Chapter Four



“Yes sir?” Master Sergeant Ellery MacAfee, USMC, said into the phone.

“Get up here pronto, sergeant,” Captain Lethbridge told him. “I want you here giving me a crisp salute some time within the next two and a half minutes.” The captain was simply responding to orders from above, but he had an idea about what was going to go down, and the notion pleased him. Good riddance, he breathed.

“Yessir,” MacAfee replied, arising from his desk in the bowels of the underground FEMA facility. He picked up his cover from the rack behind him and headed out the door. As he walked rapidly down the hall, he was filled with an ominous sense that life as he had known it until now no longer existed. MacAfee, being a courageous man, kept his fear under control. What concerns he had mostly applied to his wife Marge, whose own world was about to be upended along with his.

Sergeant MacAfee and his wife were Christians. The couple had refused to be intimidated by the deliberate and progressively harsh culling of Christians from the ranks of the United States military over the past several years. The primary objective of the military in supporting this negative bias was to permit its revamping into a force that would obey without moral reservations the government’s switch from fighting foreign enemies to herding an increasingly large segment of the U.S. population into detention camps and controlling them thereafter under a spartan and ultimately deadly regime. The soldiers themselves, those who went along with the plan, were being treated most generously to the crass and disgusting level of entertainment that they preferred. Alcohol and recreational drugs were permitted, even while they actively engaged in their assigned tasks, provided only that they maintained the performance standards set out to them.

In their opposition of this descent into wholesale depravity, the MacAfees had been openly vocal about their Christian beliefs. Marge had been forced to endure, as a result, a progressively thorough isolation from base functions, social events, and even communication with her former friends, who, to a person, avoided her like she was radioactive.

Now Ellery had a problem and he knew that it was turning out to be a big one. As a temporary solution he had been transferred to the FEMA facility early on during the transition of the military into a morally pliant body, the thought being that if he was safely closeted in an institution that didn’t have direct contact with the public, he could still be useful without creating an unpleasant situation. After all, his loyalty had never been in question, and he was uncommonly efficient about his work. But his superiors had had it to the tops of their heads with his constant referral to his God, as if this diety truly existed outside his own fertile but twisted imagination. Eventually it was decided that something had to be done about him. Something permanent.

“Why not kill two birds with one stone?” General Lesczowitz had offered the previous evening to the five others who lounged with him in the Senior Officers’ club room, sipping single-malt whisky and puffing, to a man, on large cigars. “He’s gonna die anyway. No reason not to make a buck in the process. We’ll plant some coke in his quarters, cry ‘foul!’ about an inventory discrepancy on recreational drugs, and hang him for the theft.”

General Peebles was a bit slow on the uptake. “There’s nothing missing in the coke inventory as far as I know,” he said to his peers. “How are we going to pin something on him when there’s nothing to pin on him?”

To a man, his companions stopped puffing on their cigars and eyeballed him has if he’d just told them he’d gone potty in his underwear. Urkmore turned his back on the others, made a quick call on his cell, and almost before he put it back away his aide had entered the room with an urgent message for General Peebles, asking him to accompany him outside. After briefly rolling their eyeballs, the others continued their conversation as if Peebles no longer existed, which, for all practical purposes, was true.

“Good idea. I’ll get the captain to check the coke out of the locker for my personal inventory review. Wouldn’t Peebles be surprised to learn that there really is a discrepancy?” After the laughter died down, Urkmore continued. “But hanging’s too good for Christians like MacAfee,” he declared, his voice tinged with alcohol, smoke and pure hatred. “Let him rot over in the U.S. Discliplinary Barracks in Leavenworth.   That way there’ll be no closure for his goody-goody wife, who’ll have to suffer right along with him as she gets wind of the intolerable conditions he’s constantly undergoing. Remember the poor Marine who made a wrong turn into Mexico with a bunch of weapons in his car? There’s a lot of folks who suspect that the president deliberately refused to come to his aid out of pure enjoyment of the drama. We could do the same. Think of us puffing away on our stogies, taking sips of bourbon, and relaxing to the thought of this poor sap having to endure an endless round of torture. It almost makes me want to call Flo.”

“That skank?” Lesczowitz had responded, laughing. “Give your wife the clap. Even you can do better than that.”

After his aide had done his bidding and the “missing” coke was safely tucked away in Urkmore’s desk, except for the minuscule portion that was placed in MacAfee’s quarters, the sergeant received the call from Lethbridge commanding his presence.

“In there. Now,” Captain Lethbridge said, pointing to the closed door of General Urkmore. He didn’t bother returning MacAfee’s salute. Moments later, the sergeant stood facing the general, his arm up in another crisp salute.

The general, like the captain, ignored his upraised hand. He wondered how long the sergeant would be able to hold it up before gravity took over. “MacAfee, you’re a disgrace to your uniform.”

Although he had suspected the displeasure of his superiors for some time, the unjustified accusation startled him. “Sir, I have been a loyal Marine. Always. In what way could I have possibly dishonored the Corps?”

An unreasoning hatred boiled up inside the general that threatened for a brief moment to drive him to reach out and slap the sergeant across the face. Only with the strictest self-discipline did he manage to avoid a physical confrontation with this disgustingly pristine man. “Look what was found in your quarters.” He pointed to a plastic bag filled with a white substance. “Don’t we pay you enough that you don’t have to go around selling cocaine? Or maybe it’s for you and your wife. That it, MacAfee?”

Although the recreational use of cocaine was permitted under the new regime, the hoarding and sale of it outside the strictly-controlled system not only was forbidden, it was a capital offense. The military reserved to itself the distribution of it for the carrot-stick benefits that could be gained from its exclusive manipulation. The restriction also applied to generals, but Urkmore knew that he’d be able to dispose of the many bags of cocaine in his two right-hand drawers with ease, and at a handsome profit, while MacAfee got blamed for stealing the lot.

MacAfee knew instantly that he’d been framed. Yet there was nothing that he could do about it. “Will there be a tribunal?” he asked.

“There could be,” Urkmore replied. “Which would you prefer – taking your punishment like a man and having your wife able to visit you at Leavenworth, or going to Leavenworth anyway in the end, and having your wife incarcerated down here, never able to see the light of day again?

He had no choice. “Uh, Sir, what about her living arrangements?”

“We’ll take care of that. Private housing will be arranged at government expense.”

“Okay, Sir. May I still see my wife before I go?”

“Tonight. You leave first thing in the morning. Your wife will go too, by separate transportation.” The general finally responded with a salute of dismissal. When the sergeant had left his office, the general breathed out in relief and rewarded himself by opening his drawer and peering down into his booty of cocaine. Rather than replace the bag of evidence to the drawer, he sniffed the outside and then cautiously opened it. With mounting excitement he extracted a pinch and lifted it up to his nose, breathing deeply of the white substance.

General Urkmore’s cohorts knew how the sergeant would be framed for its theft, but what they didn’t know was how extensive the actual theft had turned out to be. They also knew how phony Christians were, acting all nicey-nicey and being so hypocritical. His buddies would easily believe that the sergeant was really involved after all, which meant that the distribution to the spoils to them need not reflect the actual quantity involved.









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