After introductions were made all around, I was invited to step outside. The military “grownups” needed to talk.
There was another bench along the front of the office. I sat there, away from the scraggly bearded man in uniform.
I watched the glowing lake below. In the late afternoon sun, it glittered like green fire.
“You want to kill the ass hats?” the bearded man asked.
He grinned. His two front teeth were missing. “I know how to kill the ass hats. Seen it happen. The commander doesn’t let me kill ’em here, but I know how. You wanna know how?”
My instinct for fact finding stopped at methods of homicide. “No thanks.”
I felt him watching me. I considered taking a walk, but I was exhausted. Skippy the Butthead stood across the street. He posed like a tree, his head thrown back. I noticed that the bearded man watched Skippy, his eyes burning with ferocious loathing.
That night, Kate and I stayed in an officer’s cabin. She and I were given bed rolls and an empty room. She lay on her side, facing away.
“I know you’re angry,” I said.
“Not just angry,” she said. “Furious. I didn’t want to believe it when my men told me they saw you at the Butthead compound and that you wandered this way. You could have been killed.”
“The yellow shrubs—they work very well.”
“But you didn’t know that for sure. And why wouldn’t you tell me you knew about this settlement?”
I didn’t answer.
“I’ll tell you why.” She rolled over to glare at me. “You wouldn’t tell me because you’re a reporter, because you have to be the first one on the scene, so you can get the scoop on everyone else. Your journalist’s instinct is one thing, but you could at least mention it to your wife.”
“You know what the worst thing is? You didn’t tell me, not because you didn’t want me to worry, but because you thought I’d go straight to Scargal. You think I’m military first and wife second.”
Her eyes narrowed. I squirmed.
“What I am is Captain Kate Yancey. The ‘Captain’ is for the military. The ‘Yancey’ is for you. And in the middle, there’s someone who I’d like to think is intelligent and trustworthy enough to know how to balance options and make choices for the greater good. You could at least trust me to think for myself.”
She rolled over again.
“I’m sorry,” I repeated.