(Yo no creo
Thomas sat at a small table
smoking a cigar while he looked out his bedroom window. Darkness
started to fall over the city as he reached over and turned on
the light to read the newspaper he held in his hand.
He laid the paper
down, walked over to the closet, and took out his old army
The newspaper sat
folded on the table near the lamp, exposing an article that
WELL-KNOWN DOCTOR TO BE
IN WASHINGTON TODAY
Couvillion, well-known psychiatrist at Baltimore's Spring Grove
hospital will be honored at 7:00p.m. this evening at the
Sheraton-Washington by the American Mental Health Society. Dr.
Couvillion has devoted years of research and study to the mental
health profession, while also working tirelessly to raise money
for the Baltimore Museum of Art. Friends and colleagues from the
psychiatric and art community are sponsoring the dinner for Dr.
Couvillion and his wife Barbra.
Next to the paper was
an old hand drawn map of a tunnel connecting a number of homes
together in the Mount Washington area. Next to one of the homes
was a red penciled star with the name Couvillion.
Thomas walked over to
the table and checked the clock that set next to a lamp. It was
He walked over to the
dresser and looked into the mirror that hung over it. He picked
up a small can of black cream and rubbed it on his face.
He put on a black
knit cap, stood back, and looked at himself. The army camouflage
gear still fit perfectly.
He set his wristwatch
to read the same as the clock on the table, then bent over and
picked up his knap-sack and threw it over his shoulder. Pausing
for a moment as he looked back into the mirror and thought, "You
can take the man out of the army, but you can't take the army out
of the man." Then for a second he flashed back to his military
He had joined the
army right after he graduated high school in 1948. After basic
training he was sent to Korea, where he was assigned to a
supplies unit. It was there while working in the supplies unit he
started dealing in the black market-something he stayed involved
with throughout his military career. He never overdid it; he
didn't draw any attention to himself. And with the money he made
he would buy antiques and paintings while on R&R in France,
and send them home to Baltimore to his high school friend, Jimmy
Tower. He had been sending his profits back home for years. He
and Jimmy used some of the money to buy a little bar in Fells
Point, which Thomas planned to run after he got his "twenty"
In 1952 he joined the
newly formed Special Forces unit and was transferred to West
Germany for training. He was to be sent on a mission in Vietnam
because he spoke fluent French, which was still the main language
of the Vietnamese commanders and the political community.
When he first arrived
in Vietnam, Thomas was part of an advisory unit stationed in
Saigon. Saigon was full of colonial versions of Parisian stone
buildings, built by the French in orange cement. Thomas called it
his "Little Paris."
As Thomas stared into
the mirror, he reflected back to when he and his
Special Force buddies
Speed, Kreech, Puggy, Stretch, and Be Straight were in a cab, a
rear engine Renault, speeding through the streets of Saigon. It
was the spring of 1962. He was part of an elite group known as
the Special Forces that was sent to Vietnam with General Maxwell
Taylor. After his visit in the fall of 1961, the general had
promised the South Vietnamese government that he would be "back
again" with help to suppress the "Communist plague" threatening
Be Straight was in
the front seat and Thomas could remember him saying, "Hey man,
the way these fuckin' cabbies drive man, you'd think you be in a
fuckin' ah, demolition derby man, I ain't lying either."
"Hey T.K.," Kreech
nudged Thomas, "You sure there's going to be a lot of women at
T.K. looked straight
ahead. "I hear the place is packed with them."
He leaned up and
pushed the cab driver on the shoulder. "Make a right up
All the men leaned
against each other as the cab turned into the street.
Be Straight held on
tight to the door. "Man, these fuckin' cabbies drive with little
or no fuckin' regard for the safety of the world, as we know
He leaned forward and
shook his head. "Huh, man I Be Straight."
"That's it up there,"
T.K. nudged the cabbie.
The cab came to a
screeching stop. All the men piled out of the cab and stood in
front of the bar.
