Spencer Preps for a Road Trip

Sorry for the delay in the next post of Heir Force.  I was helping my daughter with an essay and her first attempt was over 1,000 words in one looong paragraph.  I introduced her to the tab and enter buttons.  ¦⊃

I also had to figure out the rest of this chapter and finish one of the scenes before I could continue.  Alas, enjoy!


After driving home from Kate’s, first thing Spencer did when he got home was throw a load of clothes in the washer, and then found the phone charger in a kitchen drawer. When he took care of that, he changed into old sweats to change the oil. His duplex had a garage and he already had six quarts of oil on hand. When that was done, he went through the refrigerator, dumping out old leftovers and milk. He added the dishes to the dishwasher and with what was already in it had enough to run it. Then he bagged what little perishables he had left and walked over to Mrs. Pettigrew’s.

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Kate Prepares for John’s Funeral

For several days, Kate found herself wandering her apartment, looking at photos of her and John on dates at the zoo, or at the St. Louis Arch, or with other Air Force friends. She cried so much, she couldn’t anymore.

Jen came over one afternoon after her shift with a small bouquet of carnations and daisies and a card. She stayed for a while and sat with Kate, not saying anything. In the silence they stared at the walls or watched Buttons playing with his rope. Kelly called and brought over some German chocolate cake, which Kate appreciated but couldn’t eat. She put it in the freezer for another day.

The only productive things she did had to do with making sure her blues uniform was in regulation form and packing it in her garment bag along with her black pumps wrapped in a towel to keep them from getting scuffed.

Spencer had called a couple days earlier to let her know when the funeral would be. He offered to come over so they could arrange the same flight, but she didn’t want company. As soon as she hung up, she called for a flight up to St. Paul/Minneapolis. John’s family lived in a suburb of the Twin Cities.

Two days later, the day of the funeral was bright and sunny, completely the opposite of Kate’s mood. She didn’t pay any attention to the scenery during her cab drive to and from the airport to her hotel. Somehow she blocked out the traffic and noise along the freeways. She knew the Mall of America was around somewhere, but she certainly wasn’t interested in anything like that. This morning she dressed in her blues uniform and fixed her hair and makeup, in a robotic state. Spencer booked into a different hotel and was coming to pick her up while she waited in the lobby.

Now she would meet John’s family for the first and last time. The thought upset her and she grabbed a tissue from her bag.


Until next time,


Friends Grieve with Kate and Spencer

Previously on HFN: Spencer Grieves and Worries

Kelly came outside and rubbed Kate’s shoulders, “I’m so sorry, Kate.” Then others trickled out of the building to offer their condolences. Spencer slid over on the bench, but only slightly.

After a few minutes, Kate and Spencer were alone again. A pair of uniform pants and boots appeared in her vision and she let go of Spencer. Their commanding officer, Senior Master Sergeant Connors, must have asked Sergeant Thompson where they were. She didn’t even feel guilty and when she saw the look on his face; she knew it was okay under the circumstances. She and Spencer slowly stood up and half heartedly saluted.

Connors was a cool guy, not a hard-nosed jerk like some officers they knew and had worked under. Kate knew he had a sense of humor, though she didn’t see him often. She also knew he was fair.

His tall frame towered over them, but he never used his height to lord over anyone. His blue eyes often twinkled and he loved to share a good joke.

The CO dismissed them and was silent for a moment. When he finally spoke, it wasn’t a reprimand. “I’m sorry, Kate, Spencer. These things are difficult to take, but they happen.”

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Kate Loses It

Previously on HFN, Kate Gets Bad News

Kate felt pressure on her arm and glanced to see that it was from Spencer’s hand before she said, “Oh, my God,” and ran out of Sergeant Thompson’s office.

She heard footsteps running after her but she didn’t stop. She ran out of the building through a side door, pushing the door so hard it hit the building. She stopped near the flower bed outside the door. She fell onto the bench and sobbed. With her hands she pulled at her hair, nearly pulling it out of her scalp. This can’t be. He can’t be dead. She felt a hand on her back and then a body plop next to her. She didn’t bother to look, she didn’t care who it was. She heard voices and then somebody said, “Leave them be.”

