The next day – tired, bandaged and smelling like smoke – I joined the meeting we all had in Henry’s office. With Radar spying outside with Klinger (his companion sometimes when I was in the office or not available), I also took note that Henry resided over this meeting, with me, Hawkeye, Trapper, Margaret and Frank coming in to talk about the events from the previous hours beforehand. An M.P. stood at the door with us, ignoring the exchanges, but always at attention, just in case something happened.
Simmons was still on the loose, so oftentimes, we saw an M.P. here and there in the camp, especially around the officers. It was a small comfort, of course, but it can’t stop the happenings in the camp.
It was before the sun came up for dawn when Henry called the meeting, about oh-six hundred hours, so everybody looked like a mess, especially me. My dirty hair stuck out in different directions, and I sought to fix it (being in my usual pajamas and such at this early hour did not help matters either), but Margaret stopped me, looking at me with sympathetic eyes once more.
Margaret, too, had a long night. She was the one who looked for me when all of the other nurses came out. She was the one who saw me in the corner of the burning tent, trying to come out and find the door – beaten down, clothes on and burns on my arms – and screamed for help. So, our Head Nurse helped me out despite the danger of fire still, got the four doctors, and there I was, back in Pre-Op, being bandaged and examined once more.
I said that I had clothes on for a reason. Simmons had grabbed me from behind, before I could escape the fire in the tent. But, of course, he had made sure they came back on quickly before anybody found me without them. He forced me to put them on, at knifepoint again, and said not to say a word about it or else he can easily come back and kill me and Hawkeye.
That order was easy for me to obey obviously. I didn’t want any of the doctors examining me like that ever again, even if it was serious. I can easily admit to becoming disoriented and knocking my head out on the tent pole before Margaret found me. I could never admit to seeing Simmons again.
Not to mention, how can I explain that I was raped again? And then, I let Simmons get away with it? It was shameful enough the first time. The second time seemed worse, as if death itself could never redeem me. Another time and I thought that I’d easily send myself into a darkened exile.
I looked back at Margaret (thoughts of my own punishment halted for now) and gave her a small smile in reply to her concern. I then saw her soot-covered face, mixed with the green mask she possibly put on hours before, hours before she smelled the smoke. Her hair, too, fell into dirty, thick clumps, hanging limply on the sides of her neck: somewhat graying, but always with that blonde glow that we all recognized.
Frank, always protective of Margaret (no matter how their relationship pushes and pulls), put his hand on her shoulder, pulling her back, causing her eyes to suddenly become cold, hard and Regular Army once more. She looked like she wanted to rant at Henry again about the security in the camp, so waited until the Commanding Officer spoke. Business was business, of course, and we had to get to the bottom of the issue. Henry had to speak out first.
Henry cleared his throat (sitting down when Frank and Margaret did, close to the M.P. in the back of the office), starting with, “Ladies and gentlemen, we need a solution to…the issue at hand, and it’s capturing one of our own, or use to be our own, Daniel Simmons, also known as Jacob Zimmerman, who is obviously a, umm, danger to this camp.”
I lifted my arms and balled up my fists (even though Hawkeye told me not to when he cleaned up the mess) and banged them on Henry’s desk in front of me. While Trapper and Hawkeye next to me winced as they thought of the possible damage I inflicted upon myself once more, Margaret, Frank and Henry jumped with fright at the thought of a possible attack on the officers.
If the situation wasn’t so serious, I would have been laughing my ass off.
I said with venom, “And what are we going to do about it, Henry? I’m frightened already and feel history repeating itself once more. I don’t want it to keep on like this, especially now.”
Hawkeye gave me a look when I turned back to face him, asking a million questions within a sitting. What are you talking about now? His face seemed to say, looking about confused, concerned even.
Trapper gave me the same face (also wanting to shot me in the ass with a sedative to keep me still, for sure). Instead, though, his seemed to ask me that one question that everybody seemed to have on their minds, but dare not voice out loud: What had really happened in there?
The two Swampmen didn’t want me to be moving my slightly-burnt arms around and becoming stressed out, but if they wanted to achieve that, they were too late. The meeting in Henry’s office was making me agitated and the two, knowing them, would keep me in the nurses’ quarters (a new tent and our belongings salvaged with nobody hurt, save for me) until it was over because it would irritate me.
“We have the M.P.’s looking for Simmons as we speak, Captain,” Frank said from his corner, getting my thoughts off of Hawkeye and Trapper. “They’re experts in their art and would stop it nothing. They’re sure to find him.”