T.K. was paying the
cabbie when Puggy and Kreech both looked up at the marquee. They
looked at each other and smiled as they turned to T.K and said
together, "Legion of Honor."
"Hey," T.K. said as
he turned towards them. "What do you expect in a town that was
occupied by the French for almost one hundred years? I'm just
surprised that after they ran them out, they kept the same name.
I guess you could think of it as the Vietnamese Legion of Honor."
T.K. walked over and put his arms around his friends. In a low
voice he said, "instead of the French Foreign Legion of
They were still
laughing as they walked inside. They stopped at the top of the
steps to look the place over. The bar was very plain and gray in
its presents, almost as if the whole scene came from an old black
Humphrey Bogart movie. The stairs led down a few steps into
room where there were few tables between the door and
against the back wall. Vietnamese women were sitting at
men. Some of the men were dressed in suits, some in
militaryuniforms, but they all were
T.K. turned to his
friends. "Come on men, let's go."
They walked to the
bottom of the stairs and over to the bar, where the bartender
greeted them with a smile.
"What can I get for
T.K. looked at his
friends. He had a funny feeling about the place.
He looked around the
bar. The atmosphere here was different than all the other bars he
had gone to while in Saigon. He couldn't put his finger on it,
but there was something definitely different about this
"What can I get for
you sergeant?" the bartender asked.
"A Cutty over," T.K.
"And you sir? What
can I get for you?" asked the bartender as he looked at Puggy.
Puggy put his arm on the bar and looked over the place real slow.
Puggy was a Southern boy, a little heavier than the others, but
strong as a bull and tough. He was the kind of man you'd like to
have in your corner if you had a little trouble. They were all
Special Forces, but
Puggy was the "crazy
one" of the group.
Puggy turned back to
the bartender. "I'll take a tall rum and Coke," he said using his
fingers to show the bartender a tall glass. "A tall one."
"Fine, and you sir?"
The bartender looked at Kreech. Kreech was the quiet one from
Cleveland. Very Midwestern, the type that blended into the crowd.
Sometimes after a hard night of drinking it was Kreech who would
get the guys together and load them into a cab and get them back
to base. He was the levelheaded type.
"Yeah, right ah, I'll
have ah V.0. and Coke." Kreech just looked around then nudged up
to the bar. "And make it light one, ya know."
"Yes sir." The
bartender continued to place napkins on the bar. "And you sir?"
he asked looking at Speed.TWO TEN SAINT
Speed was the nervous
one. His eyes were constantly moving, checking things out. Speed
was from New York. He was a New York kind of guy, Speed
Speed looked up and
down the bar, turned and looked around the room, then leaned in
towards the barkeep. "Come'er," Speed motioned the bartender.
Then looking back up and down the bar again, "Come'er. Give me a,
ah, shot of Jack Black and a cold, cold beer. You got it
You got it?"
"Yes sir," said the
bartender as he now looked over at Be Straight.
"And yours, sir, will
be?" Be Straight shrugged his shoulders as he moved in towards
the bar. Using both hands he pulled his pants up while doing the
'Motown' Shuffle. Be Straight was from Detroit and spent all his
time imitating James Brown. As he referred to him, "His main man,
the man of soul, James, 'Be Straight' Brown."
Holding his hands
together as if he were praying, Be Straight said,
"Give me a Seven and
Seven, okay? And be fast."
"Yes sir," the
bartender said as he moved over to Stretch. "And yours
Stretch was from San
Francisco and money. His was a story in itself. Spoiled and rich.
Stretch joined the army to rebel against his family's wishes that
he become a doctor, lawyer, or something respectful. Stretch was
a beer drinker, and a drinker he was. He was the one that could
drink all night long.
The bartender asked
again, "And yours sir?"
"A cold one," Stretch
"What kind sir?" the
With that, the
bartender started grabbing glasses from the back shelf.
