CopyrightÂ© 2006 by R. Michael Lowe aka The Scot. All rights reserved
Once everyone was ready the General led them back to the waiting limo. The group was whisked back across the Potomac and moments later were pulling into Arlington cemetery. At the site where Colonel Mike McKinsey’s ashes were to be placed a platform had been erected.
The party exited the limo and a Captain led the Pickneys to some seats on the front row that had been roped off. General Scott rolled Kevin up a ramp and on to the platform. Kevin looked out at the seats in front, as well as the seats on the platform. He couldn’t imagine that many people coming to honor his Dad. While the other seats began to fill up several high brass from the Pentagon took up places on the platform. General Scott brought three gentlemen over and introduced them to Kevin. In the introduction Kevin learned they were the two Senators from Alabama and the Congressman from his District. One of the Senators leaned over, and said, “Nice tie, War Eagle!’
Kevin returned the Senator’s smile, and responded “War Eagle. I just regret I’ll never be able to wear an orange and blue jersey.”
“Kevin, I saw that game in Birmingham, and I have say I regret the same thing. I’ve never seen a performance like that before.”
The other Senator added, “I didn’t see the game, but I’ve sure seen the replay. I have to agree with my esteemed colleague, that was an outstanding game. Is the rumor I heard true, that you personally engineered the turn-a-round?”
“Sir, I might have made a few suggestions, but only because I’d been taught well by some very good coaches.”
“Son. Your humility is honorable, but from what I hear you literally took over the team.”
“Sir, with all due respect, I didn’t win that game by myself. Everyone on the team contributed, even those who didn’t actually get into the game. As my father always taught me there’s no ‘I’ in team.”
Before anything else could be said, the color guard came forth and the band struck up ‘Hail to the Chief.’ After the first bars the President stepped up on the platform and approached the podium. Kevin was totally stunned, as he hadn’t seen him arrive.
For the next few minutes the leader of the most powerful country in the world spoke about Colonel Mike McKinsey as if he’d known him personally. As Kevin thought about it, maybe he had. Then in the first of several surprises Kevin was called forth and introduced to the audience. General Scott again pushed the wheel chair himself. The President reminded the audience of the football game many had seen from the television replay. He listed Kevin’s accomplishments, and then announced they now knew Kevin’s Dad, girlfriend, and football future were all destroyed by a deliberate terrorist action.
Finally, a lone piper stood on the hillside playing a haunting version of Amazing Grace and then Taps. While Taps hung like a fog over the cemetery the honor guard fired their guns in a final salute. When they finished the President presented Kevin with two folded flags. One was the American flag that had been draped over the mock coffin that carried Mike McKinsey’s ashes, and the other was a single white star on a blue field. Kevin’s Dad was being buried as a general.
There were other speakers that afternoon, but Kevin was in such a daze none of it penetrated. Finally, from the sheer emotional drain the young man slumped over in his wheel chair. Malcolm Scott and two secret service men raced to his side, and moments later he was loaded aboard the Presidential helicopter and rushed to Walter Reed Hospital.
It was several hours later before Kevin awoke to find himself back in the hospital. At first he thought it’d all been a dream, but then he realized how many of the hospital personnel were in Army uniforms. Shortly after he opened his eyes a young nurse came in to check on him.
“Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure what happened to me.”
“From what we’re told you passed out at your father’s funeral and were rushed here by the President’s helicopter. Your vital signs are good, are you hurting anywhere?”
“Not that I’m aware of. I suspect my body was overloaded with emotions and just shut down. These have been a hard few days for me.”
“That can happen. Is there anything you need?”
“How about a coke on ice and some food. I haven’t had anything but a glass of juice and a piece of toast all day.”
“No wonder you passed out. Your blood sugar probably dropped and that was aggravated by the emotional overload.”
“But I’m not diabetic. At least, I don’t think I am.”
“You don’t have to be diabetic to have your blood sugar drop like that. The lack of food and the emotions could’ve easily pushed you over the edge. I’ll check with your doctor and try to get you some food as quickly as I can.”
“Thanks, I’d appreciate it. In the meantime, I guess I’ll stare at the ‘idiot box’ for a bit.”
“It doesn’t sound like you think much of television.”
