In the morning, Spero Lucas met Winston Dupree at his apartment on Ninth and drove out to Rockville, Maryland. There, in a neighborhood of modest G.I. Bill homes off Veirs Mill Road, they found the Waldron residence, a tidy rambler with a small, trimmed yard and an American flag hung above the front door. Bobby Waldron lived here with his parents, in the basement of the house in which he’d been raised.
They were greeted by Rosemary Waldron, a boisterous redhead, retired from a career-long slog in the cafeterias of the Montgomery County school system. Her husband, Bobby’s father, was a master plumber and self-employed. When Bobby was a boy, his father had painted the words WALDRON AND SON PLUMBING on the sides of his truck, but Bobby had expressed no desire to learn the trade. Instead, he enlisted in the Army straight out of Richard Montgomery High.
Rosemary Waldron let Lucas and Dupree in and offered them a couple of Miller High Lifes. They declined. She knew Lucas but not Dupree and, assuming he was a veteran, asked about his deployment and war experience. After Dupree detailed his military background to her in front of a fireplace mantel holding photographs of Bobby in football and Army uniforms, he and Lucas excused themselves and met Bobby at the foot of the basement stairs. He was wearing jeans and a Champion jersey with cutoff sleeves, revealing his thick arms and tiger-stripe tats.
Waldron had drunk beer with Dupree at the American Legion bar in Silver Spring many times, but they had not hit it off. Waldron had a short-man complex, for one, and there was the matter of Dupree’s size. Also, Waldron liked to play that Marine Corps versus Army game, a dick-size contest no one could ever win. Lucas made it a point never to dip his toe, or anything else, in those contaminated waters.
“Come with me,” said Waldron.
They followed him to his dark, windowless room, which smelled of Marlboros and Axe spray. A dime would bounce off Waldron’s bed if tossed onto it; against the wall, many pairs of sneakers were perfectly aligned. It was more barracks than bedroom.
Waldron closed the door, locked it, then went to his closet and retrieved a couple of ripstop, duffel-size bags. He dropped the bags on his bed and unzipped them.
“Short notice,” said Waldron. He looked up at Dupree and shrugged elaborately. “If you’d given me some time, I could’ve got you one of those SAWs.”
“For real,” said Dupree, putting a little edge into his voice. He doubted Waldron could have come up with an M249, a machine gun capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. But then again, they were in America.
“Yeah, for real,” said Waldron.
“What do you have for us, Bobby?” said Lucas, hoping to cut the tension and move things along.
“Shotguns, to start,” said Waldron. “Mossberg 500s.” Waldron pulled a pump-action 12 gauge from one of the bags. “I know you guys used Benellis——”
“We used anything we could get,” said Lucas.
“The Mossberg will do,” said Dupree.
“Military spec,” said Waldron.
“Pistols,” said Lucas.
“I got you a choice of revolvers, Luke. I know you like the no-jam insurance.”
“Talk to me.”
“S&W Combat magnums. If you’re looking for a hand cannon, I’ve got a .357.”
“A .38, then.”
“Let me see it.”
Waldron handed Lucas a six-shot Smith & Wesson Special with a four-inch barrel and soft rubber grips.
Lucas hefted it in his hand. “I like this.” He placed it on the bed.
“Now the semis,” said Waldron. “You jarheads favor your Italian pieces. I came up with a couple of M9s in pristine condition.”
Waldron handed a nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistol to Lucas. He ran his thumb over its black checkered grip. He turned the gun sideways and worked the slide. When it locked open he inspected the chamber.
“Looks clean,” said Lucas.
“I stripped and bored them myself,” said Waldron.
“Better,” said Lucas. “We’ll take ’em both. That okay by you, Winston?”
“All with holsters and bricks,” said Waldron. “Shaved numbers on the pistols. You get popped, you’re on your own.”
Lucas nodded. “Understood. We’re gonna need some goggles.”
“Sure, I got NODs.”
“Throw those in.”
“You need me to show you how to work the goggles?” said Waldron, looking at Dupree. “The Marine Corps only issued them to officers, right?”
“If you can figure it out, we damn sure can,” said Dupree.
“Let me ask you something, Winston,” said Waldron. “Why’d your mama name you after a cigarette?”
“Why do you look like that character on the Frosted Flakes box?”
They showed each other teeth.
“Put it all in one bag, Bobby,” said Lucas. “We gotta get on our way.”
Lucas gave him cash.
At his apartment, Lucas packed the night-vision goggles into his gear bag and found Dupree a pair of his brother Leo’s old gym shorts. Leo had size on him, but the shorts were still too small for Dupree.
“I’m supposed to wear these?” said Dupree.
“It’s just for today.”
“I’ll look like John Stockton and shit. Why we got to pretend like we’re sportsmen?”
“I’m not pretending,” said Lucas. “You are.”
Lucas and Dupree loaded the kayak onto the foam blocks atop the Jeep and fitted Lucas’s old bike, a Trek hybrid, into the hitch-mounted rack. They drove downtown to Pennsylvania Avenue, which was Route 4, and took it out of the city to 301, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Turning off the highway, just 20 miles from D.C., they were suddenly in a sparsely populated hilly terrain of forests and farmland, tobacco barns, old houses and churches. The occasional liquor and bait store, and johnboats up on trailers, told them they were near water. Lucas wound up a rise on an asphalt road bleached by the sun, along wooded land, and as they came to a clearing on the high ground they saw the ribbon of the Patuxent River below.