This is the first chapter to Ripp’s second book, “Unleashed”, the third in the series. If you have not read Unstoppable, you probably should not read this chapter. It may contain spoilers. If you have read Unstoppable, feel free to continue.
Unleashed is scheduled to be released in one week.
RIPP. I have never asked God for anything, and I wasn’t about to start because of a situation that was contrary to what I wanted or expected my life to include. Things happen in our life, often times they’re a result of an event or events that we have a difficult time digesting. What Tucker did to Katie was one of those things. There isn’t a soul on earth that would have the desire to deal with something of that nature. If I had the same conditions a thousand times over, I’d have reacted in the same manner. I know it. Knowing it and even accepting it doesn’t make dealing with it any easier. Taking a man’s life, regardless of the circumstances, seems impossible to come to terms with. I think the difficulty I have processing it proves to me under my savage shell, I am human.
When I was a kid, my Pop always told me when we need God always provides. Not always when we want, but when we need. Knowing the difference allows us to keep from having unmet expectations in life. Sometimes God’s fulfillment of our need comes in a form different than what we may expect.
I believe that God listens to what we believe our needs to be, and responds by provisions as he sees fit. Some people are just too stupid or stubborn to see it. I may be stubborn, but not to my demise. And stupid isn’t something that I’ve ever considered myself to be. I am, sometimes, blind as the bats that live under the downtown bridge. Today, of all days, I stood grateful that I was able to see; and by the grace of God, hear. On this day, God sent me an angel; an angel in the form of a former United States Marine.
“Maybe I’m different than everyone else, maybe I’m not. I’ve never been one to go around taking a poll or anything, so I can’t say what everyone else does, thinks, or feels. To me, it’s about commitment. If we’re committed to whatever it is, it’s confirmed when things go to hell in a hand basket and we stick to our guns. If we falter or change our opinion, we were never committed in the first place. If we believed in it enough to be committed in the beginning, we must stay committed when things go to shit. Commitment isn’t measured by our belief itself or the depth of conviction regarding the belief, but by what we’re willing to sacrifice to obtain it,” his eyes were distant and his voice steady but with very little emotion.
He paused and lit a cigarette.
“So what was the other one? Commitment and what? Death?” he asked.
I nodded my head slowly.
“Yeah, I know a little about death,” he said through his pursed lips as he took a drag from the cigarette.
“You know why today’s a good day?” he asked as he exhaled a cloud of smoke.
“Nope,” I shook my head.
“One reason, because I haven’t had to kill anybody yet,” he responded.
I nodded softly as he began to speak.
“Cruze, Soda, and Cunningham were on my team. We uhhm,” his voice began to quake and his lips quivered.
He swallowed and looked up.
“We went in the through on the street side. Wish we’d have come in from the back, but it’s easy to say that now,” he took a long pull on the cigarette and exhaled half of the smoke.
“Cruze hollered clear as he went in, but it was far from fucking clear. Two of ‘em came down the stairs, both spraying the room with fire from their fucking Kalashnikov’s. Cruze took one in the neck immediately. He was probably dead before he hit the floor,” he looked down at his boots, exhaled the remaining smoke from his lungs, and took another long drag.
“Soda screamed Cruze is hit, and Cunningham went after the Hadji’s. Soda stuck with Cruze. When we got to the second floor, they were gone. There was a hatch that led to the roof sitting there half-latched. It was the only way they could have got out of there. Funny thing about those people, none of them have closets,” he looked up at me, but it was if he was looking through me.
He reached down to the toe of his boot, stepped on his cigarette, and put the butt in his pocket. He looked up at the ceiling and stared for a minute before he looked down again.
“And they sleep on a half-assed mattress on the floor too,” I watched his hands shake as he lit another cigarette.
“So, Cunningham motions clear. And he no more than gets through the hatch and onto the roof, and I’m behind him. And there’s this thing on the roof. This thing. This fucking thing. And, let me tell you. Sometimes you know. You just got damned know. But we’re Marines. And were Force fucking RECON Marines. And we’re committed. But god damn it Ripp. I knew. But you don’t turn around. You don’t run. Even if that little thing inside of you says it knows. You don’t. You know why?” he bit the cigarette in his teeth and squinted as the smoke rose into his eyes.
I swallowed and shook my head from side-to-side.
“Because you’re committed, so fucking committed you’ll die for the cause,” he closed his left eye and took another puff from the cigarette before he pulled it from his lips.
“I don’t know how many rounds Cunningham took at first, but he took a few. Each one stopped him for a second. And he screamed. He screamed a scream that I heard Marine’s scream many times after that. The scream of knowing it’s one of the last that’ll ever leave your lips. We both returned fire. And then god damned Cunningham got him. He got him in the hand. Little fucker dropped his weapon. Right there on the roof. And he stood. Seemed like he was, you know…” he looked up from his boots, paused and appeared to be thinking.
“Like slow motion. He stood there, his hand half shot off, and he stared. Maybe he knew. Hell, I don’t know. But Cunningham lit him up. Then he turned, looked me in the eyes, and smiled. Close to me as you are right now. And he said, don’t forget A-Train, there’s one more of ‘em. And he died. Right like that, he collapsed on the roof. He didn’t say tell my wife I love her. Or tell my daughter I died a hero. Nope, he reminded me we weren’t done. That there was one more.”
