A Visit With Greg
Three hours later, Jessica pulled into a generous sized gravel parking lot. Scattered across the front of the rural property were several prefabricated metal buildings with large garage doors. A chain link fence surrounded the cleared space. There were six rows of used cars with signs in the windows advertising special prices and deals.
Some of the garage doors were open, and she could see automobiles on lifts. She saw welding sparks and heard generators hum. Men were busy everywhere.
The sign over the middle building stated that she arrived at Greg’s Used Cars & Body Shop. Pulling the Vette over near her Land Rover, she parked and started transferring the suitcases into her SUV. Then she moved the convertible in front of an open doorway.
As she was parking, a stocky guy in a sports shirt and khakis appeared. They hugged.
The man looked up and smiled. “Hey, Jessica. How’d it all work out?”
“Perfectly. Thanks, Greg. I appreciate the favor.” She handed him an envelope of cash and held up a white paper bag. “I’ve also have lunch. I figured you’d eat with me.”
Greg took the cash and stuffed it into a back pocket. He looked at his watch. “Yeah? Lunch, huh? Hey, Jessica, it’s late afternoon.”
Jessica grinned. She reached over and squeezed him on the shoulder. “Greg, I know you. You get so caught up in work you forget to eat. So I’ve got deli sandwiches for us to share.”
He nodded and laughed. “You know me too well, Sarge. What kind of sandwiches did you bring?”
Jade opened the bag to give him a look. “I bought corned beef with coleslaw and a turkey club. You can choose or take half of each.”
Greg had a big grin on his face. “Splitting them sounds great. You want a Coke?”
“No thanks, I have water. I also have chips and a pickle for each of us, too.”
As they sat outside in the sun eating on a picnic table, Greg kept turning to Jessica as if he wanted to say something.
Jessica finally set her sandwich down. She raised her hands and motioned surrender. “Okay, I give up. What’s bugging you? You’ve got something in that pea brain of yours that’s driving you crazy. Go ahead and speak your mind.”
Greg blushed and looked away. He was slow to talk as he gazed out on the country road. “Well, we had another reunion last month that, of course, you didn’t attend again. And well, when you aren’t there, some of the guys start to talk.”
Jessica laughed and slapped him on the back. “Good. Give those old busybodies something to gossip about. It’s nice to know that I provide something for them to focus on. Greg, it’s okay.”
Greg was blushing. Jessica knew that Greg was as big a gossip as any of her team was. She knew them well having worked with them and then led them for years of Ranger service. She smiled as she set down her pickle. “Okay, I’ll bite. What did they have to say?”
Greg started in. “The first thing they always bring up is the ambush. And, well, you can’t bring that up without talking about you. You are missed.”
“That’s nice to hear I’m accepted by some of the guys. After transitioning, I wasn’t expecting it.”
The ambush was the end of most of their Ranger careers. Everyone on their team was injured when they were attacked. They were heading back to the Green Zone after finishing up a mission when they were attacked by a large enemy force. Jessica spent months recovering from her burns and wounds.
Greg was now looking straight at her. He apparently wanted to share what was on his mind. “Well, maybe you’re missed by some of you guys, but not all.”
“Greg, I see most of the crew now and then, more on a one to one basis. Some of the guys have trouble accepting me. Well, I get it. And then, there are some, well. They don’t want anything to do with me. But that’s okay. I don’t want to pressure anyone into accepting a trans-woman in their lives. It’s okay.”
Greg couldn’t let it go. “Well, I hear you, Jess. But that’s the part I can’t figure out. You save a guy’s life, and he can’t look you in the eye. Some of those guys are just stubborn and stupid.”
Jessica nodded, “But, that’s a person’s privilege. Everyone gets a vote. Everyone gets a voice. Some guys can’t understand why I did what I did and how important it was to me. They have trouble accepting me. Just because I pulled someone out of a burning Humvee doesn’t mean he has to like me. I’m sure it’s hard to accept the fact that the guy who saved your life transitioned and is now a woman.”
Greg tapped his finger on the picnic table for emphasis, “You save a guy’s life and he rejects you. It doesn’t seem right. I mean, you risked your life for them. Some of those guys wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.”
