Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiction: La Mort de l'Esprit de Corps by Bryce R. Piper

As the F.N.G., or Fucking New Guy, with 2nd Platoon, Echo Company, 2d Battalion, 8th Marines, Billy endured a lot of shit. Life can be hard for any new guy. For an 0311 private first class checking into his first unit, it can be grueling. The days were filled with gut-checks and life lessons. The nights weren't much better. Acceptance among the Marines meant proving himself on the physical training field in the morning, with infantry skills in the afternoon, and in an ocean of alcohol at night.

Smitty took him under his wing. Smitty was a lance corporal and had been with the unit almost two years. He was Billy's fire team leader, the Marine most directly responsible for the training and welfare of PFC Billy Roberts. When Billy had a hard time grasping a particular lesson, it was Smitty who went over it with him again and again. It was Smitty who pushed Billy on the pull-up bar, doing pyramids with him until it felt like his arms would fall off. It was Smitty who rolled Billy's ass out of the rack Saturday mornings to go on five-mile runs. It was Smitty who inspected Billy's uniform before formation and his room after field day. Smitty was squared away, and he made sure Billy, Manns and Bonner, the other members of their fire team, were squared away too.

They were tight.

Kate dated corporals. She'd been known to go out with an occasional sergeant, but she always kept it among the Non Commissioned Officer ranks. Her relationship with the 'Corps had been going strong for a couple years. Her high school sweetheart came back from boot camp all lean and hard in that sharp khaki shirt and blue pants. There was nothing like him in that small town, and she said yes to his proposal without hesitation.

Whisked off to Jacksonville, she made friends quickly and partied hard. The place was rife with young hot studs who met or exceeded the allure of her young devil dog. While Dear Hubby was off at some exercise, another Marine took her. She liked it. She took to comforting the troops during his frequent exercises and divorced her stud in six months.

Billy met her at a hotel party. He and a half-dozen Marines were deep into a rousing game of Asshole. The music pumped, others shot beer bongs, men and women filtered in and out of the open door from hotel room to hotel room throughout the night. She came with Corporal Castillo. An old hand at the game, Castillo came in as asshole but took president and started making rules in two rounds.

It didn't take long for her top to come off, showing off the bubbly new implants Castillo had bought her. He had her serving drinks topless to the boys and waiting on him hand and foot. At one point he put her under the table as they all played cards above, but she kept bumping her head so he took her into the bathroom and broke her back before returning to the game.

Billy fell in love. She was young and hot and she liked to fuck.

He saw her often at parties and out with friends as the weeks went by. Dumping Castillo didn't slow her down. She was on to another NCO and then the next before Billy had the nerve to hit on her.

There was a little friction with the corporal she was hooking up with at the time, but not much. He was from another platoon. The confrontation was short and when Billy stood his ground it ended with a fist bump and the expression, "Bros before ho's."

That's how it was. It was a brotherhood. You didn't let something as common as a piece of ass come between you and the guy who might one day save your ass.

Aint nothing but tricks and ho's anyway.

That's what Billy told his buddies. But inside Billy couldn't stop thinking about her. He'd text her twice a day just to say, "What's up?" When he couldn't be with her, he only thought of what they'd do when they were together. The first time she blew him, it rocked his world and the hook was in his mouth.

Then came the Saturday morning he woke up in her room. The early morning light filtering through the yellow shades illuminated her soft, naked flesh as she slept. Her curves were incredible, her skin taut and supple. Long shadows ran away where the soft yellow light shone like Virgin Mary's halo across her high-regulation-trim pubis.

Memories of the night before flooded back and he felt her back arch under him as she gasped for God's sweet mercy and her warm, wet walls contracted around him. He let off harder than ever before in his life. Now, looking at her sleeping body in its holy perfection, the hook was set. He was hers and he'd do anything to keep it that way.

She thought Billy was cute. But that's about all. To her he was no more than a momentary diversion. The young buck wasn't even an NCO after all. That spoke to how sharp he looked, but it wasn't enough to carry him over to anything more than a decent lay.

Decent. Not great.

He was just a kid, for Christ's sake, not a man like she was used to.


The weeks rolled by. The days were filled with training and the nights with X-box, beer and the occasional hook up with Kate. Billy tried spending too much time with her, but she found ways to keep her distance. She made sure to throw some ass his way to keep him on the line, but when he suggested he move into her apartment she was having none of it.

