Outside the bunkhouse, Snyder broke into a Cheshire cat grin at a familiar brown face. He saluted. “Sergeant Cutler, Private Snyder reporting.”
Snyder’s old drill sergeant returned his salute. “At ease. It’s good to see you.”
“I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”
“Neither I you, when last we parted, but turns out our next assignments providently coincided.”
“So you’re an Intelligence man who was sent to scout the new recruits.”
Cutler hesitated. “I go where my boss sends me, that’s all I can say. Anyway, your stuff arrived from the Military Intelligence Training Center. I put it in your room.”
Snyder arched an eyebrow. “You mean I get my own room?”
“Yeah, we don’t do bunks here. Some of the NCOs even live off base with their ‘significant others.'”
Cutler sounded as if he’d sucked on a lemon. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the guy turned out to be a double agent.
Cutler pressed a button on the wall and a door opened, revealing an eight foot by ten foot shoe box with a dorm-style bed, nightstand, blacked-out picture window, closet, and little room for more.
Cutler strolled to the luggage stacked against the closet and picked up Snyder’s guitar case. “They started teaching music at intelligence school?”
“Nah, my then-girlfriend gave me that, and I took lessons in town. Not that it was all that hard to learn. I quit after four lessons. The guy was going too slow and he bored me. Besides, I developed my own foolproof method.”
“Watch.” Snyder picked the HV remote up off the night stand and pressed the power button. The window brightened to display the courtyard outside. He replaced the live view with a country music video and then centered the image on the musician’s hands as he strummed the guitar strings.
After the song ended, Snyder switched the holovision back to window mode and picked up the guitar case. He pulled out the guitar, sat on the bed, and played the song.
Cutler put a hand to his chin. “So you watch someone else play the song and then just repeat their movements.”
Snyder shrugged. “I still had to train my fingers. That took a week.”
“How long until you forget one of the songs you learn?”
Huh? Snyder scrunched his eyebrows together. “Forget? I haven’t forgotten any. I remember everything that’s happened since I was two years old practically.”
“Hmm. Interesting.” Cutler muttered under his breath. “You don’t know a Joey Parker, do you?”
Snyder sat on the bed. “Joey Parker . . . Joey Parker . . . Joey Parker . . . .”
Ten-year-old Anny Snyder climbed a tree and drew in a breath of fresh air. He didn’t get to smell this when he visited Mama Borden in the city. But here, ten miles from Boise on Grandma’s acreage, Anny was king.
And could forget, for a little while, that he’d been denied his place as the youngest of eight Borden brothers and sisters on account of being born the wrong skin color. And denied his place at Andy’s side for unknown reasons. Grandma always broke down crying rather than explain whenever he asked about his twin. But that hurt never seemed far. The few pictures Grandma had of his brother weren’t nearly enough.
A small boy stood by a bush a few hundred feet away. Anny climbed down and ran towards the boy. The boy began to run away.
“Don’t run!” shouted Anny. “I just wanted to talk.”
The boy kept running, but Anny gained on him and grabbed his shirt. “Chill, kid. I just want to talk.”
The boy turned. “You’re not gonna take me to the government, are you?”
“Why would I do that?”
“I believe in Jesus.”
“So do I.”
“Yeah, but you can’t talk about it in school or Grandma and Mama will go to jail.” For confusing the heck out of him. Mama Borden thought she was so oh-so-clever and he had no clue, but she wanted him to be Baptist something fierce. Had been downright sulky ever since Grandma spilled the beans that he’d asked to be confirmed in the Church that liked him. Mama’s church stared at him like he was a heathen. But if he told Grandma about any of this, she wouldn’t let him see Mama Borden anymore.
The small boy glanced around. “So what do you do out here?”
“Let me show you. One of grandma’s friends built me this really cool tree house.”
The boy bit his lip. “I don’t know. I don’t even know your name.”
Anny squirmed. That Anny was short for Annunciation didn’t impress. Until a black eye dissuaded his peers, he usually had to put up with references to a certain classical Broadway musical. “It’s Snyder. What’s yours?”
Snyder looked up. “Sarge, why did you ask me about Joey Parker?”
“I don’t know, Snyder. The name just came to my head.”
Snyder stared off into the distance. “Joey was a friend when I was a kid.” A stupid kid that believed in fairy tales.
“He died.” Just like Grandma died. Her murderer tried to kidnap him and blurted a horror Mama Borden had later admitted was true. He and Andy had been ripped from the womb at six weeks along. He was tossed into the freezer and forgotten. Andy the breeder brought to term artificially and sold to the highest bidder. Four years later, Mama Borden helped Grandma rescue him from the freezer and unexpectedly bonded with the child she carried for another.
Cutler bowed his head. “I didn’t know what I was asking. Are you okay?”
“Of course, Sarge. Can we go to mess? Tomorrow’s my first day on duty.”
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