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Soul Collectors Episode 01, A Veteran Comes Home

Author:

DW, an Army vet, has published 7 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.

The Soul Collector

The Soul Collector

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Uncelebrated Homecoming

The rain was falling as the military transport landed at McChord Air Force Base.

“Of course, it’s raining,” Staff Sergeant Mortimer A. Talley said to Staff Sergeant Victor M. Ortega. “If it wasn’t raining we’d have no idea where we are.”

SSG Ortega laughed politely at SSG Talley’s remark. “It doesn’t always rain here, Mort. Remember that one day…”

Further conversation was cut off by the appearance of the plane’s crew chief; an Air Force Technical Sergeant named Johnson. He spoke to First Lieutenant Calvert, leader of the team of soldiers of which Talley and Ortega were members.

“There will be a five-ton truck waiting to take you and your men over to your billets on North Fort Lewis, sir. You’ll need to have all your gear ready right when we open the ramp. We’re only going to stop for a couple of minutes to let you and your men off; then we’ve got to taxi over to Ops like this was a normal flight.”

“Roger that, Sergeant. Thank you,” 1LT Calvert replied to the Tech Sergeant. He raised his voice just a touch. “Sergeant Ortega, Sergeant Talley, make sure the rest of the team is ready to double-time off the aircraft the minute the ramp starts dropping.”

“Yes, sir!” The two non-commissioned officers echoed, before turning and seeing to the three men who were the only survivors of a twelve man team that had been sent deep into Iraq on a mission that was so black no one was supposed to know they’d been there.

Talley nudged Ortega. “Any other unit would have flown home on a chartered airliner to applause and parades. We have to sneak into the country and pretend we never left.”

Ortega shrugged. “They snuck us out; now they sneak us back in. That’s the way it is when you do what we do for a living, amigo.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve had enough. In ninety days I’m giving up these stripes and becoming a PFC - Proud, Free, Civilian.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it, Mort.”

Ninety days after the military transport touched down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord M.A. Talley, Proud Free Civilian, drove his twenty-year-old Chevelle out the main gate of Fort Lewis, Washington for the last time. After ten years in the Army, eight of them in Special Forces, and six months of black ops in Iraq, he’d decided it was time to try something else.

That something else lay a little over two thousand five hundred miles away in Boston, Massachusetts. He’d already applied and been accepted to a basic law enforcement training program at a community college near the house he’d inherited from his parents. The house had been rented out while he was in the Army, but the tenants had been informed their lease wouldn’t be renewed because the owner was returning to town and moving back in.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

East on I-90

Mort’s drive east across the country on Interstate 90 was uneventful. He didn’t press his luck, knowing the gleaming black Chevelle would garner attention without him driving like a man in a hurry, which he wasn’t. Mort’s bank account was nicely padded with the pay he earned while in Iraq and hadn’t had the opportunity to spend. That money, his income from the renting of his house, and what was left of the life insurance from his parents’ untimely death nine years before, meant Mort wouldn’t have to worry about money for the immediate future. He couldn’t live out the rest of his life in luxury, but he’d get by comfortably until he finished the basic law enforcement training program and earned his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice. Mort figured his veteran’s status, the certificate, and the degree would guarantee him a job with either the Boston Police Department or the State Police.

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Police Cadet M. A. Tally

Police Cadet Talley was having an easier time of basic law enforcement training than most of his classmates. In his previous line of work, Army Special Operations, he’d had to keep himself physically fit, so the physical training requirements of BLET were easy for him to deal with. The marksmanship qualification was also a piece of cake for him. Adjusting his mindset to the idea that the police were supposed to try to bring in their targets alive took more doing than he thought it would. During his six months behind enemy lines in Iraq, all the people his team hunted for died.

The academic part of the training proved to be less difficult for Mort than he expected. He’d always done well in high school, but he thought the classes in BLET would be more of a challenge. That they hadn’t disappointed him.

Most of the other cadets in his class were many years younger than Mort, and he was the only Gulf War veteran in the class. This set him apart from his classmates, most of whom came to BLET right out of high school. Mort didn’t mind. His social calendar was full already.

What happens next?! Part 2 - Old Love New Love, is just a click away.

© 2018 DW Davis