Not that he didn't pay the rent. Initially came the fear they would repossess her car, later on the threat of eviction. It only took a few tears before a glazed-eyed Billy coughed up the cash to solve her problems. All she had to do was dangle the promise of her sweet amour and occasionally follow through. A five-minute blow job earned her a new phone with a two-year plan on his dime.

In the mean time, Smitty swept the meritorious corporal board. Some said he was a mo-tard with a high and stupid. Then again, the ones who said that weren't up for the board. He pinned on corporal on the second of the month and the wet down was a raucous event. Billy heard about it after the fact because, as per tradition, lance corporals and below were not invited.

The company moved Smitty to another platoon right away. Corporal is arguably the most difficult rank to wear in the Corps. It's the first echelon of leadership a young Marine can earn. The new NCO is given twice the responsibility but little more authority to back it up. The hardest part is putting Marines to task who the new corporal partied with the night before. The best way to avoid friction is to uproot the new NCO and plant him in a different environment.

Nonetheless, before and after Smitty pinned on, he kept tabs on Billy and his old fire team. They were his boys, after all. He was a little concerned with how much Billy obsessed over Kate. The problem was Billy was a gown-ass man who made his own decisions. A PFC with a paycheck is the devil's tool. But at first Smitty just thought Billy's pursuits were letting off steam.

"Just make sure you wrap it, Dog," he told him when they were out one night after the wet down. He knew Kate too.


Another month had gone by and Smitty had seen Billy and Kate together at two parties since. Smitty looked up Cpl Banks, Billy's new squad leader, and got the scoop. Billy was obsessed with this slut now, Banks told him. He spent all his free time either with or chasing after that woman. When Smitty asked if he thought that was a good idea for the young PFC, Banks replied that it was his dick, he could do what he wanted with it. Smitty went straight to Billy's room.

"Yo, Dog, what you doing with that skank?" asked Smitty the minute the door swung open.

"Hey, man, that's my girl, dog," Billy said. "Don't talk about her like that."

Smitty walked in and sat on the empty barracks rack. Billy was probably the only PFCs who didn't have a roommate in the barracks. He sat on the rack opposite Smitty.

"Your girl?" Smitty asked. "Man, she's nobody's girl."

"Hey, fuck you, man," Billy said. "Quit talking shit."

"Billy, what are you thinking? That's not the kind of girl you make your girlfriend. Throw her a bone, maybe, but she's not a keeper."

"You don't know her. You don't know shit."

"Dude," said Smitty, "she's a barracks rat. She's fucked more Marines in this company—"

"Hey, FUCK YOU, man! Shut the FUCK up!" Billy shouted.

"I'm trying to look out for you, dog," Smitty said.

"Look out for yourself. You think you can get promoted and start sticking your nose into other people's lives and shit?"

Smitty stood and looked Billy in the eye.

"First of all," Smitty began, "I've been involved in your life since you checked in. That's my job. Second, I'm watching you make a big mistake. How much money have you given this chick?"

"Mind your own business, Smitty!"

"You are my busine—"

"Not any more, mother fucker!"

"How much?"

"None of your Goddamn business! You better mind your shit—"

"Or what? What are you going to do?"

"I'll fuck you up, bitch." Billy got in Smitty's face.

It was a mistake. With a swiftness he didn't expect, Billy found himself face down on the deck, his left arm behind him and Smitty's heavy body holding him down.

"Now, PFC Roberts," Smitty hissed in Billy's ear. "You've violated your last article of the UCMJ. I'm going to overlook your insubordinate conduct and the fact that you tried to assault me. From now on you will walk the fucking line. Get insubordinate with me or any other NCO and you're done. Oh, and from now on you will address me as corporal."

Unable to move, Billy could only spit back his hatred.

"So that's how it is now, Smitty?"

"Corporal Smith. And yes, until you get your head out of your ass and figure out who your real friends are, that's how it is."

Billy said nothing. Smitty let him up, taking a step back, ready for Billy to strike back.

Shaking with anger, Billy stood but did nothing, staring into the corporal's eyes with his fists clenched at his sides. Smitty backed out of the room and closed the door behind him.


Another weekend, another hotel party. This time some boys from 1st Platoon ponied for the rooms. Billy gave Corporal Banks thirty bucks for two cases of beer and crashed the party. With beer in hand he was more than welcome. It bothered him that Kate never called him back that day, but he shook it off, popped a cold one and started pounding.

