Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in.
Lallo was gone ten minutes, perhaps a specific amount of time that was supposed to make me sweat. It was warm in the ward so it wasn’t his presence or the questions that made me feel uncomfortable.
It was fear of the unknown.
If anything, it was more likely I’d be going to a black site rather than rest and recuperation in Germany. And apparently over an operation, I had little or no knowledge of its inception or execution beyond being used for target practice.
Unless the army in its infinite wisdom was looking for a scapegoat, they’d tried pinning it on Treen, but he didn’t play ball, so now it was my turn. However, just to complicate that thought, why didn’t they just kill me on the ground when they had the chance?
Because they needed me alive.
My mind went back to that fateful operation.
I went over as many of the crew as I could remember. Ledgeman, Sergeant, explosives expert, he was with me until he was shot, caught in the crossfire, which now made me consider my first assessment of what has happened to him, that it might have been one of us who shot him, was the likely outcome.
Willies, Corporal, also explosives expert, sent with Mason, Gunnery Sergeant like me, who was providing cover for Willies.
Breen, Lieutenant, Leader, although it didn’t exactly appear to be the case, the more I thought about it, there seemed an undertone of indifference from the team towards its leader, one I should have picked up on. Informal command never worked when push came to shove.
Andrews, Cathcar, Edwards and Sycamore, regular soldiers with combat experience along for protection, Andrews and Sycamore were with us and had worked together before, their camaraderie didn’t extend to me, but they were professional soldiers.
Of all the people in that entire group, why did Treen survive? In putting the pieces together now in my mind, and if what I remembered was right, he should have been the first to die.
I mean, drugs and paranoia aside, that was the one single damning conclusion I could draw from events. If he had, then a lot of the others might have survived.
But time was up; Lallo was back, squirming in his seat, and armed with a different coloured notebook.
First question, “What was your opinion of Treen?”
Relevance? “Competent, but perhaps not truly in charge of his men.”
“I got the impression it was a case of familiarity breeds contempt.”
“You question his ability to command?”
“Just his style.”
Groups who worked together in close combat as a unit, from the top to the bottom, acquired a level of camaraderie that transcended rank. It was not supposed to, but it did. It was built on mutual respect and got to a point where everyone knew what they were doing without being asked, or ordered. I got the impression that had been the case for Treen and his team up till that operation. Perhaps the loss of one of the team had changed the dynamic.
“He’s there to lead, not be liked.”
“Then why ask me what I thought? You’d know what I meant by that if you were out on the front line and your life depended on your team. Something was not right.”
“How did you fit in,” he asked, with an emphasis on the word ‘fit’.
I didn’t, but I was not going to tell him that. In the end, I just didn’t trust them. You can get a measure of a man in that first meeting with or speaking with them, and they closed me out from the start.
“I had a job to do and I did it.”
And, it was probably the reason why I walked away.
© Charles Heath 2019