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A young boy is found dying from an overdose of his brother's drugs and later a policeman sees his brother running out through the back gate of his home with his father's gun in his hand. When he returns later without the gun and his friend and drug supplier is later found shot twice with the gun lying beside him, the brother would seem the likely suspect for the murder. However the case seems too neat and some things do not add up, so Sergeant Bob White starts checking. He is able to determine the brother is innocent beyond all doubt and starts searching for what is behind the murder and drug use. The case continues to widen in scope until he uncovers a group that poses a serious threat to his country and others in Europe. With the help of the FBI and British french and German agencies they start a race against time to uncover all the terrorist before they can complete their mission.
Return from War
Bob White was the eldest of three children in his family and grew up in a pleasant working class district of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was a quiet, confident, good-looking kid with dark hair and light grey eyes. Even from his earliest days he was very observant and always seemed to be aware of everyone around him and what was going on. Considerate of everyone he met, he never failed to acknowledge anyoneís presence, and everyone seemed at ease in his company. Bob had a family for which everything seemed to go right and he and his two sisters, therefore, lived in a quiet contented atmosphere at home. His father was an electrician by trade and even during times of high unemployment he was never out of work. Their mother was a quiet gentle woman. She did not go to work and devoted herself to her husband and children. If his parents had ever quarreled, neither Bob nor his sisters were ever aware of it. They did not always agree about many decisions they had to make. Nevertheless they always talked it out and came up with some compromise or other. Their father was the type of man that did not need to raise his voice or resort to physical discipline to keep his children within the bounds of acceptable behavior. If any of his children got out of line, he would not get angry with them. He would take them to their room rather than send them. There he would sit with them and explain what they had done wrong and why it was wrong. Both parents spent as much time as they could with their children as they were growing up. They had a small cottage up on Lake Winnipesaukee, and spent most of the school summer vacation there and many other weekends as well. They were a very close family because of that time they spent together.
Like most kids, Bob was delighted when he got a new toy, but after playing with it for a few days, he would open it to see how it worked. However he was always disappointed when the toy did not work anymore and the first place he would go was to his father. Quite frequently his father could fix it again and then Bobís eyes would light-up with pleasure. Although he loved both his parents very dearly, his father was his hero and he was very proud of him. It was not just because his father could fix his toys, but perhaps more from the times when he could not fix them. His father spent time explaining why the toy did not work and why he could not fix it. When Bob cried for a new toy to replace the one that he had broken, he would not buy him one. He explained that Bob had to accept responsibility for what he had done. Bob learned from these experiences and started to examine toys carefully before he started to take them apart. If in doubt he left them alone and after examining and thinking about it a lot, he asked his father. Through all the discussions they had, his father never gave him the answer straight away, but encouraged him to think about the problem and guided him to solve it. In anything he did he started to think it out before hand and was fully aware of what he was doing. When something did not work out as it should, he went over everything he had done to see if he made a mistake. If he had, he would correct it and try again, but if not he thought it through until he came up with the answer.
Bob especially liked the time his father spent with him playing catch or taking him to whichever was the seasonís organized team sport. Bob could see the respect that others in the neighborhood had for his father and thought his father was the greatest dad in the world. He looked up to his father and his father never disappointed him. As he grew up, he looked and acted more like his father and when anyone remarked about that, he felt very proud. He was not an exceptional athlete at, either the organized sports his father took him to, or the street games with the neighbourhood kids. Nevertheless he was enthusiastic and always persevered. When things did not go right in these games however, it was a lot more complicated than with his toys while playing on his own. Several people were involved in the outcome and even when he and his team did everything right the ideas of the other team had to be considered. He soon realized that he had to adjust to the actions and reactions of the other team. He also realized the sooner he could decide what they were going to do the better chance he had to succeed. After spending some time thinking about and studying others, he realized that different people acted and reacted differently to the same situation. Other teams also reacted to what he and his team was doing. Although he never came up with the perfect solution, studying and analyzing the actions of others became a habit that would help him later in life. Bobís father helped him a lot by explaining things to him and encouraged him in each activity in which he was interested.
Most of the other children in the neighborhood and at school were well behaved. However as in all areas a few were always trying to see with what they could get away. The school had a few bullies as well, but after Bobís first encounters with one of them, his father started to teach him how to box. The bullies soon found it better to leave Bob alone and try to bully another kid. That did not last for long however, since Bob started to protect the other kids and many other kids started to look up to him. The teachers at school noticed what was going on and a few of them started to call him the police officer of his class. When Bob heard this, he spoke to his father about it and asked him many questions about police officers. Each time he saw a police officer he would go over to speak to him and ask him questions about what he did. Although his parents had hoped Bob would go to college or become an electrician like his father, they did not discourage him from his admiration for police officers.
After a few years, when his father saw the enthusiasm for policing was not diminishing, he took him to a police station one day. His father asked the desk sergeant for information about police cadets. Although Bob was only twelve and the minimum age for joining the police cadets was fourteen, the desk sergeant was quite helpful and spent sometime with them. He even introduced them to the chief, who suggested that Bob should keep in touch and join the Boy Scouts of America, of which their Explorer cadetís program was part. If Bob were still interested, he should come with his father to the meeting for selecting cadets when Bob reached fourteen. Although his parents had given in to his enthusiasm, his father still insisted that he keep his options open. They still hoped he would lose some enthusiasm if he were closer involved. Bob did not lose his enthusiasm however and in June 1966 they accepted him into the Portsmouth Police Explorer Cadet Coeducational program.
Ahmad Jahangard was not a particularly clever student, but he had a very inflated ego. It was therefore, easy for him to justify to himself that his low position in the 1970 graduating classes at Tehran University Faculty of Medicine was not his fault. He believed Dean Mohammed did not like him and had favored other students. Ahmad was not an easy individual to like. His ego and the extent he used his overbearing manner, made him the type of person most people did not want in their homes or parties. Most people that knew him avoided any contact with him as much as possible. He was the only child of his middle class fatherís second wife, who had fallen into disfavor shortly after Ahmadís birth. While growing up, he spent most of his time with his mother, and everyone else in the household avoided both as much as possible. His mother was very bitter about her lack of favor and she passed all that bitterness onto Ahmad. The many arguments she had with her husband after falling from favor had convinced her that her husband would never again invite her to his bed. She was determined to fight for her son, however, and never shied away from a fight to ensure he got equal treatment with the other sons. By now she realized her only hope of gaining any prominence was through Ahmad. She plied him with stories of how important he really was. Ahmad grew up believing he should have been the prime son and would have been but for the conniving of his fatherís other wives. When things did not turn out for him, his mother would always explain it away by blaming someone else, and Ahmad in time accepted that as fact.
Ahmad was not a tall man, standing only about five feet, eight inches, and was not particularly handsome either. He was, however, very well groomed with his hair neatly trimmed and combed, and his oval face dominated by his thick, dark mustache that was also neatly trimmed. The strong plentiful sun of his country had tanned the skin of his face to a light brown, but the skin was smooth and without a blemish. His mustache was the only hair on his face and even in the evening he had no sign of a five-oíclock-shadow. Ahmadís mother picked all the suits he wore, which the best western type tailors in the city made. She also made sure they were well pressed for him each day. Whatever else his critics might say about him. They could not criticize his appearance or attire.
Because of his poor final grades, Ahmad had difficulty obtaining decent employment, but eventually he managed to obtain a position with a small research company. Although his position there was quite junior, he told anyone that would listen not only was it an important job, but that he was doing very well. He also got very lucky, since he was in the right place at the right time twice when two supervisors quit and they promoted him. Those facts along with considerable embellishment looked very good on his resume and would help to shape his future career.
Larry Timmins, the lieutenant of the unit to which they had assigned Arnie Brodie in Vietnam was not the bravest of individuals. Nor did he have the strength of character to command the unit effectively. Like most of the soldiers under his command, he was frightened and just wanted to get back home in one piece. He was unsure of himself and the commands he should give. Larry was afraid that the sergeant, who was on his second tour of duty there, would question those commands in front of the troops. His already sallow complexion would change to deathly white during combat and fear was often apparent in his light grey eyes. Lt was a handsome individual with light brown hair and had an attractive build on his five-foot-ten frame. When he first came to the unit, he let his hair down, and was occasionally friendly to the troops in his command. After the first engagement with the VC though, he shied away from contact with the men and left that to the sergeant.