"Welcome to the
"Legion of Honor" gentlemen," a voice from behind them said. They
all turned around as if on queue. Standing in the dim light of
the bar was a tall woman with long, straight, black hair. She was
wearing a long, tight, black silk dress with slits up both sides
that ran from the floor all the way up to her thighs. It had a
high collar that opened below her chin and extended down,
exposing the cleavage of her breasts. She was light-skinned with
Caucasian features. Her eyes were dark with a slight hint of
Asian blood line. She stood in front of the men, whose mouths
were open wide as they looked at her.
"And what brings you
gentlemen to my humble establishment?" she asked. T.K. extended
his hand out to her.
"I've heard nothing
but good things about your - establishment. My friends and I
thought it would be a pleasure to visit your-Legion of Honor," he
Holding her hand he
stepped up closer to her. "Thomas Kirkland, T.K. to my friends.
And now that I've had the pleasure of meeting-." He stopped and
stared at her again.
Bover'e," she said.
T.K. stepped closer,
putting his other hand on hers. "And now that
I've had the pleasure
of meeting Michelle, Michelle Bover'e, I can say this is a fine
establishment to visit."
between T.K. and Michelle. The two of them became close
instantly. As if there were no one else in the room, they headed
off to be alone. As they walked away, Michelle turned to the
bartender and instructed him to bring a bottle of wine and to get
'chore girls' for mister T.K.'s friends. Then they made their way
to a table in the corner.
"Strange feeling I
had when we met, it's almost as if I've known you for, for
years." It sounded like a silly line as soon as he said
"Yes, it is strange,
Thomas," Michelle smiled and thought for a moment about what he
said. "I could feel the same thing."
T.K. leaned closer to
Michelle, "It seems that I've known you for all this time so, I
guess I should know something about you. And this place, do you
work here or what?"
"No, no Thomas. The
Legion of Honor is mine." Michelle laughed softly at T.K.'s look
"But how could you? I
mean, you're so young to own a business like this-"
"My father started
the business, Thomas," she said before he could finish. Then she
leaned forward and looked at T.K. "He was a French colonist who
settled here in the thirties. My mother-she worked for him here
at the Legion. They fell in love here and were very, very happy
together."WENTYO TEN SAINT
"Where are they
"They were killed
when the French were driven out of my country."
"I'm sorry," said
"They were so in
love," Michelle smiled.
"How did it happen?"
T.K. held Michelle's hand. "You don't have to tell me if it makes
you feel uncomfortable. I just wanted to know you, and what
you're about, that's all."
"It's all right,
Thomas. It doesn't bother me to talk about it." She stared into
her glass of wine.
"It was a terrible
time for my country. The Japanese had been defeated, and the
French administration in Saigon was crumbling." Michelle sat back
in her chair, holding her glass between her hands as she
continued. "The city was in chaos. I was only a young girl of
seven, but I can still remember. I went to a private school with
the other children of the French colonists, but mother and father
kept me out of school because of the tension in the city and the
Binh Xuyen terrorists, who were roaming the streets."
Michelle moved up to
the table and took a sip of her wine, then sat the glass on the
table. "They would take me to my mother's sister, Auntie Lin Su,
and I would spend the night with her when they went into the city
to run The Legion of Honor. Auntie Lin Su would drop me off in
the morning and I would spend the day with mother and father."
Michelle smiled at T.K.
"They were much in
love, Thomas. My father moved here not long before the war with
his brother Jon, who served in the French Foreign Legion as a
lieutenant. It was they who started this establishment together.
My mother came in for a job the day my father opened the business
and they fell in love that moment. Their love for each other grew
more as every day went by." Michelle paused and looked at
"Tell me more." T.K.
sat up at the table.
