I Want to Once Again Thank My Editor "Wires" for His Editing and Ideas on This Story. His Efforts Make My Submissions Much Better and More Readable.
Three weeks after Baghdad was taken things were still dangerous but were calming down somewhat. Platoon Sergeant (PSG) Thomas Simms was with his Platoon Leader 2Lt (Second Lieutenant) Marvin Paul inspecting checkpoints his platoon were responsible for when once again they found themselves in the middle of a hot zone. A large Russian truck with Iraq Army markings was roaring toward the checkpoint. Instead of slowing down as they neared the check point the large truck actually increased its speed. Dust was billowing out behind the vehicle. The engine was roaring as the truck bore down on the flimsy barrier across the road.
PSG Simms jerked his head around when he heard the engine roar increase in volume. His soldiers watched in surprise for a moment. Just as he started to tell them to fire on the truck they began to move and took it under fire. Now his attention turned to his young inexperienced Platoon Leader. Like an idiot the young lieutenant stepped to the side of the road and held his arms up to signal the truck to stop. PSG Simms began running toward the LT. He yelled, "Lieutenant, get down. The LT just glanced over his shoulder for a moment at his running PSG then turned his attention back to the speeding truck. PSG Simms watched in horror as the blossom of rifle fire came from the truck. He yelled at the lieutenant once again, "Sir! GET DOWN!"
The lieutenant had only been with the unit for three days and was thinking with his stateside brain in spite of the training he received. He looked at the PSG once again with a puzzled expression. Finally his brain understood the situation. A look of horror and comprehension covered his face. He started to move away from the road toward cover. His mouth opened to say something when he was hit. He stumbled back and fell to the ground where he lay unmoving.
PSG Simms turned to the remainder of his section and said, "You know the drill. Take those rag headed bastards out now. Immediately, an increased amount of rifle fire reached out to the truck. At first it held its line of travel then the driver slumped over the wheel and the truck veered off the road and nosed into a two story building. When it came to a stop the cab was inside the building and debris had fallen all around it.
PSG Simms looked around and motioned some of his soldiers to approach the truck to verify all the combatants were neutralized. He felt some trepidation when he saw his assistant platoon sergeant SSG Samantha Peters stand and motion to two of her section. She led them toward the truck. PSG Simms watched in admiration as she maneuvered her soldiers toward the objective. They were doing it right. She moved herself and her men from cover to cover, her head always moving, checking for threats. He felt his cock twitch when he saw the absolutely perfect ass and legs flex and move what he knew was a superior body toward her objective.
No, there was nothing physical between the two senior NCO'S of the platoon but there could have been. They were close friends and spent as much time together as the job and regulations allowed. They both suspected there could be something wonderful between them if regulations didn't prohibit them dating. These two were, after all, good soldiers. They did their job well, followed the regulations and expected others to do the same. No, there was nothing between them except unrequited desire, deep respect, friendship and a longing for more. At times, when it was acceptable for them to interact socially they did so with gusto. At company parties and other military mandated social meetings they spent much of their time together. They were a team on duty and knew what the other was thinking. That carried over to social occasions. They were comfortable together in all situations.
Both PSG Simms and SSG Peters were alone, some said loners, even haters of the opposite sex. It had not always been that way for PSG Simms. There were two failed serious relationships and one failed marriage in his past. After the divorce he tried one more time for a serious relationship but when it failed he decided no more. He couldn't go through the pain and suffering of another cheating bitch. Married life and the Army just didn't mix well, especially in today's environment of frequent long deployments.
PSG Simms mentally shook himself. He knew he was allowing his mind to drift dangerously. His attention to the tactical situation had become dangerously poor. He began to pull himself back to the present when he heard Sam yell, "Hey, Sarge. You need to come see this shit."
Simms looked up and saw his soldiers at their posts. The Check Point (CP) was manned, the soldiers were attentive. A medic was tending to the downed LT. The two men who accompanied SSG Peters were on guard at the sides of the truck while she went through the vehicle to identify the contents. One of the first things to be checked for was explosives. Simms felt his stomach lurch when he heard Sam call out. Crap, he thought. She's got a bomb. He was already planning troop dispositions if they had to relocate until the bomb was safed by EOD.
