“This fucking sucks, man. How long are these bozos gonna keep us locked up in here?”
Face raises an eyelid from where he’s stretched out in the only cot of the cell and regards the speaker coolly. “They’ll let us out when they think we’ve sobered up and chilled out enough and not before. So why don’t you cool your jets a little and stop making this worse than it already is?”
“Worse than it already is?” Raynor paces around until he’s right at Face’s shoulder. “I don’t know who that old guy thinks he is, fucking prancing around the damn base likes he owns it.”
Face has to push up onto his elbow for that, incredulous eyes raking all over the dishevelled Raynor. “The old guy? You mean Smith?”
“Smith, Jones, yeah whoever the fucking hell he is. Where’d he get off, throwing us in here?”
Incredulity etches itself deeper into Face’s expression and his eyes quickly skip around the rest of their motley group, each in various stages of their hangover, each watching him warily to see how this is going to pan out. “Well, if you think about it, we did skip off the base without permission.”
“We had permission.”
“Not for last night.”
Raynor is silent.
“And we had a fight with the locals.”
“That guy with the tats started it.”
“Burnt a bar down…”
“I swear that was the owner! He saw the fight as a chance to claim on his insurance for that shit-hole!”
“Maybe. But that’s not what the cops saw.”
“Yeah, and where does Mr Head-up-his-ass get off believing them and not us and throwing us in here for the fucking day?”
There’s a long silence as Face slowly straightens up. “Colonel Head-up-his-ass, actually.”
Raynor rolls his eyes, “Really? The fucking army will promote anyone these days if they lick enough butt. Says it all that he’s stuck here dishing out jail-time like he has the fucking right. Dick.”
“He’s here recovering from an injury, actually. Tore his rotator cuff in Kuwait.”
“Heavy bottle of liquor was it?”
“Heavy serviceman he pulled outta burning transport,” Face’s retort is laser sharp, “He’s a fucking Ranger you dick-head. Most decorated serving Ranger there is.”
Raynor’s expression morphs into a sneer, “Serving? Faceman, you haven’t a fucking clue. Colonel’s don’t serve, they sit on their fat asses and order people like us around. You said he’s decorated? Yeah – I’d like to know how many of his men have died for him to get his fancy medals and his fancy promotions. People like him are the worst, people like him who just leech off the rest of us, cosy on up to the people in charge and then think they have the fucking right to discipline honest, hard-working guys like us just for shooting off a bit of steam with the fucking pressure of it all!”
Face is on his feet so fast that Raynor and his hangover don’t really see him coming. They feel him though, the hand around Raynor’s throat and the hard slam of the concrete wall into his back.
“He serves,” his voice is a cobra-hiss. “He leads the best fucking team of Rangers there is. Ten-man squad, all of them decorated, all of them the fucking best at what they do, all of them out there, together, doing the job, Smith included. He hasn’t cosied up to anyone in his life and of course he has the right to lock us up, we were fucking morons last night. And you,” Raynor is slammed against the wall one more time, “You’ve never worked hard in your fucking life and what steam do you have to try and shoot off? You’re here trying to pass your basic math for the fourth fucking time, you fucking loser! Hardly fucking Jarhead, is it?”
He pushes him away with a snarl and heads to the wall under the barred window, folding his arms and breathing deeply as Raynor rubs at his throat and tries to formulate a good reply. A snarled, “Fuck you!” is the best he can come up with and Face contents himself with flipping him the bird as Raynor slides down the wall to sit on his ass and try not to look Face’s way.
There’s an awkward silence as the rest of the new recruits wonder at what they’ve just seen and who they should be supporting and then a voice rings out from the opposite corner from where Raynor is still crouched. “You seem to know a lot about Smith, Faceman…”
Face straightens up a little against the wall and scratches casually through his buzz-cut. “I’ve done my research; the guy’s a legend. I’m gonna serve with him one day.”
There’s a scoff at that from Raynor and Face shoots furious eyes his way.
“How you gonna do that then, pretty boy? The old guy’s a Ranger and you are not.”
There’s a silence as Raynor tries his best to stand up to the glare coming at him across the cell and then Face speaks again, voice low and tightly contained, but there’s a thread of worry in there as well, if anyone in that room knew him well enough to hear it, “I will be.”
It signals the end of the conversation at any rate and silence falls once more as hangovers are nursed and lessons considered. The sun creeps steadily across the afternoon sky and a wisp of Cuban cigar smoke trails delicately in through the open window from outside.