Coffey, Len and Tab have breakfast with the family, and explain what happened to Diego.
“So, this perfect mission. What happened?” Sookie asked quietly.
“The captors held a small village. The people there didn’t want to be part of it, but when fifty armed men come into a place half that size, that might have a few pistols and an old AK-47, what are they going to do?” Tab said.
“They got the women out safely, freed some others who were also being held, and got as far as the marketplace.” Len picked up the thread of the narrative. “Diego was bringing up the rear, helping one of the prisoners, a teenage boy who’d stood up to the men when they arrived—the son of the chief. He was in bad shape. One of the guards caught up to them and opened fire. Diego protected the boy, taking the bullets himself. He shot the terrorist, the last one, as it happened.”
“But he didn’t make it,” Janet said. “And the boy?”
“Took a couple minor hits. He’ll be fine.”
“I want to see him,” Janet said calmly. “I want to say goodbye.”
Len and Tab looked uncomfortable.
“When the team went in to secure the area, they couldn’t find a body,” Coffey said. “None of the villagers would talk to them, they were terrified. One group of men with guns pretty much looks like another.”
“No body?” Janet was stunned. “You’re telling me, the man I love died in some foreign shit hole and I can’t even bury him?” She stood, screaming at Coffey. “I’ve got two boys who will never see their father again because of you. I want to bury him, say goodbye, have something I can show them when they get older. A place to grieve! I can’t even have that?”
“Janet,” her father spoke sharply. “Sit down and stop that this instant.”
Gulping and sobbing, she sat.
“There will be a ceremony, Janet. He’s due a full military funeral. Even with no body, there will be a headstone. He died a hero, serving his country. He saved many lives during his time of service. He’s received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service….”
“I don’t care about ribbons and medals. I want my husband back. Even if we never had a piece of paper, even without a wedding and a ring, he was my husband….”
“No one’s denying that, Janet,” Tab said softly. “And we’ll do what we can. But chances are good the villagers already disposed of his body.”
“So, he could be buried in some piece of desert somewhere, and no one knows who he is?”
“I’m sorry. I know this is hard,” Tab gave the only comfort he had.
“You don’t know shit,” she flung at him.
“With all due respect, Janet. I do,” Tab replied. “He was a good friend. We’ve worked together nearly ten years. He saved my life twice. I’d have taken a bullet for him, but I wasn’t there. I was running backup, because that’s where he needed me. I turned that place upside down looking for him. After this, Len and I are going back. If there’s a body to find, we’ll find it. You have our word.”
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.
Tab took her hands. “Me too.”
Lubbock, Texas. 2000
Janet woke up crying. Her sister and brother-in-law were in the room, talking quietly. Sookie walked over, sitting on the side of the bed.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty. Nice to have you back.” She smoothed her sister’s hair. “How are you feeling?”
“Better. But still like I’d been hit by a truck. Did they figure out what he gave me yet?”
“Something like roofies,” Tim told her, coming up on the other side. “But he’d mixed it with a bunch of other shit. They’re still picking it apart.”
“Tell me the bastard’s in jail and never getting out.”
Tim and Sookie exchanged a look.
“He got away before the cops arrived. Danny and I chased after him, but damn that bastard is fast,” Tim told her sadly.
“You’re telling me that he drugged me, threatened my sons, and got away? I’ll kill him myself, if I ever find him.”
“They’re looking for him,” Tim said angrily. “Your dad called in for backup.”
“There’s someone here to see you, Janet. But I don’t know if you’ll want to see him or not,” Sookie said.
“You can come in, Colonel Coffey,” Janet said, figuring he was listening at the door.
“How did you know?” Tim asked.
“He’s the last person I ever want to see,” Janet replied.
©2020 Dellani Oakes