Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 14: Stacy Zimmer
“What’s your name?” Stacy decided to ask.
“Dressel. Daryl. You?”
She told him. “When’d ya get out?”
“Twenty oh seven.” He eyed her, waiting.
“Thirteen years. Long time. Been on the street the whole time?”
Dressel shook his head. “Nah. I had a family. But the PTSD was too much. I left.”
Stacy understood. The comment about doing something though. That was hanging like a ball of fire in the middle of the alley between them. “I got a place. Not much. If you want a hot an a cot.” She watched him think it over, his tongue running around the inside of his mouth, visible in his sunken cheeks.
“If it ain’t too much.”
“Nah. We can talk.”
He nodded and rose, gathering together the cardboard he’d been sitting on and bundling it into his backpack.
She could see his slow rise. Probably arthritis from living on the cold streets, she thought. She was kind of stiff herself as she stood. The thought crossed her mind that she could have been seriously hurt while she was out of it. That gave her a bit of comfort and security at her rash, impromptu invitation to dinner and a bed. No matter. She still had her knife on the bed stand, and a nine mill under her pillow. She could put a chair under the doorknob. It would be all right.
At her apartment she fixed a pound of spaghetti and threw a jar of sauce over top of it and put it on the table with the usual green can of cheese on the side. She poured some cheap red wine in water glasses. It was too sweet for spaghetti, really, but she didn’t have anything else. They ate in silence after he thanked her for the food and wine.
She didn’t mind the silence. Just having someone else at the kitchen table was enough. It kept the memories in check. After dinner she did the dishes while he used the shower. She was surprised to see him come out of the bathroom in different clothes.
“I have a washer,” she told him. He nodded. “I’d appreciate that.” So she showed him how to use it and he put everything cloth he had in there and did his laundry. She poured the last of the wine between them and sat in what passed for a living room. Stacy sat in her favorite chair. He sat on the loveseat.
“You made a suggestion, in the alley,” she said.
He nodded. “I know some people.”
While she rubbed her forehead, she thought this sounded just like back in the sandbox, talking to the natives. They always knew someone. Someone bad, or someone they could trust, or just someone with information. There were always some people. “You know they round up dissidents.” She said it as a statement, not a question. It was a fact, after all.
“Yeah. But when was the last time someone took a look at either of us? We’re invisible.”
Stacy drummed her fingers on the greasy arm of her chair. She’d gotten it at a thrift store for seven bucks. Good enough for her. A sip of wine allowed her to think a little longer. “So why aren’t you already involved?”
“Who said I’m not?” He sipped his wine and watching her, waited.
That’s how they’d worked in Afghanistan. A local did the recruiting. Always. Then if the local thought the recruit was trust-worthy, set up a meet. Stacy didn’t think much of being on this side of the equation. But, if she didn’t like the idea, she only had to say so. This guy, if Dressel really was his name, would just disappear and she’d never see him again. Even if she went to the authorities, and why the hell would she? She didn’t have a damn thing to give them that they didn’t already know.
She drank some more. The kitchen wall clock ticking could be heard, counting off the seconds as she pondered the suggestion. Did she miss the action? Is that why she was even considering this dumb ass idea? More like she missed the purpose, as her therapist kept telling her. Did she miss it enough to be executed by firing squad after a long painful session with interrogators if she was caught? Stacy could feel her heart rate pick up. That was excitement, she realized. Not fear. And weren’t the bastards taking her pay? That definitely deserved a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as far as she was concerned. “It’s a dumb idea.”
Dressel nodded. “Most likely.”
Stacy shook her head and closed her eyes. “I’m gonna regret this. Yes.”
He grinned and held out his glass in a toast. “More than likely. Hoo Ra!”
She saw his toast after she’d said yes and held up her glass. “Hoo Ra!” They drank what was left of the wine.
“Welcome to the revolution.”
They both laughed.
The next morning, when she finally rolled out of bed, he was gone. There were forty dollars on the table and a short note.
Someone will contact you. Code word, Sybil Ludington.
Response, Great ride.
That was the end of the note. She burned it in her stove’s gas flame after memorizing the code and response. While she made coffee, she considered her tipsy decision from the previous night. There was some regret, and to be honest, a little fear this morning. But also, she felt better than she’d felt for a long time. Purpose, she thought. Is that all it takes? She shrugged as she poured some dollar store knock-off off, too-sugary cereal into a bowl. Must be. As she ate, she considered how to prepare. Lists of supplies, weapons, and other details came flooding through her mind. She was grinning, she realized as she washed cup, bowl, and spoon. Oh yeah. This was going to be fun.
Thank you for reading.