April 24, 1942
The next morning we packed up everything that we had brought with us or found and headed back for our camp. Kort and I rode in complete silence as the other three bickered back and forth in the back of the jeep. There wasn't much for me to say anyhow. What was I going to say to them: Sorry guys, you were right. I was consorting with the enemy…Yeah, Kort, I lied to you, bold face lied to you… Like I said there wasn't much for me to say. Not only could I not find the right words, but I felt like even if I found them I wasn't sure I wanted to actually say anything to them. I felt like I should be shaken to my very core by what had happened, but I wasn't. I wasn't nearly as upset as what I felt I should be. I just felt numb, numb all over.
As soon as our jeep rolled to a stop Kort jumped out and jogged off to report what we had found. I could only hope that he would leave the part about Erich out, or if he had to tell, that he would leave the part about Erich and me hobnobbing out. The others split too, going their various ways. I didn't care where they went, I just wanted to get back to my tent and away from everyone.
As soon as I walked in to my tent, I collapsed on the nearest cot unable to move and ignoring everything around me. It only took a few minutes for Rich, Vance, Berry, and Spacey to be vulturing over me. I guess they were expecting me to say something cunning and spectacular about my latest adventure. I didn't feel cunning or spectacular at the moment.
Rich squeezed my shoulder gently, "Andy?"
I didn't bother to answer him; I just lay there staring blankly at the roof of our tent.
He squeezed a little harder, "Andy?"
"WHAT?! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?!" I snapped viciously.
Rich recoiled from me. The four of them glanced around nervously at each other.
"We were just wondering what happened out there?" Berry finally said tentatively.
There was no easy answer to that question, so I made one, "Doggett."
A couple of brows furrowed in confusion, but Lt. Spacey knew exactly who I was referring to.
"That idiot Gathers put imbecile on an I&R platoon? What the hell was he thinking?" Spacey spat.
I rolled over on my cot, "Yeah, tell me about it."
Spacey motioned to the make shift bandage tied around my head, "What the hell did he do to you, kid?"
I sighed, "Well I was working on putting the radio back together you see, when Philly so rudely interrupted my diligent work. He just marched up to me and introduced my head to the rear end of our jeep."
Before any of them could say anything Kort shuffled in and plopped down on his cot. Spacey snapped out of his stupor and turned to him almost angrily.
"Sergeant, why the hell did you let Doggett beat the piss out of poor PFC Malone?" Spacey asked exasperated.
"Let? Hell, I helped… Malone was getting a little too cocky with me on the jeep ride out there so I figured we might as well teach him a little lesson about respect." Kort answered.
"I'm sure." Spacey said. "Bobby, what really happened?"
"I was out behind the building up there and while I was gone Harwood made a stupid remark about Andy to Doggett. Doggett went ballistic and kicked the shit outta Andy. The whole thing was nearly said and done before I got there." Kort answered.
Spacey looked at him inquisitively, "What kind of remark, Sergeant?"
Kort shrugged, "I don't know… I didn't get all the details. Doggett's not the most stable individual; I just assumed that it was something simple and part a civil dispute. The four of them weren't exactly getting along when we left camp to go out there."
I let my breath out, thankful that Kort was going to keep my little secret for now.
"Why is it that all the really bad things happen it Andy?" Vance asked after a few moments of awkward silence, "It's not like he's a freak or a nerd or anything?"
"Yeah, it's not like he's you." Rich scoffed.
"Shut up, Richard." Vance quipped back.
Kort stepped in on my behalf, "Boys, cool it… Can we please just give Andy a little privacy right now?"
"No." Berry replied, "I think the four of us should beat Malone up. Just for kicks. Everyone else seems to be doing it these days."
Kort looked at them astonished, and I just lay there on my cot watching them stalk toward me.
"No… Don't… How ever will I get away?" I said in a dull tone.
They didn't stop, extinguishing my hope that they were just kidding. When they were only a few feet away, I decided that maybe I should try and make a break for it after all. I tried scrambling to my feet but lost my balance and fell over my cot. I rolled off the other side and landed hard.
Kort came around the cot and knelt down beside me, "Malone, are you alright?"
I nodded vaguely, "Yeah, I'm fine… the ground broke my fall."
I could hear him smile before he pushed my head back into the dirt playfully, "Well, maybe this isn't too bad a place for you to stay."
Kort stood up and turned to the others, "Alright men, now make yourselves scarce… we have had a long couple days and I think that Malone needs some privacy."
"Sergeant, are you giving my men orders?" Spacey asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
Without reprieve Kort countered his statement, "With all due respect sir, they aren't your men anymore."
The tent fell unimaginably silent as we all stared at them in wide eyed wonder. They had to be kidding, Spacey and Kort were like Rich, Vance and I. This was the very last thing that I needed right now.
Spacey stepped around the group that was blocking him from Sgt. Kort. By now our lieutenant was visibly seething with contempt.
"Now, I'm gonna ask you again, Sergeant, are you trying to give me, a senior officer, and order?" Spacey growled as he vultured over Sgt. Kort.
Kort never wavered, "Again, sir, with all due respect. You don't know what happened out there. I'm asking you not as a NCO but as a friend to just walk away."
Spacey didn't waver either. He just took another step closer to Kort and leaned close into his face.
Still bristling with anger Space growled, "Then why don't you explain it Sergeant?"
Kort glanced sidelong at me for a few seconds. I held my breath praying to every god I could think or, whether I believed in them or not, that Kort would keep his mouth shut and that by the grace of god, Spacey would go easy on him.
Kort's shoulders slumped a little before he answered. I held my breath.
"I'm sorry, Joe… I can't. I made a promise to Malone that this was going to stay between the two of us. I can't violate his privacy like that, or our friendship." Kort finally answered.
I thought Spacey was going to explode. I thought that we had left this Joe Spacey in the States, but apparently he was back with a vengeance.
"Sergeant, I don't give a damn about friendship or privacy! You will tell me what happened out there or I'll shove my size ten boot square up your ass. You're gonna be coughing up my boot polish until Christmas! That's your only option."
Kort took a small step back, getting Spacey out of his face.
"Sir, with all due respect…"
Before he could finish, Spacey cut him off.
"With all due respect?! With all due respect Sergeant, you can fuck off!" Spacey finally snapped. With out another word he stormed out of the tent.
There was an awkward silence between those of us left in the tent. This whole situation had come out of left field and was so unexpected that none of us were sure how to respond.
Kort finally looked up from the dirt at me. I didn't know what to say or do, so I just lay there and stared at him with this look of horror plastered across my face. He hadn't given me up, but what had that done to him in the long run?
Vance finally broke the silence, "Like I said: hell in a hand basket."
A few others nodded.
Kort drew in a deep breath and pointed to the door, "Well I'm the ranking officer in this tent right now… Everyone out."
No one dared question him after what had just transpired. The just filed out silently followed by Kort. I was left all by myself only to think about the events that had befell me over the last couple of days. I don't know how the Army expects us to cope with all of this; if they expect us to cope with it at all. This has been insanity. I hate this war, I hate this place, I hate these people. I hate them all.