Jessica shrugged, “Yeah, I hear you. But, while times have changed and most of the world has moved on, some guys still pretend it was seven years ago. They’re still fighting a war back in the Middle East. I can’t help that I’ve moved on.”
Greg shook his head. “Well, two of the guys still find it hard to believe that you're a woman. Yeah, I know it’s been years, and well, they just can’t get past the fact that one day you’re an Army Ranger and their sergeant and the next minute you’re traveling to Thailand to have a sex change.”
“Yeah, I hear you. But, for me that’s such old news, it’s history. It’s been over seven years since I left the Army and five since I finished my operations. You’d think they’d find something new to talk about. I think the rest of the world looks at transsexuals differently now.”
Greg nodded, “Well. I mean, yeah, their views are from a hundred years ago. They can’t get past you saving lives and being brave and everything and then, well, as Brick said, becoming a cock-sucking faggot.”
Jessica laughed and thumped Greg on the back. “He’s lucky I didn’t attend the reunion. I would have kissed him and shared my cooties. Then he’d get my disease.”
Greg laughed, “I don’t know, Jessica. I mean, you were always square and honest with us. You never got in anyone’s face. You never used your rank to lord over us. You were there to help us complete our missions and to keep the guys alive.”
“Well, everyone has to deal with leading in their way. Remember, I grew up on a Marine base, and my father was a drill sergeant. I saw lots of styles of command even when I was a kid. I just wanted to do the job, no big deal. But, I led with my head. I didn’t need to break anyone down to build myself up. Even back then, I knew what I was and where I was heading. But, it wasn’t something that I completely understood or could share with everyone.”
“Jessica, back then, you always answered my questions no matter how stupid they were. I mean, I guess I just figured it was your business, and well, we were friends when you were a guy and my sergeant and it seemed kind of stupid to lose a good buddy. And now, it’s like a different relationship, and I guess we are more friends and equals.”
Jessica smiled and reached over and patted him on the shoulder, “Thanks. I appreciate the support and the words. How does the vote go?”
Greg shook his head. “As always. Two knuckleheads think you’re a disgrace and the rest of us either love you or don’t care. I mean, other than the fact that you’re a babe to look at, well, I’d never want to go up against you.”
Jessica Jade laughed, “I’m not the strong man I used to be. Different hormones and a lot less muscle than when I pulled you from a burning truck. I sometimes wonder if I could do that today.”
Greg nodded. “I’m sure you could, and I’m sure you still would. Seven guys owe you their lives. If it weren’t for you keeping us safe until the air cavalry came in, we’d have all been toast. Jessica, they might not understand you, but you saved all those guys. They owe you big time and you confuse some of the knuckleheads. They don’t understand how someone who has a sex change can still be an Army Ranger.”
Jessica looked solemn, “Well, I think bravery takes different forms, Greg. It’s not easy to admit you need to have a sex change to be right with yourself. I needed that to completely heal. I had more injuries than burns and bullet holes. Walking away from Sergeant James Jade was part of my recovery.”
Jessica hesitated. “After laying in the Veterans’ hospital waiting for my burns to heal, I decided to stop kidding myself and face up to the real me. It was a lot harder to come to grips with my needs than to pretend and keep fighting battles inside every day.”
Greg wasn’t going to let this go, “Well, I think those two guys are losers. The Army was their life, and well, when the war ended, the glory was gone. Those guys ran away from just being soldiers. They didn’t reenlist. They refused to be rank and file and serve out their twenty. They just wanted to shoot guns and blow things up. I honestly think they liked killing people.”
Jessica grew solemn. “Yeah, I think you can become addicted to the power of life and death. It’s a bad situation. I mean, how do you come back to the real world where guns don’t have a place unless you’re hunting?”
“Well, I think you’re right. Neither of those two guys is happy with their lives now. They see you moving on, and I think they secretly both have a crush on you.”
“Me? When did they see me?”
“Mike Duncan’s funeral. I remember, and I saw them looking your way. You wore a tailored navy blue suit with a knee length skirt and a silk blouse. You looked amazing in those heels.”
Jessica blushed, “Shit. So I’m the cause of their hard-ons?”
“Yep. That’s why you need to come to the next get together. You need to have a couple of beers and well, show them that you’re a real person. You appear, and everyone will feel better.”
