tagLoving WivesLearning the Smuggler's Blues

Learning the Smuggler's Blues

byTodd172©

This story is one of the Tales from The Shack, and is posted In LW to keep it with the others. This works fine as a standalone, though it precedes "Gun Gun Teddy Bear." I typically don't write graphic sex into this story line and that remains true here. Special thanks to sbrooks103x and PCB for editing and beta reading, and to Luedon for Australian slang assistance. Any remaining errors are entirely mine - probably added after their assistance. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and support.

Learning the Smuggler's Blues: Hi, I'm Wendy, Fly Me

"So. Just what am I supposed to do with you, Sergeant?"

I stood rigidly at attention and didn't even really consider responding. It was clearly a rhetorical question. Nobody had actually wanted to hear what I had to say anyway. I was pretty certain some Colonel who I'd never even seen before didn't want to hear it. I was also almost convinced I'd been sent over to him because every other Field Grade officer in the Division had worn themselves out berating me.

The grim, bald Colonel looked up at the tall, lanky, white-haired Sergeant Major half-standing and half leaning against the peeling office wall. "What do you think Sergeant Major?"

The Sergeant Major looked down at the papers in his hands. "Let's see... Article 118, Attempted Murder, two counts... Article 128, Assault, multiple counts... Article 120, attempted Sexual Assault, two counts... Article 89, Disrespect... at least eight counts." He flipped the paper over. "The list goes on, it's pretty impressive. We can pretty much state that you have effectively ended your career progression permanently at three and a half years in service."

The Colonel closed his eyes for a second. Probably hoping I'd simply fall dead before he opened his eyes back up. I'd been getting a lot of that lately.

"Do you feel any remorse for this at all?"

That was a real question, but I had to be honest. "Sir. No, Sir."

"Major General Faulkner just wants all of this to go away. More specifically, he wants you to go away. So he's asked me to be your zookeeper for the rest of your time in the Army. You work for me, do what I tell you to do. You will never set one foot on main Post again and will adhere to the..." He paused, looking down at the papers in front of him. "...no less than nine protective orders levied against you. A couple more are pending, so let's just assume they will be in effect as well. You will then leave the Army at your scheduled ETS date. The charges go away. Other than a particularly nasty General Letter of Reprimand, you escape the consequences of your actions. Do you understand, Sergeant?"

It was a far better outcome than I'd been expecting. "Sir. Yes, Sir."

The Colonel suddenly smiled - a tiny smile, but weirdly out of character. "At ease, Sergeant."

I shifted my position and relaxed a hair. Just a hair. I caught a glimpse of the Sergeant Major struggling not to laugh.

He just had to ask. "You hospitalized your husband and your Company Commander with a fish? How the hell do you give concussions, break arms and fracture ribs with a fish?"

"It was a frozen fish, Sergeant Major, I'd just come home from the Commissary when I caught them."

"And the attempted forceful-Sodomy-with-a-foreign-object charges?"

"Same fish, Sergeant Major."

"Maybe it was a good thing the MPs arrived when they did."

"I needed just a couple more minutes, Sergeant Major."

The Colonel was trying not to laugh now. "Were you not aware that your Company Commander was Senator Shirling's daughter?"

"I was aware, Sir. She very much made a point of mentioning that to everyone. But that fact was not my main concern. The fact that she was screwing my husband in my own bed, was."

"A point you made to nearly every officer in your chain of command, the Chaplain and a couple of MPs. Apparently violently at times." He flipped a page over. "Which accounts for most of the protective orders."

"Sir, they kept asking me to be reasonable about this. My response seems perfectly reasonable to me, given the provocation."

"Ironically, that fact that she is the Senator's daughter is saving you a great deal of heartache. While the Senator would actually like to have you keelhauled, he is in the middle of an election campaign and his daughter's proclivities towards this kind of thing have caused him some problems before."

The Sergeant Major's jester-like grin widened further. "Keelhauling is much more of a Navy tradition anyway."

The Colonel nodded sagely. "Damn straight. The official story on your husband and the Good Senator's daughter's injuries will be that they are the result of hand to hand combat training."

I tried to swallow my temper. "Rob is my soon to be ex-husband. And that was not just her hand. Sir."

"And you, Sergeant, are not a proctologist. Be glad that they haven't charged you with practicing medicine without a license."