The sergeant however was a quick-witted individual, which he employed entirely for his own benefit. He was at least five years older than anyone else in the unit including the Lt. He had been through the ropes on his first tour and spotted the Ltís inexperience and weakness of character straight away and the Lt. knew it. The Sergeant was about five feet nine tall and not particularly good looking with small piercing eyes in an oval face and light brown unkempt hair. His face had an almost perpetual grin, but it was not a friendly grin. His grin was more the grin of someone who knew he had an advantage and was prepared to use that advantage to the fullest. He gave the impression he thought very highly of himself and was constantly making some wisecrack against one or other of the soldiers in the unit. Arnie had to obey his commands, but did not consider the sergeant a person he would want to associate with outside the unit.
In his squad the sergeant had two buddies, Frank and Angelo Di Pietro who were brothers, and into drugs. They were well connected to the dealers. They could pretty well do as they pleased if they did not get the sergeant or the Lt. into trouble. The sergeant also made sure they kept him and any Vietnamese lady he hooked up with well supplied. The Di Pietro brothers looked very much alike and Arnie almost took them for twins. Frank at just more than five feet eleven however, was more than two inches taller than his brother and a year older. Their build was normal for their individual heights and each had oval faces with a perpetual five-o-clock shadow and black hair that was already receding at the forehead. Frank was quick-tempered and talked and reacted impulsively. His eyes, which were always dark and sinister, would almost flash as his temper flared. Angelo never spoke without thinking carefully first and often had to act to curtail his brotherís outbursts. However, his eyes, though also dark and sinister, never revealed his feelings or thoughts. Arnie felt he knew where Frank was coming from and could handle him. However, he could not read Angelo and deemed him therefore the more dangerous of the two.
The Di Pietro brothers also encouraged the other soldiers in the unit to buy drugs as well, which divided the unit into those that used drugs and those who didnít. Although the lieutenant could see what was going on, since the sergeant was endorsing it, he was afraid to do anything about it. When approached by the brothers however he did have the courage to say no and give them a warning. When the sergeant saw what had happened, he gave the brothers an even more stern warning and they never approached the Lt. again.
The sergeant, who also intended to do all in his power to stay out of harm and get home in one piece, ran the outfit. In return for the opportunity to do so, he supported the lieutenant wherever possible and tried to boost his image. Therefore the lieutenant had a tendency while on patrol to keep the sergeant close to him and as far as possible from danger. This usually also included the sergeantís buddies. They spread the rest of the outfit as two shields around these four, with the non drug users in the outer and more vulnerable shield.
Arnie found the first few encounters with the VC frightening; especially when he saw the other rookies he had come out with getting killed. He soon realized that when the fighting started the inner shield and the unit command immediately started to withdraw. This left the outer shield to extricate themselves as best they could and, since most of them were rookies, many of them did not make it. He watched the more experienced soldiers, especially a big black guy and learned fast. After about four patrols where they were hit hard, he asked this black guy why they always made up the outer shield with the same soldiers.
"Arnie, learn what we can change, and what we canít, and we cannot in any way change that."
"Still, it doesnít seem fair."
"We have our choice, boy. We can stay here where we have a good chance to get killed and die fast, but just a chance we will get home. The alternative is we can start taking drugs where we are just goiní to die slowly, and miserable."
Arnie started to stay close to this guy whose name he learned was Isaiah Jones. Isaiah rather than the sergeant or the lieutenant had become the true leader of the unit when it got into tight spots. More than once he saved the unit from being overrun, only to see either the sergeant or the lieutenant getting the credit for saving the day. Isaiah was six feet two inches tall and had a big frame, but could still move with surprising agility. Isaiah was black and he had no sign of any white ancestry, at least none that showed. He had a hearty laugh and a dry sense of humor, but more often he was a serious individual. He was especially serious when they were on patrol, and expected the same from everyone else. Arnie knew Isaiah was friendly, but noticed he shied away from making close friends.
The sergeantís buddies bullied some rookies to try to encourage them to take drugs. After Arnie turned on Frank one day and gave him quite a beating, they soon learned Arnie was not one to tangle with, and neither was Isaiah. Frank bore resentment against Arnie and wanted to retaliate on a patrol, but Angelo, though he was the younger of the two, was the dominant brother. He told him to be patient and wait until he said so. A bond of comradeship rather than friendship sprung up between Arnie and Isaiah and a few other soldiers as they survived more encounters with the enemy. Isaiah started to look after the rookie black soldiers, and one day he said to Arnie.
"Arnie, start taking them rookie whites under your wing or if this war lasts very long this army will only have black men in it."
Arnie had by this time become the longest surviving white member of the non drug group. He started to take the white rookies under his wing, which he continued to do until he left Vietnam. The sergeantís buddies resented this and looked to the sergeant for support. Frank Di Pietro suggested that maybe they should take out Arnie and Isaiah during a firefight with the VC. The sergeant despite his questionable character was not a stupid man. He knew he needed some men like Arnie and Isaiah to keep that outer shield strong, and he pointed that out to them. From that point Arnie and Isaiah and the soldiers they had taken under their wing were left to themselves. The sergeant even let them decide where each soldier would be in the outer shield, so that at least one good man was in each area. Time did not lessen the grudge, which Frank held against Arnie, but Angelo kept reminding him that, revenge, like a vintage white wine, improved with age. Angelo wanted to savor that revenge when tempers were cold and they could consume it slowly.
When Jack Simmons arrived with two other rookies, Arnie took them under his wing. Arnie was quite talkative at the time and getting to like him was easy. Jack was a much smaller man than Arnie, not quite five-feet-eight and a slender build. He was a feisty little individual, but he could not have been a match for the drug pushers and other hazards of the country without Arnieís help. He was a handsome young man with a friendly smile. If anyone got his gander up, he would not back down and the set of his square jaw showed his determination. His hair was fair and his exposure to the sun made it even lighter. His blue eyes were bright and seemed to reflect a contented soul.
The drug pushers in their ranks were not the only hazards of service in Vietnam. When they were not on patrol and got a pass to go to Saigon, or another city, they faced many other hazards. The VC was there and even a few soldiers together were not safe in some areas. Even in the safer areas a soldier could not be sure what he was getting to drink, and could wake up without his wallet and some items of his clothing. If he found a woman he liked, he was not always sure he would get what he expected for his money. Even when he did, often he would find a few weeks later he had got more than he had bargained for.
The first few months were the most vulnerable for young men still in their teens and their first time away from home. Many were frightened and tried to cover it up with bravado, not realizing that their attempts at bravado only made them more vulnerable. Arnie had a rough time his first two months. Nevertheless, he was a quick learner and his openness kept him away from bravado and he managed to come through it well. He helped the rookies that came after him through that time, especially Jack, who because of his small stature Arnie felt more protective of him. He had felt the pain quickly of losing a buddy. Although he looked out for them, he kept from forming friendships with them and made sure they did the same.
About three months after Jack arrived, the army gave Arnie compassionate leave because his mother was ill with cancer. Since they told him it was serious, he hurried home and she died two days after he arrived. After he helped his father and younger brother with the funeral arrangements, he stayed with them another week before returning to Vietnam. The other soldiers in his unit including the drug users, but not Frank, offered him their condolences on his motherís death, but he refused to comment on it. It was not long before they all realized he was a very different person. He continued to look out for the rookies, but he never had any smiles for anyone. Even when he got a pass, he seldom strayed far from camp. He left it up to Jack and a few other men to watch over the newer people when they went to Saigon. Everyone thought it was his motherís death that had affected him, but Jack thought he detected something else. When he tried to speak to Arnie about it however, Arnie told him to mind his own business, and he noticed Arnie became more distant from him. Jack did not take it personally however, and he knew whatever it was that was troubling Arnie was not in any way related to him. Jack avoided Arnie and respected his wish. He knew how much help he had received from Arnie, however, and he kept a close watch from a distance. When Arnie was going home, he wished Arnie well and even wrote to him afterwards, but never got a reply.
When Bob White finished high school, he had a dilemma. He was now a tall six feet, pleasant young man and had successfully taken the entrance exam at the McIntosh College in Dover, New Hampshire. While waiting to see if they would accept him into the police force, he received his draft instructions to report for a medical. His main concern was that he might miss the opportunity of getting onto the police force if he had to spend two years in the army. The police department only looked at the last two tests when filling positions. Therefore they would not include the test he had just passed when he came out of the army. Also however he did not wish to appear that he was trying to avoid the draft. He went to see the Police Chief, and explained the situation to him.