“Actually, I’d rather curl up with a good book.”
The nurse grinned, and said, “Gee, I didn’t know they still made those.”
“Well, as I’ve said before, I was probably born a hundred years too late.” The nurse shrugged at his answer, not really knowing how to respond. Then, as she headed out the door to contact the doctor about some food for Kevin he turned on the television that was suspended on the far wall.
After channel surfing for a few minutes and getting caught up on the news headlines he found an old Glenn Ford western about a shop keeper who was running from his reputation of being a fast gun. He’d barely gotten into the movie, when the nurse reappeared with a small digital device. “I need to see your finger for a moment. Doctor Hannan wants me to test your blood sugar before he prescribes a diet for you.” She then pricked his finger with the device and read the display. “Yep, I was right. Your blood sugar is really low. I’ll be back in a few minutes with something to give you a quick boost and then follow that with something more substantial.”
Kevin returned to the movie, but before the next commercial the nurse returned with a Coke, a candy bar and a big piece of carrot cake. “I hope you like carrot cake,” she said. “One of the other nurses brought it in a while ago for all of us on this shift. Since she makes a real sweet icing I thought it might help get that sugar up. Also, the doctor has approved a normal diet, as your other blood tests haven’t shown any problems. The one problem is it’s still more than three hours before the next meal is to be served. I’ll see what I can do to get you something before that.”
Having taken a couple of bites of cake, Kevin said, “That would be helpful. Also, tell who ever made this cake it’s delicious. It tastes like the ones my mother used to make.”
“Used to make?”
“Yes, Ma’am. She died of cancer more than eight years ago.”
“And you were at your father’s funeral today when you passed out. No wonder your emotions are out of whack.”
“Actually, there’s a lot more to it than that, but I don’t want to bore you with my problems.”
“Really? Well, I’m a good listener.”
“Well, the same explosion that killed my father also killed my future wife and destroyed my football career.”
“Oh! You’re the kid from Alabama all the male orderlies have been talking about. I’m sorry I didn’t connect the dots, but I’m not much of a sports fan. I’ll pass this information on to the doctor, as the emotional stress of all this has to have affected your body’s systems.” With a gentle smile she reached over and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
After a moment she left the room, closing the door softly behind her. She’d been trying to hide it, but Kevin had noticed the tears in her eyes and knew she had to leave to keep from openly crying - crying for him and his losses. Maybe there were still some good people in this world.
Once she’d left Kevin tried to get back into the movie, but found he couldn’t. After surfing some more he stopped at the Public Television channel and started watching Sesame Street, remembering all the times he’d watched it with his Mom. Within minutes his eyes were full of tears as he realized he’d never really gotten over his mother’s death, he’d only suppressed his grief.
Suddenly, the door opened and in walked General Scott. He had a large plastic cup in one hand and a sack in the other. He handed the sack to Kevin, and rolled the tray that was normally used for meals over to the bed. “Someone said we weren’t feeding you right, so I thought I’d correct the problem.”
As Kevin removed the large hamburger and fries from the bag, Malcolm was surprised to see what the young man had been watching.
Grinning, he asked, “Trying to convince all these cute nurses you’re really intelligent and not just some dumb jock?”
After swallowing his first bite of the hamburger Kevin responded, “Actually, I was thinking about my mother and remembering the times she put aside her work to watch it with me. It’s the first time I’ve really thought about her in years, but when the nurse brought me a piece of carrot cake that was like Mom used to make the memories and the loss all came flooding back to me.”
For more than one reason this concerned Malcolm Scott, and he asked, “With everything else that’s happened, are you okay?”
Between bites Kevin answered, “Actually, Sir, I think getting the emotions out in the open is helping. I pushed away my grief over Mom and never dealt with it. Now, I’ve no where else to run, so I’m having to face it. What’s funny is, as I started to deal with Mom’s death the other hurts seem to be soothed at the same time. I still feel a great sense of loss, but I’m not devastated or suicidal. In fact, I think I’m beginning to feel like facing the future, whatever that may be.”
“That’s very encouraging, Kevin. A lot of people have been concerned about you, even our President. Do you know he had you flown here in his helicopter?”