"Sir. Yes, Sir."

"Dismissed, Sergeant."

I did my best to snap to attention and salute properly. This was pretty much the first discussion I'd had with an officer in the last month that didn't involve words like "confinement" and "dishonorable discharge."

I started to turn and froze. "Sir? Dismissed to where?"

As far as I could tell, there was no unit here; the Brigade driver had dropped me off at an old hanger on an out-of-use runway, with an office that the Colonel had obviously co-opted for the discussion. It was in a remote part of the training ranges, far from main base.

He glanced over at the Sergeant Major. "I was wondering when you were going to ask that. Actually, this is your new office right here. Welcome to the 16th Training and Readiness Group. The Sergeant Major will give you the tour. She's all yours, Pogo."

I watched, stunned, as he got up and walked out past me.

I looked back over at the Sergeant Major. "What am I doing here, Sergeant Major?"

"Your job, Sergeant. You're a Cargo Handler, you load and unload planes. You'll be doing that and a bit of Transportation Management Coordinator stuff." He walked out of the office into the main hanger as I trailed behind him. "Computer and phone lines should be in already, the geeks will be bringing a couple computers by tomorrow and get them set up in your office. Phone in the office is already hooked up, contact list is on it. The guys will be bringing the forklifts, pallets, dollies and all that crap over on Friday morning."

A horn sounded outside the hanger. "That will be your stuff from your barracks room. I had your room mate pack it all up."

I'd been rather hastily kicked out of my own house after "the incident," and stuck in a temporary barracks room.

He gestured towards the back of the hanger. "Your new quarters are back there. Bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom. Sometimes we need lift on short notice in the middle of the night, so it's best to have you here."

"Is this some kind of solitary confinement thing?"

"You have a problem with it?" His easy demeanor dropped and his focus sharpened rather suddenly. His affable nature suddenly seemed to be a mask for something much more dangerous, a cold predator of some kind. A tiny, rather terrified, voice in the back of my head warned me that a dishonorable discharge and confinement might just be the least of my worries if I crossed him.

"No, Sergeant Major. My roommate snored. Loudly. I just want to know where I stand."

He relaxed a bit. "You're not a prisoner. Follow the rules Colonel Howard laid out and everything will be fine. We're busy as hell, that's why we're bringing this airfield on line. You'll be busting your ass here, probably do three times the work of anyone else in your specialty. But you'll be treated fairly and get anything you need to do your job. You take care of the unit, we'll take care of you."

The horn honked again and he nodded toward the hanger door. "You might want to go ahead and let them in."

I walked over and threw the switch to open the door. It made an odd grinding noise, but slowly opened to let in a grey crew cab F150. When it stopped, mountains of testosterone and muscle poured out. Actually it was three guys in khaki cargo pants, desert boots and an array of somewhat suggestive bar t-shirts, but it was pretty much the same thing.

A big blonde guy with a close cropped beard slid out of the driver's seat, an even bigger redheaded guy with a full brush of a beard and huge slabs of muscle, slid out on the passenger side, while a slender dark-haired clean shaven guy came out of the back.

The big blonde guy nodded toward the Sergeant Major, then looked over at me.

"Alright Sergeant, where do you want it?"

I pointed towards the back room. "I'll be living in there."

The guy with the dark hair slid towards me. Damn, he was good looking, in that sort of tall, dark and smoldering, Italian way. His voice sounded like liquid sex. "Hello, I'm..."

"Hollywood." The Sergeant Major glared at him. "What part of 'NO' do you not understand?" Even though he didn't raise his voice one bit, I could suddenly hear cold sharp steel in it.

The appropriately-named Hollywood stiffened. "Got it, Sergeant Major."

The blonde guy rolled his eyes. "Get the bags out of the back seat. Dumbass."

Hollywood gave a brilliant apologetic smile, then winked and turned back to the truck.

The blonde guy walked over. "I'm Kurt. You already met Hollywood. The big guy over there is Amos."

The red haired guy grumbled something. Hollywood grinned. "Don't mind old Amos here, raised in a swamp, speaks more alligator than English."

Amos shook his head and lifted a chair one-handed out of the back of the truck like it was a scrap of paper.

I looked at them and a light dawned. "I'm guessing I'm the lowest ranking person here, aren't I?"

