The hours passed slowly, as you might expect. Once I left the Corps I never expected that I would be back in the field, experience that weird combination of “waiting for action” tingling and “bored beyond belief” ennui that always came ahead of combat for me. It's the waiting that wears on you, in the field. When action comes, it's too quick to think about; you either do as your training taught you and your instincts demand and get through it or, like me, you make some idiot mistake and get hit. It's not fun.
I'd be lying if I told you that, in those hours of waiting for the kidnapper to finally come, I was perfectly calm and collected. I wasn't. The day's scouting and chase had brought up way too many old memories and feelings, many of them not very pretty. Meaning to say that, when you think about your ninth birthday and the chocolate cake you got and how good it tasted, you generally get the feelings, impressions, thoughts, and images all bundled together in a more-or-less coherent whole. But when you've been through some traumatic shit, some of that stuff gets—as the docs say—disassociated. And in my case, there were a whole lot of memories that were pretty unpleasant, and somehow my limbic system had connected them, willy-nilly, to my current adrenaline overdose, and my brain had decided to dump them into me every which way.
It's not the most pleasant way to spend several hours is what I mean, reliving emotions you experienced—terror, sorrow, fierce grinding rage—without the images to accompany them. Or with the images but at an emotional remove. Or to feel your body go into combat readiness overdrive just because you hear an elf go into one of those shelters downhill from you. I longed for one of those monstrous bong hits I had seen Jeffie take the previous night.
I tried to occupy myself with small tasks. I took off and stored my boonie cap; checked the edge on my knives probably 100 times or more; made sure my laces and straps were all tight; took a cautious leak off to the side of my hiding spot. But mostly, I just had to grit my teeth and get through it. I don't think the psychologist who treated me for PTSD would have been happy knowing how I was spending some of my college time, but I hoped he wouldn't have been too disappointed with how I was handling it, either.
Around 9PM, when I thought we might be getting closer to Tosh pulling whatever maneuver he had planned, I moved closer to the road up to Crown and tried to find a good spot to hide. I guessed the kidnapper wouldn't park along the road, so he would be coming down from the Crown parking lot somewhere, if he could. And I needed to be close enough to the road to catch Baby's red Prelude go by.
Around 10:30 I heard the roar of an engine coming up the road, the first one in a while. Looking out from my spot I saw that, yes, it was indeed the red Prelude. I couldn't see much of the woman behind the wheel other than she had blonde hair. She turned into Crown circle and just as she passed out of sight another car, a nondescript gray Chevy station wagon, came up behind her. I noted with interest that the rear windows of the wagon were heavily tinted—something pretty unusual in the early 80s. Like with Prelude, I couldn't get much of a look at the man behind the wheel, even through my binoculars. I hoped that I'd get a closer look soon enough.
I moved quickly to the north, back in the direction of the fire trails, so that I could get a better look at the two cars. The Prelude circled around through the metered spaces but didn't stop—I couldn't see why. The station wagon pulled in and around, and then went down the spur that led to the delivery bay for the dining hall. If that was the kidnapper, it was a smart move; he probably wasn't going to be there long, and if he was dragging someone with him, it was a dark and isolated spot that late at night; no one would see him there.
But I was a bit baffled. Wasn't the car related to the bait? How would the kidnapper grab her if she was going away? But I trusted Tosh, and waited. And I was almost startled out of my shoes when I saw the man come out of the loading bay area, walking quickly directly towards me. I backed rapidly into the woods and uphill, away from the guy. He looked both ways, then jogged across the street, into the woods, and then headed straight for where Smith had cached the equipment. I flanked him uphill, trying to keep him close enough without giving away my position. He was clearly going after Baby—or whoever the hell Tosh had gotten to drive the car. But that wasn't my worry; my mission was the man himself, not the bait.
YOU ARE READING
A Study with SlugsMystery / Thriller
It is the early 1980s, and women are disappearing from the university campus in Santa Cruz, California, home of the Fighting Banana Slugs. The local police and state investigators are baffled, and so solving these crimes is left to a dope-smoking...