Blood Alone

Blood Alone by James R. Benn Read Free Book Online

Book: Blood Alone by James R. Benn Read Free Book Online
Authors: James R. Benn
Tags: Historical, Mystery, War
satisfying.
    “Calm down, Rocko,” I said. “Sorry about the tap, but you avoided much worse by running out on us. You might’ve ended up like Aloysius.”
    Rocko’s eyes bulged even farther out. He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, asking me a question.
    “Dead. Never knew what hit him,” I told him.
    Rocko’s head fell back. He looked shocked. I remembered how he had tried to protect Hutton from being shanghaied that morning. It didn’t seem possible, but Rocko actually seemed to have cared about Hutton. Strange. I wondered what Hutton had done for him other than carry a clipboard.
    Leaving Rocko to his grief, I concentrated on getting clean. I scrubbed my face with soap and water and felt the hair on my chin. I looked at the pile of my discarded clothes. They had the crumpled, greasy look of garments worn for days. My entire body smelled like it was covered with layers of dried sweat. Every fold of skin revealed a thin line of grime, and I felt sorry for the private who’d brought the water in. It was probably his job to clean the tub.
    I might not know my name, but I did know my own whiskers. Something didn’t add up. We ’d invaded yesterday, during the night and early morning. I’d awakened in the field hospital this morning. Now, it was maybe 2300 hours. Eleven o’clock, civilian time, I reminded myself automatically. Was that a habit of mine? It felt familiar. I liked that.
    Two days ago, paratroopers had just begun to drop over Sicily. Infantry was offshore, getting ready to load into landing craft. I rubbed my chin again, and had a vague recollection of being in a small boat, rolling on the waves. It was dark, and it was dangerous.
    That was it. Water ! The things I remembered both had to do with water.
    Never mind that now. I was a straight leg, right? So I hadn’t jumped during the night. I must have come in by landing craft or small boat before dawn two days ago. D-day for Sicily. Operation Husky, scheduled for July 10, 1943. The code name and date popped into my head, another sudden revelation, followed by nothing.
    I would’ve been clean shaven and wearing a fresh uniform. So why did I have a week’s worth of beard? Not stubble but longer hair beginning to feel soft, like a beard growing in.
    I must have arrived in Sicily before the invasion.
    I scrubbed the dirt of days away, scouring my body, wishing the hopelessness I felt would fall away too. I lathered my face and shaved, using the small mirror and razor that had been set up next to the scotch. It was hard going, and I cut myself. Drops of blood fell into the dirty water, blossoming red and disappearing. I pressed my fingers against the cut and they came away wet and sticky. I stood and poured a pitcher of fresh water over me, rinsing off soap and lather and pale pink droplets. It was cold, but I didn’t care.
    I’d been here before the invasion.
    The conclusion was plain but I didn’t want to think about it. Mechanically, I dried off. Rocko made some noises but I picked up the knife and he quieted down. I gripped it in my palm, blade pointed at Rocko this time, as if I were about to stab him.
    The knife. The knife in my hand was bloody, glistening wet. I felt it slide between someone’s ribs, my hand twisting and cracking bone while a hand flapped uselessly against a holster, trying to draw a pistol, too late.
    I gasped and dropped the knife. I blinked, half believing the man in uniform whom I had stabbed would be standing in front of me, breathing his last. There was no one but Rocko, though, naked and hog-tied, watching me with more fear than I’d yet seen in his eyes. I picked up the knife, felt the handle and looked for blood, scarcely able to believe it was clean and dry.
    I’d been here before the invasion. And I was a killer.
    I gathered up clothes and gear, leaving the M1 where it was and exchanging it for a Thompson. I liked the thought of a spray of .45 slugs between me and trouble, and there was plenty of trouble on

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