This is a long story about a long story. Many years ago I was advised to call it a novel.
Illegally Sane 16
We took a little stretch and Reed filled up another pitcher from the bar. When he returned he remarked, “Yup that sure sounds like army intelligence okay.” “I wasn’t working for army intelligence, Reed.” “Then who were you working for John?” “You know, even after all these years, I couldn’t tell you for sure.” “Well, then what happened back in Saigon?”
For the next couple of weeks there wasn’t much to report to Charlie. I drove the major to a couple more warehouses. Then there were a few evenings I dropped him off at Le Charabanc and did him the favor of picking him later at night. Of course there were a few stops at a dry cleaners and an occasion shopping detour. Mostly I guess it was just the routine life style for an officer overseas. Charlie on the other hand still wouldn’t or couldn’t tell exactly what my mission was. All he’d say is, “Just hang tight, young stud.”
Finally I picked up some information from Harris that really interested Charlie. It seemed the major married a German girl while he over there back in 54. Then about five months ago she cleaned him out and split with his life savings. Charlie asked, “He told you this?” “More or Less.” He has also been asking me about you. Like where did we go, what did we do, what do we talk about?” That seemed to raise Charlie’s eyebrows a bit.
A couple of days later me and Charlie were driving to another inspection when he asked, “How’s you’re sex life going over here, Moran?” I told him I managed to hook up with a cute college student. “Hername is Mai Lyn. Mostly we just walk and talk and use a local hotel for our brief engagements. She’s a clean cut kid and wants to go to college in the U.S. She learned English in school and that’s a real big plus.” I told him we weren’t in love; we were just kind of good friends. Then he asked me if I fooled around with the downtown girls. I told him, “Sir, as far as the downtown girls are concerned, from what I’ve seen halve of them got TB and the other half have VD. So I wouldn’t screw any of them, including the ones who cough.” Charlie smiled, “Good choice young stud, why don’t you bring your lady over to the house this Sunday. We can make a day of it.” “Sounds good, sir, I think she’d enjoy that.” “Good, stop over at 10.”
That Sunday I got a cab and picked up Mai by a church downtown. Her father was an ARVIN Colonel and he wouldn’t have cottoned to her seeing a Caucasian G.I. She told me his big plans for her were to send her to the U.S. to get a degree in finance. Then when she got back he’d have some powerful politician or banker picked out for her. So for obvious reasons our relationship was kind of on the sneak where her family was concerned.
Mai was real nervous about meeting the boss. So I told her to be cool, it wasn’t going to be like that. But she was still a little edgy. She brought a change of clothes with her and her older married sister was covering the overnighter part for her.
When we got to the hooch, Charlie greeted us in dungarees, sandals and a tee shirt. For a minute I felt like I was back in the States. He warmly greeted Mai, taking her hands in his and smiling, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mai, please come in.” We walked into the house and Charlie introduced Mai to Michi and Claudette. They seemed to hit off okay, Mai said something in Vietnamese and Michi and Claudette laughed. They continued the chit chat for a minute and then all three walked off into the kitchen.
Charlie looked me over in my Khakis and asked, “Is this an official visit, John? Why don’t you go up stairs, pick out some decent clothes and they’re yours.” I already had my own tee shirt, so I traded my spit shined shoes for sandals and a found a pair of jeans that fit. When I came back down Charlie was waiting for me and put a cold beer in my hand. “There, that looks much better, he smiled. Then he led me to back garden and we took seats at large hand hewed stone table. I gazed around and there were beautifully manicured arrays of colorful flowers everywhere. Finally I had to ask, “How in the hell did you swing this place, Charlie?” “Oh this is Michi’s place, John; I’m just kind of a permanent guest. Michi’s father was a big time planter and this was his secret townhouse get away. When the old boy died a couple of years ago, there was a big fight over the estate. When it was over, Michi ended up with this place and a pile of cash as her cut.” “Where did you meet Michi, Charlie?” “Claudette is a government translator. I met her at MAGV one day when she was accompanying some ARVIN big wigs, Of course, I turned on the old Texas charm with Claudette and Michi ended being part of the package. You can take it from there, partner.”