Michelle took a deep
breath and continued. "We lived in Cit'e H'erault, which is just
outside of Saigon. Auntie Lin Su had pulled up to the house and I
jumped out of the car looking for mother and father. They were
always waiting for me at the door when I arrived with Auntie Lin
Su. But this particular morning they were not there. I ran
through the house calling out 'Mommy, Daddy, I'm home!' I ran up
the stairs to their room to see if they were still in bed. Auntie
Lin Su came into the house calling to me, 'Michelle, come to
Auntie Lin Su.' 'No,' I said, 'I have to see if my mommy and
daddy are still in bed,' and I ran into their room."
T.K. looked into
Michelle's eyes and could see her sorrow as she rolled the
wineglass between the palms of her hands.
After a moment she
continued. "The Binh Xuyen had broken into the house and dragged
them from their bed. My father lay against the wall with blood
all over him and on the wall. My mother's beaten body lay just a
few feet from him with her hand stretched out to his. I stood
over them tears falling from my eyes, Thomas, I knew that my
mother wanted to hold his hand, so I leaned down to them and put
both their hands in mine.
As I placed their
hands together, Auntie Lin Su came into the room. She pulled me
to her and we cried together."
Michelle looked at
T.K. "My country has been torn apart with war for one hundred
years, Thomas. First it was the French, then the Japanese, then
the French again. Now you, Thomas. What will you do to
T.K. reached over the
table and held her hand in his. "I am your friend,
Michelle," he said.
"I am a man, and not my government. I am not here to hurt you,
only to help your people." He pulled Michelle's hand to his face
and kissed it.
"I have a feeling
we're going to be friends, Michelle, close friends."
T.K. looked past
Michelle to a door near the end of the bar. In French it said
"Private" and, over the top of the door it said "Satan's Fifth
"Where? The door at
the end of the bar that says 'Privé.'"
"It is what it says,
"I mean, 'Satan's
"It is what it says,
Thomas, 'Private'," she smiled at him. "Maybe I can let you know,
Thomas, after we become- as you say-close friends."
"Sarge!" Speed called
from across the room. "You guys going to stay over there all
night? Come on over and have a drink with us before we have to
leave and get back to base.
The next morning T.K.
was called in for a briefing with his commander, Captain Robert
Cottingham. He walked up to the door and knocked.
"Come in." Capt.
Cottingham said in his deep voice. T.K. opened the door and
walked in. Captain Cottingham was standing across the room
looking over a map hanging on the wall. He turned and looked at
T.K. as he closed the door and stood at
attention.TWENTY-TWO TEN SAINT
"At ease, Sergeant."
Captain Cottingham walked over to his desk and picked up some
papers. "Come over here T.K." Cottingham motioned with the papers
he held in his hand.
"T.K. you're to be at
the airfield at Tan Son Nhut tomorrow at 0600 hours. I want you
to take your group with you," he said and walked back over to the
"Come on over here."
Picking up a pointer, Captain Cottingham indicated a red spot on
the map. "T.K. you and the group will leave from
Tan Son Nhut by
helicopter and be dropped off about 15 klicks from here." The
captain pointed to another spot near Vinh Long, and turned
"We have word that
there's some kind of troop movement going on a little west of
this point here. I want you and the group to find out what's up
there. I'll give you three days to get back to the drop off point
for pick up. Your code name will be `Metro."' You count the
population up there and let me know what it is, okay
"Yes sir," T.K.
saluted, turned, and walked out.
As T.K. walked up the
steps to the barracks he could hear James Brown music in the
distance. He made his way down the hallway and turned into the
barracks. Be Straight had just completed a split and was jumping
back to his feet.
"Gather around men. I
got a story to tell you," T.K. said as he pushed the door to his
room open. He took his hat off and threw it on his bed, turned
and walked back to the doorway. Puggy, Speed, Stretch, Kreech,
and Be Straight all stood waiting for T.K.
"Gentleman we have a
mission," he said as he stood in the doorway.
"What is it, Sarge?"
