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Thursday, 16 April 2009
It happened so fast.
The IED-a car bomb, had to be-went off in the middle of the busy neighborhood.
One minute Izzy Zanella was letting Mark Jenkins use him as a sounding board for the pros and cons of putting in an offer on a house before he and his wife, Lindsey, sold their condo-which was ridiculous, because Izzy had never owned property in his thirty years of life and wasn't likely to change from being a renter anytime soon. But that was probably why Jenk was bouncing his thoughts off Izzy-because said thoughts would, absolutely, bounce.
Of course, their Navy SEAL teammate and resident pain in the ass Danny- Danny-bo-banny Gillman had never owned property either, but he had an Opinion with a capital O on the subject-and that O stood for boring. Dan had spent most of the morning dourly warning Jenkie to not even think about buying anything in this craphell market-not until they had a buyer for the condo locked in.
Jenk, however, was in love-and not just with his adorable yet kick-ass wife. He was in love with his entire life, including Lindsey's whoopsie-daisy pregnancy. It had just happened, or rather, they'd just found out about it. And even though they had nearly eight full months before Baby Day, Jenk really, really wanted to buy what was, without a doubt, his idea of the perfect house, particularly since it sat three perfect houses down from the equally perfect home of SEAL Team Sixteen's former CO, Tommy Paoletti, whom Markie-Mark still loved nearly as much as Lindsey and their fabulous life.
And Izzy had to admit that living down the street from Tommy, who had a more-the-merrier policy to his almost-weekly cookouts, would be pretty flipping great.
Jenkins didn't want to hear any more of Gillman's doom and gloom, which was why he was walking next to Izzy and saying, "If it turns out we can't sell the condo, we can always go to Plan B-"
Which was when the world went boom.
Izzy went from nodding his agreement to soul-kissing the street and inhaling rancid water from a puddle that was part yak piss, part toxic sludge.
He rolled over to do a quick head count of his teammates and encountered Dan Gillman, who was doing the exact same thing, his hand on Izzy's leg-the better to shake him with.
"Zanella, Christ, are you all right?" Gillman asked, far more urgently than Izzy would have expected, considering that Izzy's main reason for finding Dan such a royal pain in the ass was the fact that Dan thought Izzy was the world's biggest load. And he'd come to his opinion about that long before Izzy had gone and married Danny's little sister, Eden, which had, inarguably, made things even more awkward.
In the best of times, they were frenemies. In the worst, they gave in to their animosity, at which point one of their fists usually ended up in the other's face.
And it was usually Danny's fist and Izzy's face. Although they'd definitely vice versa'd it a time or two in the recent past.
Izzy had to spit out the yak piss before he could do more than nod, but then he remembered that it wasn't too long ago that Dan had had the unnerving experience of witnessing a Marine who'd been standing a few scant inches away from him get hit by shrapnel from a similar explosion.
The kid had bled out in a matter of minutes, despite Dan's frantic attempts at first aid.
"I'm fine," Izzy reassured him. Their SEAL teammates-Jenkins, Tony V., and Lopez-were all fine, too, thank God.
In fact, Lopez was so fine, he was already running toward the smoke and flames. Izzy scrambled to his feet and followed, with Jenk, Tony, and Gillman hot on his heels.
They'd been a mere four blocks away from the former marketplace that was the bomb's ground zero, and as they approached, the chaos increased.
More than one bus was on its side. Other cars were flipped upside down, one of them burning.
Civilians were everywhere. Crying. Bleeding. Some of them were running away, some not doing much of anything but lying, dazed, where they'd fallen, slapped down by the blast's giant invisible hand.
The United States Marines, God bless 'em, were already on the scene, a female officer coolly and efficiently taking command of the rescue effort-getting the injured people out of the vehicles, evacuating the surrounding buildings, putting out the fires.
Izzy's ears were still ringing, but he saw what Lopez was doing with the hot Marine lieutenant's blessing. He was creating a first-aid station for the injured, right there on the sidewalk.
Sirens were wailing in the distance, emergency vehicles coming from every direction. But the streets were filled not just with people but with rubble and smoke, and holy shit, the front of an entire row of buildings, including his favorite shawarma stand, had been blown to hell. And the crater from the bomb had made the street here beyond the marketplace impassable every way but from the north.
