Everyone else was talking in low tones in the CUC-V. There was ten of us packed into it, and we were passing around a bottle of Ausbach. Three in the front, four in the middle, three of us packed into the back on top of the toolboxes.
In AIT and Basic, when we went somewhere by truck, we always talked and BS’d. This ride, all we did was pass the bottle and pass around the cigarette Cobb had lit up. SFC Vickers seemed particularly disturbed, staring out the window and taking long pulls off the bottle.
The ten of us went through three bottles of liquor by the time we pulled up to the barracks.
I climbed out of the truck, the wind whipping at my parka, and I stared at the building. The building I had to go back into. The building that the Army expected me to live in and like it. The building where motherfuckers who came to mind when you said evil had tortured people to death, beaten people to death, practiced strangulation techniques, and planned foul deeds.
It was three stories tall. A basement, and supposedly a sub-basement we hadn’t checked. There was an attic, but nobody had gone in there. The roof was steeply inclined, and I understood it was because of the snow. I could see iron rings on the roof, and I asked Thompson about them.
They used to tie the treetops to the rings, pulling them over the building to hide it.
The trees clustered close to the building, the snow was up to the windows, about five feet deep.
While I stood there and watched, lights came on in one of the room, then shut off.
The other CUC-V pulled up. Figures, I was probably the only one who saw it.
We trudged into the building, not like men and women who had come home, but rather like we were walking to the firing squad.
We were all overstressed. I may not have been an NCO, but I sure as shit knew when people were past their breaking point. Even I was seeing things, and probably hearing things.
The CQ area was cold and dim. It took Carter three times of flicking the switch to get the lights to come on. Captain Bishop didn’t say anything, just walked into the day room cracking open a bottle of Bacardi 151. We all followed, and Thompson began handing out bottles out of a rucksack. I got two bottles of Wild Turkey. It was more than I needed; shit I hadn’t drunk that much since I got tossed on my head in Juvie by the cops.
We all began bullshitting and eventually ate from MREs. We had a mermite full of food, but MREs just felt right. Everyone talked about their fall from grace. The fact I’d arrived in handcuffs, that Thompson had been an E-6 who’d beaten up another soldier bad enough to hospitalize the guy over a woman, Cobb had been a prime suspect in a murder, and even though they’d busted him for failure to report, they’d never pinned the murder on him. Captain Bishop had beaten the fuck out of his Brigade Commander for calling him a nigger, SFC Vickers had gotten caught fucking his superior’s wife, Stokes had gotten drunk and wrecked her car and killed another soldier in a head-on collision. I was the youngest there. The next one closest to me was twenty-two. These guys and girls had joined the Army while I was still catching feels in Junior High.
We were all criminals. If penal units still existed, it was us.