"The captain has
given us a recon mission, gentlemen. He believes there's
some troop movement up the Mekong."
Kreech turned to
Speed, and then looked at T.K. "Never heard of any movement up
there before sir."
T.K. looked at Kreech
and shrugged his shoulders. "Puggy and Stretch, you hold down the
fort." T.K. turned and looked at the other men. "Be Straight,
Speed and Kreech, we leave at 0500 hours for Tan Son Nhut.
We catch a ride with
the Ridge Runner Boys, from Tan Son Nhut, up the
Delta to the drop
off point about 15 klicks from Vinh Long. We've
to complete our mission and get back to our pick up point
T.K. turned and
started into his room, then turned back to the men. "Typical gear
gentlemen, pistols, bandoleers of fire power and machetes.
Our code name is
"'Metro,'" then he closed his door.
Be Straight jumped up
in the air, fell to the ground into a split and pulled himself up
to his feet, slapped his hands together and spun around.
"Back to work men, 'I
The next morning they
arrived at Tan Son Nhut airfield at around 0530 hours. T.K.
always liked to look things over before he went on a mission. He
would check out the helicopter, all the gear, and run through the
mission a dozen times before they took off. While T.K. and Speed
were looking over the map of the drop point with one of the Ridge
Runner Boys who was going to fly them in, Be Straight and Kreech
took a smoke break and walked over towards the hangars.
"Man, I gotta be
takin' a piss before we leave," said Be Straight. "Let's swing a
turn into this hangar." As they opened the door and started in,
they were met by a tall slender man, with greasy slicked back
hair and deep dark eyes.
"Can I help you men?"
he said in a deep voice as he blocked Be Straight and Kreech from
entering the hangar.
Be Straight stood eye
to eye with the man, pushing out his chest. "I gotta be takin' a
"Well, there's no
heads in here my friends," the man said as he motioned them out
the door. "Around the side there's a mechanic's shop, you'll find
As Be Straight tried
to stare the man down, Kreech noticed some men loading unmarked
boxes into a small two engine plane in the middle of the
"What do ya mean they
ain't no head in here man? Hangars always got heads in 'em," said
Be Straight as he stared into the strange man's eyes.
"I said, there is no
head in here, around the corner," the man repeated.
Kreech grabbed Be
Straight's arm. "Yeah, I think I saw it next
Straight -I think I know where it's at." He tugged on
"I think I'll pull my
'thang' out he'ah and take my piss right now, man," said Be
Straight. The man took a step back, but continued staring at Be
"Come on, I know
where it's at Straight," said Kreech as he pulled Be Straight
towards the door. "Come on, let's go. It's about time to
Be Straight nodded
his head up and down as he walked backwards, continuing to stare
at the stranger. "Okay man, okay, I Be Straight."
As he walked through
the door backwards, he held his hand up waist high, pointing his
finger at the man and letting his thumb down slowly.
"Powww . . . ! I Be
Straight." The door closed. "Fuckin' faggot," Be Straight said as
he turned to Kreech.
"No. CIA," said
"Still a faggot,"
said Be Straight. They turned and started walking.
"No. CIA-and sneaky,"
said Kreech. "They operate out of this airfield. I talked to one
of the guys back at base about them one time. He said they fly
secret missions from here. Something about supplying arms to the
Viet Cong guerrillas up in the high jungle along the Cambodian
and Laotian borders." They reached the mechanic's shop and Be
Straight opened the door and started to walk in, then turned back
"CIA or not, he still
be a faggot." Kreech shook his head and laughed.
He looked at his
watch. "Hurry up. It's almost 0600 and T.K. will be looking for
"It be time to go to
work," Be Straight said. "But I gotta be takin' a piss first." He
grabbed his crotch. "Ya know, I sure would hate to have to hang
this pretty thang out the chopper as we fly over the air field,
ya know. Somebody just might step on it. Ha, ha, ha." His hand
still on his crotch he moved it up and down as he closed the
T.K. checked his
watch as he looked towards the hangar and saw Kreech and Be
Straight walking towards the helicopter. He threw his backpack
into the helicopter, and checked his weapon one more
Speed, and Be Straight threw their gear in the helicopter.