Help was coming, but it wasn't going to arrive soon enough.
But Lopez was a hospital corpsman-the Navy equivalent of an Army medic- and he was focused on saving the lives that he could. Normally soft- spoken, he was using his outdoor voice to inform any other medical personnel on the scene about his makeshift triage area.
It was then, as Izzy was pointing out Lopez to an ancient woman who was half carrying her bloody and dazed nearly-elderly-himself son, that he noticed Mark Jenkins was looking a little pale. The height- challenged SEAL was holding his right wrist tight against his side, as if he'd jammed it bad when he'd forcefully come into close personal contact with the street.
"Y'okay?" Izzy stepped closer to ask, exactly as Dan, too, came over and inquired, "Jenkins, are you hurt?"
Jenk shook his head in a mix of both yes and no. "Help me find a piece of wood for a splint."
"Shit," Izzy said as he helped Danny sift through the rubble of what used to be that restaurant. "Is it broken?"
The owner had survived, thank God, but he was sitting now among the debris, stunned. "Hang on, Mr. Wahidi," Izzy called to the man. "I'll be right over to help you."
Everything was either too big or too splintered or too full of nasty- ass nails.
"A brace," Jenkins corrected himself as he bent to pick up a piece of what had once been a sign for tea. "I meant a brace. Son of a bitch."
His wrist was definitely broken.
He turned another more greenish shade of pale, his golly-gee freckles standing out on his nose, because he'd jarred his arm trying to measure it against that piece of wood.
"Maybe you should sit down, bro," Gillman suggested, which was stupid. No way was Jenkins going to sit down and surrender to a relatively mild injury when there were so many more severely wounded people to assist.
Of course, maybe Dan only meant it, like, Maybe you should sit down for a sec, bro, because it is going to hurt like a screaming bitch when we belt your arm to that splint.
But any mention of giving in to the pain would have pissed Izzy off royally were he in Jenk's tiny boots, so he took charge. "He's fine where he is," he told Dan, told Jenkins, too, because the man looked like he needed encouragement, and adding to Dan, "Don't bother with your belt."
Izzy found his spare bungee cords in his vest pocket and pulled out a couple. Those little suckers were useful, even when the SEALs weren't up in the mountains. They would work better than a belt to keep Jenk's broken arm supported by that piece of wood.
The wood, however, left much to be desired. So Izzy tossed Dan the cords, reaching down and untying his own bootlaces, even as he told Jenk, "I say go for it. Buy the house of your dreams."
As he'd expected, Danny objected, which was good. Jenk needed a little distraction. "And hold two mortgages if the condo doesn't sell?" Dan said.
"Sure, why not?" Izzy quickly stripped off his sock. It was a little soggy and extremely aromatic, but it would do the trick.
Dan was sputtering. "Because . . . it's insane?" But he saw what Izzy was doing and held out his hand for the sock and covered the piece of wood's ragged end with it, even as Izzy jammed his bare foot back into his boot.
"No, it's not," Izzy told Jenkins as he took the sock-covered wood from Dan and tested it against his own hand. Not great, but much better. Uncovered, that slice of raw wood would've scraped the shit out of Jenkie's palm. His sock gave it at least a little bit of padding and protection. "Because if you don't sell it, you can rent it. That's a great Plan B, my brother. You know, my lease is up in a month. I could be your tenant."
Jenk and Lindsey's condo was much nicer than his current place-which stupidly still reeked of memories of Izzy's too-short marriage to Eden. Although how that could be, Izzy didn't understand. He'd been married to her for . . . what? A week? Damn, he'd only made love to her once-but it had been in his bed, in his bedroom, in his stupid, stupid apartment, on their wedding night.
It had been an event of momentous importance that Izzy still dreamed about-both feverishly at night and in unguarded moments during the daytime, when his thoughts wandered off to a fantasyland where wishes came true.
Not only was Eden uncommonly beautiful with her big brown eyes and lustrously dark hair, her flawless smooth skin, heart-shaped face, that sensual mouth that was quick to smile. But she also got Izzy's jokes. She spoke his language. She was funny and smart and courageous, and yes, a little bit crazy. Reckless. Unafraid to dance to a different drummer.
All that, plus a body that didn't quit . . .?
