The Promise

I sat there watching Mr. Silva in his yellow jumpsuit glare at me with his dark brown piercing eyes.  His eyes seemed to be watching everything at once, he vigilantly scanned the room.  Immediately I felt that uneasy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know things are not as they should be.  Something was off and it was making my stomach quiver with uneasiness.  It is the feeling I first get every day when I walk into the jail and I get buzzed in and the first thing you see every day is a red sign with white letters.  I find myself reading that sign everyday as my foot crosses from the outside world to the inside world I now find myself in.  Suddenly words from the sign became emblazed in my mind’s eye.

“Hostages will not be bargained for…”

With those words in the back of my mind I began to study Mr. Silva more closely.  I noticed that the blood markings were not only covering his yellow cotton jumpsuit but also his face.  His skin was a suntanned golden brown with an almost leather texture to it, as if he had been out in the sun too long.  His dark brown hair had not been cut in sometime and hung down over his ears but not quite to his shoulders.  His hair clumped together from a lack of washing and it was clinging to his skull sticky with dried red blood.  He had a beard covering much of his lower face but it seemed to be a fresh grown beard and hadn’t quite spurted the unruly hairs that accompany a beard that has been grown over time.  One of the sleeves of his shirt was torn off and I could see a tattoo on his right shoulder.  It was a black skull with four long teeth coming down from the head with a sniper scope on the right eye.  I knew that was the symbol of one the greatest Army soldiers in US history Chris Kyle.  Which led me to believe that this man was prior service and having that tattoo meant he either served with Special Forces or he was a wanna-be, he didn’t strike me as the latter though.  He was about 6 foot, hard to tell since he was sitting, and I would guess weighed a good 200 pounds.  His arms were muscular and he did not show any signs of starvation normally associated with the homeless.  His hands were handcuffed with black steel circular cuffs his hands sat on the dark brown polished oak desk in front of him.  He looked and carried himself with an air about him that told me he could handle himself.  I began to wonder first why he had been found wondering homeless on the streets. Second why was he covered in blood?  When I looked up I found his brown eyes sizing me up as if he was coming to some sort of decision.  He hadn’t said a word yet in response to my question.  I met his gaze unfazed. I learned long ago that you never look away, that you never show fear.  Considering my next words carefully, I began to speak.

“Mr. Silva…” He suddenly jerked up in his chair and squared his shoulders, facing me and spoke.

“You serve?”  He asked as he motioned his head towards his shoulder with the tattoo.  “I noticed how your eyes lingered on that.  So either you served or you are a fan-boy.  So which is it?”  I rolled his question over in my mind, normally I don’t disclose any information about myself but honestly I was curious about his story.  Plus I figured what harm could come from it.

“Yeah, National Guard Unit out of Chico, CA. I was Helitak and a Sergeant.  When I got my dd-214.”  He sat there studying me, not moving, just watching me.  Finally I could see something shifted in him as if a weight had just been lifted from his shoulders.

“Alright, Sergeant Nurse Shepherd, would consider yourself a good man?”  He waited until I nodded before continuing.  “Well I am Staff Sergeant Silva, and it’s a pleasure to meet you. Can I ask you another question?” Again he stopped waiting for me to acknowledge his question before he continued.  “I need you to get a message back to my wife and son.  Please tell them I love them and that I wish I had just gone home.  My wife was right she begged me not to reenlist and take this last assignment.  I should have listened.  My home address is in the file you are holding.  Can you do this for me? Please I have no one else to ask?”  Looking up I could tell how serious this was to him. It was as if this was the life raft he was holding onto while the storm raged on around him.

“I swear Staff Sergeant Silva, I will get word to your wife and son.”  He seemed to relax visibly.  He closed his eyes and tears streamed down his face.

“Thank you.”  He whispered.  “You have to know that we do not have very much time for me to tell you my story.  By now my unit has been notified that I am here and very shortly, a detachment of military police will arrive to take me away.  Once they make contact a series of events are going to transpire and you will have no control of what comes next. Know that I will suffer some sort of accident.  Before I begin my story please understand that when I arrived at my unit I thought we were doing some good.  I didn’t know what they were having us do.  It was…”  He dropped his head into his cuffed hands and started sobbing.  “Oh my god I didn’t know what we were doing… You have to let my wife know that I love her…”


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