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“Why not,” Rapp said.

Coleman went with Hurley to help and Rapp headed down to the fire by the lake. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and stars were out. Rapp looked up, found the Big Dipper and the North Star and then Orion, the hunter. Coleman and Hurley returned and they all grabbed a chair. Hurley wanted the full debriefing and Rapp gave it to him in an emotionless voice. Hurley only had a few questions, most of them to do with Max Johnson and Hakim al Harbi.

Coleman argued vehemently that Johnson be not only spared but brought on board as a member of the unit. Rapp and Hurley weren’t so sure about the second part, but they were in agreement that he’d done enough to earn a stay of execution and more than likely an outright pardon. Hakim al Harbi was more complicated. Rapp told Hurley outright that he had no stomach for killing the guy. Coleman had no opinion on the matter.

Hurley looked into the fire and took a sip of his drink. “I need to talk to Doc about him. We need to find out what makes him tick. And we need to catalog his sins. Figure out just what role he played in all this.”

They heard the screen door slam, and a short while later Nash came out of the shadows with more beers. He passed them around and took a chair.

“How’s Shannon?” Hurley asked.

Nash stared blankly into the fire. “I’m not sure. She just fell asleep, but I think Doc slipped her some pills.”

“She’ll be fine,” Hurley announced.

Nash shook his head. “Who knows. I gotta think something like this can really fuck a kid up.”

Rapp, Coleman, and Hurley all looked at each other. Hurley spoke for the group. “Kids are resilient. We’re the ones who don’t do too well with this shit.”

Nash nodded but kept staring into the fire. “I can’t believe I almost lost her.” And with that he suddenly started bawling. He tried to stop it but he couldn’t. The three men didn’t move.

After a minute of it, Hurley announced, “Get it all out. Now’s the time.” He watched him for ten seconds and then said, “And don’t forget it could have been a hell of a lot worse. All things considered . . . you were pretty damn lucky.”

Nash got control of himself and nodded. “You’re right.” He finally looked over at Rapp, who was puffing silently on a cigar. “I’m sorry,” Nash said. “Maggie’s right. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead, and Shannon might be dead as well.”

“Well,” Rapp said, “I’m just glad we could save her. As for your dumb ass . . . I’m not sure it was worth the effort.”

Nash started laughing and then they all started laughing. Nash lit Rapp up with a string of curse words and then said, “Next time you decide to turn me into a poster boy maybe you could check with me.”

“You’re my boss now. I can’t take a piss without consulting you first.” Rapp gave Nash a sarcastic wink.

“Oh . . . God,” Hurley moaned. “I was his boss once. A long time ago. Worst fucking two years of my life.”

“Yeah . . .” Rapp said, “I saved your ungrateful ass one time, too.”

Hurley started spewing insults across the fire at Rapp. The group fell right back into their normal stride. It was as if the pressure of the last week was suddenly behind them and everything was back to normal. They told stories and insulted each other and they all took it for what it was—a sign of acceptance and camaraderie.

Hurley announced that it was getting late. There was one more issue that he wanted to cover, though—Glen Adams and what they were going to do with him. He looked at Nash and said, “Mitch tells me you’re still not certain about a certain traitorous bastard.” Hurley looked over at his barn just in case there was any question about which traitorous bastard he was referring to.

Nash wavered and then said, “I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m exactly a paragon of mental stability at the moment.”

“Well . . . all things considered I’d like to make the call.”

“You want me to pass the buck.” Nash shook his head. “Not very noble.”

“Mike,” Rapp said, “you have a great family. For their sake, and yours, I tried to put you on a different path this week. The honorable one. You can’t do both. You can’t be a great father and husband and do the shit we do. Something has to give.”

Nash stared into the fire and thought about the conflict.

Rapp leaned forward and said, “Let us slosh around in the gutter with these guys. You go take care of your family.”

Nash didn’t say anything for a long while and then he nodded as if he’d made up his mind. He stood and tossed his empty beer can in the fire. He watched it turn red hot and begin to crumble. He turned to Rapp and said, “Thanks.”

They watched him walk away into the darkness between the fire and the house.

Rapp looked at Coleman and Hurley, a look of disappointment on his face, and then he heard Nash say, “I’m going to go take care of my family. Good night, guys.”

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