With Deadly Purpose
Lieutenant Kramer, nurse, United States Navy, was tired, very tired. She was irritated when she heard hard heels in the darkened hallway. ‘Now who can that be,’ she wondered, ‘no one is supposed to be here this time of night.’
Kramer peered over the counter in front of her desk. A Marine in summer dress uniform with staff sergeant stripes stepped out of the dark. ‘My god, the man is huge,’ thought Kramer. The Marine stepped up to the counter, “Good evening Lieutenant; I would like to see Sergeant Early.”
“How did you get in here? Visiting hours were over hours ago.”
He doesn’t answer her question. “Ma’am, I’m shipping out in two days. I just found out that Sergeant Early is here. He’s my brother-in-law, and I won’t be back for some time.”
Lieutenant Kramer’s eyes were drawn to the Staff Sergeant’s display of ribbons and devices. Four stood out, the BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal), Parachute (jump qualified), the Silver Star with combat V, and the Purple Heart with a star (two). She had seen them before and knew what they were, but never had she seen them all on the same Marine. “What’s your name sergeant?”
“It’s Behr, Ma’am; Staff Sergeant Behr.”
“Are you a Recon Marine like Sergeant Early?”
“Well, Sergeant Early is sedated and restrained; he won’t even know you’re here.”
“Yes, Lieutenant; but I’ll know.”
Kramer studied Behr’s face, ‘Marines…he’ll just find a way if I don’t let him see him.’ “Against my better judgment, you can see him for a few minutes. Don’t be shocked when you see him.”
Behr’s face broke into a smile any Hollywood actor would want to have, “Yes, Ma’am! Thank you.”
Kramer picked up her keys and with the touch of a smile said, “It’s a Marine thing I suppose, Staff Sergeant Behr?”
“Yes, it’s a Marine thing, Lieutenant.”
Behr and Lieutenant Kramer began walking; Behr fell-in to the left and a step behind her. He skipped, getting in step with the Navy nurse. Nurse Kramer stood a little straighter while she and the respectful Marine moved along the darkened passage, wondering a little about both these men.
Kramer stopped at a door with a small window. After looking through the window, she fingered through her ring of keys, found one and unlocked the door.
Behr stepped into a stark room containing only a white metal chair, a white nightstand, and a hospital bed. There were no windows. In the bed was Sergeant Early, United States Marine Corps. Behr had a surge of sadness, nearly bringing tears to his eyes. Early wore restraints on his ankles and wrists. Early’s pajama top was open exposing bandages, and drainage tubes that led from his body down to covered containers under the bed. Behr’s brother-in-law mumbled with his eyes closed.
“He’s heavily sedated. His wounds are amazing; he’s been shot multiple times, but not one bullet struck a vital organ. He has three broken ribs, and his left leg was fractured, but the doctor was able to save it, and it appears to be healing well.”
Nurse Kramer moved to the bed bumped the chair causing the metal chair to screech across the floor. Early, his arms restrained, tried to sit up and when he couldn’t he began violently thrashing about. Startled, Kramer backed away, as Behr moved closer. In a commanding voice, Behr said, “Sergeant Early, at ease Marine, that’s an order!”
Kramer watched in disbelief as Early stopped thrashing around, his eyes never opening, but his head turning as if he were observing something. Behr moved closer, “It’s all right Marine we’ll take it from here, you rest.”
Slowly Early relaxed and lay back down, his facial features softening, and the mumbling stopped.
Kramer moved in close to Early and checked his tubes and bandages. Satisfied all was well she signaled to Behr that they should leave.
After locking the door to Early’s room, she turned to Behr. “Thank you, he could have seriously hurt himself. I’m so sorry that I bumped that chair.”
“Things happen; will you tell him I was here when you can? I’m headed out, and I don’t expect to be back for some time.”
“I’ll let him know and thank you.”
As Behr walked away down the dark hallway, Lieutenant Kramer called out, “Stay safe.”
Behr turned and gave her his Hollywood smile. “Not part of the job description ma’am, but thanks.” Behr turned and disappeared down the dark hallway.