"Well obviously we cannot guarantee anyone that we will have any vacancies on the police force when they come out of the army. We get many candidates for every vacancy we have and we have to be fair to all of them. This city is one of the top ten police forces in the country, and besides the McIntosh Police Alliance, officers from other police forces apply as well. Even if we do not have a vacancy, though, apply to another town or city and then apply for a transfer here when we do have vacancies. I have kept an eye on your progress in the cadets and your score in the Test impressed me. If the army wants you, come and see me when you get out and one way or another we will find you a job policing somewhere."
Bob thanked him and promised to come and see him. The conversation with the Police Chief cheered him up a bit, although he was still disappointed he would have to wait until he came out of the army.
The army did want him and a few weeks later he reported for basic training. Because of his desire to join the police force, he had been exercising a lot in preparation for the physical test he knew he would have to pass. Basic training therefore did not cause him any problems. He got on well with the other recruits and with the drill sergeants. When he completed his basic training, the army ordered him to go for training in the military police. Although it was different from civilian policing, he was thrilled. The army sent him to Vietnam, but he spent most of his time in Saigon and did not see any action. Frequently he would have to quell a brawl at some bar when some G.I.s reacted to being cheated by the bar owner. Although he often sympathized with the soldiers, he realized he had to be firm with them. He was also fair and usually managed to get the men back to camp in one piece. He enjoyed the work and the banter with the soldiers as he took them back to camp and by the time they got there, tempers had cooled. At other times, however, he found the work very boring.
When he returned home at the end of his tour of duty, he went to see the Police chief. He was disappointed when the chief told him none of the police forces anywhere in the state had any vacancies. Many towns were reserving vacancies for local Vietnam veterans returning home after the peace treaty. The Chief told him the town of Billington had an opportunity. However it would not be available until January 1976, when one of their officers was due to retire. Bob went to see the Police Chief in Billington and had lunch with him. Bob was nervous and tried his best to conceal it, but he soon found he had several factors in his favor. The Police Chief in Portsmouth had sent a letter to the Chief in Billington and had included Bobís test results and a strong recommendation. Bob also found the Billington Police Chief had been in the Military Police during the Second World War, and during lunch they discussed their experiences. That afternoon the Town of Billington hired Bob as a police officer to start on January 1, 1976. His employment was subject to passing physical tests and continued service in the Military Police until that time. He signed on for a second tour of duty in Vietnam attached to the Embassy in Saigon. He left Vietnam for good a week before the final evacuation of the Embassy.
When he got back from Vietnam Arnie Brody, did not return to his Midwest home. If he had the people that had known him as he grew up would have noticed a big change. His hair and appearance were more unkempt and nowhere near as neat as in the past. His six-foot one frame had filled out a bit, and it was obvious he was not the sort of person with whom anyone would want to tangle. They would have noticed more than just the physical change. He was a quiet man now. Before he had always had something to say, and could strike up a conversation, even with a total stranger, at the drop of a hat. Now if anyone asked him for help he gave them a blank stare and just kept walking, where before no one ever needed to ask him for help. Most would have noticed the greatest difference in his eyes. One look would have been sufficient to make anyone, including the friends he had grown up with, shrink back and think twice before trying to start a conversation. The bright, sparkling, mischievous and happy eyes of his youth were now dark without any sparkle at all. In those eyes he had pain, but he also had a lot more. In his eyes he had disillusionment, mistrust and betrayal, but most of all betrayal. He also had a little anger and fear, but not a fear of physical harm; it was a fear of trusting anyone. The only people he now felt in any way close to were other Vietnam Veterans, but even there he was a bit wary since many of them had developed serious drug habits while overseas. He had avoided the pushers and had even tried to look out for some of his young more vulnerable companions. He now traveled around a lot drifting from job to job, looking up buddies he had met in the army. Gradually most of these started to get on with their lives, and put Vietnam behind them. When he arrived in Billington in New England on April 15, 1975 looking for Jack Simmons, almost two years since he got out of the army, he had run out of buddies to visit.
Arnie realized that Jack had tried to help him, but he could not discuss what was troubling him nor allow anyone to get close to it. He also realized he had treated Jack badly, and was a bit ashamed about it. Consequently he did not visit Jack until he realized he did not have anyone else to turn to, and was not sure what kind of reception he would get. Although Arnie knew that Jack came from a good family, he was not prepared for the pleasant home that he came to, since Jack had never said they were well off. An older well-dressed pleasant man answered the door when he knocked and asked for Jack. Arnie could see a resemblance to Jack in the older manís features and smile, and he assumed he was Jackís father. He had the same square chin, blue eyes and rosy complexion. Even his voice sounded like Jack although it was a bit mellower. This gentleman was an inch or so taller than Jack and had a slight middle-aged spread around his waist. His hair was dark but was greying at the temples, which made him look very distinguished. Arnie felt he must look like a bum to this good person. For the first time since coming home from Vietnam, he felt ashamed about his appearance, but although the gentleman noticed his appearance he did not show disapproval. When the gentleman informed him however that Jack was away on business until the following day, Arnie incorrectly assumed this was just to get rid of him. He excused himself and turned to walk away.
"May I tell Jack who called to see him?"
Arnie was a little taken back that the gentleman would be interested in knowing who was asking for his son. "I knew him in Vietnam, and just thought I would drop by and say hi. I did not know he lived in such a pleasant home, and I am sorry for troubling you."
"Well, in fact, he does not live here anymore. He got married last year, and now lives in his own home about two blocks from here. I am his father and he still works in our family business. Would you mind giving me your name, so that I can tell him who called?"
"Perhaps you would tell him that Arnie Brody said hi, and wish him all the best for me."
Arnie started to turn away again, but was not prepared for what happened next. Jackís father reached out his hand as he came close and put his hand around Arnieís shoulder to guide him toward the door.
"Wonít you come in, Arnie, Jack spoke of you in his letters, when he first went to Vietnam, and I am very grateful to you for looking after my son? His mother would like to meet you as well. We were very concerned when they drafted him and sent him over there, but he was so proud that we tried to hide our concern from him." He turned at that point and called into the house, "Mildred, Jackís friend Arnie from Vietnam is here," as he ushered Arnie into the hallway.
Arnie again felt embarrassed about his appearance and glanced down at his clothing. Although Jackís father noticed the glance he made no mention nor acknowledged it in any way. In spite of his embarrassment about his appearance, Arnie started to feel comfortable in Jackís fatherís presence. He felt equally comfortable in the presence of his mother, who came quickly out of a doorway on his left. She had a big smile on her face, which never faded in the least despite Arnieís appearance, and she put her arms around him giving him a warm hug as she kissed him on the cheek. For the first time since he had gone home to see his mother before she died Arnie felt welcome and a tear came to his eye, and Jackís mother hugged him tight.
Mildred was a very beautiful woman in her late forties by Arnieís estimating, but still had a very good figure. She was about five feet six tall and she was wearing a white blouse and dark skirt. The flowery apron she wore over it, suggested to Arnie she must have been cooking, especially since he could also smell the food. Her light blond hair, which she had nicely curled, framed her oval face with its pointed nose and very bright light blue eyes. She had dimples that heightened her smile and she left no doubt about the genuineness of her welcome.
"Arnie, we are so pleased to finally meet you, and I am sure Jack will be very disappointed that he was not here when you came. He wrote a lot about you, and talked about you so much when he came home. Please, come on in. Where are you staying and how long are you going to be here?"
"I was just passing through and I didnít bother getting a place."
"Oh! You canít leave before Jack comes back. Heíd never forgive us if we let you go. Please stay at least for a few days so he can spend a little time with you when he gets back. Where are you going to from here? Are you going to be staying close to Billington?"
"I wasnít going anywhere in particular and I am not sure where I will be staying."
"Well, itís settled then, you will stay here and I will not listen to any other answer. You can stay here until you decide what you want to do. Now have you had dinner yet, we were just starting dinner and would love you to join us."
"No, I havenít had dinner yet, but I donít want to put anyone to any trouble."
"Nonsense! It is no trouble at all. Now you come on in and have a seat. This is Jackís sister Jillian. Jillian, this is Jackís friend Arnie Brody from Vietnam."
"Iím very pleased to meet you, Arnie. Jack had so much to say about you when he came back. I think of all of you as heroes, but I think you were Jackís special hero."
"I thank you very much for saying that Jillian, but I donít think many other young ladies think like you do."