Kreech looked at
"Let's blast off
gentlemen," T.K. said. Then they all jumped into the
The Ridge Runner Boys
got their name because they flew so close to the treetops in the
jungle, some of which were over one hundred feet high.
While flying up the
Mekong you wouldn't fly over the river because it was to clear a
shot. So you would fly close to the treetops, about a hundred
yards in from the river's edge.
Kreech looked out at
the heavy bush, and turned to Be Straight. "Hey
Straight, you know,
if you hung that 'thang' out over here I'd bet not a drop would
hit the ground."
Be Straight looked
out the side and said, "Yeah Sarge, maybe we should give the old
Air Force boys a call. Maybe we could get them to spray the
jungle with some of the orange stuff. Then we could just walk to
the drop-off point. Ha, ha, ha."
Kreech and Be
Straight sat down and continued to B S. After a few minutes they
drifted off into silence. T.K. stared out at the jungle as they
made their way to the drop off point.
"You know," T.K. said
as he looked out at the trees, "I started out in this man's army
when I was a kid just out of high school in 48. It was right
after the big one, and I thought I'd slip right into an easy job
with the army, get my twenty in, retire, and buy a little bar
back home in Baltimore. Then before I knew it, boom! Korea. A
police action they called it. I'll call it a war. I worked in
supplies but I saw a little action. And I'll tell you, Korea was
a vast treeless region, and we could see what the fuck we were
fighting. But here in Nam, it's mostly jungle, and you can't see
shit. It's three times bigger too, with a thousand fuckin'
villages." He shook his head as he continued to look out over the
trees. Talking to himself he spoke quietly, "I don't know what
the fuck we're doing here, and I don't know if we're prepared to
fight this kind of fuckin' war."
"What you say Sarge?"
asked Speed. T.K. looked at Speed.
"I said maybe we
should go over the mission one more time men."
The men gathered
around T.K. and looked over the map again. After a few minutes
passed, the pilot shouted back, "Two minutes to zone!"
"Okay men, gear up,"
T.K. said as he looked out of the chopper to
clearing came up just a few hundred feet away "Let's
and fast, gentlemen."
The helicopter landed
in a clearing about two hundred yards from the river. As soon as
she touched ground, the men jumped out, and the chopper was up
and gone in a matter of seconds. The group was under bush before
the chopper was up to tree top level.
T.K. said pulling his map from his pocket. "Kreech take the lead
and see what kind of country this is." He studied the map again
and again. About ten minutes later Kreech returned.
"It's pretty thick
Sarge. We're going to have to chop our way through the bush."
T.K. stood up. "Okay gentlemen, we got a long walk ahead of us.
Let's go." T.K. figured it was a little more than a day's travel
to where the troop movements were spotted. They would travel for
four hours and rest for a half-hour until they reached their
In some places, the
vegetation was so thick they had to cut a hole in the bush and
crawl through. Then, there were spots the size of a football
field with rolling hills and high grass. T.K. didn't know which
was worse, the thick bush, not knowing when you would come face
to face with the V.C., or the high grass and open fields where
you would have to crawl on your belly. They tried avoiding the
open fields, but sometimes it would take twice as long to get to
the other side by going around than it would by going straight
through. The first twelve hours were slow going. It seemed that
they were just inching their way through the jungle. T.K. decided
it was time for a break
"Okay men," T.K. said
in a low voice. "Let's take a blow. Here's the plan. Kreech,
about ten yards up, in sight. Speed, ten back, in sight,
Straight, with me." The men sat in place and tried to relax while
they were still holding their weapons. T.K. looked over the map
and checked his compass as he ate some rations. He thought to
himself it was about two or three more blows to the objective.