“And if they don’t, then what do we do?” Margaret asked Frank. Turning to Henry, she added, “Colonel Blake, I don’t want any more of my nurses getting hurt. One is enough. More is pushing it.”
Margaret then huffed up, her feathers ruffled. “I want an investigation into this grave matter immediately and all possible places for the prisoner searched, especially in the villages around the camp. And I suggest all enlisted men not on duty to help the M.P.’s. It lightens their duty and gives them more reason to keep the camp safe.”
“Say, that’s a good suggestion, Major,” Frank replied, rubbing his chin (or what looked like one). “The officers don’t need to be chasing a criminal. We have more important things to do.”
“Yeah, and then what do you do when they find Simmons?” Hawkeye yelled at Frank. “Then you can dance from emergency to emergency, Frank, because we don’t have enough firearms for everybody, if that’s what you want them using.”
“Pierce has a point, Frank,” Henry pointed out. “We also can’t spare anybody in the camp right now, even the enlisted personnel. H.Q. just sent word about an offensive on Hill 403 again. And this place is under threat of an enemy attack in the next month, so we have to prepare to be moved again. We can’t spare anybody here except those…well, trained to be…well, spared.”
Trapper groaned. “Another causality of war,” he mentioned quietly. Then: “Why can’t we just send them magazines to hit each other with? Roll them up and have a fight!”
“It’s less of a mess and we won’t be needed here,” Hawkeye added as he glanced briefly at me, thinking. “Uncle Sam can send us home finally and we can dance another way.”
“Gentlemen…” Henry started.
“Gentlemen?” Trapper was incredulous, insulted even. “Hey, Hawkeye, did you hear? We’re gentlemen!”
“Captains, we need to get back to the issue at hand here,” Margaret reminded them as I stifled a giggle, trying hard not to make a comment. “And that is finding the criminal terrorizing this camp!”
“Yes, Major, so don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Henry sighed. “Now, I propose this. Nobody is alone. Make sure we buddy-up and walk in groups. I’m sure, with this camp, it won’t be a problem. We’re all together and very close. We work as a team and therefore, it shouldn’t be an issue to be seen together in public…outside of the O.R., that is”
I clapped (considering Henry lucky that I stayed quiet until that moment, save for the outburst earlier), commenting, “Hey, Henry, that’s good for you! You made a good decision today!”
Hawkeye and Trapper joined me in clapping, Margaret and Frank obviously appearing to be disgusted by our lack of seriousness in the situation, mine included. After all, I had been the one attacked, not anyone else…so far.
“Nice, obvious decision, Henry,” Trapper said after me. “I applaud you for it.”
“Shut up, all of you,” Henry retorted, adjusting the collar of his shirt and giving Hawkeye the evil eye quickly, shutting him up before he added anything after Trapper. “Jeanie, that means you, too. Don’t run off or anything.”
I saluted, making Hawkeye wince again. “Whatever you say, Dad.”
“Colonel Blake, what about the enlisted men searching for Simmons?” Frank asked in a whiny voice, incredulous that that meeting was already over and that we were all dismissed, just like that. “Major Houlihan had a good suggestion there. I think you should consider it.”
“Not unless you want more wounded in here to work on yourself, Frank, considering not just your trigger-happy attitude, but also the lack of men around the camp. Pierce and McIntyre will have their gloves and magazines blown-up and rolled up. So, I highly suggest that you have your own pistols loaded and keep a watchful eye out.”
Henry then looked to the rest of us, sighing, continuing. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re up for a few rough days ahead of us.”
“Such encouraging words from the commanding officer,” Hawkeye commented as we all got up and turned to leave, him and Trapper taking me by the arms (each on a side) and guiding me out. He then sniffled, a fake sob coming on.
“Well, you heard the Colonel,” Frank whined as soon as we got back, Radar pretending to be working on some paperwork on his desk area and Klinger most likely gone elsewhere. “We’re up for a few rough days.”
“Oh, Frank, it’ll be ok,” Margaret cooed at him, rubbing his shoulders and back as she went behind him. “We can always pair up, like we did earlier this month. It’s cold enough.” She cuddled close to Frank, obviously thinking that he could escape the Swamp and camp in her tent for the time being.
“But it isn’t so cold, Major,” I pointed out as Henry was heard snorting in his office. If it was in disgust, I could not tell, but I bet that he was hearing every word of the conversation because of the reply he gave us.
“What difference does it make?” Henry called from his office. “Just follow orders!”
“This is the first time I heard the Chief saying something,” Hawkeye muttered. “Come along, kids. Let’s go home or check in on the office. There’s bound to be something to do.”