(Yo no creo brujas-pero hay)
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 fatigues.
The newspaper sat folded on the table near the lamp, exposing an article that read:
WELL-KNOWN DOCTOR TO BE HONORED
IN WASHINGTON TODAY
Doctor Patrick 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
Thomas walked over to the table and checked the clock that set next to a lamp. It was 7:30.
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 career.
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.
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 their country.
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
“Hey T.K.,” Kreech nudged Thomas, “You sure there’s going to be a lot of women at this club?”
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 here.”
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 it.”
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 Honor.”
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 andwhite Humphrey Bogart movie. The stairs led down a few steps into asmoke filled room where there were few tables between the door and
bar,which was against the back wall. Vietnamese women were sitting at thetables with men. Some of the men were dressed in suits, some in militaryuniforms, but
they all were Americans.
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 you gentlemen?”
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 place.
“What can I get for you sergeant?” the bartender asked.
“A Cutty over,” T.K. said.
“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 was.
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?
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 sir?”
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 said.
“What kind sir?” the bartender asked.
“Wet,” Stretch replied.
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 said.
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.
“Michelle. Michelle 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.”
Something happened 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 it.
“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 of bewilderment.
“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 now?”
“They were killed when the French were driven out of my country.”
“I’m sorry,” said T.K.
“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 T.K.
“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 us?”
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 Wave.”
“What is that?”
“Where? The door at the end of the bar that says ‘Privé.’”
“It is what it says, Thomas: ‘Private.’”
“I mean, ‘Satan’s Fifth Wave.’”
“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 map.
“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 towards T.K.
“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 Sergeant?”
“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?” asked Puggy.
“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 gotthree days to complete our mission and get back to our pick up point tocatch our ride
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 Be Straight.’”
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 piss, man.”
“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 one there.”
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 hangar.
“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 tothe hangar, Straight —I think I know where it’s at.” He tugged on BeStraight’s arm.
“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 Straight.
“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 leave.”
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 Kreech.
“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 to Kreech.
“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 us.”
“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 door.
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
Kreech, Speed, and Be Straight threw their gear in the helicopter.
Kreech looked at T.K.
“Let’s blast off gentlemen,” T.K. said. Then they all jumped into the chopper.
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 thetreetops. A clearing came up just a few hundred feet away “Let’s makethis sweet and fast,
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.
“Okay gentlemen,” 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
“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 objective.
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 to T.K.
“There’s some 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 away.
“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 time?”
“Got five,” said Speed.
TWENTY-TWO TEN SAINT
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 Kreech.
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 together.
“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
“Okay gentlemen, 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
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 waited.
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 deck.
“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
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