I am also the Author of Zeroes and Ones,
which can be found in the High School Section. This story ties into the main
series as an in-universe piece and a pivotal mystery in the early part of Book
2 of my series.
The Last Run to Mosul:A Short Story of Zeros and Ones SeriesBy WL
Love is a battlefield worse than the trenches
of France, worse than the jungles of Vietnam, and worse than the barren deserts
of Iraq. Many men will go into the field, but only a few will be lucky enough
to find glory or fame. The rest will live with scars both visible and unseen.
These scars will re-open without warning at any time, creating misery in its
A man will do
anything for a pretty face and a hot body. Look at me; I was a good looking thirtysomething
gay man with a flourishing nostalgia bar in the South End. Now, I am a naked
unidentified white male body found near the old dockyards. Yeah, I am dead and
about to be cut open at the Suffolk county morgue by a twitchy 1st
year junior medical examiner's assistant. I will be identified as Adam Mallory,
age 27, 193 cm, and 90.72 kg. My cause of death will be determined as a bullet
lodged between the frontal and temporal lobe with two post mortem bullets to
the heart.How did I get
to this point? Well, it's a long story that started when I was in high school...
When I turned
18, I was filled with a desire to do something with my life, but I had no real
interests, nor any real prospects. My grades were decent B's, but there was
very little chance of getting scholarships back in 2008 and my family couldn't
pay to further my education. My folks did not have an issue with me being gay;
my parents were supportive of me and Steve, my first and it now seems only true
love. We chose to sign up at a recruiting office in town, went through the
months of basic training, and then got sent overseas to Iraq during the end of
the military surge of 2008-2009, just as sovereignty was transferred back to
Iraqi government. No, I'm not some hunky military muscle head that you'd find
in trashy gay porn. I was a motor transport operator of the US Army's 7th
Transportation Brigade, or less fancy, I was a bad-ass ".50 Cal" machine gun
wielding truck driver in the most deployed unit within the US Army. I don't
really care about the distinctions to be honest, but Steve was fucking jumping
up and down, when he found out we were both assigned to the same unit on the
same routes. We went through a lot together from suicide attacks to the end of
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the middle of our tour. It was an open secret in
either case and few guys really bothered us about it, but it was still good to
not need to hide the fact.Near the end
of our 4 year tour, we were doing "Milk runs", basically moving supplies and
crap out of Iraq for the US withdrawal, while delivering equipment to the Iraqi
military that we wanted to leave them. Steve and I were making plans about
taking a VA loan and open a bar together. He had this crazy idea of going
retro-1920's, so I came up with the name "Steve's Easy". We were listing out
what kind of décor we'd need, researched prices for rent, and types of drinks
we'd offer, and had intense debates over clientele being "exclusively gay or
just gay-friendly". By our last run, we'd already planned out everything after
returning home; we submitted the approval for a loan of $450,000, found the
perfect space with a little loft apartment above, and created an awesome star
cocktail called the "Green Zone" by combining some lime juice, absinthe, and a
secret ingredient to give it a green grassy glow. Everything was working well,
but Steve noticed something weird with this run. For one thing,
the stuff being shipped was sealed in a metallic cylinder with several extra
Humvees serving as escort. Another weird thing was that we were instructed to
hand it off 20 miles outside of Mosul to another group of Iraqi military
personnel. I thought he was just being too nosy about stuff way above our pay
grade. Our jobs are to get things from one place to another; it could be as
innocent as spare MRE packs or as lethal as a cruise missile. We're soldiers
with our own mission objectives and our own goals to accomplish just like the
men and women who are flanking us doing escort work. In high school, history
teachers taught us that military members should question their orders for
morality and ethics, but that kind of stuff is for commissioned officers and
people who can make decisions with an email or sitting behind a desk, not guys
like us. I just told Steve to shut up and we should just get the job done.When we reached
the midway rendezvous, the Iraqi unit waiting for us there was just a small
truck and four guys armed with AK-47's. They gave everyone the right call
signs, but my gut was twisting a bit. I winked at Steve to stay in the truck
even after the rest of our escort had departed their vehicles. I didn't step
too far away from the truck or the protection of Steve's M2. Some of our guys
began to walk over to the Iraqi truck, when I caught a glimpse at what looked
like the tip of a "Nash", Russian made RPG-32, being aimed from behind the
Iraqi truck. These weren't our guys and instinctively I yelled "It's a Trick!"Things
happened really fast after that, the RPG ripped through one Humvee and flipped