Simms walked rapidly but safely up to the truck and climbed inside to kneel beside SSG Peters. He looked at her first and said, "What cha got, Sam?"
She looked up at him in shock and licked her lips. She almost whispered, "Money, Tom. Bags and boxes of U.S. hundred dollar bills and more cases of hundred Euro bills. There's a fortune in this truck."
PSG Simms looked down at the containers in awe as Sam opened them and showed him the money. "Jesus," he whispered. The brass will shit when they see this. You watch this while I set better security and call it in."
Simms dropped from the truck and moved to the check point. He motioned the Corporal over and gave him instructions for tightening security. He called all the soldiers who were not actually manning the CP and sent them to form a better perimeter security without telling the Corporal why. He glanced again at the medic working on the LT to verify he was taken care of. Now he needed to call the brass. He jumped into the command Hummer and made the call asking for more security and the Company Commander. He didn't want to tell them why he needed more men so only reported the attack and injuries, requesting Dustoff (helicopter medical evacuation) for the LT.
After the radio call Simms moved the Hummer closer to the truck and CP. He sent the two guards away and he and Samantha took up the guard duties for the money and truck. Tom stood thinking about his life and future. His retirement papers were already turned in. He would retire from the Army with almost 21 years of service about five weeks after the unit returned to the states. His mind wandered to the money once again. Did he want to endanger not only his retirement but his very freedom and do something stupid?
Contrary to policy Sam wandered over beside Tom. She glanced at him briefly then at the truck and licked her lips. She said, "Damn, that's a lot of cash. My god, what someone could do with all that. Where do you think it all came from and where were they taking it?"
"Good questions, Sam. I know where I would like to take it and what I'd like to do with it."
Sam grinned up at him and gave him a hip but. Her eyes sparkled and she licked her lips before letting out a silent, "Yeah. FUCK, I'd like to have a bag of that. I've only got about eighteen months to go and I'm putting my papers in. I've had it with this army shit. I want to find me a man to love and make some babies. A bag of that money would sure make that easier." She looked at Tom from under her tilted head and continued, "You ever think about getting married and settling down?"
"Oh, yeah. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. She couldn't take the army and cheated on me. She laughed when I caught her and took off with her lover. She never spoke to me from then until I divorced her and I haven't seen her since. I had a couple close calls in addition to the short marriage but they didn't take. You?"
"About the same. Got engaged once to another soldier. He couldn't keep it in his pants. Had a couple three others I got pretty close to. Lived with them for a while but it just wasn't right, ya know? Maybe after I get out. I hope so."
Sam moved off to the other side of the truck to watch from there. Tom stood watching his surroundings and thinking. He moved over to the truck and looked inside again. He really didn't think. He climbed into the truck and threw three of the bags of money out. One had Euros inside the other two were full of $100 bills. There were still five cases in the truck. He quickly took some money from the five cases inside and partially filled three bags to replace the ones he threw out. That returned the count to eight once again albeit ones with less money in each than they originally contained.
Simms quickly picked up the bags and moved to his Hummer. He buried the bags underneath the equipment he and the Lieutenant carried in the back. Unless it was searched the bags were not visible. Tom felt a surge of fear at what he had done. If he was caught it was court martial, loss of his pension, and probably prison. He almost took the bags out and put them back into the truck. He was actually walking toward the Hummer to do so when that option was taken out of his hands. His Company Commander drove up with the reinforcements.
When PSG Simms reported to the CO and showed him the money the Captain was shocked. He quickly organized the removal of the money. PSG Simms and SSG Peters stood watching the detail move the containers of money to the Captain's vehicle. After the money and injured were evacuated SSG Peters turned to look at PSG Simms. He was watching as the CP returned to normal.
SSG Peters moved closer to PSG Simms and said quietly, "Those containers didn't look as full when the Captain took them as they did when I first found them. I thought we watched the truck pretty closely. Do you think someone got into the stash?"