“That’s what someone told me. General, the nurse who’s been assisting me here has probably helped more than anyone. The way she expressed her hurt for what I was feeling reminded me there were still good people on this planet and in this country. I know I’ve more grief to deal with, but I can now focus less on the bad and start finding more of the good.”
“That’s the most encouraging news I’ve heard today. By the way, were you surprised they gave your Dad his star, even if it was posthumously.”
“Yes, but I feel he deserved it. Of course, I might be a little biased.”
“You might be, but you’re also correct. He did deserve it. In fact, I tried to get it for him several years ago, but he didn’t want to leave CID. The only way he could’ve gotten both was for me to retire or be transferred to another command.”
“Well, it was still a nice gesture.”
“Kevin, it was more than a nice gesture. It elevates your status and benefits significantly.”
“I don’t know all the details, but the brass at the Pentagon will reveal it all, later.”
“Then I’ll wait on my questions until they get up with me. In the meantime, I have one question for you.”
Kevin laughed at the General’s remark, and said, “That’s what I wanted to ask you about. Why was the bag where my guns are kept on the plane that brought us here?”
Surprised Kevin had noticed, Malcolm Scott said, “Let me answer that with my own question. Are you as good with them as your father said?”
“I don’t know what Dad told you, but I’m pretty fast, and I’m accurate with both hands, which is kind of strange. Shooting is about the only thing I can do well with my left hand.”
“How soon would you feel up to a demonstration?”
“Get me out of here and find me a way to stand, and I can do it right now. Or, as soon as this food gets into my system.”
“Then I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
While Kevin was still pondering what all this meant, his nurse returned, carrying some green scrubs.
Smiling, she said, “Kevin, General Scott just told me about how much I’d helped you. I want you to know that’s made my day.”
“You’re welcome, but actually all you did was be yourself. Your professionalism diagnosed the blood sugar problem. Your care and compassion reminded me there were still some people worth caring about. Then, when you brought me that piece of cake it reminded me of my Mom, I realized I’d never really dealt with Mom’s death. Once I started grieving for my Mom it was like breaking a log jam of emotions.
She responded, “Now hush, before you make me cry again. I understand you’re being checked out temporarily, but you’ll be coming back. When you do you’ll be put in a VIP suite, so I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.”
“But, what if I requested you to be assigned to my suite?”
“Kevin, I don’t think that would be a good idea. It might start rumors that wouldn’t be good. What’s worse is if you did those rumors might become true. Right now I’m as vulnerable as you are, and you’re a very handsome young man, even if you’re seven years younger than me. I’ll promise to stop in and check on you every time I get a chance.”
“Thanks, I’d like that, though I honestly hadn’t thought of you romantically at this point. In addition, I don’t even know your name.”
“It’s Mary Ann - Mary Ann Blakely.” With that behind them Nurse Blakely helped Kevin into the scrubs and into a wheel chair. During the transfer Kevin did notice he could put more weight on his right leg. He also noticed, several times, Mary Ann’s breasts had rubbed across his arm. He didn’t know if it was intentional or not, but to a seventeen year old boy, it sure felt good. When she finished, she opened the door, and two young soldiers came in with General Scott.
Looking at Kevin, Malcolm realized how thin the scrubs were and said, “Nurse, we’ll be moving him to a warm van that’s equipped for a wheelchair, but I think he needs more cover to get him there. Could we get a blanket for him? I’ll see it gets back to you.”
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
Moments later she returned with a soft foam blanket. The two soldiers helped Kevin to stand while she and General Scott wrapped the blanket around him to keep out the chill. When they were finished Mary Ann gave Kevin a soft kiss on the cheek and left. Kevin and the others followed her out, but they turned toward the elevators while she headed back to the nurses station. In the elevator, General Scott said, “She’s pretty.”
“Your nurse. Did she mention you’ll be placed in a suite when we get back?”
“Yes, she did. From that, I’m assuming I’m not going back to the hotel with the Pickneys.”
“No, you won’t be. In fact, some of my people are currently getting your clothes and bringing them here. At the same time, some of the Sergeant’s friends will be giving them a grand tour of the city. They’ll be flying home Sunday, but you’re staying here for therapy. I’ll make sure you get to see them again before they go home.”