"Any young ladies that can think for themselves think as I do. It is unfortunate in these days of women liberation that so many young women cannot think for themselves."
"Thatís enough talk for now. You can talk all you want after dinner. Now letís start to eat. John, would you pass this over to Arnie?"
Although he was in fact quite hungry and the food looked delicious, Arnie would have liked to continue the conversation. He was embarrassed that Jack had not told him his father owned a business and that his people were well off. However, he would have something to say to him about concealing that he had a very beautiful sister. Frequently he glanced over at Jillian, and if she spoke during dinner he was very attentive, and she seemed just as taken with Arnie. John and Mildred gave each other a knowing glance with a slight smile. When they were finished eating, although it should have been Jillianís turn to help with the dishes, Mildred asked John to give her a hand. Jillian was so interested in her conversation with Arnie that she did not even notice. The attitude of Jackís family had surprised Arnie, and he did not expect to meet a young woman of Jillianís beauty, especially one that might be reciprocating. Jillian was about two years younger than Arnie and, unlike her brother, was, at five foot seven, tall for a woman. Like her mother she had very light blond hair and was slim, but not skinny, she had a well-defined shapely figure that matched her facial beauty. She had an oval face with a straight slightly-pointed nose, and when she smiled, which she seemed to do very easily, her dimples tugged at Arnieís heart. Jillian was just as infatuated with Arnie as he was with her, which caused her to smile even more than she normally did. Arnie had lost his heart by the time her parents came back from the kitchen. Again, however, he was concerned about his appearance, and was afraid that her parents might object to him paying too much attention to her. When her mother asked her to come and give her a hand to get a room ready for Arnie, he assumed that was just an excuse to separate them. Although in a way he did not blame them, he still resented it. Fortunately he managed not to show it since nothing could have been further from the truth. Her father invited him into the family room and asked if he would like something to drink. Arnie was expecting her father to tell him that Jillian was off limits, but the subject did not come up. They talked about many things and Arnie found himself comfortable to the point that he started to let his guard slip a little. He was not aware that since Jack had returned home he and his family, had talked a lot about him. All of them knew about his motherís death and the change in Arnie afterwards. They also knew that Arnie had not wanted to talk about it and felt they should not push him on it. They all had empathy with him because they knew what Jack and a few other boys had gone through when they came back. Jackís father had suggested that he was suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), but Jack said he did not feel that was the problem, and he wished he could help him in some way. His father had said one could not help a person unless that person wanted help. Arnie was also unaware that Jack had been keeping in touch with many people he had met in Vietnam. He was usually aware of what Arnie was doing and he had shared that knowledge with his father.
"Have you ever been to Billington or New England before?"
"No, the closest I ever got was when I visited a few buddies in New York."
"Well, I hope you will spend some time here with us as well. Jack will not be home until about 4:30 or 5:00 tomorrow. If you can get Jillian to bring you down to our factory, Iíd like to show you around, and then afterwards perhaps you could get Jillian to show you around the town."
"Iíd like that very much, but I donít want to trouble anyone, and would not like to cause any problems for Jillian with any boyfriends."
John picked up on the last part immediately, and recognized it as a fishing expedition for information on Jillian. He suspected Arnie was testing her familyís reaction to her spending time with him. John played it quite coolly. He did not want to discourage Arnie from pursuing her, but he did not wish to be pushing her at him either. "Well, I donít think you have to worry about any angry boyfriends. To the best of my knowledge she does not have any, and I think I know my daughter very well. Iím sure she would love to show you around. I can also assure you though, that if she doesnít wish to, she will let you know."
Jillian and her mother came in at that point and had heard the last part of the conversation. "O.K. what is it that you are volunteering me for now, daddy."
"I was just telling Arnie that Jack will not be home until about 4:30 to 5:00 tomorrow and suggested he might like to have a look around the factory. I was hoping you would bring him over tomorrow morning, and suggested he might get you to show him around the town as well."
All of them could see Jillianís eyes light up a bit at that, and Arnieís heart missed a beat as he waited for her reply. "Oh yes! Thatís a good idea. Iíd love to show you around. Thatís if you want me to."
"If it would not be too much trouble, I would really like for you to show me around."
"It would be a pleasure, and it is no trouble at all. It might be an idea to call Mary and let her know we will pick Jack up at the airport. That would surprise him, and I am sure he will be delighted to see you."
"Hey! That sounds like a great idea," said Jillianís father and mother almost simultaneously. Her father carried on, "Iím sure Mary doesnít feel like driving out to the airport and Iíll bet she probably doesnít feel like cooking either. Why donít we all go out to dinner tomorrow night to celebrate?"
"Mary is Jackís wife and she is just over six months pregnant," said Mildred. "Iím sure she would like to meet you as well."
"Why donít I give Mary a call and let her know you are here, and, if she feels up to it, I could take you round there," said Jillian? "Thatís of course if you would like to go."
"That would be very enjoyable, but I donít want to cause her any trouble, and would not like to impose on her if she does not feel like it. Besides I appreciate how you have received me, but I realize I donít look that presentable right now."
"Nonsense! You look fine to us, but if you want to freshen up a bit after your trip Iíll show you to your room, while Jillian calls Mary," said John. He looked at his wife and continued, "Is it Jackís old room," and she nodded yes.
As they were going upstairs, Arnie asked John "is there a barber close by? I would like to get a haircut tomorrow before coming over to your factory."
"The closest barber is about a quarter of a mile down the road, but I think he is closed tomorrow. However, the barber where I always go is close to the plant, and I know he is open about 9:30 if that would be all right. Jillian could drop you off on the way to the plant."
"That would be fine. Would you mind very much if I had a quick shower now? I do feel a bit grimy after my trip."
"Iím very sorry Arnie that was very inconsiderate of us not offering that to you when you arrived. Unfortunately you came so close to dinner and we were all so pleased to meet you, we did not think of it. Of course you may use the shower. While you are staying here, I want you to feel at home just like the rest of the family."
"Thank you, sir, you are very kind. You have treated me very well and I want you to know you have made me feel very comfortable and I appreciate it very much. I donít know how I can ever repay you for your kindness."
"No, Arnie, you do not need to repay us. We do not know how to repay you for what you did for Jack. Now this is your room, which has a shower, and yes, Mildred has left out some towels for you. So take your time and we will see you shortly when you come down."
When he came downstairs, John had a happy smile on his face. It was the sort of smile one only gets when they have managed to do a good turn for someone. "Arnie is going to have a shower and will be down shortly. He would also like to get a hair cut tomorrow morning before coming to the plant." He watched as both his wife and daughter gave a knowing nod before continuing softly, "I have a strong feeling Arnie is starting to come round a bit, and hopefully we will get a chance to help him."
"I spoke to Mary and she was delighted at the news and wants him to come over. She was speaking to Jack earlier and he told her he was speaking to one of his army buddies and thought Arnie was heading in this direction. Nevertheless, he doesnít know he is here. She wants to come to the airport with us tomorrow evening."
When Arnie came down he did look and feel a lot fresher, and thanked all of them for their hospitality and kindness to him. Jillian told him, "Mary is delighted with the news and wants you to come. I will take you to the plant in the morning and on the way you can go to the barbers. Donít worry I wonít come in with you and embarrass you," she teased, and for her reward got a big smile. "It is not far to Maryís and it is a beautiful evening. Would you like to walk or would you prefer us to drive?"
"No, walking sounds fine to me," and off they went. It was starting to get dark as they started and when they were a little way from her home she continued, "You have a very pleasant smile."
"I thank you and your family for bringing out that smile. I used to smile a lot, but I have not had much to smile about for some time."
"Well I hope you will smile a lot from now on."
Her parents were watching them go and they looked at each other with a knowing expression. "Well, what do you think of that, and did you notice his smile?"
"Yes I did, and it did look very pleasant. As for what I think of it, if he is the type of person that Jack wrote about in his early letters, I donít mind at all. I want to find out what his problem is and that he is coming out of it before I give any blessing. It will be Jillianís decision though." Mildred agreed.
