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Desmond shifted to the balls of his feet. The toe of his shoe smooshed a dry leaf on the ground. He continued to spring up and down, keeping his head just below the bush line. Jamie raised his phone and recorded an updated video of the guards’ positions. They played it back. The guards were mostly in the same position. Desmond nodded. Jamie pocketed his phone. “You ready?” Jamie asked.
“I’ve run enough plays. I know what I’m doing,” Desmond said.
“Good luck dude,” Harry said.
Desmond crouch-walked a few yards away from Jamie’s location deeper in the woods. He nodded his head back and forth multiple times. The images of his teammates and coaches plastered themselves against his eyelids. Tears rolled down his face, past his cheek, and dribbled from his chin. “Okay,” he whispered. He leaped up and yelled. The military police and guards all turned to look at the noise. “HOW COULD YOU!” Desmond yelled. He took off, out of the woods and to the baseball field. “HOW COULD YOU ALL NOT GET HERE IN TIME!” He yelled. The guards and military police chased after the devastated classmate, and friend. Desmond jerked, spun, ducked, and weaved, out of the way of their attempts to grab him. “SO MANY OF MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T GET HERE IN TIME TO SAVE THEM!” His voice shattered and cracked under the weight of his despair. The tears never stopped. A guard caught up to him a yard or so away from the tarped off-field. Desmond knocked him out of the way and into a group of military police. They charged him and attempted to restrain the belligerent student who never skipped the gym.
“He’s a good actor,” Jamie said.
“He’s not acting, dude.”
Jamie shook off his own confusion and used their confusion and b-lined it straight for the open school door. Harry followed closely behind as his lookout. They crossed the grassy field totally undetected. They then crossed onto the cement walkway and collided with a stocky man in a military suit. He was the human personification of a bulldog, only standing at five feet – four inches tall, but equally as wide. He had wavy slicked-back hair, and a tight cut beard. His only distinguishing feature aside from the fact he was a proverbial living wall was a permanent crease across his forehead. His suit had a tag with the name: MARSHAL. “What’s going on here?” He demanded.
“I spotted someone,” Harry said.
Jamie froze and tried to come up with any lie this man would believe. “I… I uh,” Jamie stuttered. The military man, Marshal walked past the quivering student like he was an ant. The only acknowledgment he gave Jamie and Harry was a glare that said more than the four words he did. Jamie swallowed hard, backed up, and ran to the edge of the school. Harry followed behind him, checking to make sure no other MPs saw them.
The military police snapped to attention, with only one guard holding Desmond in an arm lock. That guard explained how he ran into the secure zone, and was screaming, and assaulted an officer. Marshal nodded, knelt, and removed the guard’s hands from Desmond. “There you go, soldier.” They stood up in unison. Desmond stood close to a foot above the military man. Marshal extended his hand. “What is your name, soldier?”
Desmond shook his hand. “It’s just Desmond, bro. I’m no soldier.”
Marshal shook his head. “You saw events these men would never have imagined and walked out alive. You’re a damn soldier whether you should have to be or not.” He reached up and placed his clasps for hands onto Desmond’s biceps. It was clear he was aiming for his shoulders. Desmond couldn’t take his eyes off the man. “I wasn’t there, Desmond. I can’t relate to exactly what you saw, but I personally apologize for every damn bit of it.” He waved his finger over the platoon of MPs. “Don’t be mad at them. Don’t yell at them. Don’t take a swing at them. Take that swing at me.” He took a step back and placed his arms behind his back.
Desmond shook his head. Tears sprinkled on the grass. He balled his fist as tight as he could and raised it to Marshal’s height. He gave a half-hearted swing. His knees buckled, and he slumped onto the ground, barely catching himself. “WHY!?” he demanded. He punched the grass. “WHY, WHY, WHY!?” Each ask was punctuated by a punch.
Marshal stepped back and placed his arms on his shoulders. “Pick your head up, soldi…er… Desmond. Pick your head up.” Desmond lifted his head and stared at the man in the eyes. Marshal had seen his tears in the rookies who just lost their friend from Basic because of a land mine in the road, or fire from enemy combatants. “Clear those tears away, Desmond. Your friends, teammates, and teachers would hate to see you cry. They would want you to respect them, and their legacy by what you think is right for them.”
Desmond dabbed his eyes, and sniffled. “Sorry, sir,” Desmond said. He got his strength back enough to stand up.
Marshal shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry about, soldier. We have it taken care of it from here.” He pointed his thumb behind him at Jamie, still cowering on the side of the school. “Go to your friends and go home. Rest up. You will need all of your energy to keep going.”
Desmond nodded his head. “Yes, sir,” he said. He ran back to his friends.
Desmond said nothing. “I have good news, and bad news. Clearly you want the bad news out of the way so… I couldn’t get into school and download the video. Good news though, my search for the license plate is done.”
“What’s it say?” Desmond could keep from sniffling. His voice was all but gone and tinged with some anger.
Jamie scrolled through his phone. “It was a plate for a Department of Defense contractor that works here in Tower.”
“So, it’s like government-issued,” Desmond guessed. He stared the human brick and his men down from his spot a distance away.
“That explains all this,” Harry said.
“Exactly!” Jamie said.
Harry saw Desmond’s bunched up face, and narrow pupils. Jamie didn’t seem to notice. He placed his hands-on Desmond’s shoulder and pushed him away from the school. “Let’s get home before we get into any actual trouble, dude.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Desmond turned around, fists in his letterman jacket pockets, and walked away with Jamie. “Something just doesn’t feel right to me though,” he said.