"Well... I just wrapped up the rape case I told you about. But instead of time off, I have to go to Fort Rucker for a sexual harassment investigation, which looks tricky. I'll be there until it's concluded. Maybe a few weeks. I'll be in Bachelor Officers Quarters if you want to call me." I didn't reply.
She said, "Hey, I still think about Christmas." "Me, too." That was a month ago, and I hadn't seen her since. "How's Easter look?"
"You know, Paul... you could move here." "But you could be reassigned anytime. Then I'd wind up following your career moves. Didn't we discuss this?"
"I like it here. You could get stationed here." "Is that an offer?"
Whoops. I replied, "It would be good for your career. Headquarters."
"Let me worry about my career. And I really don't want a staff job. I'm an investigator. Just like you were. I want to go where I can be useful." I said, "Well, I can't be following you around like a puppy dog, or hanging around your apartment when you're away on assignment. It's not good for my ego."
"You could get a job here in law enforcement." "I'm working on that. Here in Virginia."
And so on. It's tough when the guy's not working and the woman has a traveling career. To make matters worse, the army likes to change your permanent duty station as soon as you're comfortable, which calls into question the army's definition of permanent. On top of that, there are a lot of temporary duty assignments these daysplaces like Bosnia, Somalia, South Americawhere you could be gone for up to a year, which pushes the definition of temporary. Bottom line, Cynthia and I were what's called these days GUgeographically unsuitable.
The military, as I've always said, is tough on relationships; it's not a job, it's a calling, a commitment that makes other commitments really difficult.
"Are you there?" she asked. "I'm here." "We can't go on like this, Paul. It hurts." "I know." "What should we do?"
I think she was willing to resign and forfeit a lot of her pension, in exchange for the M word. Then we'd decide where to live, find jobs, and live happily ever after. And why not? We were in love.
"Paul?" "Yeah... I'm thinking." "You should have already thought about all of this." "Right. Look, I think we should talk about this in person. Face-to-face." "The only thing we do face-to-face is fuck." "That's not... well, we'll talk over dinner. In a restaurant." "Okay. I'll call you when I get back from Rucker. I'll come there, or you come here."
"Okay. Hey, how's your divorce coming?" "It's almost final." "Good." Regarding her loving husband, I asked, "Do you see much of Major Nut Case?" "Not much. At the O Club once in a while. Can't avoid those situations." "Does he still want you back?" "Don't try to complicate a simple situation." "I'm not. I'm just concerned that he might try to kill me again." "He never tried to kill you, Paul." "I must have misinterpreted his reason for pointing a loaded pistol at me."
"Can we change the subject?" "Sure. Hey, do you read Danielle Steel?" "No, why?" "I bought her latest book. I'll send it to you." "Maybe your mother would like it. It's her birthday, February 10. Don't forget." "I have it memorized. By the way, I got an e-mail from Karl. He wants to meet me tomorrow." "Why?" "I thought maybe you knew." "No, I don't," she said. "Maybe he just wants to have a drink, talk about old times." "He wants me to meet him at the Vietnam Memorial." "Really? That's odd."
"Yeah. And he never mentioned anything to you?" "No," she replied. "Why should he?" "I don't know. I can't figure out what he's up to." "Why do you think he's up to anything? You two worked together for years. He likes you." "No, he doesn't," I said. "He hates me." "He does not hate you. But you're a difficult man to work with. Actually, you're difficult to love." "My mother loves me."
Copyright © 2002 by Nelson DeMille
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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