Excerpt: In the Line of Fire
The bed held me in its warm embrace and made it too comfortable for me to move. I knew I had to get up, but the rays of the sun through the window were so warm. Lying in my bed in just a pair of white briefs, I allowed the warmth of the sun to caress my body like a lover. Its hands were the rays that moved across my smooth, muscular frame. I was all too comfortable where I was at. Opening my eyes would be an admission that the night had ended and the evils of the day were to begin.
A knock on the door of my barracks broke me out of my denial. It was the agent the FBI detailed to guard my door. Another Marine would’ve been better, but the agency apparently had their own procedures. “Sergeant Graves, we leave within a couple of hours.”
“Fine. Is this your idea of a wake-up call?” So much for staying in bed.
“Just be ready,” the voice said.
Rubbing my eyes to get the sleep out, I couldn’t help but wonder how the agent on the other side of the door had gotten hired at the FBI. His personality was grating, and it seemed he would’ve liked to do other things than guarding the door to my room.
I sat up and slouched, glaring at the door and wishing I could stop time for another few hours of sleep. I didn’t sleep well. Ever since I saw the gunman shoot the clerks in the loan office downtown, my had life become complicated and my sleep routine haphazard. I hoped this would be over soon. Having someone wanting to kill me to keep me quiet was unnerving; I refused to put too much thought into it for fear of losing my freaking mind.
Walking over to the sink and mirror I had in my room, I glanced at my reflection and noticed the dark circles under my blue eyes. I looked like I needed rest. Being in good shape would only help for so long without good sleep. I splashed some cold water on my face to help wake me up.
As a Marine, I was expected to do my duty. While most expectations were easy to follow, being brave was not. I was far from being a coward: no longer having to be in the closet about my sexuality as a Marine was a big deal. For most of my enlistment, shortly after 9/11, I’d had to hide it. Denying who I was had never crossed my mind before enlisting. When I’d never dated a woman or even brought one to my room, others had questioned it. Claiming to be a wholesome country boy from Colorado was an excuse that had only worked for so long before I couldn’t take it anymore and had just come out.
The other men and women in my squad hadn’t cared. I knew deep down they’d already known what I was hiding. Lucky for me, they’d kept my secret so I wouldn’t get kicked out. I was even luckier when the Supreme Court struck down the ban gays serving in the military in 2011. There was still homophobia, but now I could serve with pride and with a lot more honor.
My being gay still brought up obstacles, with most of them being typical homophobia and the occasional unsuccessful witch hunt by a member of my own platoon. Ironically, I could count how many times I was called a faggot. Each time, another Marine came to my defense. A few questioned my ability to serve due to my sexuality and other things, but I could overcome them. Life had always been full of challenges for me, and I knew it would always be something I’d have to deal with.
The Corps was good, though. Before I’d joined up, I was an immature teen getting into trouble. The Corps changed that. I grew up fast. Sometimes I still proved I was twenty-seven, but it was what it was. I’d done more than my share of push-ups and had spent many hours on mess duty and other less-than-stellar duties in my career in the military. No matter how harsh the punishment for the trouble I got into, it was worth it and I would never trade being a Marine for the world.
During my shower, my smartphone rang, and I had to rush out naked and went to answer it. It was the FBI. That was good. At least it wasn’t my mother. Talk about awkward.
“Sergeant Graves, this is Director Hiddleston from the FBI. I hope I didn’t disturb you,” said a woman’s voice.
“No, I was just getting ready for the meeting.”
“Good. The agents outside your barracks will bring you to the agency. General Tate will arrive at the same time as you and will be your escort up to my office.” Her tone was pleasant, but a little too nice.
“General Tate will escort me?” I asked, a little confused. Staff sergeants don’t get accompanied by anyone, let alone two-star generals.
“Yes. He informed me it is of utmost importance he makes sure you make it here. You’re an important witness, in this case, Sergeant Graves. I hope you understand that,” Hiddleston insisted.
“I do, I’m just surprised by an escort that high on the food chain.” It was getting cold as the air conditioner in the barracks kicked on, and I was still wet from my unfinished shower. Looking down, I realized parts of me were colder than others.
“The Marines take care of their own, Sergeant. I’ll see you soon.”
I wanted to jump back in the shower but had limited time. Slipping on a tight pair of red briefs, I flexed a little in the mirror and smiled. I had no one to show off to, but it felt good either way. I would have someone to strut in front of wearing just my underwear in the future.
I put on the utilities I’d pressed the night before. I’d known I wouldn’t have time in the morning so I’d done it before bed. My boots gleamed and everything was perfect. I held my cover since it was against protocol to wear it indoors. I took pride in how I looked, as did all Marines: we had a standard to live by, and I would live that standard my whole life if given the chance.
That high code of ethics instilled in me during boot camp is what kept me going. I’d live it and be it until the end. Duty comes in different ways. For me, it meant testifying against the mafia in a shooting I witnessed. Dishonoring the family members of those that died would not do them or me any good by me not testifying. Seeing this through until the end wasn’t just a question of honor, but a way of life for me and the right thing to do. I’d never turn away from my code ever in my life. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
As I went to leave, apprehension filled me. I knew anyone after me wouldn’t get onto the base with ease, but I still had doubts. Were they waiting for me to leave base? Would there be someone to take the shot as I walked into FBI headquarters? Hell, I didn’t know, and it scared me. My life had order to it, and this not knowing was tearing me up.