“Well, when I got to the second Hadji, he was afraid of coming from behind that damned thing. He could have taken his partner’s AK, but he just cowered there and shook, scared to death – holding his hands up, trying to surrender. Well, I knew one thing for sure. I wasn’t taking that little bastard back to interrogate him. I pointed my weapon at his chest and he started screaming,” he held the cigarette at the toe of his boot and stepped on the burning end.
“And, as he was screaming, I slowly started to raise my weapon. As I started to raise it, his face looked relieved. But I stopped with the barrel at his head. And his eyes filed with that oh shit look.” He slipped the cigarette butt into his pocket.
“Oh shit’s right, motherfucker. I fired three rounds into his head, from this close,” he motioned toward me as he spoke.
“And I kicked him in the gut. When I stepped over his partner, I spit on his dumb ass. Then, I walked over and picked up Cunningham,” his eyes were moist and full of tears, but none fell.
“That was my first. And there were a hell of a lot that followed. The last? Yeah. The last. Well, I ain’t quite admitted it to anyone but God. But I’ll tell you, ‘cause you need to hear it right now. The son of a bitch stole a bike from one of the fellas. We voted, and decided to let the cops handle it. I didn’t like it, but I had to honor it. Then, the thieving cock sucker stole a girl’s purse from out of the bags on the bike. I fucking swear, once a thief, always a thief. So, Long story short. I went to his house, broke in, and found the purse in his garage. Hell, it had her ID in it and everything. And I waited. I waited for that stealing prick to come home,” he clenched his jaw and inhaled a long breath through his nose.
“I was maybe a hundred and fifty yards out. Maybe a few more. It was damned near dark. He started walking up the driveway and he turned and faced me. You see, God works in mysterious ways. I believe God looks out for those of us that look out for others. We administer his justice. So, I shot that prick between the fucking eyes. He dropped right there in the drive, dead as fuck. I walked up to him, took out his wallet, and took all his money. I didn’t know for sure what he took from Kelli’s purse and what he didn’t. So, him being dead and all, I figured he didn’t need it,” he looked up and smiled.
“Death. Yeah, I know a little about death,” he paused.
“And we all can reach a place where we clear our head of the demons. It takes being right with God,” he smiled and pulled another cigarette from the pack.
“So, now we’re back to commitment. What are you gonna do, and are you committed to it?’ he asked as he tapped the cigarette on his lighter.
“Well, their offer was five years in prison if I took the plea bargain. Said they’d give me twenty if I took it to trial,” I responded, still in disbelief of what was going on.
“You didn’t answer my question. And the amount of prison time they’re offering hasn’t got a fucking thing to do with it. Either you’re right or you’re wrong. If you’re wrong, be a man. Walk in and say it, tell ‘em you’re wrong, and do your time. If you’re right, stand up. Stand up and tell them motherfuckers to suck your cock, and prepare for war, ‘cause you’re gonna bring it to ‘em. Yep, tell ‘em to prepare for war. Let me ask you something. If you had to do all over again, what would you do?” he asked as he lifted the cigarette to his mouth.
“I’d do it over, same way a thousand times,” I responded.
“Why?” he asked as he lit his lighter.
I thought about his question. I’d never really thought about why. Not really. I told myself that I was in the right, but I never really thought about why. I realized as I sat there and thought about it, my reasoning behind it was not so much about punishment, but about responsibility. I wanted Tucker held responsible for his actions, and I didn’t want him to do the same thing to someone else, ever. What eventually happened was nothing more than a reaction to his action, not a plan that was preconceived. I thought of how to answer what A-Train asked me as I ran my hands along the thigh of my shorts.
“Because I was right, and he was wrong,” I responded.
In my mind it was just that simple.
“Whatever you think you’re right about, do you truly believe you’re right? The cause?” he asked.
I nodded my head as I stood from my chair, “Yep.”
“You committed to it?” he asked.
“Yep. Always have been,” I responded as I popped my neck.
“So, what are you gonna tell ‘em about that offer to do time in prison?” he asked as he stood form his chair.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. As I dialed Vee’s number, I swallowed a lump in my throat. Regardless of whether I thought I was right or wrong, it didn’t make the reality of the situation any easier to come to terms with.
“Vee, about that offer they gave me? I’m ready for you to give ‘em a response,” I said into the phone.
“Okay, Ripp…” her voice faded as she waited for me to continue.
“Tell ‘em to prepare for war,” I said.
“Ripp?” she asked.
“Yeah, babe,” I responded.
“I’ll let ‘em know. I’m proud of you, babe. And, for what it’s worth, I started preparing yesterday,” she said.
“How’d you know?” I asked, smiling.
“Because that part of you that will stand up and fight for what you believe in, no matter what your opposition is? That part of you, Ripp?” her voice was eager and full of emotion.
“Yeah, what about it?” I asked.
“That’s the person I fell in love with,” she said.
“Well, that’s my decision, babe. Tell ‘em not to ask again,” I reminded her.
“I feel like. I just feel unrestrained. I’m ready to defend this thing. I’m ready to get this behind us. I just
feel…well, I feel like I’m just ready to fight these bastards. I’m still pissed off they even charged you. I feel like you just gave me the freedom to…I just feel like I’ve been…” she paused.