This was rough country to travel through, and the constant
battling with the bush was hard on the men. But there was one
consolation. The trip back should be easier. They could make
their way back through most of the same passageway they cut
through to get there.
T.K. checked his
watch. It was 2045 hours. Time to pull out. He looked to the
right and snapped his fingers. Kreech looked over. T.K. pointed
his finger down to the ground, then turned to his left and
snapped again, and Be Straight looked over. T.K. went through the
same motion with his finger. The men finished their rations then
buried the cans. This time Be
Straight took the
lead. It was dark but the full moon shining through the trees
gave off a little light as they made their way through the
jungle, again pushing through the bush. It was about two and a
half hours later, around 2315 hours, when Be Straight pulled back
movement up forward, Sarge." Be Straight spoke in a soft voice.
T.K. turned to Kreech and Speed. He threw his hand up in a stop
motion, and then slowly motioned Kreech to his side. He turned to
Be Straight and pointed his finger at him. Then he held all five
fingers up and pointed straight ahead, before putting his left
palm on top the right and moving his left hand back and forth.
When he finished, he turned to Kreech and Speed and went through
the same routine. All men dropped to their bellies and started to
crawl ahead five yards apart. Within a few minutes they all
gathered at the edge of a clearing.
T.K. made his way
through the underbrush and looked over the edge.
With the aid of the
lightly shining moon, he could see a campsite set up at the
bottom of a small hill. It was light enough to make out that
there was some equipment, but he couldn't count how much. He
motioned to the men to pull back. They dropped back about a
quarter of a mile before they stopped to group up. T.K. pulled
the team together.
"This looks like what
we're looking for. Sun's up at around 0530 hours. We'll blow here
and pull out at 0500 hours." He turned to Be Straight. "That
gives us about five hours. You take first watch about ten yards
up. I'll take second, then Kreech and Speed can take third watch.
Kreech, and Speed, under the bush over there. Be Straight and
I'll be over here." He pointed off to the side about ten yards
"Okay, let's get it."
In response to T.K.'s order, all the men made their way into the
heavy bush and nested down.
T.K. awoke to someone
tapping on his leg.
"Sarge, wake up
time," said Speed.
T.K. looked around.
It was dark and the moon was shining through the trees. He
focused on Speed. In a quiet voice he asked, "What's the
"Got five," said
T.K. looked at him
again, then snapped his finger and pointed towards
Be Straight. Speed
made his way over to Be Straight and woke him, then over to
Within minutes they
were back at the edge of the bush near the hillside looking down
at the troops as they started to wake up and move around. The sun
was just coming up and they could see all the equipment and men
as they moved throughout the camp. The men never spoke. They only
made eye contact and used hand signals.
T.K. made notes on
his map as he counted the equipment and men. They stayed and
watched the movement for about six or seven hours. Then T.K.
pointed to Kreech, Speed, and Be Straight and motioned for
everyone to pull back. Slowly they crawled back through the bush
back about a quarter of a mile before T.K. pulled them
"We saw what we came
to see, men. It looks like they're building up for something."
T.K. shook his head and looked at his watch, and then pulled his
map out and studied it for a second. "They're further downstream
then we thought." He looked at his watch again. "We're about five
or six hours ahead of schedule."
He looked at his
watch one more time. "We've got an easy hike back. When we get
there, we'll take a good blow before we call the taxi." He put
his map back in his pocket and looked up at his men.
let's go home." They started backtracking through the bush. Every
couple of hours T.K. would have them move over fifty yards or so,
jumping back over the trail they used to get up stream. Just in
case the V.C. stumbled across the freshly cut vegetation and
wondered who was making their way through the jungle and decided
to go looking for them. This way they were never on the same
trail for any more than a few minutes at a time. They were making
good time, better then T.K. had expected. They were only about
five hours from pick up. They came across a clearing that they
had crawled through on the way up stream. T.K. had them hold
still in place as he looked over the field.