Simms felt his gut clench. He looked in the direction the Captain was driving and said, "I really didn't notice. Since we didn't count the money it would be really hard to tell for sure if any was missing, though. I suspect we'd better just keep our mouths shut about all this. It's way above our pay grade."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Sure would like to have a bit of that though. All that cash could make retirement a lot smoother dontcha know?"
The two NCO's looked at each other then returned to the business at hand. Neither mentioned the money again until three days later.
Three days after the Captain took the money a rumor went around the compound. The rumor was that three bags of money were found in a truck that tried to drive through a check point. When SSG Peters heard the rumor she found an opportunity to talk to PSG Simms. "Did you hear they found three bags of money in the truck that tried to break our CP? Do you believe that? Are they putting out misinformation or did someone take the money do you think?"
"No idea. I know I got a receipt for all five, uh, all eight containers from the C O. What happened after that I can't say."
Sam looked at Tom and furrowed her brow. "What do you mean all five cases?"
"I just misspoke. I was thinking of the rumor and doing poor math in my head is all." He rummaged in his desk and pulled a receipt from it showing he turned over five cases and three bags of money, amount unknown, to the Captain. "See, here's the receipt. Now, you ok?"
Sam looked at Tom a moment and gave him an appraising look, then smiled. "Yeah, I'm ok Sarge. It sure looks like there's something fishy going on though. Well, I gotta get back to the ol' grind." She gave him a searching look, a serious look. Just before she walked off she said, "Tom, I need you to be real careful now. I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you. I know you're retiring as soon as we get back stateside. You don't want to do anything to fuck that up." She smiled and continued, "If you need any help with anything you let me know. I have some ideas on how to return things to the states in a secure manner." After giving Tom a searching look Sam turned and walked from his office.
PSG Simms heaved a sigh of relief when Samantha disappeared from his sight. He was more nervous than he normally was in a firefight. He still hadn't figured out what to do with the money. Or, more specifically, he hadn't decided how to get the money home without getting caught. He had several ideas but hadn't settled on the method or methods he would use to attempt smuggling the funds back to the states.
PSG Simms finally decided to use several methods to smuggle the funds into the states hoping if one stash was found others wouldn't be. His main worry was the Euros. He thought he might be able to explain away the U S money if it was found. He put the Euros inside two spare tires on vehicles being returned to the states for the unit. More money was secreted one packet deep in false bottoms of old style wooden foot lockers going back inside a conex assigned to the unit. Some of the money he actually placed inside the linings of his personal clothing and protective armor.
PSG Simms kept track of his stashes after the unit and its equipment returned to Ft. Bragg. The money in his personal gear and possessions was not discovered by the customs inspection done before leaving the Mideast. He carefully removed those funds from his gear and took them off base to his home. That part of the money was safely hidden in a safe deposit box. He had $150,000.00 in cool cash already and was completely free of detection so far. Now, did he want to go after the remaining funds stored in more dangerous locations?
The next funds Tom recovered were those shipped in the false bottoms of cases bound for his Platoon offices. The first night after they were placed in the Platoon office he removed the false bottoms and took those funds home. He was a nervous wreck as he worked in the office and later when he carried the duffel bag of money to his vehicle. He kept waiting for a voice to tell him to halt and put his hands up. It never came. When he approached the gate off post his stomach knotted once again. He felt as if he was going to throw up. He almost had an accident from his sudden relaxation when he exited the base unstopped. His vision actually blurred and dimmed from the release of tension.
Once again the recovered funds were hidden in his home for a few days. Another $350,000.00 was safely added to his stash. He placed these funds in a safe deposit box in a different bank from the one he used before. Now the only funds he had to recover were the Euros in the tires. Those would be the most difficult to recover and the most dangerous. He was not authorized inside the motor pool during non-work hours and it was normally much too busy a place to break down the tire and recover the loot during duty hours.
