“By the Hitman”
Bull unzipped the knee pocket of his black cargo pants and removed two small objects. He set the first, a pocket mirror, flat against the ledge and faced his reflection. Gripping the second object firmly in his right hand, he began the final phase of his transformation from civilian biker to guerilla soldier.
Using the dark end of the camo stick, he colored in his forehead, then dragged it down his nose. From there, he ran it over his chin. Next, he drew from nose to ear, finally from his nose down to his neck. He filled in the rest of his face with the lime green end of the paint stick.
“I’m good to go,” he whispered to himself, picking up his rifle.
It was time for war.
The lush green leaves of the rural forest were strangely quiet. Only the rare sound of a bird and the occasional snapping of branches underfoot, alerting him to the enemy’s presence, reached Bull’s ears. Through the hedge of branches, he focused coldly on his mission, the search for other bodies dressed in black with camouflaged faces, like his own. The eerie silence in the forest around him and the knowledge he could be tagged and bagged at any moment from multiple directions kept him vigilant; it wasn’t just his own life now that mattered, but the young man he’d been entrusted to protect.
With his raised rifle leading the way, Bull moved quickly and cautiously toward the circle of tall pines where the enemy had taken their prisoners. A stretch of dead leaves and spindly twigs on the ground blocked him from making a direct assault, a sure invitation to alert the enemy that he’d made it this far. Bull backtracked into the choking jungle of branches and proceeded around the tiger trap, his well-worn boots making little noise on the moss and green things.
He avoided the forest path leading past the temporary jail. The enemy no doubt had staked out that venue, and as one of the last members of his company left standing, freeing the others now sat squarely upon his shoulders. He couldn’t let them down.
Ever vigilant for a glimpse of their mortal enemy, Bull crossed a small hill and trudged down the slope, an action that put him almost at the southern boundary of the prison. There, he moved from tree to tree, flattening out against the trunks to avoid detection. At about ten paces from the jail, he caught a rapidly moving flash of black. Bull brought up his rifle, took quick aim, and fired. He struck the enemy soldier right on target.
Proof of his accuracy could be seen splattered across the tagged man’s chest, a dark liquid stain from where the bullet had found its mark. Eyes narrowed, face frozen in a pensive soldier’s scowl, Bull turned away from the fresh kill. He never looked at their faces. He had to rescue his men.
Checking his weapon, he started toward the prison camp. He only got a few steps closer when the telltale cracking of a branch to his immediate rear ripped through the forest’s tenebrous calm. Bull spun around and brought his rifle to bear, but he was a moment too late. A second soldier dressed in black stood over the body he’d just taken out. Bull heard the hollow explosion as the bullet left the enemy’s gun a split-second before he felt it strike his chest, then a mildly-painful, warm itch ignited across his left pec right beneath the nipple. Bull looked down and saw the blood.
There was a lot of it.
Blood, sprayed across his chest.
Powder blue blood from the paint bullet.
The newest addition to the blue team’s prisoner camp was led past the tall pines into the roped-off area where four other prisoners tagged with blue paint waited.
“That’s five for us, three to you,” the cocky blue team’s captain chuckled.
A quartet of raised middle fingers answered the enemy’s boast. Bull swore under his breath and approached the green team’s leader, whose stark blue eyes stared out through the slits of a black ski mask. Drops of blue paint had splattered across the top of his chest and the neck of the ski mask. “Sorry I let you down, Jake.”
“Oh, fuck ’em,” a youthful voice growled back. “We still got us two men out there, and if we lose today, we’ll kick their asses next month.” Then, in a voice much lower meant only for Bull, he said, “You didn’t let me down, Sarge, just like you never fell short for the old man.”
The leader of the green paintball division peeled off his ski mask. The action bared a hard, handsome face, short dark hair one length longer on top than the military would have allowed, and the perfect ring of a goatee and mustache on a square jaw.
And those eyes.
Bull stared a moment longer, right at the handsome face of twenty-five-year-old Jake Samuelson.
The motel door slammed in place with a heart-thumping thunderclap. Bull stared at his reflection in the floor-length mirror on one wall. He looked like hell.
Peeling off the paint-stained black sweatshirt that stunk of sweat and pine pitch, he plunked his sore ass on the edge of the nearest double bed. A few seconds after Jake Samuelson sprawled across the other, he began unlacing his boots. Bull kicked both off and stretched out on the bed in his pants and sweat socks.
“Phew,” he sighed, rubbing the tender spot on his chest where the paint bullet had clipped him, just a few yards longer than pointblank range. “That was a ball-buster. But it was fun, too.”
Jake flashed a grin, one so smoldering and sexy in its youthfulness and familiarity, Bull had to look away. It was as if he was facing a younger version of his former Commanding Officer. “Yeah, a bunch of my buddies get together twice a month. Glad it worked out with your visit, Sarge.”
“Me, too,” Bull said. He absently reached for the remote control and turned on the TV. A few flips later, he settled on the Saturday afternoon baseball game of the week. “Hey, it’s Seaside against San Diego-!”
“San Diego,” Jake grumbled. “Ain’t that where you’re headed?” Bull nodded. “Maybe it’s some kind of a sign. You know – like you’re on the right track.”
Bull huffed out a sarcastic laugh beneath his breath and sat up. The game was in its early innings, and though he stunk from the effort he’d put into the paint ball war, he was happy to just relax. A shower could wait. Peeling the sweat socks off his Size-12 feet, Bull turned back toward Jake Samuelson. “I’m gonna grab something cold from the machine. Want one?”
“Sure,” Jake answered. Bull fished two bills out of his wallet, and dressed only in his jeans, he left the room.
When he returned, Jake had left the other bed, and without invitation, lay stretched on one side of Bull’s. The handsome young man lie on his stomach with his head propped on his hands at the foot of the bed, right beside Bull’s stankin’, discarded sweat socks. To Bull’s greater surprise, his former C.O.’s son had shucked down to the bare essentials – a gray t-shirt and white briefs.
He tried to keep his shock at the image hidden. Jake’s clothes sat in a heap on the other bed, his kicked-off black sneakers on the floor. In his bottled scrutiny of the other man, Bull traced the length of Jake’s body – the firmness of his shoulders, his tight lower back, the firm double globes of his hard-looking ass, lower yet to the incredible perfection of his legs and large, bare feet. Like his dad Ike Samuelson, Jake’s calves resembled hairy softballs, his quads, footballs. The smell of sweat, masculine and powerful, infused the motel room’s stagnant air.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Bull asked, his voice broken and unsure.
“You got a better view of the TV on this bed,” Jake challenged, the trace of a smirk on his handsome face.
Setting down the soda cans, Bull unbuckled his pants and pushed them to his ankles. He stepped out, and like Jake was now down to a pair of nut-smelling white briefs. He sat beside the younger man on the half of the bed he’d been relegated to.