a second one nearby to its side. Semi-automatic gunfire was being exchanged
between our guys and several of their fighters, the 4 plus 5 or 6 more inside
the truck. Steve was laying down suppression fire with the M2 and I was running
back to the driver's seat, but a bullet got to me before I could reach the
door. I was out of it.When I woke
up, Steve was by my side at an army hospital. He told me that after I fell, he
picked me off the ground and got us to Mosul, where the remnants of the 811th
and 812th Military Police Companies were still stationed. No one
else survived the sneak attack, but the package we were delivering did not fall
into their hands, at least on that day. The doctors performed all sorts of
tests and psych evaluations, but overall, I came out fine. I am a chill guy
usually and luckily PTSD did not affect me. Steve and I took the time to
sightsee some of the old city; we even bought an old oil lamp, which Steve
mockingly rubbed and demanded his wishes be granted.After that bit
of excitement, we both were happy to end our military service, return home, and
open up our bar. The nostalgia bar was doing great business, selling watered
down drinks to hipsters and metrosexual crowds, who enjoyed the retro-1920's
Jazz theme with flapper waitresses and waiters in tight tuxedoes. Hell, we even
got a few nights reserved for gays as a compromise to our debate; the gay crowd
liked dressing up in our in-house rental costumes and danced the Charleston
with their "pals". After a year
into the business, Steve and I were pretty much settled into civilian life with
the occasional jokes about a few suspicious characters at the bar hiding
"weapons of mass penetration". Marriage was on both of our minds, but getting
the "right" priest to perform it was hard. Both of our families come from
different backgrounds; he's Presbyterian and I am Catholic. For me, Father
Roberts could do the ceremony for us, he was my family priest and pretty open
to gay marriage, but getting the paperwork for it to be accepted through the
archdiocese was a headache. Basically, it could not be allowed as an "official"
marriage of the Catholic Church, but we could rent the church to perform the
"civil" ceremony under Father Roberts. Steve wanted to have Reverend Edgars,
his favorite childhood priest, perform the ceremony, but there was some weird
family drama on his side with his grandfather arguing vehemently against our
"marriage". No, it's not a gay issue as the old guy really seemed open to Steve
on sexuality based on what I saw and what I heard, his grandfather just doesn't
like the fact I am a white Irish Catholic. Yeah, old prejudices are harder to
get rid of than homophobia in this liberal part of the world.By 2014, we
had just about enough of the marriage issues and decided if worst comes to
worst, we'll just do the civil ceremony and hash out the rest of it with our
families later. A marriage is about joining to two souls together, who deeply
care and love one another; it is not a dog and pony show for our families and
friends. We were already partners in everything else, except this formal
acknowledgement of our bonding, which we just need to do for each other.Around the
same time we came to our conclusion, Iraq was facing new problems along with
the rest of the Middle East. The insurgency had morphed into an Islamic
fundamentalist movement bent on death. The once beautiful and populous city of
Mosul had fallen to them and there were rumors of expanded fighting in Syria as
well. One day on CNN, they were showing images of the civil war that was being
fought in Syria and Steve noticed something that quickly took all the color
from his face. Throughout the night of service, Steve was absentminded and deep
in thought. I tried to get
him to tell me what was wrong, but he said nothing and left the bar. When he
came back, he was slightly more relaxed, though tired in expression, and the
night was like normal again. Later when we were in bed after a little cuddling,
I tried to ask him again what was wrong and he responded, "Adam, do you think
what we did in Iraq was right or wrong?"
I guessed it was the pictures of Syria and Iraq in flames, but
there was more to his weary state.
"We did nothing wrong. We didn't torture anyone, shoot anyone who
wasn't shooting us, and we were just moving stuff under orders from someone
Steve kept pressing, "The Atomic bomb wasn't built with raw
materials found in New Mexico; people like us were moving stuff back then, too.
It was the same picking list that they used for those materials that Soviet
spies were able steal. Eventually, the picking lists help create their own
atomic bomb two years after ours exploded. Without people like us, nothing
could have happened later like the long cold war."
I was not a patient man even with him; I just asked him point
blank, "Is this about what is happening back there? Look, no one had a clue
these guys could have grown that big so fast. Besides, we didn't authorize
military action. It was Congress and the American people. They sent us in with
pieces of paper. We were just two high school kids, who needed a break and
caught a damn good one that we risked our lives for. We didn't do anything
wrong and owe nothing to those dying right now."