We kept up the small talk for about a half an hour and six beers a piece. Then we started drinking seriously, swapping lies and munching on the goodies the girls had prepared, until the sun went down. In the process the relationship changed from Captain and private, mentor and ward, to just plain old buddies.
Soon the lanterns were lit, and Armagnac came out. Then we left the ladies chatting in the garden and retired to bar in the living room.
After the fourth Armagnac Charlie handed me a Cuban and leaned back on his stool. He stared at me for a second and smiled, “You know kid, for some reason I trust you and that’s something else my young friend. See I ain’t trusted nobody since I found out Santa Claus was a hoax.” I lit the cigar and smiled back, “You sure about that, Charlie? I mean Santa being a hoax.” “Yup and I know something else too, you’re an out law, Moran, a f…g out law. But I ain’t got a problem with that, cause so am I. See I was sent here four months ago, to drop the hammer on your buddy Harris. That’s right; I was going to take his ass out. It seems he did something very bad a few years ago that really pissed off some powerful people. But before I could put a program together, my orders were countermanded. Now that ain’t never ever happened to me before. Then instead of pulling me out, I got orders to stand by here. I got an explanation a week later when a certain major friend of ours flew in here and told me Harris was low level KGB sleeper and that they just wanted to keep breathing for a little while longer. It seems he’s been feeding Charlie troop movement info and it seems to getting to VCHQ at the speed of light. Then he told me to hang tight until you showed up and just make sure that you got room to breath.
Now you got figure John, if they could find that headquarters this whole thing would be over in a wake up, right?” “VC headquarters, you think they sent me here to find VC headquarters?” “Hey, anything is possible in this business, John.” “Well if they did Charlie, they sure got the wrong guy. I ain’t been to Spy school or nothing like that.” “Makes no difference, you’ve seen me shoot right, John?” “Sure have.” “You think I learn how to shoot like that in shooting school? Hell no, I’m a natural, boy, strictly gifted with natural hand eye coordination. If I can see it, I can kill it, no matter what it’s doing, no matter where it is.” “So you’re saying, somebody thinks I’m a natural spy?” “Have you ever noticed that people tell you a lot of things that they shouldn’t?” I suddenly had a flashback of my entire young life up to then and damn Charlie was right, but I just smiled, “Sometimes.” “Well it don’t matter what you or anyone else thinks, John, you are a natural young stud, whether you realize it or not. Hey even if I wrong about VCHQ thing, at least it gives us something to do for the time being. Now I don’t know about you, partner, but I’m little f..kd up, and it’s time for bed. The girls set up a room upstairs for you and Mai; I’ll see you in the morning, partner.”
The next morning me and Charlie dropped Mai off a block from her sister’s house and cruised into the office at ten. Devlin instantly jumped on my case, “Nice of you to take time out of your busy schedule to visit with us Moran.” ‘Sorry sergeant major, I got delayed kind of.” “Sorry, you dim witted son of a bitch? I’ll have you shot for desertion.” “Then Charlie jumped in and took the rap. He covered my ass all the way. He ended up getting dragged into Devlin’s office and I just walked over to my desk.
Harris quickly picked up on my hangover and put two and two together. He smiled, “May be I misjudged your Captain a little. I sure as hell wouldn’t take that kind of abuse for anyone.” A few minutes later, Charlie walked out of Devlin’s office with a boy did I just get reamed look. Surprisingly, Harris walked over to him asked, “Captain Taylor, I was wondering if you might like to join me for lunch?” “Well sir, that depends, what’s for lunch?” “I thought we might dine at a restaurant I know. French cuisine.” “Sounds good, what time?” “Say , we can meet back here.” “See you then, sir.”
Charlie was back like clock work at one. I had already eaten chow in the mess tent, so I got the honors of dropping them off at Le Charabanc. Harris told me to pick them up at three. When I drove them back to the office, it was now Charlie and Stan.