Warren Fredericks pulled up in his driveway. After disposing of Ned Watkins, Warren’s memories of Jacob played through his mind. Both he and Jacob survived mean Mrs. Bird’s class. Both had moved on to the next grade.
At the age of 14, Warren’s father moved them to Colorado Springs. His dad worked for a defense contractor and was rarely home. Warren fell in with the wrong crowd.
Three days prior to his 15th birthday, Warren was arrested for stealing his principal’s 1963 Corvette and going for a joyride. He was promptly dropped into the local juvenile detention center. It did not help that he was high on cocaine at the time of his joyride.
At 17, he was arrested for knocking over a drugstore. Due to his previous arrest, the prosecuting attorney declared he had set a pattern of misconduct and was in fact a habitual criminal. The court decided to wait until he turned 18 to hold his trial and try him as an adult.
At his trial the judge gave him a choice. “Jail or the military,” the judge said. Warren chose the service. He reported to the training base on a cold November day.
Warren found his niche in the military. The structured days and events, along with rifle training, appealed to his nature. By age 20, he was a squad leader in the most prolific reconnaissance unit in modern military history.
While drilling his soldiers on the finer points of advanced marksmanship, his phone rang. He looked at his mobile after the soldiers placed their weapons down on the sandbags and took three steps back.
“This is Sgt Watkins from in-processing. You have a new soldier here. You need to pick him up.”
Warren frowned. He had not been informed of a new incoming soldier. He made the soldiers clear their weapons and return them to the arms room. Then, he dismissed them for lunch.
He drove to Battalion Headquarters and walked to the end of the long hall. In-processing worked out of the same office as the other staff department heads.
Watkins nodded when he walked in. The new soldier stood with his back facing Warren.
“Here you go, Fredericks. Your new soldier is processed, here is his file. He’s good to go.”
The soldier turned and faced Warren. A broad smile crossed his face. Warren grinned.
“I’ll be danged,” Warren said. Jacob nodded and embraced his friend. Watkins looked on.
“Look at you! It’s been years,” Warren said. From that day going forward, Warren and Jacob were inseparable. Warren stood beside Jacob on his wedding day. He was there for the birth of Jacob and Whitney’s child, and for the burial of the same.
Warren had nine deployments under his belt and was looking for another. Jacob did a total of five. After his last campaign, Jacob left the service.
“I don’t recognize myself in the mirror, brother. Whitney gave me an ultimatum. Either get help or get lost.”
Warren took the news in stride. He knew the lost feeling that Jacob had described. He felt it himself many times. There was no one at Warren’s house to care enough to tell him to get out. Jacob had that going for him.
If Warren had the same thing, he would no doubt do the same. Still, it pained him to lose his friend after so many battles together. It was a snowy day in Colorado when Jacob and Whitney left. Jacob looked in the rearview mirror one last time at his friend. Warren held his arm up overhead until they disappeared.
Jacob’s words ran through his mind. “This ain’t goodbye brother, it’s I’ll see you later. We will stay in touch.”
He knew better. Some say that absence is the keystone to fondness. Warren never felt fonder of people when they left, he felt bitter. A small pang of bitterness nipped at his heart then, he felt it even now.
Warren sat on his makeshift porch and reminisced about Jacob and Whitney. He thought of Ned Watkins and his pleading. He cracked open a Mountain Dew Zero and took a sip.
Jacob hadn’t been just a friend; he was his brother. Warren would avenge his family. He had nothing left to lose.