The Sergeant Major grinned like a jackal. "Lowest ranking person in the unit, actually. Glad you picked up on that. Still, this hanger is yours; you're the only one with loadmaster certification, so your word here is law." As he said that, he made sure the three guys were listening.

All three locked eyes with him and each gave a single curt nod. For all the bullshit and quasi-civilian clothes, they were obviously disciplined as hell.

It took them about ten minutes to unload the truck and carry everything into the back room. Some time in that ten minutes the Sergeant Major disappeared.

As soon as they finished, Kurt looked at me. "Interested in lunch?"

"Yes... what the hell do I call you?"

"Just call me Kurt. Outside the Compound, the ready room, this hanger and a couple other places, we go by first name or nicknames for security reasons. Same reason we usually dress like civilian range maintenance crews out here. If they're in civilian clothes, the Colonel goes by 'Howard', the Sergeant Major goes by 'Pogo', just remember who they really are. You'll want to go get into civilian clothes to go eat."

I got the feeling making them wait was a bad idea, so I jumped into jeans and a t-shirt and ran back out to the truck. Amos and Hollywood were sitting in the back, leaving the "shotgun" seat for me.

Lunch was at a local barbeque joint and I got to watch in horror as Amos consumed what looked like an entire hog on a bun while the rest of us ate normal meals.

After Kurt finished, he pushed his plate away and leaned back. "You're probably starting to realize that you aren't in Kansas anymore."

"Yeah, I'm under that impression."

"We conduct special, short notice training events for units all over the world."

I furiously rubbed my forehead and all three stared at me. "Sorry. I'm just trying to scrub the word 'STUPID' off my forehead."

Amos gave a low rumbling chuckle and Hollywood smirked.

Kurt shrugged, but smiled a little. "Okay, but you don't need to know the details."

"I get it. I don't have the 'need-to-know,' but I'm not an idiot."

"Sergeant Major wanted me to make sure you know the rules. Mission first. All the feel-good shit stops at the door."

"I kind of picked up on that."

"No slacking on PT, and you'll start working on weapons training and qualification as soon as I can set up a schedule."

"I just qualified two months ago."

"Yeah. That doesn't wash here. Hollywood will train you on rifles, I'll train you on handguns and shotguns. You'll burn more ammo in a month here than you've burned in your whole life."

"You know, I'm just a Cargo Handler."

"Doesn't matter. Unit rules. Speaking of which, there are six operational teams; standard red, amber, green rotation. Right now, Team One, that's mine, and Team Two are on Amber, so that's why we're helping you out."

He watched Amos finish the last of his plate. "You have a car?"

"I used to. My 'husband' took our car. I can't go get it, it's on main post."

"Is your name on the title?"

"Both our names are on it."

"You got keys to it?"

I fumbled in my purse and handed them to him. He had me write down the make, model and license plate for it. He handed my note and keys to Amos without a word. Then we loaded up and headed back. Kurt stopped at a grocery store so I could pick up some food to eat at the hangar.

When we got back to the hangar, Kurt got out of the truck with me.

"A couple more things. The Colonel doesn't tolerate any bullshit drama inside the unit. You're off limits to the guys, they are off limits to you. Even after your divorce is final."

"Not exactly my priority."

"I'm sure it isn't right now. Things change. But you are on permanent 'little sister' status." A smile ticked at the corner of his mouth. "But it'd be funny as hell to see Hollywood get a frozen trout shoved up his ass."

"It was a black sea bass."

"Ouch." He winced. "Lots more spines and fins."

"They're a lot bigger, too." I couldn't help smile a little at that.

After they left, I went back in to my new room and began to set it up, wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

###

I got up early the next morning to go running along the tarmac and runway; Kurt had been pretty straightforward about the PT thing and I was under the impression that the Colonel and the Sergeant Major were pretty serious bastards.

As I finished and came up to the hangar, I found my car was parked outside, windows down and keys on the seat. Rob's keys were there too. I smirked, picturing Rob coming face to face, or rather face to over-muscled chest with Amos. Served the asshole right.

When Kurt brought the rest of his team to deliver the equipment, they were staggeringly efficient - and it was also very obvious that the Colonel's warning had gone out to everyone. I may not be Miss America, but I usually get a least a few glances from guys, and Kurt's team was basically a tidal wave of male hormones. The forklift got more eye contact than I did.

