threw her pen down. "That's just a plain, old, ordinary fuck."

The three occupants of the cubicle heard the clearing of a throat and turned to see one of the male instructors leaning against the doorway. He clearly swallowed a smile. He seemed to enjoy their performance as much as anyone, with the exception of the marine, but as he explained, this was a serious class. "Playtime is over, ladies. How about you just stick to the examples?"

"That one wasn't in the booklet?" Dale asked, blinking innocently.

The sergeant smiled and shook his head. "Just do it as it is written. You do have to pass a test tomorrow."

"Yes, Sergeant," Dale and Shannon said together.

At 1500 hours, class was over and the two lieutenants joined the entire company to take their final PT test for G-3 testing. No one failed. As soon as they were dismissed, Dale and Shannon changed into civilian clothes and made a beeline to the EC.

The disco/dance area was closed for minor repairs, so Dale and Shannon sat at the other bar, drank mixed drinks for a change and relaxed. When they left the bay, most of the remaining Alpha women were studying their notes for their particular classes the next day. The only other females who planned to do anything else were Kotski, who was going to the movies with Van Hoesan and Michaelson, who was going over to the WAC recreation center for her usual Wednesday night routine.

Dale and Shannon rehashed their day, the phone call from Burke and what it might mean and speculated about Henning possibly being the target. The bar was empty except for them, two GIs playing pool and the bartender. He engaged in trivial conversation with them to help pass the time.

As with the other two nights that week, Dale and Shannon barely made it back to the barracks for bed check and had to slide into their bunks fully clothed. They covered up to their necks and pretended to be fast asleep as the drill sergeant took a mental headcount and never knew (or didn't acknowledge) that the two women had raced in the door just minutes earlier. Dale and Shannon were getting the reputation of being the party daredevil duo of Alpha-10. Old habits really did die hard.

Part 26

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