“Are you a damsel in distress?” Spencer asked quietly.

At first Kate didn’t comprehend his words, for her ears only. They sounded foreign and she wasn’t sure she heard him right. After a few seconds, it registered what he said and she understood what he meant. She looked up, first with a look of horror and then one of bewilderment crossed her face.   She made the mistake of looking at Spencer’s crushed features and just as she started to answer, “I don’t know,” Spencer pulled her into his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Kate,” he sobbed.

She broke down again, grateful for his arms around her. She couldn’t keep herself together. Not this time. She gave in, letting the tears flow, not caring whether they soaked his uniform. To heck with protocol, she thought. This was war, and she didn’t give a flip about regulations. Maybe she never did, and it was all a façade, a front to keep her strong in appearance only.

Maybe Spencer had been right back when he said Kate didn’t have to keep it all together. Life was rough on a good day most of the time. The coming and going, training, moving, and making and losing friends could all get a person down after a while.

She continued to cry, not caring who saw or heard her. She had a right to break down. She cried harder when she realized she didn’t get to say goodbye to John. The last time she and John skyped each other, they talked about mundane things, nothing important.


Next time, Spencer Grieves and Worries

Until then,


Heir Force Novel: Spencer Asks Kate to Lunch

Previously on HFN: Spencer’s Secret

Scott Air Force Base spreads across over 3,500 acres in the western part of southern Illinois and employed about 5,500 active duty personnel, another 2,300 Air National Guard and Reserve members and close to 5,000 civilian employees. Adding over 1.5 billion dollars to the area’s economy, it’s considered one of the largest employers in the state.

Several times the base has narrowly missed the base closing and realignment list. Named after the first enlisted man who died in an air accident back in 1912, Corporal Frank S. Scott, the base has since grown to include many groups under the 375th Air Mobility Wing, and under each group, several squadrons. Kate, John, Spencer, Andrew and other friends worked for the Security Forces Squadron, or SFS for short. Kate sometimes thought it was all rather complicated and was glad she didn’t have to keep it all straight.

She was having a hard enough time keeping her life straight. John and Ruth were now both gone, and she was fretful of one and relieved of the other. Each day that passed, seemed to make Kate feel worse. She said a quick prayer each night and morning for John, not sure that anybody heard them, she not being particularly religious.

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Heir Force Novel: Spencer’s Secret

Previously on Heir Force: Kate Reflects at Work

Spencer stood inside the door, thinking about what he thought Kate felt. Spencer knew why John hadn’t used the ‘love’ word with Kate and he also knew that’s what she was waiting for. But she was too proud to probe John. Spencer hoped John would step up to the plate when he returned from Iraq in three-and-a-half months. Spencer found it difficult to keep John’s secret and even harder to keep it from Kate.

Spencer followed Kate a few seconds behind her and headed in the opposite direction for his Acura. He tried to push his feelings for Kate aside. He knew John beat him to her and had to respect that. But he also knew Kate would be in for a shock when John returned. Because Spencer was going to urge John to tell Kate his secret. They couldn’t keep their relationship in limbo forever because of his secret.

Spencer worried how Kate would react if something happened to John.  How would she handle hearing the reason behind John’s secrecy?  As Spencer drove home, he fervently wished nothing would happen to John of course, and prayed for his safety.  Not only for Kate, but for a little girl in Iowa.

Spencer sighed, letting the wind blow his blond hair every which way. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now.


Next time on Heir Force: Scott Air Force Base Facts

Until then,



Heir Force Novel: Kate Reflects at Work

Previously on Heir Force: Dinner with John



Two weeks later, Kate received an email from John: Arrived safely. Sand still stinks. Later, John.

Kate took a deep breath. But the cloud over her didn’t disappear. She drove to the park near the apartment complex where she lived to eat lunch alone. She sat in the car, with all the windows down, nibbling on her sandwich while staring at walkers and joggers going around the track and children playing on the jungle gym. Oh, to be young again with no worries about your coworkers or best friends being in harm’s way 24/7.