The next few weeks were chaos as I settled into my new job. I didn't have much time to worry about anything but the job. We started operations almost immediately. Flights in and out were managed by three Air Force Combat Controllers, who invariably showed up on jet black dirt bikes in time to set up, and made a point of not asking questions. I just handled the cargo and passengers, most of which went in and out of the Pacific region. I got the impression that there were other, equally secretive units that handled Europe and Africa, although nobody ever really explained it to me.

Most of my smaller shipments included "contact on receipt" instructions to carriers, receiving cargo handlers and warehouse managers. Except the contact information wasn't me and I didn't give them their final instructions.

It did seem like asking questions was a bad idea, especially when Kurt's team suddenly flew out and I noticed that none of the names on the manifest matched the real names, and none of the passports were American.

It just got weirder from there. I tried not to think about it a whole lot, and spent my free time either exercising or watching old movies. I really started to get into the old black and white movies. I must have watched "Double Indemnity" a hundred times. Barbara Stanwyk was epic.

One morning, Hollywood was waiting, sitting on the hood of a blue SUV, when I finished my run.

"Morning, Wendy, today's a good day. It's a range day, and range days are always good days." He was acting like a completely different person - he'd completely turned off the "ladies man" vibe. The mere idea of getting out on the firing range had him totally focused.

I learned quickly that it wasn't an act for my benefit. He was totally different out on a range. The idea of going to the range with him had made me a little nervous - Hollywood was a walking, talking sexual harassment complaint waiting to happen - if he hadn't been so damn good looking, anyway. And it was just the two of us on an empty range, every morning for weeks.

I didn't know it, but I didn't need to worry.

For all his obviously wolfish tendencies, if a Playboy Playmate walked up to him holding an M40 or M82, he probably wouldn't even notice if she was naked. I'd been taught the basics of how to use rifles, but Hollywood taught me to be part of one. It was an obsession for him. He re-taught me everything about rifles over the next several weeks. Breath control, cheek weld, fingertip placement, grip - or, as he put it, the grip of no-grip. The fact that muscles will tire and shake, but bones never do. And on and on.

The Sergeant Major just showed up one day, about the time I was beginning to think the smell of gunpowder was going to be permanently burned into my nose. We'd finished shooting and were packing up. We'd given the rifles a rough cleaning, but Hollywood preferred to do the thorough cleaning himself.

He walked over, looking at Hollywood.

"Well?"

"She's okay. Doesn't have the knack to be great, but if she added another thirty pounds or so to stabilize her skinny ass, she'd be pretty decent with another year of practice."

The Sergeant Major glanced over at me. "I knew a female counter-sniper in Sarajevo; not bad, but when she was pregnant with her second kid, maybe seven months in and later, she got really, really good. She said it was that built-in sandbag. She was the terror of Sniper Alley for a while, the Serbs hated her, called her 'Mother Death.'" He stared off into space for a second. "I think she and her husband own a couple restaurants now. They have three or four kids." He blinked. "Anyway, I don't need you to be a sniper. Just don't want you to be helpless. On Monday, you start learning about Monsters."

He turned and walked off without another word. Hollywood continued packing up.

"What did he mean by 'monsters?'"

"Close combat specialists. Handguns, submachine guns, shotguns. That'll be Kurt, mostly."

Hollywood gave me directions to a battered old structure that turned out to be a combination indoor range and shoot house. When I walked in, I realized the range was in far better shape than it looked from the outside.

Kurt was standing next to a table with handguns lined up on it. "We're going to cover shotgun and handgun basics. The Sergeant Major wants me to make sure you can defend yourself."

I'd thought the rifle range had been a lot of shooting, but Kurt seemed determined to have me fire every handgun and shotgun known to man until my head was ringing despite the "Mickey Mouse ears." After a couple weeks, I started to feel naked if I wasn't holding a handgun. Every single handgun run started with a draw, and Kurt made me draw over and over until it was smooth and clean. I used back and belly draws for every gun, and ankle draws if the gun was even remotely small enough to work that way.

Then the real fun began. Kurt set up the shoot house and I had to walk through it, over and over, until I took down every target fast enough for him.

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