Steve hugged me tighter, "What if we did? Remember those cylinders
from the last run. I saw one of them in the CNN pictures from the war zone in
"Things happen with munitions all the time, if they were high
explosives, then the Islamic terrorists must have taken it and gave it to their
forces in Syria. Stealing munitions is common in war. We delivered our goods,
what happens later is not our fault. Steve, we are no way at fault for the deaths
that happen today."
Steve whispered, "What if they weren't just high explosives?"
"Go to bed, Steve"
I probably should have taken Steve more seriously. To be honest, he was the
more conscientious person that I had ever met, but ironically, his conscience
was also the reason why he wanted to join the army with me. Not everyone who
enlists is doing it out of a desire for God and Country; the vast majorities
have personal reasons like career, skills, money, or just doing some good in
the world. I was the more mercenary one;
I just wanted to do something and figure myself out, while making money and
getting skills. Steve believed that there was a greater good to be created on
top of the money and skills; he trusted the ideals of US military.The next
night, Steve was acting very skittish. He was looking around the bar for
someone, but I didn't push him. It was Friday and we got a lot of business on
Friday nights from weekend crowds, so I was too busy managing the front and
kitchen areas. At some point, Steve left the bar without me noticing. I only
realized he was gone at around 1 AM after everything was cleaned up and the
staff left, when I began looking for him to lock up the place. I never saw him
again alive.On the next
day, the cops delivered the bad news: Steve was found dead from what looked
like a mugging. I didn't want to believe them, but I knew somewhere in my heart
that the boy and man I had loved was gone. I didn't know what to make of his
actions or what to make of what happened to happened to him. I tried to asking
our former CO in the army, but he told me not to follow up on "dead" ends for
my own good. I wanted to know if there was more to Steve's apparent homicide
than a botched robbery.Then, I began
to notice, him. The guy looked like a twink from a Cockyboys production: small
frame, cute boyish features, and a very masculine demeanor. He was watching
every move I made and I was watching every glance he took. Maybe he was just
attracted to me, I do have the body type of the boy next door twentysomething,
but I was just anxious about finding Steve's killer or killers. One night as he
was leaving the bar, I told my GM to handle things and I followed him out the
door. He probably sensed I was tailing him as we crossed into Comm. Ave as he
began to sprint down the long street. I followed in hot pursuit for several
blocks, but after 5 blocks, I knew I could not match his speed for much longer.
Then, serendipity hit him, or just a drunk driver from a side street with no
headlights on. He flew across the pavement and was bleeding profusely.He was in the
hospital for 3 days before he woke up, but he suffered traumatic head injuries.
Like a really crappy plot twist, he got temporary amnesia when he woke up.
The first time I got to speak to him, I was struck by how sexy he
looked even in a hospital bed, "Hi, I am really sorry for chasing you down the
street. Are you okay?"
He blinked at me like he recognized me for a moment, and then
returned the same expressionless look, "I am sorry, I don't know who you are.
How long have we known each other?"
"We really don't know each other; you were one of my customers at
my bar. I saw you looking at me constantly and I just wanted to know why."
"Am I gay?"
"Um...I can't answer that question for you. I know I am, but my
partner died recently."
"That's sad. I am sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. When I saw
you just now, I had a really strong feeling like I was supposed to do
something, but I can't remember."
"The police cannot find you in their database and have tried to
match you up to anyone
Of all the gin
joints in the world, why did this guy have to come into mine and give me some
attention? Yeah, my paranoia over Steve's death was still present, but I
couldn't help feeling sorry for him. I felt horrible that I hurt a guy, whose
only crime was being a horny gay guy.