As they walked along Jillian and Arnie started talking again, and it seemed both of them were oblivious to anything going on around them. He found her very easy to talk to and his old art of striking up a conversation came flooding back. No matter what subject she brought up he could talk about it, but she was careful not to bring up Vietnam or his motherís death. If they were going to discuss either of those subjects, he would have to bring them up himself. He was not aware at which point they had started to hold hands, or who was first to take the others hand, but suddenly there they were walking along holding hands like two young lovers. Jillian had been aware of it for some time, and when he had first taken her hand she had felt she was floating along beside him. Somehow she just couldnít help feeling protected by this tall young man beside her, just as her brother had felt. However it was different in her case as she felt a bond developing within her for him that two men could never feel. She was also aware of the point at which he suddenly realized he was holding her hand as he blushed, tried to mumble an apology and try to let go of her hand. However she did not let go and held his hand a little tighter as she said, "You wouldnít leave a poor defenseless girl unescorted, would you Arnie?"
"Jillian, you will never be defenseless if I am around."
"And who is going to defend me against you." When she saw he hesitated at her words, she realized he was unsure of where he stood with her, so she squeezed his hand a little tighter as she came a little closer to him and said. "Iíll make a deal with you Arnie if you will defend my honor against all others, I will be responsible for defending my honor against you. You can be sure I will let you know if I feel you taking liberties against my will."
At that she moved even closer and kissed him on the cheek. It was funny the way he put his hand to his cheek where she had kissed him, and she realized he probably didnít even know he was doing it.
"I would never do anything to hurt you. Jack never told me he had such a beautiful sister, and you surprised me when I first saw you this evening. You are such a pleasant person and more beautiful than . . . " He stopped at that and Jillian could see he had almost told her something that was troubling him. She knew she should not press him on it, but she couldnít help teasing him.
"Oh! I have a rival then, do I? At least you say I am more beautiful. Should I be happy with that?"
"Jillian, this has been a wonderful evening for me. I have felt closer to you and your family than I have felt to anyone for some time. It is like I had a high wall all around me and tonight it has started to crumble a little. Tonight your family has opened my eyes to what I have become, and it was not a pretty sight, but before now, I just didnít care. Now I realize that I should care and that there are some good people in this country for which it is worth changing. I want to start putting my life back together, and I canít think of a better place to do that than right here if it is possible. It will not be easy for me, I know, but I want to make a start, although some things are just too painful and I do not think I am ready to discuss them yet. Please forgive me for that and try to understand."
Her heart went out to him at that point and she put her arms around him and held him close. He could feel her body close to him and the pressure of her breasts against his chest was almost unbearably pleasant. Unfortunately he also felt a warm feeling starting to come over him and thought he should pull back from her a bit. She had sensed how he felt and said as she pulled him closer, "Itís all right Arnie, please hold me close. I want you to hold me close, but donít take advantage of it, not tonight anyway. I know you have gone through a lot, and I will not push you to tell me about it. Eventually you are going to have to let it go, and when you do, I want you to understand that I am here for you. I want you to stay here and hope you can settle here. At least I hope you will settle close by so that we can see you often. Oh Arnie, I feel so good in your arms and hope you will hold me in your arms again." She turned her face up to him and he bent his head down to kiss her. It was a long, warm slow kiss as their bodies melted together and both felt they were floating on air.
At that point Jillian realized she had reached her brotherís house, but not only that, someone was observing them from the window. Reluctantly she pushed back from Arnie and took his hand and led him to the door, which opened when they reached it without them having to knock. Mary was radiant as she stood there to greet them. She was a few inches shorter than Jillian with fair hair and a light complexion and a round face with a cute little button of a nose. As she stood facing them, her condition was obvious from the bulge of her tummy, which seemed to appear more prominent because of her slight build. She looked as if she were always smiling as she was right now and she took Arnieís hand and gave him a very warm welcome. Mary then turned to Jillian with a knowing look, a wink and a happy smile, and as they gave each other a warm hug, she whispered into Jillianís ear, "Wow." When they separated, Jillianís face was quite red, but she also had a shy smile on her face, and it was obvious she was happy. She then looked down at Maryís tummy as she said, "Wow! Let me look at you. You are so big. Are you sure you are just going to have one?"
"Well, I donít think Jack could take it if it is more than one. He will be so surprised and happy when he sees you tomorrow Arnie. He has talked an awful lot about you. Come on in and have a seat. May I get you something to drink? I presume you had dinner over at Jackís parents."
"Yes I did have dinner, and anything you are having to drink is fine with me. I am looking forward to seeing Jack again."
"Well, I am off alcohol for the next nine or ten months, but if you want something with alcohol, it is fine with me. I notice you did not drive over, and you can hold each other up on the way back." She had a bit of an impish grin as she said this and Jillian went very red again. Arnie realized for the first time that Mary must have seen them kissing and he turned a little red as well. As Mary giggled at their discomfort, it was obvious to Arnie that Jillian and Mary were good friends. As he looked over at Jillian with her face red and happy, he had to smile as well. For both Jillian and Mary it seemed as if the whole room lit up with his smile. Mary got up and went over to put an arm around each of them and said, "Itís all right, it is our little secret. It is safe with me, at least for the present," and she giggled happily, but not maliciously again.
While Arnie sat in the family room, Jillian went into the kitchen to help Mary get the drinks, and he could hear them talking and giggling happily as they did so. He felt very comfortable and relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the evening there. Mary teased them mercilessly at times, but she was obviously a friend and a very happy person. Arnie began to realize just how lucky a guy Jack really was. When they did leave to go back to Jillianís home, Jillian took his arm rather than his hand, but after a few minutes they put their arms around each other as they walked along. He felt very good and began to realize what he had been missing these past few years. They did not speak for some time just holding each other close. However, Arnie finally felt he should say something as they stopped for a few moments and turned round and held each other very close again.
"Jillian, these past few hours have been like a dream to me. When I came looking for Jack, I was feeling very low. Now it is like night and day, and what a wonderful day it has turned out to be. Things are moving very fast for me, and I am sure they are moving just as fast for you. I donít know whether that is frightening you. If it is, please let me know, because I do not want to frighten you off. You are a very beautiful and wonderful person that any man would want to have by his side. Right now I am not sure if I am in the same league as you and feel a little unsure of myself. I want to get to know you, and I want you to get to know me, and if things work out that would be fine with me. I donít want your parents to think that I am trying to seduce you, and then leave you. Your parents still have many question marks about me and I realize they might be a little concerned for your welfare. Although I still have a long way to come back, I think I have come back a long way tonight."
As Arnie turned her face up to look at her, he noticed she had a tear in her eye. "Donít say any more Arnie, just kiss me and hold me tight and donít ever let me go." When they finished kissing, she continued, "Arnie, I know my parents and my parents know me. Yes they might be concerned that I might get hurt, but they will never say anything unless I do. For what you did for Jack we are all in your debt and we will all want to help you. Since I got to know you a little this evening, I more than any of them want to help you back to where you need to be. Then I would like us to go forward together. Now put your arm around me again and let us walk a bit further, and before we get too close to home we will just hold hands." They put their arms around each other again and started again. Before they had gone more than a few steps, Arnie felt her take the hand that was around her waist and move it farther round so that he was holding her even closer. He bent over and gave her another quick kiss, and they carried on home.
John was in the family room watching the late news when they came in and he asked how Mary was. Jillian filled him in on what had gone on, but left out the teasing she and Arnie had taken. Her father was watching her without saying anything. However, he noticed how happy she was and the warm smile she had. He also observed how often she turned to look at Arnie, and the almost adoring looks that came into her eyes as she did so. He also noticed the change in Arnie. Gone was the suspicious look in his eye, and he was smiling all the time now. John told them that his wife was in the kitchen making some hot chocolate and asked them if they would like a cup. When they agreed he got up and went into the kitchen to tell his wife, but that was not all he wanted to tell her.
"I think you have to see the two of them Mildred. What a change."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it took you four months to look at me the way she is looking at him in four hours, and he might be reciprocating."
"I think we have to trust our daughter. She is very level headed and I think we have to trust her judgement. Now help me in with the hot chocolate and cookies. This I have to see."
Jillian was sitting on the chesterfield beside Arnie when they came in, but except for the way they were looking at each other, their behavior was normal. From the looks they were giving each other, however, no one could doubt their feelings. When everyone finally went to bed, Jillian and Arnie were last of all and she kissed him quietly before he went into his room.
