From a WIP, title to be determined. This is the prologue for the story of one of the more popular secondary characters from my latest release, Operation: Christmas Hearts, now available at Amazon, Astraea Press, and Barnes & Noble.
People always seemed surprised to find that war wasn’t a string of constant bloody battles. More often than not it involved watching and waiting, especially these days. Lieutenant Peter “Rabbit” Kincaid usually hated the waiting. Tonight, though, he wished the waiting would go on another day.
Rabbit brought his cupped hands together and blew into them. His warm breath spilled into the chilly air around him in giant white puffs that stood out against the night of the Afghanistan desert. Who knew a desert could get so freeze-the-butt off cold? Of course it wasn’t like this was any normal desert. This place was the stuff hell was made out of. The packed sand beneath his feet wasn’t any softer in the blistering summer months than it was during the harsh winter. The barren ground produced little in the way of nourishment for the people, but it did somehow mange to support drug habits worldwide with its bountiful harvests of white poppies.
“I need a smoke,” he muttered to himself, passing the pitiful shelter of the guard shack at Checkpoint Four with a nod to the corporal on guard duty. Instead of cigarettes, though, Rabbit pulled out a roll of hard candy and eased it open. He checked the color with a penlight, and breathed a sign of relief that the first candy was red rather than orange. Rabbit popped the disk into his mouth and sucked on it, the sour cherry-flavor stimulating his salivary glands, reminding him he’d skipped his dinner MRE. He squeezed his eyes shut and then pushed them open again as he fought to keep awake.
“There’s been reports of sniper fire outside of the perimeter after dark, sir,” reported the corporal.
“Understood,” Rabbit replied. “I won’t go far.”
The candy wasn’t cutting it. His nerve endings were alive with the sensation of a thousand insects crawling beneath his skin. Need for nicotine clawed at his brain like a living entity. Spitting the cherry flavored circle into the dirt, Rabbit dug out the pack containing his last few cigarettes. Then he patted his pockets, cursing out loud when he realized he’d thrown away his lighter earlier after he’d used it for the third time. He paused and glanced over his shoulder at the guard. “Got a light?”
The corporal tossed him a blue disposable lighter. Rabbit cringed at the color, not his preferred black. But he accepted it with a smile of thanks, the need to light his cigarette outweighing the need to keep his luck running with him. So he jammed his hand into his pocket and tapped the rabbit’s foot there three times while he lit up.
Friday the thirteenth loomed, a mere handful of hours away now. The day Rabbit would rather hole up in his bunk and not come out until the clock hit zero-hundred hours on Saturday the fourteenth. But that wasn’t an option this time. And coming along with this dreaded Friday, would be the start of one of the trickiest missions Rabbit had ever been sent on. And this time, he would be the one in charge.
He kicked at a frozen puddle until the ice broke free, sending a huge chunk flying through the air to shatter against a fifty-five gallon drum that was usually lit with warming fire. No fire would grace the barrel tonight with sniper fire in the area. Rabbit glanced at the stub of cigarette between his fingers. Even that small light could draw the wrong kind of attention. With a final puff, he dropped the stub into the dirt and ground it beneath his heel.
The waiting game was almost over, whether or not he wanted it to be.
Return to Tuesday Tales.