Hell, before Steve, I was jacking off five
times a day with just the low quality printouts. That's how my second long term
relationship started.I visited him
twice a day at the hospital until he was released. Luckily, the drunk driver
had insurance and they settled really quickly. Throughout everything, no one
else came to visit him, nor did the police have any indications of his true
identity. I played out a scenario in my head to fill in the logical holes: he
was probably a runaway gay teen estranged from his family, he was probably not
a local guy based on his body type and complexion I'd guess Midwestern farm
boy, and he seemed pretty knowledgeable about a lot of stuff from talking to
him about restaurant work, so I guess he did a lot of temp work. I mean
everything about him could be explained away really easily, if he was in love
with me. He never took his eyes off me during my visits as if he were a puppy
dog seeing his master come home every day. Since no one knew his name, I
started calling him "Casey"; because I found out he had an encyclopedic
knowledge of baseball stats.He moved in
with me and I gave him a job as a line cook, which he quickly made a name for
himself by creating new small plates that went with our cocktails. Business had
never been better. In the bedroom, I had to admit that he was an awesome
versatile guy. Somedays, I felt like I needed to blow off steam, I'd fuck him
sideways over the coffee table. Other days, when I start thinking about Steve
and little things that remind me of him, Casey would literally slap some sense
into me and flip fuck me on the couch with my legs in the air. Our relationship
was more sexual than emotional, but it was that new quality that really spiced
up my life and probably kept me from learning the truth until a reporter came
knocking on my door.It was 7 months after Casey moved in with me,
10 months after Steve was killed, when I got a visitor. His name was Richard Cort;
he was my classmate in high school, who ended being an editorial writer for the
New York Times after someone picked up his blog for national syndicated piece
on millennial trends.I hadn't spoken to
him in years, but he seemed more than a little relieved to see me.
Richard quickly blurted out, "Adam, I am glad I found you before
someone else did."
"Huh...Richard it's been years since we talked, what is the big
"Your life is in danger. Steve had told me to look into something
before he died and I think I know why he was killed."
"Hold on, Steve died due to a mugging."
"No, he died due to looking too deeply into something he was not
supposed to know about. The rest of it was all a shell game, but...is there a
place more private than the bar we can talk about this."
I led him up
the two flights of stairs to my apartment, where "mighty" Casey was swinging
his bat between his legs for another round until it turned flaccid with the
sight of Richard Cort. He went straight to the bedroom for clothes.
Richard smiled absently, "I see you have recovered from Steve's
I shook my head, "I still love him, but Casey has made it
easier...Anyway, what is the big secret? Did you find out something from Steve?"
"Yes, actually, he approached me before he died about the metal
cylinders you were transporting. He said that they might have been chemical
reaction to the footage of the Syrian slaughter made complete sense, but why
would chemical weapons be in the hands of ISIS. Surely, the Iraqi stockpile was
safeguarded after we left. I know we had helped them secure Saddam's stash
before Steve and I had arrived in Iraq. Then another point came to my mind, the
ambush outside Mosul should not have occurred and those guys were well prepared
for our arrival; even armed well enough to take out two Humvees full of US
troops. There was no reason...
"Why did we deliver chemical weapons? How could the terrorists
know we were there? Why was Steve killed to protect the knowledge of these
weapons' existence? It makes no sense."
Richard gulped and released his throat, "You were meant to die
there and those chemical weapons were meant for the terrorists to take. It was
an arms deal with plausible deniability. If it was ever discovered that the
weapons fell into their hands from us, it would have been blamed on you guys,
since you would all be dead for illegally selling weapons. You and Steve ruined
their timetables as you spotted the ambush too quickly and Steve was a damn
good driver. The chemical weapons were delivered to Mosul instead."
I couldn't believe that we were set up, "Who would sell us out?"
Richard scratched his chin, "I heard only one thing from my
Washington sources before they went black, "Project Antioch". There's something
going on that's so dark and deep; even legislative leaders are too scared to
learn the entire truth. All I know is that there are multiple operations going
on here and abroad for some kind of clandestine goal."
"There must be proof somewhere."
"Steve said he had the item inventory list from your last run
photocopied, which would have shown the tracking numbers and details. If I
could get that list, we'd blow this conspiracy into the stratosphere. It would
make "Fast and Furious" or "Watergate" look like an episode of the West Wing."
My mind raced with possibilities, "I've got no clue where he hid
it. Why are you coming to me now almost a year after he was killed?"
"I had to wait until the story died down and they were off you.
They might have still suspected that you had the list and placed surveillance
us eventually and the rest of the afternoon winded down without new
revelations. Richard told me to be very careful, if I do find the list, I
needed to tell him immediately. He could arrange for my protection with a few
friends that he had on the police force. I was not worry about them finding me;
I'd love to get a chance to repay them for killing Steve and the other men in
Iraq for nothing more than their intrigues. In mind I was comparing myself to a
Washington suit like a senator, I had been trained in firearms and had basic
combat training, plus I also had a P226 Elite in case someone tried to rob me.
