Chapter one, section one

Midnight shift. Muggy clouds covering the earth make the trees seem so tall you think you could climb into the sky. Cicadas screaming into the night, searching for a mate.

Henry has been driving these roads for three years now, knows all the back ways and shortcuts, all the places the patrols can hide at night when they need a few hours of sleep. The places the Duty Officer can’t find. But Henry doesn’t go to these places to sleep. Not because he’s a good soldier, or a dutiful Military Police. It’s just that the pistol belt and bulletproof vest are uncomfortable and he can’t recline his seat, what with the metal cage there to protect him from the drunks and suspended licenses he every once in a while bundles into the backseat. Also, he has an office with a couch that he can go to when he feels the need for sleep. But tonight Henry is restless and drives in endless circles, waits for the radio to speak.

And what Henry likes about the midnight shift is that the radio rarely speaks. And when it does, it never speaks bullshit. Nobody calls for the MPs at three in the morning over a stolen lawn mower. Not unless they shot the guy doing the stealing.

Custer Road is a flat and barren thing. It begins at the Radcliff Walmart, enters Fort Knox at Main Gate-Bravo. Through the heavy trees and past the Custer Terrace housing area and the 1-17th Barracks and the post hospital. Through the middle of the training areas where new recruits sleep every night in fear of what the drill sergeants will do to them in the morning. Past the ammo storage point and the arms facility where rows and rows of rusted tanks rest in the parking lot. Disintegrating into gravel and then to dirt, connecting the M-16, M-4, M-9, M-203, M-60, M-249, M-240, MK-19 and M-1 Abrams ranges. Finally dead ending at a river Henry has never seen, only heard about. Heard it’s where the Navy SEALS launch their boats to practice river maneuvers. Henry sees them every once in a while at the gas station. Massive men driving massive trucks hauling massive boats.

Custer Road is twenty-five miles long and, if he feels like it, Henry can write a ticket every two miles, the road well-traveled and conducive to the heavy foot. And this is Henry’s job, to write tickets and catch drunks and investigate traffic accidents. And before he was stop-lossed, Henry was very good at his job. He would write twenty tickets a day and back at the office would spread them out on his desk like the scalps collected from Custer’s Army. But tonight there’s nobody out. It’s early morning Fourth of July and most of Knox is on a four-day pass, has gone up to Louisville to get drunk and watch fireworks and fight civilians, to make the LPD earn their overtime.

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