The Striker – 6

Wade moodily watched the tarmac road patches on patches slowly slipped beneath their Jeep leading a line of Deuce-and-a-Half trucks lumbering behind, back to the airstrip. Kindley Field sat in Bermuda’s Castle Harbor, spanning three islands with their former shores filled with landfill and the U. S. Air Force’s runway. From Tudor Hill, it was only a dozen miles to the other end of Bermuda, but still an hour at the rate they were going. The Lieutenant had long disappeared ahead in a Navy sedan.

What’s goin’ on?” said Jones as he down-shifted.

If they arrived at the scheduled time, their C-131 should be waiting impatiently for them to load their stores and men for transport back to Charleston. Storm conditions, as indicated by the number of tree falls in their way, was going to make that deadline improbable. The tree falls, scrub oaks that leaned precariously over the volcanic outcrop, were annoying, but manageable. The work party hefted them over the stone block roadside barrier that lined the landward side and pitched them into the lashing waters of Great Sound.

Loose ends,” Wade finally answered. The episode with recorders recording recorders had sat on his mind too long. It posed the question: Should he have let Paxton have the cassette? That move hadn’t been professional. It had been more out of contempt for the Man.

Eventually, the road left the margin of lee-side coastline and wandered into a gently sloped interior. The column of Jeep and trucks strove to pick up speed to 25 mile per hour, and make up time.

Certainly, we do better than this,” said Wade to Jones driving carefully.

We could, but us getting to the field ahead of the trucks won’t get all of us to Charleston any faster. Besides, hauling ass for the six wheel drive M35s behind us is about what were are already doing.”

Those monsters? That all? They aren’t even at load capacity. It seems what they got beneath the hood should get us to the moon for President Kennedy.” Jones’ conversation barely moved him very far from the annoying generosity he had shown Paxton.

Jones nodded as he shifted down for another, but now infrequent tree fall. “You think so with a 478 cubic inches six-banger. But we be talkin’ ‘chines from the—“

“—‘chines?” said Wade without interest. His thoughts were turning towards Dusty’s cassette.

Dude. Are you listenin’? Where’s your head?”

Like I said, loose ends.”

Jones waited for some amplifying comment, but nodded to move the conversation. “So, like a Boss ‘chine, Boss machine, Boss car. We be talkin’ machines from the Battle of the Bulge and the Red Ball Express my daddy drove for. Some things never change, and some do.”

Change?”

Jones cast a sidelong look at Wade. “He drive for whitey, I drive for whitey.”

OK, no change there. What change do you see?”

Oh it not so magnificent as you libberuls hope for, boy. That change I see? I gets to drive on the wrong side of the road—when it have sides.”

You gonna rank on everyone about race?”

Jones hit the brakes. There was a tree fall in front of them, but Jones was making a point, and the truck behind nearly bowled over them. Jones offered a tailored smirk and said, “Don’t know whatcha talkin’ ‘bout.”

Men from the truck behind dashed past their jeep and cleared the road that was wind scoured of smaller debris.

I be talkin—“

Don’t you mock me, son,” said Jones. “I speak clear whitey when I need to. We were assembled from X-Division in Charleston for this frolic, you like that? Frolic? I kin do Jane Austin talk too.”

I haven’t read Jane—“

“—Shut the fuck up and listen, Dude. The three stripes on your arm shows their lie with your understanding. We were assembled from X-Division in Charleston for this frolic … None of us know anyone else, and its going to stay that way when we get back, and I find my orders to another bird farm on its way to Yankee Station instead of a comfortable berth on a Med Cruise with its white, sandy beaches of Crete.”

Wade cringed at the mention of Crete, which he had seen when his dad was posted there by the State Department, but he had to push back. “Only very few sailors know about those beaches.”

And I be one.” Jones slowed slightly as he drifted in thought. “And German tourist girls. Mmmh yeah. And these beaches we have here and these righteous, fine ebony women we be flyin’ ‘way from.” He pounded the indestructible steering wheel, “and fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! Boy? You need translation to know I be using the exclamatory form of the word fuck instead of the transitive?”

I think it worked both ways.”

Jones laughed. “So. Where’s your head?”

A striker named Hoover.”

That Dusty kid? Made a run for the jitney? We ain’t gonna catch him in this weather.”

What would he do with Dusty if he caught him? It was time to make it real with Jones. “He’s got this cassette.”

Not many people take home enough jack to pay for a player. So, you think he’s a spy?”

Spy?” They hit a deep puddle, throwing him off balance.

Jones nodded independent of the jostle. We have trucks full of useless recordings. Scuttlebutt is that only one recording matters, and it is top fuckin’ secret. Does this kid have it? These island folk don’t use cassettes for their mission. So, a spy might use cassettes for his mission.”

OK … you surprised me … could be … but the Lieutenant wouldn’t think so.”

The Lieutenant has his head up his ass so far he needs a Plexiglas window in his belly button to see where he is.”

Wade had to smile, but he also had to consider the scuttlebutt’s inference of there being only one recording worth chasing. For that one, were there more as copies? He had his two to put right. Paxton was behind him in a truck, Dusty was ahead of him in a jitney.

continue

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