Tom had almost decided to forgo recovering the Euros when fate stepped in and handed him a golden opportunity. One of his young soldiers mother died and he was authorized emergency leave to return home for the services. The notification came near the end of the work day. Simms took the call and told the LT he was going to personally pick up the soldier and get him on his way. Since this was army business during working hours Simms had the motor pool dispatch a Hummer to him for the unpleasant task.
When PSG Simms entered the motor pool he walked up to the dispatcher and said, "I need a Hummer dispatched to me personally. I have to pick up a soldier going on emergency leave. I also want to do an inspection of one of my squad's vehicles at the same time. Could you dispatch bumper number C22 or C24?" Both of the requested Hummers had Euros stashed in the spare tire so either would do. Since the requested vehicles were assigned to his platoon there was no question about the dispatch. The Dispatcher completed the paperwork on C22 and dispatched it to him with no question.
Simms drove back to his platoon office and stopped beside his truck. He took a duffel bag from the truck with a lumpy object inside. He placed the bag inside the hummer. He rapidly drove to a secluded area and stopped. He quickly released the pressure from the tire and used the on vehicle tool set to break the bead. He pulled the cash from the tire and placed it in a duffel bag he had brought with him. Next he pulled a small air compressor from the vehicle, hooked it to the electrical system and reinflated the tire.
Once again the recovery of the money went undetected. At the current exchange rate the recovered Euros added another $160,000 to Tom's stash. Now he had $660,000. If he could recover the money in the other tire he would have about $820,000 in cool hard cash. Even if he couldn't find a way to invest that money and he had to keep it in cash he could live well on it and his pension. At least he could live well if he ever got to draw his pension. He had to stay out of prison to do that.
For the next ten days Tom lived in constant fear of arrest. All at once it was time to clear post, turn in his army property and return to civilian life. Since clearing post was a military function he took the opportunity to drive the one remaining Hummer with his cash stash still in the tire. Once again he recovered the money without getting caught. Tom heaved a sigh of relief and relaxed somewhat. Finally the day he looked forward to arrived. His retirement day was upon him. He went through the ceremony and made the rounds of his friends shaking hands and slapping backs. He was proud of his career. He was embarrassed with himself for stealing the money then smuggling it back into the states. He was excited with the possibilities the large balance of money opened for him.
The last person PSG Simms talked to before driving off was SSG Peters. She walked with him to his truck as he prepared to leave the post for the last time. The two friends stood beside the truck and visited for several minutes. Finally Tom said, "Well, I suppose I need to get this show on the road. I know I have all the time I need and there's no deadline but I feel pushed to get on down the road."
Sam touched Tom's forearm and stepped closer to him. Her breasts were almost touching his abdomen. She looked into his eyes and said, "You actually pulled it off, didn't you? I kept expecting to come to work one morning and hear you were in the stockade."
Tom felt his knees weaken. He opened his mouth to say something. Sam said urgently, "Don't. You don't need to deny anything or to admit anything. We both know what I'm talking about. In a way I wish I had the guts to do what you and whoever else it was did. I'd love to know how much you made off with. Good luck, Tom. I hope you keep in touch. Maybe we can get together next year when I retire. I'll really miss you."
Sam turned and walked rapidly away from Tom. Tom yelled, "Hey, Sam. When you get out I expect you to come see me before you find that man and make those babies. I really want to see you again. I'll keep you posted on how the retirement's going and where I land."
Tom got into his nearly new F150 and closed the door. He sat behind the wheel feeling the fear and shakes drain from his body. How had she known? He knew she knew what he did. She was too positive in her statement. And she hadn't turned him in. What did she want? Did she want anything? Did he want to do what she asked and stay in touch? Wouldn't that just make it easier for her to cause him trouble? No, probably not. The Army would know where he was forever because of his retirement check. SHIT!
Finally Tom started his truck and drove off the post for the last time. He took three days on the trip home. He was returning to the same small town he grew up in and left 21 years previously. He was 39 years old and starting over. He had no one to share his life with, no job and no place to call home. His parent's had sold his boyhood home and moved to a senior complex several years before so he couldn't stay with them even if he wanted to. He was excited and complacent at the same time. He was looking forward to living his own life to his own timetable. Currently he had no plans for his future.