As he lay in his bed he thought of Jillian and another young lady from years before, but he noticed the image of the other young lady had started to fade. That of Jillian, on the other hand, was very strong. He also thought of Jack and that also brought images of Vietnam, and when he did finally go to sleep some of those images returned. Like many soldiers that had seen action and friends killed these images often returned at night when they were asleep and some went on for years. Arnie had also had this problem, but not as badly as some others and had not had one for some time. It was strange therefore that it should come back tonight. The Simmons family had gone through this before when Jack had come home, but Jack had got through it quickly. When they heard Arnie, they knew what it was. John and his wife woke up and John was about to get out of bed to go to him when they heard Jillianís bedroom door open and heard her go into his room. Mildred caught Johnís arm and pulled him back into bed. "She is the best one to go. If she needs help she will call you, but I think she will want to help him by herself." They could hear her trying to sooth him and after a while he stopped calling out and they went back to sleep.
When he got up in the morning John found his daughterís bedroom door still open from the night before and she was not inside. He went over to Arnieís door and opened it quietly. Arnie was lying asleep in bed under the covers, and Jillian was lying asleep beside him on top of the covers. She was wearing a housecoat over her nightdress, and she had an arm around Arnie. Mildred came out of the bedroom then and John signaled for her to be quiet as he beckoned her closer. They stood there for a few moments with their arms around each other watching and Mildred had a tear in her eye. They closed the door and when John saw the tear in Mildredís eye he smiled as he put his arms around her and kissed her on the forehead. Johnís wife took his arm as they went downstairs to make breakfast.
Jillian woke up shortly after that and quickly left the room before Arnie awoke. When she heard her parents downstairs and saw her bedroom door still open from the previous evening she was concerned. She had enjoyed lying on the bed so close to Arnie, but knew her parents were now aware of what she had done. She was not sure how they would react as she went downstairs to join them for breakfast. When she came into the dining room, her mother came over to her and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"I am sorry, but he needed me and I had to go into his room. However, nothing happened and I donít think he even knows I was there."
Her father came over to her and put his arm around her as well. "We know dear we heard you going in. We have confidence in you, but things are moving very fast and we are a little concerned you may get hurt."
"I understand how you feel. Arnie even mentioned last night on our way back from Maryís that you would probably be concerned about things going so fast. I canít explain it, but I just feel drawn to him, and he has already lost enough time in his life."
"You heard him say he was just passing through when he first came. What are you going to do if he leaves next week?"
"Arnie was embarrassed when he first came in, because he didnít realize we were well off, and he didnít want anyone to think he was taking advantage of us. He was a bit ashamed about his appearance and thought we would be looking down on him. I think we have shown him the first kindness since his motherís death, and you must have noticed the change in him last night. He wants to stay here if he can and he wants to restart his life. A young woman is involved somewhere in his hurt and he almost started to open up to me last night, but it was too painful for him just yet. It looks like he is ready to recover his life and I want to help him. I ask both of you to not only have confidence in me, but have some in Arnie as well. He needs our help, father. Please help me to help him, but he is proud as only someone that has been hurt can be and I donít want to take his pride away from him. That was all he had to hold onto for such a long time. I am confident he will not treat me badly and I am prepared to take the risk."
Both of her parents put their arms around her again. "We owe it to him for what he did for Jack, but we were not prepared for your reaction. It seems obvious you are very infatuated with him and I hope he proves worthy of that. How do you think he feels?"
"I think he feels the same way, but he is being more cautious, and he is very concerned you might think he is taking advantage of me. He does not want to abuse your hospitality."
"After dinner tonight Iíll get together with him and Jack and see if we can figure out what he wants to do."
"No daddy, I have to be there as well or he might think you want him to leave."
"O.K. weíll let you call the shots dear, and I do hope it works out for both of you."
"Thank you, daddy, and you too, mom. Donít worry I wonít dishonor either of you."
John had already gone to work by the time Arnie came downstairs. Jillian went over to him and in front of her mother asked if he were all right as she kissed him on the cheek. Arnie was a bit concerned when she kissed him in front of her mother, but her mother did not seem to react. When her mother went in to get him some breakfast, he turned to Jillian and said, "Your mother might not like us kissing in the house so soon and I donít want to upset them. They have been very good to me, and I was a bit concerned this morning when I woke up. I seem to remember I had a bad dream last night and then I dreamed that you were lying beside me on the bed, and this morning I could smell your perfume on the bedclothes. Were you in my room last night?"
"Yes I heard you and I went to you. Donít worry nothing happened, but I lay on top of the covers, and I am afraid I fell asleep beside you. My parents were already awake and downstairs when I got up. They know I was asleep in your room, but donít worry it is all right. They trust me and are loving parents. I must say it did feel very pleasant lying beside you."
"I must admit that I had a very pleasant dream of you lying beside me, but what can I say to your parents, I feel I have dishonored them in their own home."
Her mother came in at that point, and overheard the last part of what Arnie had said. She put the breakfast down in front of him, and put her hand on his shoulder as she said, "Arnie, donít be concerned about what happened last night. You needed someone and Jillian was there for you, and I am glad she was there for you. We trust our daughter and, although we did not know we were trusting our son to you, we are very glad you were there for him. If we could trust you with our sonís life, I think we can trust you with our daughterís virtue, at least until you get to know each other a bit better."
"Mrs. Simmons things have moved very fast for me since I came here yesterday, and it was not what I thought or expected. It is too early for either Jillian or me to know how we really feel about each other. I think I know how Jillian and I feel, and hope we will both feel the same way for many years to come. Until we get to know each other and are sure of our feelings, your daughterís virtue is safe with me. I appreciate your hospitality and I will not dishonor it. Last night when I arrived I said I was just passing through, although I didnít really have anywhere to go. You have made me feel very comfortable. Now I think I would like to settle in this town or somewhere close by, and see if I can get my life back on track. I donít want to impose on you, but if you would put me up for a little while until I can get some things settled I would appreciate it."
"Well I am very pleased to hear you are hoping to settle around here, and I am sure John and Jack will be as well. However, I am not sure how Jillian is going to feel about that, but thatís for you to work on. You are welcome to stay here until you get settled. Now eat your breakfast before it gets cold."
Arnie started to eat his breakfast and Jillian moved over close to him while he did so. Mildred noticed how they were looking at each other, and she had to admit they did look very happy together. She left them to themselves, but it gave her a pleasant feeling as she took one final look at the two of them before leaving the room.
After breakfast Jillian took Arnie to the barber, and when they left Mildred called her husband and told him about Arnieís comments. She again had a tear in her eye as she told him how delightful they looked together. Although he was not there to see the tear, he could tell from the emotion in her voice. "Letís not start counting chickens while they are still eggs dear. I must say I did like Arnie, but until we know his problem, I still have some reservations. Our daughter has to realize the big difference between Arnie and some lost kittens she brought home in the past."
"Spoken just like a man! If you had taken more time to observe, you would realize she was the one giving love to the kittens. This time she is the one looking for love. The situation is out of our hands though. You know Jillian, she will insist it be her decision. Just occasionally she can be almost as stubborn as her father." Mildred had a smile on her face. She heard John chuckling as he said goodbye and hung up.
Jillian waited outside when Arnie went in for his haircut, but he could see her walk past a few times and glance in to check on the progress of the haircut. The barber looked at him in dismay when Arnie sat in the chair, wondering how this customer might want his hair cut. Arnie had studied some photos of different styles hanging on a wall and pointed to one he liked. When he came out, he could see her admiring him, but she didnít say anything until they were back in the car. Then she turned his head round to her and asked what she had to do to get a handsome guy to kiss her. He kissed her gently for a few moments and then they drove to the plant. He had not been aware what type of plant it was until he got out of the car and smelled the odor of the stock yards where they brought the animals in before they killed them. It was a meat packing plant. Jillian said it did not smell that pleasant out here, but was better inside.
Arnie really impressed John with how he looked. The barber had cut his hair very neatly and his clothes also looked very neat. He brought him into his office and told him a bit about the business. Jillian was there with them and John could not help watching the way she was always looking at Arnie. Then he took them out to the office and introduced Arnie as Jackís buddy from Vietnam. As he continued to notice how Jillian was looking at him, he was wondering if the others noticed and what they were thinking. He then took him out to the plant, and had a lot to say to just about everyone, whom he knew on a first name basis. Johnís attitude and knowledge of his workers impressed Arnie. By this time it was close to lunchtime and John asked both of them if they would like to go out for a quick sandwich, which they did.
After lunch Jillian and Arnie were on their own and that suited them fine, especially Jillian. While she was driving, she reached over to hold his hand, but each time they stopped she bent over to kiss him. She gave him a quick tour of the town and the surrounding area and when they got to a pleasant wooded area they got out to walk for a bit. It was a quiet peaceful area with no one around and when they got out of the sight of passing cars, Jillian put her arms around him and kissed him. She felt good in his arms and he liked the feel of her body against his. Again he tried to pull back a bit when he felt that sensation come over him, but she would have none of it and she pulled him closer.