I was a fool; I would never face down someone at the top like that, they were
too smart and clever to ever come out of the shadows.My mind
wandered over where he could have hidden the list, but the answer was obvious
as I grabbed the antique lamp. There was nothing visible inside or outside, but
I knew Steve was inventive. I poured a bottle of Vaseline into the lamp and
shook it around. After about a minute, I opened the lid to find a small piece of
folded paper drifting to the top of the oily mess. I had the evidence that we
needed and quickly called Richard. He told me that it might be best to get out
of my present location and find some place safe to stay after I gave him the
list.I opened up the
safe where I kept the Bar's weekly income before I made deposits on Saturday
morning. I had probably $75K for me and Casey to run off somewhere until this
blows over. My first instinct was to book a plane ticket, but that would be too
obvious and I couldn't take the risk of the TSA would record my travel plans.
Instead, I chose a lower tech method of travel, I had heard from some friends
that Freighters allowed people to rent cabins out for trips at discounted
rates, sort of like a cruise without all the insane characters and casino
floor. I quickly found a freighter heading to Nova Scotia, which would be a
good hiding place if any. I wrote out an email to all my staff, saying I was
closing the bar for a few days and told all the staff in the kitchen to consider
this break a paid vacation for all their hard work.In a hurry, I
told Casey to pack lightly and we both ran downstairs. I must have driven like
an insane New Yorker, but I wanted to get rid of this list as quickly as I
could. I had told Richard to meet me at the old dockyards, which was not that
far from my freighter. As I was about to exit the car, Casey held my hand.
He looked very reflective in ways I had never seen him before,
"What is wrong Casey?"
"Don't go out there, they already killed Richard and you will be
dead, before you reach your rendezvous point."
"I know you are afraid, but..."
He glared at me, "This is bigger than you and me. I am sorry."
Then it hit me, "You were sent to spy on me, is that why you kept
looking at me back then?"
He nodded, "I am sorry Adam. You weren't that far off about my
backstory, I was born in a rural town within Idaho, kicked out of my home when
my folks couldn't "pray the gay away", and did odd jobs for a while. What you
didn't add in was that I was able to get into college with a scholarship, and
then get picked up by the Agency. They trained me and made me a field agent."
I was shocked and angry, "How long have you been lying to me?"
"I started remembering things after a few months, then told my
superiors that I would go into "deep cover" to investigate how much you knew."
"Why not just kill me?"
"We had no idea where the list was and needed your help. The
agency was monitoring Richard Cort as well, but he did not come to you
immediately after Steve's death."
"So, are you going to kill me now?"
"No, I want you to drive and go to that freighter. I will report
that I let you go and face my punishment."
"Why? You caught me and you duped me. You tricked me into giving
away my position and secrets. You've won."
"I...I can't let them hurt you. I already owe you too much for the
kindness that you have shown me and what I have taken away from you."
"You killed Steve!"
"Yes, when he was going to meet one of your old commanding
officers for classified information to be released in tandem with the list in
"What the fuck is Project Antioch? Why do we need to give
Terrorists chemical weapons? Why is it worth so many lives to hide this
"I don't know and I am not supposed to know. That's how it works;
I am just a soldier in this like you were. I have orders I had to follow."
"But you are violating your orders right now by telling me all of
"You're a good man and I can't let you die."
"What will happen to you?"
"Most likely, I will disappear forever. An asset that cannot obey
commands is too dangerous to be allowed alive."
"Then just kill me, you never loved me to begin with and you don't
really owe me anything."
"You need to leave..." he began opening the door, but I pulled out
"You are not going anywhere. I am a dead man either way; even if
you sacrifice yourself and I get to the freighter. How long until your people
find me? I've heard the stories about the CIA; I'll be dead in a few days due
to food poisoning. Take my gun and kill me!"
"You might not regret it today, maybe not even when they kill you
tomorrow, but is a few more hours or days of life of one man worth another
"Why are you doing this Adam, I killed Steve, I lied to you, and I
manipulated you for my own goals?"
I exhaled, "Because, I loved Casey"
He grabbed the gun and cocked the trigger, "My real name is Jason
went through my skull in a clean shot. I felt no pain. Jason shot two more times
at my heart and as my senses dulled, I heard him whisper in my dead ears.