After a while Billy decided to check out some of the other rooms. He didn't know the Marines very well and was a little bored with them just sitting around talking and drinking. He had a pretty good buzz. On his way out the door, he texted Kate again, "Whr r u?"

The next room over was a little cooler, but not much. A bunch of guys were talking. There were some chicks in the room, two of them were learning how to bong beer from a half-dozen guys. Fucking sausage fest. Billy stayed for a few minutes but moved on, wondering where Kate was and why she hadn't texted him back.

The sound of cheering and whooping echoed down from a room at the end of the balcony. A small crowd laughed and smoked outside. Billy decided to check it out.

He recognized a few of the Marines, NCOs from 1st Platoon and a couple chicks they'd picked up. He walked into the crowded room. More NCOs he didn't really know, lots of chicks but more dudes, thick with smoke despite the open door. Somebody had splurged for the larger room with a kitchenette and couches. People were everywhere, laughing and drinking, some smoking. The music pumped. A crowd gathered around a couch toward the back, hollering laughing. Billy checked it out.

Three dudes sat on the couch. The one on the left had his pants around his hips and a chick was blowing him right there in front of God and everybody as the crowd cheered.

It was Smitty.

"Hey! Billy!" Smitty shouted. "Welcome!"

Everyone turned to look at him, including the chick snoggin' his knob: Kate. Her left hand wrapped around the base of his cock, its head a deep purple from her powerful suction. The whole thing glistened with her saliva. When she saw Billy she started to laugh. The crowd erupted in laughter.

Billy's shock turned to rage.

"WHAT THE FUCK?" he shouted, throwing his beer against the wall above Smitty. The bottle bounced off and rolled across the floor ineffectually. The two Marines on the couch leapt up, but it was too late. Billy turned and muscled his way through the crowd, practically running out the door.

"Hey, Billy!" Smitty shouted after him. "Don't go away mad! You can be next, Dog!"

"Yo, fuck that," someone said. "I'm next."

"Quit laughing and swallow that shit," was the last thing Billy heard from the room. It was Smitty's voice.


"Yo! Billy!" Smitty pounded on the door. The lights were out. "Come on, Billy! Open up! I know you're there!" It was 0245.

In the darkness of the barracks room Billy sat, sipping whiskey from the bottle. He could see Smitty's shadow in the harsh white light the parking lot lamps cast on his blinds.

"Billy!" Smitty repeated. "Come on, Dog. Open up."

Billy opened the door and stared at Smitty with red, wet eyes.

"Come on, Dog," Smitty said, a little tipsy. "Let me in. We gotta talk."

Billy stepped away from the door, leaving it open. He sat in a chair and picked up his bottle. Smitty came into the room, closing the door behind him. He flicked the light on. The light hurt both their eyes. Billy blinked and rubbed his sore face, his hard-backed barracks chair leaning against his rack. Some empty beer bottles lay discarded on the deck in a half-circle, cigarette butts festering in some. The room stank of tobacco, but Billy was beyond giving a shit about barracks regulations.

Smitty sat on the empty rack.

"I had to do it, Dog," he said with resignation.

Billy said nothing for a moment.

"You didn't have to do that, Smitty," Billy managed.

"It was for your own good, dog," Smitty replied. "I had to show you what she was all about."

"Fuck you, Smitty," was all Billy could say.

"You were making a mistake, Billy," Smitty told him. "You wouldn't listen. I had to show you. I'm sorry, dog."

Without saying a word, Billy reached down, pulling out the drawer under his rack. Pushing his K-bar aside, his fingers found a small, blue-velvet box. He tossed it to Smitty, who caught it in his lap. Billy's body silently convulsed as he fought back tears.

"Oh, Billy," Smitty said with a sigh, turning his head as he looked at the blue box. He flipped it open, revealing a silver ring with a fat diamond perched on top, gleaming in the florescent light of the room.

"Oh, Billy," he said again. "Jesus, man, don't you see what a mistake this would have been? She's not the marrying kind, brother. It wouldn't have worked." He snapped the little box closed and tossed it deftly back into the drawer.

Billy's body shook one more time. He put the whisky bottle on the floor and reached back into the drawer. Smitty heard the snap of a metal buckle coming undone, and the next thing he knew Billy was standing over him holding the grip of a K-bar sunk to the hilt in Smitty's chest.

Billy felt the knife jiggle faintly with Smitty's heartbeat. It went in with surprising ease. Despite some initial resistance when it first hit Smitty, Billy had thrust with such force the knife broke through between two ribs and slid home easily. He let go the wiggling knife and stepped back, his mind disbelieving what his body had just done.