“That sounds good, though you might want to talk to Sarge about their accommodations. I suspect they’d feel much more comfortable in something not quite so luxurious.”
“Thanks for telling me. I was so concerned about doing things ‘right’ for you I never considered how they might respond.”
While they were talking the elevator doors opened, and Kevin found them in a basement parking area. An Army van waited in front of them, and Kevin could tell it was running because of the exhaust. As soon as the people in the van saw the General the side door was opened, and a wheel chair platform lowered. Kevin was wheeled over to the van and was quickly loaded inside. Once everyone was buckled in the sergeant behind the wheel headed out of the lot. As soon as they were outside, Malcolm pulled out a cell phone and called a captain. That was all Kevin knew, as no last name was ever used. General Scott explained to the Captain Kevin’s concern and ordered him to discuss it with the Pickneys and to do whatever it took to make them comfortable.
A little over thirty minutes later the van passed through the gates of Fort Meade. After traveling for a mile through the Fort’s grounds they pulled up to the front of a building marked Fort Meade Rod and Gun Club. The men in the van quickly moved Kevin from the warm van into the warm building. The air outside wasn’t really that cold, but for someone in hospital scrubs it would’ve felt bitter.
Inside they wheeled Kevin down a hallway and into a standard pistol range. There were several people waiting for them, but all the shooting booths were empty. As he was wheeled toward an open area between two of the booths two men came forward and introduced themselves. They were physical therapists and had developed a device they believed would allow him to stand without putting pressure on the mending bones in his heel. While they helped Kevin get into their device Malcolm Scott joined three other men who were observing from the side.
One of the men, FBI Special Agent Dwight Bowman, was scrutinizing Kevin’s physical appearance, and liked what he saw. The young man before him was slightly over six feet and weighed around one-ninety. His chestnut hair was in a fairly rakish style that could fit into most cultures. He also noticed, though, the subject of his close observation was rather young his eyes told of age and maturity far beyond his years. When he got closer he realized Kevin had the same blue eyes as Mike McKinsey, who’d been agent Bowman’s friend for many years. Agent Bowman had once described those eyes to someone as the look of an eagle. Yes, he thought, I can understand why Mike was so proud of his son.
Gunnery Sergeant Octavius James was doing his own observations of the young man. Though he thought Kevin might make a good Marine Gunny’s specialty was weapons, not recruiting. Earlier he’d been brought a leather bag containing a pair of Colt western style revolvers. Checking them out he’d been impressed with the care they had been given. He also appreciated the workmanship of the handmade holsters that went with them, though he felt the arrangement was a little unorthodox. He’d never seen one where the gun for the left hand was in a cross draw position.
The third gentleman wore jeans and a comfortable golf shirt. He also wore a blue windbreaker with U S Marshal stenciled on the back. Rick Hansen was a Texan who’d joined the Marshals after serving for many years as a Texas Ranger. He was considered one of the finest western shooters outside of Hollywood. It was his job to evaluate this young man for a task Rick wouldn’t have wished upon his worst enemy.
After trying several variations Kevin and the two therapists were satisfied with the makeshift frame attached to Kevin’s leg. He still couldn’t walk, but it allowed Kevin to stand without putting any pressure on his right heel, and very little on any part of his right foot.
Once Kevin was comfortable the two therapists were instructed to wait in the lobby. When they closed the door leading to the hallway, Malcolm led the three men over to meet Kevin. While Kevin was told their names and what branch or agency they were involved with, he wasn’t given any details of each man’s expertise, or why they were there.
“Kevin, I’d like you to show us what you can do. Would that be a problem?”
“No, Sir. Just give me a few moments to get ready.”
“Sure. Take your time.”
The first thing Kevin did was check out each of his guns. They were both Colt single action Forty-fives, also known as the Peacemaker. These particular guns were made in the early nineteen hundreds and had five and a half inch barrels. Next, he belted on the holster and loaded each weapon by inserting one round, skipping a cylinder, and then loading four other rounds. Thus, when he moved the gun to a half-cocked position, the hammer sat over the empty cylinder. Finally, he fit them carefully in the holsters and looked back at the men for instructions.
“Kevin, just go at your own pace. You don’t have to push yourself, as we’re as interested in accuracy as we are in speed.”