"Remember that I promised your mother I would protect your virtue."
"Yes, but I did not promise to protect yours. Oh Arnie! It feels so good to feel your body against mine and it felt so good lying beside you last night. I want to lie down and feel you beside me again."
When they came to a small grassy area, they lay down together and kissed for a long time. She was lying on her back, with her knees slightly raised and her light dress had fallen back from her legs and he looked at them for a few moments.
"Do you like my legs, Arnie?"
He got a little embarrassed at that and looked back at her face before replying. "I apologize for looking at your legs, but they are so beautiful and you are so beautiful. Everything is moving so fast. This time yesterday I was alone, a little mad at the world and everyone in it and really feeling sorry for myself. I was a little afraid that life had passed me by, nobody cared and here I am today. A wonderful family has reached out to me and taken me in. They have helped me to the point where I think I can make it and get my life back together. As if that were not enough, the most beautiful girl I have ever seen is lying here beside me in my arms. It is like a dream. I am afraid someone will pinch me and I will wake up and realize that is what it is."
"It feels like a dream to me too, Arnie, but it is not a dream. This is all so unusual for me, I have never felt this way before and I donít know what is happening to me. For someone that has never had any real boyfriends and wasnít really interested, here I am with a man I met less than twenty-four hours ago. I canít keep my hands off him and I want to feel his hands on me. This is a feeling I did not realize it would happen to me this quickly or this strong. I feel I am in love with you, and I donít want it to end."
"You are so beautiful, I liked you the first minute I saw you, but I thought you had too much class for me and I was afraid to hope. You talked to me so much and I enjoyed it very much. Then when we were walking over to meet Mary, I suddenly found I was holding your hand. When you didnít object and we kissed, I started to hope that just maybe it was possible. Then on the way back when you put my hand a little farther round so I was holding you closer, I was lost, and in love with you. Jillian, I want to get my life back together again so much now it hurts and I promise you I will do my very best and more to make you proud of me."
"Oh, Arnie, I am proud of you already."
"Jillian, I want to say something. However, saying it is very hard for me so soon and I hope you will at least give it some thought. If I do get myself straightened out and my life back together, do you think I have a chance that you would. . . ."
Jillianís eyes had started to widen as he was talking and she held her breath waiting for him to finish. When he paused, she waited for a few breathless seconds, which seemed like ages and finally said, "Do I think you have a chance that I would do what, Arnie."
Arnie went red in the face. He spoke barely above a whisper as he continued, "do you think I have a chance that you would . . . marry me." As he finally got it out, he could hold his breath no longer and let it out in a rush only to hold his breath again to await her reply.
Jillian was still holding her breath, and trying to talk with difficulty as she did so. Her eyes were wide open as she looked at him. She looked first at one eye and then at the other to be sure, about what she had just heard. Jillian also wanted to be sure she knew he meant it. "Do you really mean that Arnie, do you really want to, will there be a problem with the other girl? Oh Arnie, please tell me you really mean it."
"I really do mean it and canít think of anything else that I would ever want so much. Donít worry about the other girl; it has been over for a long time now. She hurt me very much, but she cannot hurt me anymore, for I have found someone to whom she cannot even hold a candle. She is probably married to that other jerk she was hanging around with when I was in Vietnam. Please Jillian, tell me I have a chance, thatís all I am asking for now."
"Oh Arnie, you really do mean it," she more screamed then said. "O Arnie, of course you have a chance, and we donít have to wait for you to get your life straightened out. Iíd marry you today if it were possible, and I want to help you to get your life back together."
"I want to do it right Jillian," he managed to say through the kisses she was now heaping on him. "Today, I believe, would be a little too early for your parents, and I am not necessarily the most eligible individual to be asking your father for your hand. Let me at least get a plan started before we do."
"Oh Arnie, it will work out, I know it will, and you donít know my father. Hold me tight and pinch me so I know this is not a dream. Wow! Wonít we surprise Jack, when he comes home? Arnie, I think it is now time for you to face the problem you had at the time your mother died, and I want to face it with you. As well, I think my parents and Jack will want to know that you have faced it or they might be concerned about me marrying you."
"Jillian, my problems seemed insurmountable yesterday. Now that they are gone, I donít know why I let them bother me so much. I had a girlfriend the last year or so that I was in high school. I thought we were very much in love, at least, I was. When I was in Vietnam, I wrote to her a lot, but after a while she didnít write very much. I sent money home to my mother and asked her to save it for me, and I was hoping I would marry this girl when I got out of the army. My father was very fond of booze, and for that reason my mother looked after the money in the family, and she put the money I sent her in her account. When she got sick, she added my brotherís name on the account so that he could go to get money out for her when she needed it. She was so sick when I got home that we never got round to talking about money, and she died just over a day after I arrived. When I arrived home, I had some cash with me, and I used that when we went to the funeral home to make the arrangements. After that I didnít have very much left when the funeral was over.
"My girlfriend never came over to the house and didnít come to the funeral, so the following day I went to see her. She had this other guy with her. His father had managed to keep him out of the draft. He called me a loser and said she didnít want to have anything to do with me anymore. I got very annoyed at that, so I struck him very hard and he fell down. Before he could get up, she stepped between the two of us and spat in my face. She called me a loser as well and said she didnít want to have anything to do with anyone who killed Vietnamese babies.
"When I got home, I asked about the money I had sent home to my mother. That was when I found my mother had put it in her account, and that the account now belonged to my brother. When I spoke to him about it, he refused to give it to me and refused to give me the money I had paid to the funeral home. He called me a loser as well and laughed at me. Fortunately my father was there or I think I would have killed him. My brother told me I wouldnít need the money anyway because I would probably get killed when I went back to Vietnam, and he hoped the Vietnamese would kill all the American baby killers. When I was on my way back to Vietnam, young people spat on me several times, asking me how many babies I had killed.
"You know right then, I really did feel like a loser. I had lost my mother, my girl, my money and my family, and my country had sent me to fight in a war that nobody at home wanted us to win. All the papers were writing about what we were doing to the Vietnamese, but they were not writing about the things the Vietnamese were doing to us. The VC always carried any dead comrades away to conceal any losses, and our army became obsessed with finding out how many we had killed. Our generals became obsessed with body counts and demanded we bring back the body count from every patrol, and woe betide any patrols that did not have a body count. The captains wanted promotion and those only went to the ones with the high body count, and some did things that gave them high body counts although some people killed were not combatants. This gave the reporters a field day for all they were concerned with was winning a Pulitzer prize, and not about reporting the full story. College kids listened to the few radicals in their midst and believed everything they told them.
"Yes I felt like a loser and who wouldnít in that kind of atmosphere, but I didnít want anyone to know I was feeling like a loser, because some of them were depending on me. I didnít want them to feel like losers either because I was depending on them. I was determined to come back home, and I wanted to bring as many of my friends as I could back home with me, so I kept quiet. Jack tried to be kind to me and tried to be my friend, but I was not ready for friends, and I told him to mind his own business. Often I wanted to tell him I was sorry, but I was just not able to bridge the gap. Although I felt very bad about it, and would have liked to come and visit him before, I couldnít do it because of that. It wasnít until everyone else I knew had started to put their lives back together, and didnít want me around to remind them of their hell in Vietnam, that all I had left was Jack. That was when I decided to call to see him, and if he didnít want me around I guess all that would have been left would have been skid-row where all losers end. I have to apologize to Jack, but I also have a crow to pluck with him about why he never told me he had such a beautiful sister. That is my story."
Jillian had listened quietly to him as he told her his story, and occasionally a tear would come into her eye as she heard how they had treated him. "Oh Arnie if you only knew how many friends you have among the men you helped to get back home. You should not feel a loser, and I can tell you none of them think of you as a loser. All of them wanted to help you, but didnít know how. Many in this country treated all of the boys that went over to Vietnam very badly, and not least are the young air heads in college. That is all over now and I am not asking you to forget the past. Nevertheless, you have to put it behind you and forgive for healing yourself. The rest of your life starts right now and I want to be part of it as your wife if you still want me."
"Of course I still want you as my wife. I have always known I needed to tell that story before I could get on with my life, and who better to tell it to than the lady that will be sharing my life. I donít think I could have told it to anyone else, and I appreciate you helping me to do so. Now I understand we are going out to dinner tonight and I donít really have a good jacket and pants to wear. Is there somewhere that we could go to see if I could get them?"
