“Dan, come on Man!” I holler at my best friend who is lying on the ground in a pool of his blood mixed with the guy who shot him. He closes his eyes and it looks like he is sleeping, I put my fingers up to his pulse and feel that he still has one. It’s faint but he’s still alive for now. I lift my head up and survey my surroundings. I’m going to need help since I’m not the medic that would be Marco. I push the button on my earpiece and I hear nothing but static for a moment. When I know it’s connected again I quietly tell my team I need Lopez.
“I’m on my way?” He states. “What’s the problem so I know what I’m walking into?”
“Woods has been shot, point-blank in the chest,” I answer with a tremble in my voice.
“Shit!” I hear him shout into the earpiece. “This isn’t good Damien, his chance of survival is slim.” Fear and guilt envelop me and I allow it, I let my best friend down once again. I promised I would keep him safe and told him minutes ago I would be the one taking the bullet for him. Yet, he’s the one laying on the ground with a hole in his chest. I’ve screwed up again, just like I’ve always done.
I’ve pushed everyone who’s ever cared for me away, just like I did to Emily. “Shit, Emily!” I drop to my knees, bury my hands in my face and sob. I’m not a man who wears his emotions and I don’t cry but knowing that I let my best friend and my brother die is enough to break the strongest of men. I shouldn’t be falling apart when we are in the middle of a war zone, I’m endangering us all but I just can’t seem to care. It doesn’t matter if I die or not because when I take Dan home and tell his Family what I did they’re going to murder me, so I would rather face the firing squad instead.
All around me is gunfire and my team fighting to survive and watching our backs. I should be out there helping them, the least I can do is do my job. I take another glimpse and see Lopez applying pressure to Dan’s wound, and notice he at least got the bleeding to stop for now. Lopez’s bloody hand lands on my shoulder and gives a brotherly pat.
’He’s alive but if we don’t get him help soon he may not stay that way.” The pain and guilt blossoms in my chest and it takes everything in me not to allow to fully consume me. “Help me lift him up and get him to shelter. The other guys have taken shelter in a home and from what Commander says they are very kind but terrified.
I don’t say anything but bend down, slide my arm under Dan’s and prepare to lift him. When Lopez gets to his feet and lifts we hear a guttural groan from Dan but we can’t stop, we need to get him inside and let Lopez attend to his wounds. We finally make it inside and a woman wearing black and a multi-colored hijab directs us to a makeshift bed. We lay Dan down and I take one last glance at him,
“I need to get out there, I can’t just sit here and to do nothing.” He shakes his head.
“Reed, that’s not a good idea, you’re not in the right mind and not to mention you’ve been shot.” I forgot I had been grazed in the arms earlier, it really didn’t hurt but that could really just be the adrenaline.
“I’m fine Lopez, just stay here with Woods. If anything happens please radio it in.” He takes on a defensive stance and looks ready to take me out if I disobey him but I out rank him and Sarg isn’t here to tell me I can’t go. Besides I’m pretty sure they could use the extra hand out there.
“Reed, as the medic of this crew I say you need to stand down. You could get yourself killed with the way your mind is right now.” I just smirk and say,
“Well, Lopez I outrank you which means you can’t tell me to stay. As for getting myself killed, there could be worse things.” I don’t wait for a response I take up my weapon and run out of the house. I know for a fact Lopez is calling in my insubordination in but I don’t care. I don’t plan on going back alive. Some will say I’m suicidal and maybe I am but I know the moment I step foot in Texas I’m a dead man.
“Reed get your ass back in that house!” I hear Ghost say through my earpiece. He’s pissed off and sounds ready to shoot me in the ass. I click on my earpiece and respond,
“Sarg, I feel better out here. I can’t just sit back and let these bastards win, that would be letting Dan’s death’s go unjustified. I have to do this for him, please just let me have this.” Ghost sighs loudly but agrees.
“Fine Reed but if I feel you are off in any way you are benched. Got it?”
“Yes, Sir, and thanks.” I round the corner in search for my team but what unnerves me is that I haven’t seen any insurgents. We’ve been taking in heavy loads of gunfire but all a sudden it stops. I stay on high alert and sticking to the dark alleyways and watching my back. The thought that Dan isn’t here with me guts me, he would always be my lookout guy and had a perfect kill shot. I was never afraid but now I’ve never been more worried someone is aiming for my head.
"Damien get in here you worthless piece of shit!” My father demands. His temper has gotten more out of control in the past few weeks. Mom says he’s working longer hours because of a tough case but I don’t believe that, in fact, I know that’s not true at all. I know what he’s been doing but I’m not about to tell my Mom. She’s already broken and telling her would destroy her.
“Don’t make me come get you, boy!” Dad doesn’t scare me anymore, he does have a wicked right hook but what he doesn’t know is I’ve been training with a retired pro boxer. He’s taught me ways to protect myself and deal a knock out blow in one punch. Dad doesn’t know what’s coming his way if he even tries to lay a finger on me or my mother again.
I grab my black leather jacket and my keys before I leave my room. I’m taking Emily out for our two year anniversary and I’m not about to let a drunk asshole ruin that. I run down the stairs ignoring my old man’s bellowing. Luckily, he can only destroy the house because Mom isn’t here tonight. Mrs. Woods convinced her to go shopping. I’m always been grateful for Mrs. Woods but my heart swelled with gratitude. I’m positive she is going to convince Mom to leave Dad; I just hope she is successful.
I’m just about to walk out the door when I’m being yanked by the collar. I’m slammed face-first into the wood door, my arm is being painfully pulled behind my back but I don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he has the upper hand. I grit my teeth and suck in a harsh breath, the collar of his olive-green uniform shirt scratches my cheek as he nears me and I can smell the liquor on his breath.
“Did you think you could just walk away from me boy?” Here is where I chose my words wisely, I can either bite back with sarcasm or let the situation escalate or I can just tell him what he wants to here.
“No, Sir, I had my earbuds in and didn’t hear you.” I really want to turn around and knock his ass out but it wouldn’t do me any good. I would just get my ass put in a cell for the night, been there and done that. He pulls my arm further up and if he does it anymore he could easily break my shoulder.
“Don’t fucking lie to my boy! I know you heard me yelling for you but you just think you are so much better than I am because of those rich assholes you hang out with. I see why you are so hooked on the girl though, I’d do here like the whore she is.” He is such a bitter drunk and knows where to strike me. He doesn’t have to hit me to cause damage.
“Don’t talk about Emily like that!” I holler while he has his other hand cupping the back of my head and shoving my face harder into the door. Fear and panic first take over and then acceptance, he doesn’t intend to let me walk away from this, he’s going to kill me. I can feel it in the way his heart is beating and the dangerous hold he has on me. He’s got me pinned and I can’t fight back.
“I will talk to about her any way I want because she has to be a whore if she hangs out with trash like you.” Finally, he lets go of my head and my arm, but he grabs a hold of my collar again and turns me around. I’m face to face with the man I despise more than anything, the man I dream of getting away from. “You will never disrespect me again!” His fist connects with my face and I....
“Reed, take cover!” I see Ghost standing in the alleyway on the other side of the dirt road. He’s speaking into his earpiece but I don’t quite make out what he’s saying. I put my foot down on the dirt to make my way towards him, then all I can hear is ringing in my ears as I’m being thrown fifty feet in the air. I land with a hard thump and the world goes dark.