Smitty looked up at him, blood squirting out around the knife hilt, running down his shirt. He tried to stand but his legs gave out and he tumbled forward onto the floor. He lay on his side, his left arm twisted weirdly behind him, his right curled under his body. The left arm twitched twice and was still. A soft gurgling escaped him and he moved no more. Blood gathered in an expanding pool beneath his wasted body.


Deloris worked a register at the exchange annex to make a little side cash. A gunny's wife, she bounced around with him from duty station to duty station, raising four kids along the way. It wasn't an easy life. But as she eyed up the Marine standing at her register now, she thought it was never so hard as whatever he must have been through last night.

He hadn't shaved. It was clear from the circles around his eyes, puffy cheeks and generally haggard look that he was exhausted. He reeked of alcohol. She wondered if he drove here.

She avoided eye contact as she scanned his items: a small bucket, two packs of sponges, a box of heavy duty trash bags, two towels, five wash cloths, a bottle of pine-cleaner and a half-gallon of bleach.

"You know not to mix these, right Honey?" she asked, holding up the bleach and cleaner. Funny, she thought, big night for cleaning is Thursday for field day. Must be SOME mess.

Her question startled him.

"Oh, uh, yes ma'am," he stammered. She put his things in a bag.

"Rough night?" she asked. He cracked a halfhearted smile, swiping his card through the machine.

"Uh, we were drinking a little," he said.

"Uh huh," she replied. She finished his transaction in silence. On his way out with bucket and bags in hand, Deloris overheard someone jump his case.

"Stop!" barked an older Marine in civilian clothes. "Are you a Marine? Come here." Billy was almost to the door.

"Oh, good to go," the man started, loudly. "And you think it's okay to come to the PX looking like a bag of ass because it's Saturday and you can do whatever you want on Saturday."

Billy said nothing, standing still.

"Tell you what, Devil Dog," the man continued. "The Marine Corps has standards about how its Marines appear in public when enjoying the privilege of wearing civilian attire. And guess what? It aint sweat pants, yesterday's shirt and no shave, is it?"

"No, Sir," Billy said.

"Next time you step out of that barracks room you will shave and you will wear appropriate civilian attire."

"Aye, Sir."

"Get out of here. Don't come back looking like this again."

"Aye, Sir."


Billy stood inside his room with his back to the door, his right hand behind him on the lock he'd just clicked. The blood lay in a big, comma-shaped pool just about in the middle of the room. Some had spread under the chair and collected around the scattered beer bottles. A two-foot wide swath streaked thickly from the comma to the head, curving through the doorway toward the shower and shitter.

Smitty was back there. It wasn't his imagination. That's where Billy had left him, and Smitty wasn't going anywhere. He put the bucket and bag on the deck, wondering where to begin. He started with the whiskey and took a long pull from the bottle. Thick blood dripped from the corner as he drank.

When he laid the towels out on the blood, they didn't even cover the comma. Dark spots soaked through where it was still wet but most had dried into a scarlet crust. Billy's eyes watered again as he realized the futility of trying to cover up what he'd done.

It was a long, frustrating time. Both towels, all five washcloths and all the sponges were soon soaked through with bloody water, and the mess was bigger than when he started. Blood covered his arms past his elbows, had splashed on his shirt and soaked into his sweats. He kept scrubbing, tears dropping from his face and watering the blood.

Wringing a towel out in the sink, he tried to ignore the small room to his right. Smitty's presence, curled up in the bottom of the shower, lay there undeniable.

Someone knocked loudly on the door, shattering his train-wrecked thoughts and propelling him into paranoia. He ignored it. After a moment, they knocked again.

"Yo! Billy!" It was Bonner. "Billy, open up, man!"

Billy hoped Bonner would go away. He didn't. He kept pounding.

"Billy! Open the door, man!"

In his scattered thoughts, Billy realized he'd have to answer the door to make Bonner go away. He peeled off his bloody shirt and pants, laying them out in the pink mess in a futile attempt to hide it. In his boxers and bloody socks, he cracked to door and peered out. The bright sunshine stung his eyes.

"Yo, there you are, man," said Bonner, pushing on the door to come in. Billy held it tight. The metal was cold against his chest.

"I'm sleeping, dog," he said. "What's up?"

"Yo, let me in, man," Bonner said, pushing on the door again. Billy didn't budge.

