“Heard through the grapevine that you were in Iraq,” Hatch said, trying to sound discrete.
“What’s wrong, Hatch?” Jerm asked “Worried I might outrank you and call you by your first name?” Richard Hatch. Everyone around Moriarty called him “Dick”, made funnier because his best friend was Private Arnold Ball. “What should I call you, then?” Jerm had asked him. “Ball. That’s my fuckin’ name, rookie.” Ball was a sensitive guy.
“Naw, man. Ball and I weren’t soldiers before the outbreak. I was just wonderin’ about the war and all.”
“You don’t think this is exciting enough? Bet you got war stories o’ your own.”
“Relax, Hatch. I was a civilian in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Sent out into Iraq to build some schools is all.”
“Yeah. So, what’s up? You relieving me?”
“No. Ball. You seen him?”
“Shit break. Been a while now. Check the latrine if you want.” Jerm patted Hatch on the back and went back to his watch.
“Oh shit!” Hatch cried. “Oh Christ! Fuck!”
“What?” Jerm yelled. No answer. He went over to check on them, rifle pointed in the dark. “Hatch! What’s up?”
“He’s dead! Zeds got ‘im!”
“Zombies? Why the fuck?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know!”
“Hatch, move over. Move! Hatch… that looks like a stab wound.”
“I don’t know!”
“Hatch! Calm the fuck down! I’ll watch here. Go tell Sarge.”
“Fuckin’ go, man!” Jerm watched him go, sighed deep and turned back to his post. “Fuck!” he cried, not sure what he was looking at. It was a black bag over a man’s head. Before he could raise his rifle, he got popped in the jaw. The man wrestled his gun away and pointed it at Jerm.
“If I wanted to kill you, I could have. Yes?”
“I know who you are, Jeremiah. Dishonorably discharged from the army. That kind of thing follows you, you know?”
“I’m a messenger. You’ve piqued the interest of a higher power, Jeremiah. You should be proud.”
“Fuckin’ feelin’ great.”
“You have leave in three days. Leave at 0600. Keep walking west of your barracks and we’ll find you. Don’t show and we kill you and your brother. Tell anyone, and we’ll kill you and your brother. Understand?”
He walked away and tossed the gun. Aside. The man was gone before he could retrieve his rifle.