87 - Baghdad
SEVERAL YEARS AGO I can’t image how I could have looked more out of place, running through the streets of Baghdad late at night, wearing nothing more than that white, plain cotton pair of pants. I already didn’t look like I belonged, but this was just ridiculous. In all likelihood, that was what the people that had captured me had been hoping. Perhaps they’d thought that I’d just be too embarrassed to run away. Or something like that.
Luckily, it was late enough that only the stranger sorts were out and about anymore anyways. I got a few looks, but most people were more than happy to look the other way. It seemed that don’t ask, don’t tell was sort of universal code, although it had just as many darker implications here as it did in the military. I mean, if I had slipped and fallen, who would have been willing to help the obvious foreigner out for a nearly naked nighttime stroll? Next to no one, that’s for sure.
I made it back to our base of operations at what must have been nearing dawn, although I no longer had any way to keep track of time. There was a faint light starting to peak over the horizon, but I couldn’t honestly tell if it was just a different look at the city’s lights or if it really was the first fingers of dawn.
For the second time in as many days, I just about managed to get myself shot for nothing more than being in the wrong place in the wrong time. The time around, the wrong place was more of how I was dressed than anything and the wrong time. This time the wrong time was right at the end of a shift when those on duty were starting to think perhaps more of their bunks then necessarily of the alleyways and streets they were supposed to be watching.
That’s why I found myself forced to my knees no more than twenty feet from my own bunk, two guns that I could see pointed at me and potentially any number more off in the darkness. I tried to tell them it was just a case of mistaken identity, that all they would have to do was to come up and see for themselves. but they were having none of that. And in the half light of the alleyway, I guess I did look somewhat suspicious.
Thankfully though, calmer heads prevailed and I heard the sound of a voice coming from inside the compound. “Padre, is that you?” The voice sounded familiar, although it took a few moments to place it. When I did though, I felt a wide smile forming.
“Carter! You survived?” From when I’d escaped up until that moment, I really hadn’t had much time to consider what had happened to the three men that had come with me. I had hoped and prayed that thye’d survived the ordeal in better shape even than I had, but it was still having that nice bit of confirmation.
Unfortunately though, as I called out, I caught site of the look on the face of one of the men that had his gun trained on me. He he a puzzled look and was shaking his head slightly, like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Of course, my mind immediately shifted gears, grinding from being glad that Carter–and by extension I hoped Lee and Rush–had survived to the much darker what if.
What if they hadn’t surived the attack?
What if they were just like Private Jackson now?