Friday, January 2, 2015

Fall From Grace - One Last Stand - Stand Alone

Happy New Year! I hope that 2015 brings you all health, happiness and success!

As promised last week, here's a introduction to several of the characters in the "Fall From Grace" series. This stands alone and is not an excerpt from Fallen. I'll be posting more over the coming weeks as Fallen's release date inches closer.


The bullet whistled through the air. We ducked for cover, but not before it silenced itself in the neck of our Sergeant, Graham Lawton.

The last of us to hit the ground, Graham clutched his torn flesh. His body slid slowly down the wall as blood gurgled into his lungs.
“Put fucking pressure on it,” I yelled, as a red mist hit my face.

My men hovered on the ground in useless quiet, watching Graham’s life ooze out between his fingers.

“Goddamn you all,” I shouted, doing an army crawl through the scorching sand so I could reach my Sergeant.

The desert took its sweet time absorbing the fluid, and I wore a shit colored mud before I could finally reach up to stuff my hand into Graham’s gaping bloody wound.

“You goddamn pussies.” I couldn’t look at my troops for fear that I would shoot them myself.

Lieutenant Declan Maddox tore around the corner of the building and dove to a stop at my feet.

“First aid kit,” he tossed me a pressure bandage as another round lodged itself in to the wall less than half a foot above my head.

“We got us a sniper in one of them buildings,” Maddox pulled out binoculars and did a quick scan of the blown out windows the building over. “Bingo,” he said after a minute, picking up his radio.

“Cowboy? It’s Maddox. I got a visual on a sniper in the building, top floor. He’s about two hundred yards from your position, twelve o’clock. We got a man down.”

“Fire when ready, Cowboy,” I relayed through Maddox. “One shot.”

“All I need,” Cowboy replied, cocky.

We waited for his shot to pierce the now silent air. Seconds ticked into a minute, then two minutes.

“Maddox,” I barked. “Find out what in the fuck is going on over there.” I kept my attention on Graham, because every second counted in firefights. He would bleed out before the medics could get to him, if it took our Cowboy much longer to remove his target.

By now Graham had bled through the pressure bandage. I ran my hand under his neck looking for the exit wound and found nothing.

Thank God some women are soldiers, I thought, tugging on the pocket of my pants. I fished out a tampon and used my teeth to tear open the package.

“Maddox, hand me another bandage.” I threw the sodden gauze to the side and inserted the tampon into Graham’s neck.

Maddox’s eyes had widened. I snatched the fresh bandage away from him.

“Focus, Lieutenant,” my elbow brushed against him.

A single crack had my teeth reverberating. I ducked for cover, leaning over Graham’s pasty body to protect him as the cinder block structure beside us crumbled. Head still intact, I continued to dress my Sergeant’s wounds. Another lovely day at the office, I told myself, forcing a smile when his eyes turned to me.
“Am I gonna die?” Blood tinged his teeth red and foamed on his lips as Graham struggled with his focus long enough to make the sentence.

“You will not.” It came out as an order and I hoped to God that he would not defy it.

“Can you tell my mama that I love her?” Graham had chosen to ignore me.

“You tell her yourself,” my eyes met Declan’s. “We need a medic,” I mouthed.

“Can you just tell her for me? Please?” The panic in Graham’s eyes betrayed his stoic expression. I thrust my fingers against his wrist, counting off the beats.
“You’re not going to die today, Sergeant, but on the off chance that I do see her before you, I’ll be sure to let her know.” I replied. His pulse had become thready and faint. “We need a fucking medic,” I yelled.
Graham attempted a smile. It appeared as a grimace.

A short burst of gunfire hit the wall. Again I leaned over Graham to keep him covered as clouds of dust were kicked up and debris rained down on us. I needed to get him out of the hot zone before he died in my arms because we were pinned down by hostile fire.

Moving a casualty went against the bulk of my training, but then, my first aid training had been very basic.
“Cover me,” I ordered my team. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, readying myself as I planned our escape.

I hazarded a final look at Graham. His eyes were closed and his face had smoothed out. He almost looked like he had fallen asleep. I slapped his cheek. “Wake the fuck up, Sergeant,” I snapped.

My heart sank when he didn’t move and rage bubbled in my veins. “Cover me,” I barked at my troops again.

Bullets flew the second I popped my head up and I got the feeling that we would be playing a lethal game of whack-a-mole until I had pulled Graham around the corner to safety.