Jessica sighed, “All right. Maybe you’ve convinced me. Remember to text me when the next get together is coming up and I’ll show. Freak ‘em out. In the meantime, thanks for all the different sets of wheels this past month.”
“You kidding? I wish I could help you out more.”
Jessica smiled and stared out at the highway. Then she turned and looked at Greg. Her transition hadn’t made her shorter. She still was a couple of inches taller than he was. “I could probably drag you across the hardscrabble road and into that drainage ditch one more time. It certainly is motivating when somebody’s shooting at you. And I know I can still fire a weapon, but well, times have changed. You grow older and wiser.”
Greg whispered. “You know most of the guys know.”
Jessica turned to Greg. “Know what?”
“What you do, you know. All that stuff with the kids, the families, the money. How you help families out by finding them new places. They know you’re some good gun for hire. They respect that. Well, except for the knuckleheads.”
“Well, as long as they don’t decide to drop a dime and try to turn me into the authorities. I’m not worried about what would happen to me. But, there’s a lot of families out there that are hidden away that don’t want to be found. Seriously though, thanks again. I’ll be calling you up for more help.”
“No problem, Sarge. Anytime you need a favor. And, I forgot to mention. I’ll bet you made a sexy blonde in that red Corvette.”
“Ha. You like that, huh? Oh yeah, that reminds me. I left the acetate wraps in the trunk for you to dispose of. What happens to the Vette now?”
“It’s being shipped out this evening on a car carrier. You completed the test drive on our performance improvements. It’s headed down to Virginia to be sold at a car show. Say goodbye to your little hot Vette.” He smiled.
“That’s really good to know. We don’t need any questions asked about this car, right? It might get a little warm around here in a few days for a New York Corvette that’s the same model. I did an illegal thing with that one and it’s on tape. I kinda got a large donation from a mobster who’s going to be pissed off.”
“Not to worry. Anything that happens in New York stays in New York. And after all, that car’s not going to be found around here in Pennsylvania. All the paperwork’s in order, and it’s going to have a new registration in a couple of days. Who knows where it goes after Virginia? And that Corvette is one of the most popular models out there. A lot of collectors have them in their garage and only take them out on Sundays.”
“Well, thanks again. It worked out great. And I enjoyed our talk. You’re a pal.”
“Jessica, it’s all for a good cause. You keep on protecting the kids, and I’ll continue to hook you up with plenty of used wheels. I always have a ton of them. It helps to have a great auction over in Manheim. You should see all the stuff that passes through there. I can find you anything you want to replace your Disco.”
“Thanks, but that’s been my only set of wheels I’ve ever had. I’ve grown attached.”
“Well, you have to remember that a ten-year-old Land Rover Discovery is almost as easily spotted as any different or rare car. And like I said, when you’re ready for something invisible, let me know. I can make you a Q-Ship.”
“A Q-Ship? What’s that?”
Greg laughed, “Back in both World Wars, the good guys would take freighters and redo them. They’d pump up the engines, hide big guns under crates and disguise torpedo tubes on the decks. Then, they’d use their paintbrushes to make the ships look like real old rust buckets. Just kind of like helpless sitting ducks.”
Greg continued his story, “So German submarines would see them and think of them as easy targets. They’d trail them figuring they had an easy shot and surface. They’d fire their deck guns and try to sink them. Sometimes they’d think they were going to put a torpedo into their hulls.”
“I get it. Camouflage.”
“Yeah, so we make you a Q-Ship for your next machine. Think about it. It might save your life one day.”
“Greg, I appreciate you looking out for me. You’re a true brother.”
“Brothers-in-Arms, right? We take care of each other. That’s what it’s all about, Jessica. I’m as proud to serve alongside Jessica Jade as I did following orders from James Jade.”
Jessica gave him a handshake and then a hug. She smiled, “So you like blondes, huh?” She took the wig out of the plastic bag and shook it. “It’s yours if you want it. I’ll even throw in the double D padded bra.”
Greg laughed. “No, not my style. But, if you ever decide to be a blonde, call me.”
“Right. And then I’d never be able to look Nancy and your kids in the eyes.” She smacked him on the biceps.
She thought for a minute. “A Q ship, huh.”
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