Battle Creek Michigan, VA Hospital
On the second floor of the hospital, in an office painted pale green sits Commander Gerald Smith, USN. For over twenty-three years as a Dr. of psychiatry MD, Ph.D., LCSW, MFT, he has worked with servicemen and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Smith, wearing black horn-rimmed glasses, is surrounded by stacks of files on his desk. He has one open, but he’s not really reading. After years of war and wounded minds, Smith is daydreaming about retirement. A knock on the door snaps him back to reality, “Come!”
Dr. Philip Donnelly, also a psychiatrist, enters. He’s a short nervous man, in the late stages of balding, a civilian who has become disillusioned with his success in treating PTSD. “Good morning Phil, what brings you around this early in the morning?”
“I understand you are releasing Early, this morning.”
“Yes, he’s made good progress in his recovery, I think he’s ready.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“He’s responded well to treatment and hasn’t had a flashback in months. He's shown no abnormal flashes of anger or aggression. Yes, I think he's ready.” Smith closes the thick file; stenciled across the cover, Early, J.K. USMC.
Phil, with his hands clasped behind him, begins pacing. Smith takes his glasses off and chews on the end of one of the bows. “Early is smart Phil, if he has a problem we're right here.”
Phil stops and looks a Smith, “We train these guys to kill, send them to some… some God-forsaken place, and switch em on. Damn it, its hell trying to switch em off!” Phil starts to pace again.
“Phil, I wouldn't discharge him if I thought for a moment he was a danger to himself or the public.”
A knock at the door draws their attention, the door opens, and Smith’s secretary sticks her head in. “Sergeant Early is here for his appointment.”
Smith slips his glasses back on, “Send him in please.”
The secretary opens the door wider and says, “You can go in now.”
John Early is dressed in civilian clothing; jeans, a blue button-down collared shirt and black spit-shined cowboy boots with riding heels. Early, with the cowboy boots, looks like a six-foot-four Opie Taylor with a scar over his right eye.
Smith smiles as he thinks, ‘Who else but a Marine would starch his jeans and have a crease in them sharp enough you could save with them.’
Phil steps over to Early, looks up and extends his hand. “I understand you’re getting released today. I wish you well in whatever you decide to do.”
Early shakes the doctor’s hand, “Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you for your service.”
“Yes, sir, thank you sir; and thank you for all you have done for me.”
As Phil starts out the door, he says to Smith, “I’ll talk to you later, Gerry.”
“Right; come on in Sergeant Early and have a seat,”
Smith sees that Early looks healthy, happy and relaxed, “You've been with us a year, you've made great progress.”
Early replies, “Thank you, sir.”
“I understand your wife has moved here?”
“Yes sir, she has. We’ve found a house out by the lake.”
Smith looks down at Early’s thick file on his desk then back at Early. “It’s important that you take your medication. You need to stay away from situations that could stress you, setting you up for flashbacks.”
“Yes sir, I'll remember.”
Smith stands, extends his hand to Early who also stands and takes Smith's hand and shakes it. “Stop at the secretary's desk, she has your checkout papers. There's also a list of support groups in the area; I hope you'll give at least one of them a try.”
“Yes sir, I'll do that.”
Early, automatically does an about-face and leaves the room.
Smith picks up the phone. “You can send in the next patient.”
An hour later, Early walks out the front door of the hospital and looks around and then walks across the lot towards a black SUV. The driver's door opens and a slender, long-legged red-haired girl, with a smile that makes her plain face pretty, gets out. “John, over here!” Kay races to John who sweeps her up and off her feet and swings her around. “Hello, Sweetheart,” John nearly chokes up as he says, “God, I love you.”
Kay nuzzles his neck, laughing at him, causing chills and goosebumps in her Marine. Her hot breath caresses his ear, “Hey Marine, want to have a good time?”
John grins, twists around and holds her tight against him, “Just what did you have in mind?”
Kay kisses him in a deep, passionate way, her body moving slowly against his. John begins to respond back, but Kay pulls away. Coyly, she takes him by the hand and leads him to the SUV. Early is grinning like an idiot as he opens the passenger door for her. Kay gets in; he closes the door and goes to the driver's side. Still grinning, he tosses the keys in the air, catches them, and then enters the SUV. Behind the wheel, John starts the engine, turns to Kay, “I never thought this day would come, let’s go home.”