No choice, I knew, wrapping my hands under his armpits, tugging him along while I walked backwards and attempted to keep low to avoid getting shot.

My men finally did me proud, jumping up to fire a few at time in a rotation that kept the reloads possible and the enemy at bay.

Graham’s bandage had started to redden; a sign both good and bad.

“Hang on a few more minutes, Sergeant,” I told him, relief washing over me as I reached the corner of the wall that temporarily marked the end of the hot zone.

Declan popped into my vision the second I had cleared the side of the building. I kept dragging Graham along the ground, hoping that he hadn’t fallen victim to his injuries and would hang on just a little longer. Our medic had holed up three ugly ass structures down. I had only to get him there, alive, and the medic would do the rest.

“So our sniper seems to have fucked that up,” Declan told me, as he relieved me of one of Graham’s arms and helped me pull him along the ground.
“I noticed,” I replied. “Take Graham to the medic, find out what happened with Cowboy and report back to me. In that order, Lieutenant.”
“Where are you going?” As he asked the question he had already taken over my position under Graham’s armpit and begun staggering duck-like and backwards to his first destination.

“My men are out there. We don’t leave our people behind.” I turned without another word and sprinted back around the building. My men were still playing pop goes the weasel with their enemy.

It had to stop, I thought, taking a position alongside them. It had to stop and we would be the ones having to stop it.

I emptied my clip, dropped back behind the two foot wall that had been protecting us and pulled out a map sheathed in plastic. My Corporal yelled that he needed to reload and dropped down beside me, struggling with his clip.

“Gates,” I punched his leg. “We need to end this so Graham can be med-evaced out of this shit hole.”

“Yes ma’am.” His eyes dropped to the map in my hand and he pulled the china marker out of its housing. “We’re here,” he circled our position on the map.
I smiled tightly at our mapped out situation. The town had been divided by the fighting and reminded me of the strategy board game that my father and I had played for hours in my childhood, when dad had his pieces surrounding mine and my armies were much smaller than his.

He had always forced me to consider moves before I made them; to weigh out the pros and cons of each possibility and predict what he would do when I finally figured out what my best move would be.

The tables turned when I turned twelve and, while grossly undermanned, I somehow managed to divide and conquer.

“This is a proud moment for me, Steph,” he had told me.

My head had swelled until I thought it would burst. It had been the first time in my short life he had said anything about his pride for me. From that day I strived to hear the words as often as possible.

I looked down at the map again, shaking myself away from memory lane. I had twelve men, a sniper team, and Declan Maddox. I couldn’t count the medic or Graham.

Gates dropped back down. “Anything I can do?” My Corporal and I both turned to watch the men down the line.

“Yeah. Take six men and circle around to the back of these buildings,” I penciled his route onto the map. “Stay low. We’ll cover you.”

Declan’s voice crackled over the radio. “Woods, Cowboy doesn’t have the shot.”

“Then he needs to move.” I wanted nothing more than to shake my head in frustration and bite his head off but Gates’ eyes were on me, and that meant that all eyes were on me. Dressing down my Lieutenant in front of the men would not further our cause. It would just make me look like an ass.

“Roger that,” Declan replied.

Gates began crawling away. I put my hand on his foot to stop him. He turned his head. “What’s up Cap?”

“Be careful out there, Gates.” I couldn’t afford any more injuries.

He had collected his men and they were discussing movement when the shot cracked through the air. The muzzle blast had me covering my ears as I burrowed lower behind the wall. My teeth rattled.

Gates’ eyes were wild when the dust settled and I caught sight of him.

“Too close for comfort,” I yelled. “Abort the mission.”

Blood dripped down his forehead.

“Get down, Gates,” I hollered, slithering towards him. He leaned with his back against the wall, his head peaking out over the top.

“Gates,” I yelled out again, reaching for him.

Another shot screamed through the air. Gates slumped forward as my hand hit his leg. The back of his skull disintegrated. Blood and brain matter sprayed.

“Get down,” I bellowed to my men.

“We need air support,” I blurted into the radio at Declan. “They’ve got us pinned. Gates is down.”

“Cowboy can’t get a visual,” he replied.

“Fuck Cowboy,” I raged, conducting a quick count of the eyeballs turned my way. “Get air support here.”

“Not possible, Woods.”

“Make it happen, Lieutenant.”

I turned to my team, most of whom were teenage boys fresh out of training with zero combat experience before that day. “Looks like we’re on our own, fella’s. Stay down and against the wall.”



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