"I'm sleeping, Bonner, What do you want?"

"Hey, man, we're fixing to go out to Onslow Beach. Let's go!"

"No, dog. I'm exhausted."

"What? Come on, Billy. You can sleep when you're dead."

"No, man," Billy said firmly. "Not today." Bonner looked disappointed.

"Don't be a bitch, Billy. Let's go," Bonner said.


"Oh, fuck it," Bonner said. "You are a bitch, Billy. Say, man, you seen Smitty? He's not answering his phone." The phone had rung earlier, the ring tone echoing out from the shower. Billy ignored it, but it kept beeping every few minutes with the missed call. After the second call, Billy fished it out of Smitty's pocket. He had to throw a towel over Smitty's face to stop his dead grey eyes from staring at him. Billy popped the battery out and threw the phone in a trash bag. It was less than five feet from where he stood.

"No, dog," Billy said. "I haven't seen him."

"Yo," Bonner said, lowering his voice. "I heard about last night, man. That's fucked up."

Billy said nothing.

"Don't let it get to you, man," Bonner told him. "She's just a chick, brother. Bros before hoes."

"Yea, bros before hoes."

"Alright, Billy. I'll see you later. Call me if you change your mind."

"Bye," Billy closed to door and locked it. He felt his bowels loosening and ran to the head. He sat shaking on the shitter with Smitty curled up behind the shower curtain two feet away.


The worst part of cutting Smitty's legs off was breaking his leg bones.

Sticky with Smitty's blood, the k-bar slid easily from the dead Marine's chest. But try as he might, Billy couldn't stuff Smitty whole into a sea bag. He knew he'd have to make two trips. It simply had to be done.

First Smitty's shoes went into a trash bag. That was the easy part. But when he pulled off the dead man's pants, the shit from his evacuated bowels smeared on his corpse and the floor.

Once he'd cut through the flesh where the leg joined the hip, only the bone remained attached. Try as he might, Billy couldn't break it. In desperation, he jammed the blade of his e-tool into the cut and pounded furiously on the handle. Smitty's body jerked with each strike. Finally, Billy heard the dull crack of the femur breaking. He pounded twice more to ensure the break was good. Grabbing behind the knee, Billy put his foot on Smitty's groin to break the tissue clinging to the broken bone.

He stuffed the bloody, dripping leg into a trash bag, leaned over the shitter and puked. Sitting back against the wall, Billy stared at his progress. Smitty's torso lay curled on his right side in the shower. The towel had fallen from Smitty's head in the struggle with the leg, and the dead man stared blankly at the shower wall. His left arm lay across his blood-soaked shirt. Naked from the waist down, his right leg stuck out into the room. There, beside his limply hanging genitals, was the torn and ragged stump that remained of his left leg. The jagged bone jutted out just below center.

Billy picked up the k-bar and repeated the process with the right leg.


Digging a hole with an e-tool is exhausting work. The sky began to lighten when Billy realized he was running out of time. He'd waited, unable to sleep, throughout Saturday with Smitty stuffed into two seabags in his wall locker. The day was long and Billy didn't eat. His mind festered all day. He chewed his nails and fingers down to the pink. After 0100, he carried the seabags out to his truck and drove to a wooded area, walked into the pines and started digging.

The hole was only about two and a half feet deep by three or four feet long and a foot or two wide when the sun started approaching. The Carolina sand yielded easily after he broke through the topsoil. But digging is digging and when your shovel is only six inches wide, it can take a while.

He popped the lock on the first seabag, upturned it and dumped Smitty's torso into the hole. It landed head first with the bloody stumps jutting out. He had to grab Smitty's armpit and pull him forward to get the body to fall in. It still didn't fit. He stomped Smitty into place with his boot.

Billy dumped the trash bags and other seabag with Smitty's legs on top and laid the legs out strait. They lay barely below the edge of the hole. Stuffing the sea bags and trash bags into empty spaces he filled the whole thing in, piling the extra dirt in a low, wide mound over the body. He tried to cover it with leaves and brush.

Grabbing his things, Billy walked back to his truck, leaving the body of his former fire team leader in a shallow grave 40 feet into the tree line behind a barracks at French Creek.


"I'm Special Agent Robert Johnson with NCIS, Camp Lejeune. Today is August 11, 2010. It's 09:15. We're recording a follow-up interview with Private First Class William Roberts. PFC Roberts has been read his rights. Do you understand your rights?"