The day was mild for an Illinois spring. Cardinals and robins flitted nearby, the robins looking for worms in the fresh cut grass. At least she wasn’t hot, sometimes spring was more like summer and it could change from winter to summer in a day.

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Heir Force Novel: Dinner With John

Previously on Heir Force: Kate Meets With Her Boss


Kate and John ordered the chicken special at Ravanelli’s, a casual restaurant not far from the base that specialized in pasta and chicken. Kate didn’t like cooking chicken, so ordered it often in one form or another when eating out. She just didn’t like the texture of raw chicken, whether it was skinned or not.  Her friends called her a chicken.  She didn’t care.

John was leaving in three days and this would be their last time together before he deployed. Kate could barely eat anything, and John’s silence wasn’t helping. He seemed to be in his own world.

John picked up Kate promptly at seven and they left for the restaurant shortly after. He was wearing navy slacks and a gray and red polo.

Their meal was eaten mostly in silence, and Kate was worried. “John, what are you thinking about?”

He swallowed his mashed potatoes before answering. “Everything. Why I’m doing this, why I have to leave again, how much I hate the desert. Leaving you and my friends. Worrying my parents.”

Kate reached for John’s left hand and nodded. She thought the same thing before deploying too. And if she didn’t know better, that would be soon. She’d been stateside for five months now.

“I’m ready to get out. To do something else and stay put.”

John’s announcement startled her. This was new. “Really?” She thought maybe this is what he’d been trying to say for the last few months. And maybe what was holding him back from proclaiming his true feelings.

“It’s time.” John looked away from Kate.

“You only have sixteen months left, right?”

He nodded, picking up his ice tea. “Yep, and it can’t go fast enough.”

Their server brought their ticket and John removed his wallet, leaving a generous tip with the bill.

Later that evening, Kate realized she didn’t feel any less fear about John getting out and wondered if he was going to break up with her. He didn’t really go into what he would do after getting out or where he would settle. Or better yet, who with.


Next time on Heir Force: Kate Reflects at Work


Until then,



Heir Force Novel: Kate Meets With Her Boss

Previously on Heir Force: Kate and John’s Dinner Date

On Monday morning, Kate had an email in her inbox requesting she see her boss, Sergeant Thompson. She didn’t know what it might be about. She better get it over with if he had bad news. She knocked on his door frame and waited for him to acknowledge her. He chatted on the phone, but he waved her in, gesturing to the chair in front of his desk.

She ignored his conversation as best she could, making it difficult from her perch. The sunlight coming through the windows in the office dimmed as clouds gathered across the sun’s path. She wondered if a storm was brewing in St. Louis. So much of their weather came through the big city first before it headed east toward the base. She hadn’t been stationed here yet when a few years ago a tornado touched down in Fairview Heights, a neighboring town, demolishing a small strip mall. She didn’t remember how many were injured or killed.

Kate tried to keep her legs still, but they jerked up and down. She clasped and unclasped her hands as she glanced around the office. Framed awards and photos adorned the walls and the office was decorated in typical military fashion, which was practical but not very warm. Pale walls, blue plastic molding, industrial carpet in dark blue tones.  Inexpensive dark-wood furniture made to look rich.

Sergeant Thompson finally hung up the phone and folded his hands on his desk. “Thanks for coming right away. Wasn’t counting on that,” he pointed to the phone.

“Sure. What did you want to see me about, Sir?” Kate didn’t know what to expect, so she sat forward in the chair, her boots flat on the floor like a pair of tight bookends.

“I’m hearing rumors of a personality conflict in your area. Anything you want to tell me about?” Sergeant Thompson leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head.

“Sir, I…” Kate faltered and looked at the ground. How was she supposed to phrase her answer?

Sergeant Thompson spoke, which made her look up again. “Kate, just tell me what’s going on. I think we’ve known each other long enough that you can just play it straight with me. Agreed?”

Kate studied her superior officer’s face a moment before speaking. She slumped against her chair. “Truthfully, sir, ever since John and I started dating and especially after I got my last stripe, Ruth has been awful. I try not to engage, but it’s getting bad enough everyone in the office is defending me or trying to deflect her from me. It’s embarrassing.” Finished, Kate looked out the window.

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