The moon was full and
you could see clearly across the field. They had plenty of time,
maybe they should go around. He pulled back to his men. "Well,
gentlemen," he said in a soft voice, "this is our last crossing,
the rest of the way is down-hill. It's quiet, almost too quiet. I
think we should proceed with caution and go around."
Be Straight nudged
T.K. and whispered, "Sarge, it's been a pieceof cake." Then he held his right
hand on top his left and said, "Let'sshimmy across." T.K. looked at
Kreech and Speed, and then nodded withapproval.
"Okay." He pointed to
Kreech on his left and motioned five, five. Then turned to his
right and did the same.
Kreech, Speed, and Be
Straight all pulled off about ten yards apart then looked over at
T.K. T.K. waited a moment. It was very still and quiet. T.K.
turned to Be Straight and snapped his fingers then put his right
palm on his left and moved his right hand slowly. He turned to
Kreech and Speed and repeated the hand movements. T.K. looked at
each man, and pointed forward. Slowly they crawled into the high
grass. They were about twenty yards in when T.K. heard the sound
of gunfire. Boom boom, boom, boom boom, boom!
T.K. held tight to
the ground. He could hear some muffled talking, then someone
running towards him. He rolled over on his side and held his gun
in the direction of the running. A fast second went by. Then
someone came running right over him, almost stepping on top of
him. It was the V.C.
T.K. jumped up and
fired at him. All his rounds hit his targets, right in their
backpacks, causing them to drop. He heard something behind him
and started to turn when someone fired back.
Boom, boom, boom,
boom! He was hit. He fell back about five feet into the grass and
dropped his rifle. He could hear men crying out as they were
being hit. He could hear more movement around him. Reaching for
his forty-five, which was strapped to his ammunition belt, he
held it in both hands pointing it towards the movement, waiting
for the V.C. He heard some movement going away from his position.
He tried getting up but he fell back down. He lay on the ground
in the grass holding his injured arm and trying to steady his gun
as he waited and listened to the silence.
A few minutes passed
as he lay there. Then he heard something to his right. He tried
not to make any noise as he maneuvered his body in the direction
of the movement. Holding his right arm as the blood made its way
through his fingers, he pointed his forty-five up in the air and
The sound of gunfire
was coming closer. Sweat was pouring from his forehead. He tried
to wipe it from his brow as his grip tightened on his forty-five.
The sound got closer. He pulled the hammer back on his gun and
waited, his grip was getting tighter and tighter. The sound was
getting right on top of him. He couldn't see anything, but he
could feel the closeness of someone. His heart was beating a
hundred beats a second. He could feel the V.C. only feet from
him. He could feel him moving right on top of him. He could
almost see him. He started to pull the trigger just as a man's
silhouette blocked the moons glow.
"Sarge? Is that you?"
Boom, the gun went off just as he pulled it up away from the
target. It was Be Straight. In a split second he hit the
"Sarge, it's me, Be
Straight." All the words came out of Be Straight's mouth so fast
it sounded like one word.
"It's me, Be
Straight," he said again.
"Okay, okay," T.K.
said as he pushed his way back into the high grass trying to sit
up, still holding his arm.
"What happened? What
happened? How many? Are you okay? How about Kreech and Speed?"
T.K. was trying to put his thoughts together.
"I don't know Sarge,
I don't know." Be Straight moved over to see how T.K. was.
"Sarge, you've been
hit, you okay?" He said as he pulled his medical kit out.
"Yeah, yeah," T.K.
said looking at his arm.
Be Straight started
to bandage T.K.'s arm. "I don't know how many there were Sarge.
Fuck, we must have stuck out like a sore thumb. When I looked up
from the grass, there were two running behind me. I opened fire
on them, I got one before he made it into the bush. I hit him so
hard that when th