"Do you choose to make a voluntary statement?"


"And you choose to do so without the presence of legal counsel?"

"I don't need a lawyer because I didn't do anything wrong."

"Uh huh. PFC Roberts, at our last interview you said you saw Corporal Smith at a party at El Descanso Hotel the evening of August third, correct?"


"And why didn't you mention the fact your girlfriend was fellating him at the time?"


"Why didn't you mention that she was giving him oral sex?"

"Uh, I don't know."

"You didn't think that was important?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? Well, when a man walks in on his girlfriend performing fellatio on another man in public, we call that motive."

"I was embarrassed."

"You were embarrassed? Uh huh. And you didn't do anything about it?"

"Look, I told you. I left the party. I went back to my room. I got drunk and passed out. Bonner woke me up the next day. I never saw Smitty after – after the party."

"How much did you drink? Did you black out?"

"No. I got drunk and fell asleep on my rack."

"Okay. Let's forget about that for a minute. Let's talk about your phone records, PFC Roberts. This is a record of calls made and received to your number. Does that look right?"

"I guess."

"Let me tell you what I find strange about this. You made 21 calls and text messages that Saturday night."


"So, they stop around midnight. And never once do you call the guy who was once your good friend and who you walked in on getting fellatio from your girlfriend."

"So? I didn't call her either."

"So why didn't you call him, Billy?"

"I told you, I didn't want to talk to him."

"Let me show you something else. This is the record of calls for Corporal Smith's phone. Lots of calls here. He stops answering around 2 a.m. Several people try to call him after that, but you're not one of them. Why is that, Billy?"

"I didn't want to talk to him. I didn't call him before then either."

"Okay, PFC Roberts," said Johnson, leaning back in his chair. "Let's forget about that for a minute. Now, you say you got drunk and fell asleep in your room, right?"


"And what time did you wake up?"

"I don't know. Whenever Bonner knocked on my door."

"Uh huh. And you slept the whole night and didn't go out?"

"That's right."

"So what time did you go to the PX?"

"I didn't."

"You didn't go to the PX?"


"That's funny, because I've got your debit card record here for that day," said Johnson, sliding a sheet of paper in front of Billy. "And it says here you made a purchase for eighteen-fifty shortly after the PX opened at nine. What do you have to say about that?"

"I forgot."

"You forgot?"

"Yea. I forgot."

"You forgot that you woke out of a drunken stupor at nine in the morning to make an emergency PX run?"

"I said I forgot."

"So was that before or after Bonner woke you up?"

"It was after. He woke me up and then I went to the PX. I forgot."

"Uh huh. Well, we spoke to Lance Corporal Bonner. He said he woke you closer to ten thirty."

Billy said nothing for a moment.

"He must be wrong," Billy said.

"Uh huh. I got to tell you something, Billy. A Marine is missing and probably dead. And I know you had something to do with it."

"No. I never saw him. I must have fallen back to sleep after I went to the PX."

"Where is he, Billy?"

"I don't know."

"Bullshit. What did you do with him, PFC Roberts?"

"I told you, I never saw him."

"You can't lie to me forever, Billy. I'm going to get the truth, so you may as well tell me now. Trust me, it will be easier on you in the long run."

"That's it. I'm done. I don't want to talk to you any more."

"The sooner you own up to what you've done, the sooner this will all be over."

"It's over now. Let me go or get me a lawyer."

Agent Johnston grabbed up his things and walked out. "Wait here," he said as he closed the door behind him.

"Well, Bob?" asked John Thorne, Johnston's supervisor, as the agent walked up.

"Well what? You were watching. He lawyered up," Johnston said. The two men stared at the closed circuit TV in silence for a moment. On the screen, PFC William Roberts sat in the interrogation room, his head resting on arms crossed on the table.

"He's good for it," said Johnston.

"Yea, he did it," Thorne replied. "But we don't have enough to convict." They continued to stare at the screen in silence. After a few minutes, the distinct sound of snoring came from the speaker. Billy had fallen asleep.

"That clinches it," said Thorne. "He's our do-er. He hasn't slept in a week. Now that he knows he's caught he can't control it."

"So what do we do?"

"It's not evidence," Thorne said quietly, almost to himself. "No confession, no body, no weapon, no scene. Shit, if the kid did it in that room he did a hell of a job cleaning up. What do we do? We let him go."

"Right. Well, it's not over. Something will turn up."

"Yea, well, let him go."

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