Back when they'd first met, Izzy'd fallen in lust with her at first sight, and solidly in love within the first five minutes they'd talked. But she didn't stay in San Diego for long. She left almost immediately, to visit her Army sergeant father in Germany.
But then, six months later, when Eden had resurfaced back in the States, she'd been six months pregnant and in dire need of a knight in shining armor. So Izzy'd married her, even though there was no way on earth that baby she'd been carrying could have possibly been his.
But he didn't care. He just wanted to be her hero.
And to get into her pants. Which he'd done after marrying her.
But then she'd miscarried, lost the baby, and run back to Germany. And spent the past ten months refusing to see him.
Even though he'd gone all the way to Europe to try to see her, more times than he could count.
"Jenkins has a two-bedroom," Dan pointed out. "What are you going to do, get a roommate?"
"Ooh, Dan," Izzy said. "Great idea. We could finally live together." He held the splint out so that Jenkins could put his wrist against it. This was the part that was going to hurt, but Jenk nodded for them to do it, just get it over with. He closed his eyes.
But it was Danny who made the choking, gagging sounds as they got Jenk as patched up as he was going to be-at least until he returned to the base and saw a doctor.
But Izzy couldn't resist pushing it, even though the last thing he wanted was Danny freaking Gillman for a roommate. "Seriously, Dan, if we split the rent it would be pretty cheap. You're not going to keep bunking in the enlisted quarters, are you, now that you and Jenn are tight? What are you going to do when she comes to San Diego to visit? It's time you moved into big-boy housing."
"Go fuck yourself," Dan said, genuinely pissed. Apparently Izzy had trod on a hot button. Interesting. Was it the mention of Jennilyn visiting or just the mention of Jennilyn?
"I've found that I'm a little shy," Izzy said, "for such blatantly public displays of self-affection. Besides, I like to be wined and dined before I have my way with myself. I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy."
"Old-fashioned," Dan scoffed. "Is that the excuse you use to convince yourself that you're not a shithead? I'm old-fashioned, because back in the eighteen hundreds men regularly took children as their brides . . ."
She wasn't a child, Izzy stopped himself from saying, because he was not going to talk about Eden anymore. Not with anyone-and especially not her asshole brother. That part of his life was over and done. In fact, as soon as he got back to San Diego, he was going to ask the senior chief for some help in finding a divorce lawyer.
But Dan was into tit-for-tatting, and since Izzy had stumbled onto one of his hot buttons, dude now felt compelled to jump with both feet onto Izzy's.
In the past, Izzy would have risen to the bait and their conversation would've gone a little like this:
Dan: At the end of the day, you're the one who was banging a seventeen- year-old.
Izzy: She was eighteen. And I didn't bang her.
Dan: Oh, excuse me. You made beautiful, tender love to her. That's right, I always forget. It was the four hundred and seventeen guys that came before you that she banged.
Izzy: Don't you say that shit about her-
Dan: She used you, man. She uses everyone. Why don't you just face the truth and move on?
Izzy: (throwing a punch) Why don't you go fuck yourself . . .?
"Y'okay?" Izzy asked Jenk instead as the other SEAL experimented with the splint, cautiously moving his arm. Dan was watching closely, too.
And this time when Jenk nodded, it was a solid yes.
At that, both Izzy and Dan turned in a unison that couldn't have been more precise had it been choreographed, and they went in separate directions-Dan toward Lopez, and Izzy toward Tony V.
It was clear that they didn't need a debate or a discussion to agree they'd already spent far too freaking much time together today.
Although the good news was that neither of them was walking away with a bloody nose.
Of course, there was still a lot of daylight left.
New York City
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Jennilyn LeMay was having a day.
It had started when she got to work and realized that she'd gotten the mother of all runs in her pantyhose, and that she didn't have a spare pair in her desk drawer.
She'd only had time for the quickest trip to the drugstore on the next block over, but that proved ineffective. Unbelievably, they were completely out of queen-size in every color and every conceivable brand, as if the place had been descended upon by a drove of bargain- hunting opera singers. Best Jenn could find, way in the back behind the tube socks, was a pair of thick white tights that were labeled both queen-size and petite-clearly designed for two-hundred-pound height-challenged nurses, rather than giantesses like Jenn who weren't quite six feet tall if they both lied and slouched.
No doubt about it, as far as her hopes went for-quite literally- covering her ass, the fat lady was singing.