All the "liberated" money was stashed inside the frame of his truck. He and a friend had boxed the frame in and installed lockable doors to secure the cash. Then they tack welded a plate over the end of the frame to hide the locked door. Of course the friend hadn't known why they were doing the work on the truck. He accepted Tom's statement that he wanted to strengthen the frame for some heavy hauling and 4 wheeling after he retired.
Tom arrived in his home town in mid afternoon three days after leaving Ft. Bragg. He had a very pleasant reunion with his parents and other family that night. The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and more visiting, Tom drove into town and stopped at a real estate office. He knew what he wanted and wasn't going to settle for less.
Two weeks later Tom and his real estate agent found exactly what he wanted. They found a twenty acre plot of ground twelve miles from town on Big Sugar Creek. There was a rough dirt road running past the acreage. The trail onto the place was so rough Tom's truck could just barely make it down it. There was a small meadow of perhaps three acres. The rest of the land was covered in woods and brush. He would own almost a quarter mile of stream front. There was a sharp curve in the stream about midway past his land where it ran into a sandstone bluff. The hole in the bend of the stream was fifteen or twenty feet deep next to the bluff. Across from the bluff was a nice gravel bar. The stream was full of fish. There were bass, some crappie, perch, goggle eye, blue gill, and various other species of fish.
There were no buildings on the property but there were several good places to build a home. After the negotiations were completed Tom managed to purchase the land for $60,000. He paid $10,000 down and obtained a loan for the rest. He didn't want to raise interest by paying cash even though he could have easily done that.
After the land was purchased Tom made a camp on the gravel bar and began unwinding. He spent almost all his time on his land. He walked it several times crisscrossing it repeatedly to familiarize himself with its features. During his walks he looked for the perfect place to build the small home he wanted.
Finally Tom settled on the site for his home. There was a small hill just upstream from the deep hole in the bend of the stream. The hill sloped gently down to the gravel bar on which Tom camped. He decided to build an earth shelter home into the side of the hill. He made sure he placed his home well above the highest possible high water mark then began laying out the house, a garage and yard. Best of all the building site he selected was only about thirty feet from the clearing where he intended to raise a large garden for most of his vegetables. Eventually he planned to raise his own beef, pork and chickens and become as self sufficient as he could.
Since he was retired and had nothing except time Tom intended to do all the work himself on his new home and out buildings. Tom used his father's chain saw and cut the few trees that had to be removed and made them into firewood to burn in his wood stove after his home was completed. After the brush and trees were cleared from his building sites Tom went into town and purchased a used back hoe to dig his house out of the hillside. He paid cash for it. During the process of digging the house into the small hill he removed all the stumps from the trees that he cut earlier. He also used the back hoe to improve his driveway and carry creek gravel to pave it with.
After the house was dug out of the hillside Tom moved gravel to cover the bottom of the cut. He made sure to put his water and sewer lines in the gravel then covered everything with plastic for a vapor barrier. He also placed lateral pipe outside the inner walls next to the hill and ran drain pipes underneath the house to keep the water out of his home. Next he built his forms for the poured concrete walls and floor. Rebar and rewire were laid and fastened together. Tom hired several neighbors and friends of his family to help him pour and finish the concrete.
On the day of the pour the men worked until they were exhausted. Finally after six p.m. they were done. Tom and his three helpers stood drinking a well deserved beer and looked at their days work. Tom had the walls for an earth shelter home sheltered on two sides by the hillside facing more or less to the southeast. About the middle of the structure there was a 45 degree corner to conform to the hillside. His house would be 24 feet deep by 24 long on each back side of the structure. The two front sides were 36 feet in length thus making his home a total of 1440 square feet when completed. As soon as the forms could come off they would pour the floors.
While the walls and floor of his home cured Tom hired a well drilled and ordered the lumber he would need to complete his home. During that time he also built a pole building to store his back hoe and other tools in. Part of the building was partitioned off to serve as a barn for his stock and a chicken house for his future chickens.