"Yes we can go to the shopping mall, but before we go, I want you to do something now that I am going to be your wife. I love you very much and I want you to kiss me and tell me you love me too."
"Yes I do love you very much and I am looking forward very much to you being my wife." He smiled and she thought how handsome he looked when he smiled. He kissed her very gently and again, he told her he loved her.
They still had a few hours before going to the airport so she took him to a large mall with a few menís stores in it. As they were walking through hand in hand, they met her mother and Mary and they chatted for a few minutes. When they learned they were looking for a jacket for Arnie, Mary and her mother asked if they could come along. Both of them were looking for something for Jackís birthday, which was coming up in just over a week. Arnie was one of those men that found it easy to get a jacket and pants; you would think he had been the model for whom they made these clothes. Once Arnie had started however, he decided he might as well have a complete outfit so he bought a shirt and tie to go with the jacket and pants, and started to look at some shoes. Mary said she would like to go to the washroom and Jillian said she would go with her. Her mother was going to go as well. However, she noticed Jillian hesitate when she went to join them and guessed they wanted to discuss something in private so she waited with Arnie. "O.K. Howís the love life," said Mary when they were far from the others.
"Oh Mary, I did not know that it could happen so fast. The feeling is so strong as well that it surprises me. Iím so much in love with him that I canít keep my hands off him. I have some news as well he told me his whole story, and I know he is ready now to start his life over. I have other news as well." At this she just stopped and looked at Mary with a big smile on her face, but didnít say any more.
"What is it? Did you make love so soon?"
"No, we havenít made love, at least not yet anyway, though I donít know why since we have already known each other almost twenty-one hours now." Jillian was teasing her and Mary knew it, and Jillian was still looking at her with that big impish smile.
"Oh Jillian, tell me or I am going to have this baby right now."
"He wants to settle down here or somewhere close. When he gets things straightened out, he wants me to marry him, and I have agreed. I know it is very quick, but the chemistry is so strong between us I think it just has to be. So maybe junior here is going to have a little cousin in a year or so."
"Oh Jillian, I am so happy for you. I know it is quick, but even I could see it last night when you came over, but what about your parents. They will probably think it is too fast."
"Thatís not the only thing I slept with him on his bed last night and mom and dad knows."
"I thought you said you had not made love yet."
"We didnít. He was having one of those Vet-nightmares and I went in to calm him down. He was under the covers and I lay on top of the covers, and it felt so wonderful lying there with my arm around him, I just fell asleep. Why didnít you tell me lying beside the man you love was so wonderful?"
"Well, I will tell you that it is even more wonderful when you are under the covers as well. What did Arnie and your parents say?"
"Arnie didnít know I was there until after he woke up. He thought it was a dream, but then he could smell my perfume on the bedclothes when he woke up. When he came downstairs, he asked me about it. When I went into him, I left my bedroom door open, and my parents saw it when they got up. They had also heard me going into him."
"When are you going to tell your parents and when are you going to get married?"
"I told him if he wanted me to marry him today that would be fine with me. However, he wants to wait until he has some plans made so that my parents know how serious he is. O Mary, I am so excited, I just had to tell someone and I hope you donít mind. All I know is that marriage should be soon, or I donít think I can wait to sleep with him. I am even hoping he has another nightmare tonight, and I know that is a terrible thing to say."
"That night is worth waiting for Jillian, besides you have many things to find out about each other and that can be a very special and wonderful experience. O Jillian, I feel so excited and happy for you. I hope it really works out for both of you and that you will be very happy together."
When they got back, Arnie had already bought his shoes and was helping Mildred to pick a tie and a sweater for Jack for his birthday. Her mother kept watching Jillian and knew from Maryís expression that Jillian had told her something exciting. She thought to herself that maybe Arnie had broken his promise, and had made love to Jillian. Although they surprised her, it had happened so soon, when she thought about it all the signs were there even last night. Arnie might be a good guy and had changed a lot in twenty-four hours, but they didnít know a lot about him. She was concerned her daughter would get hurt. Although if Jillian did get hurt, she felt she could not really blame Arnie since Jillian may be the more aggressive in the relationship. She knew Jillian could be very headstrong, but still the fast pace of the relationship surprised her. Especially since Jillian had never even shown a slight interest in boys before. Other than discussing it with her father however she realized she could do nothing, and for that matter she realized John could not do very much either. All they could do was watch hoping things would work out for their daughter, or to be there to comfort her if it didnít.
They discussed plans for this evening and Mildred told them John had decided he wanted to go out to the airport as well and would take her and Mary. She also told them that she was going home with Mary and that John would pick them up there. They all agreed they would go back to Maryís after picking up Jack and go to dinner from there. Arnie said he wanted to go home to change and, to nobodyís surprise, Jillian said she would go with him.
When they got in the door, Jillian came into his arms again, and they kissed and cuddled a little bit as they moved toward the stairs. Arnie said he would like to take a shower before changing.
"Would my lord and master like me to come into the shower with him and wash his back?"
"Your not-yet-Lord and master would love to have you in the shower with him, but it is not going to happen tonight. He hopes though when he is your lord and master he will always have you in the shower with him. I enjoy knowing though that you do recognize I will be your lord and master in a few months."
"We will have many discussions on that, but it is not my fault we are not married already, since I agreed to marry you today. I love you very much, and I donít want to let you out of my sight even to take a shower."
"Jillian, I love you very much too, but it is asking an awful lot for me to allow you to come into the shower with me and keep my promise to your mother. If your mother or father came in and found you in the shower with me, I could never face them again. When we get married, I want it to be a very special day for you, and I think you will be very glad if we just hold off a little longer." He pushed her gently out of his bedroom door and closed it while he undressed, and got into the shower. Jillian had not given up however and got undressed in her own room and put on her dressing gown. She thought she would wait until she heard him turn on his shower and then go into him. As she waited, however, she realized he was right and instead got into her own shower.
As she showered, she thought about him and wanted to be with him, but she also thought about what he had said about a special day. He was right and she smiled as she realized she wanted him now more than ever. How many other men would have passed up on that opportunity, but she did not want anyone else. She had no doubt in her mind that he had wanted her as much as she had wanted him and it did not seem fair that they could not have each other. When she thought about what Mary had said, Ďthat night is worth waiting forí, she started to realize what she had meant. As she showered and as she dressed afterwards, she thought of him and what it would be like to have him makes love to her. Her body ached for him and she wanted him, but she also started to realize she was not being fair to him. He had promised her parents and she was encouraging him to break it. She knew she could easily coax many men into breaking such a promise and many men would probably have made such a promise very lightly. However, she believed Arnie held the promise sacred and not only would he resist her efforts strongly, but might resent her attempts to get him to break it. Her heart was going out to him as she finished dressing and ran to his room. Arnie had just put on his new jacket and she stopped for just a few seconds to admire how good he looked. Then she ran and threw her arms around him.
"Oh Arnie, please do not let us wait too long to get married. I want you to make love to me and I want to lie with you every night like I did last night, and I probably will not sleep knowing you are alone somewhere else."
"I have to know what I am going to do before I can speak to your father. They will want to give you a nice wedding Jillian, and I would like you to have that as well. We will just have to be patient and try to get together as often as we can, but we have to be careful while we are here."
"If only you had not promised to mother, we would have made love. It is not fair, you have probably made love several times before, but I have to wait."
"I have never made love to anyone before and that is the truth. You will be my first love and I wanted to make love just as much as you did, but I am going to keep that promise. Even if I had not made that promise, we would not have made love. Your parents have been very good to me and I do not want to dishonor them in their own home. Maybe when I know what I am going to do, I can get an apartment and we can get together there. Right now we have to head out to the airport."
An Ominous Discovery
When Bob White finally arrived in Billington to start his probationary period with its Police he fell in love with the town. Until he could find a permanent place to stay, he got a room in a boarding house and ate most of his meals in a small restaurant close to the police station. He studied and trained hard and passed everything required of him during his probation period. When he brought his fiancee to see the town shortly afterwards, Mary had felt the same. Bob and Mary White were married early in 1977 and settled into a small apartment close to the Police Station. Mary wanted to have her own home before starting a family and they saved for two years to get a good deposit. She got a job in the local library and soon became part of the community. They joined a small church and attended regularly. They accepted the town and the town had accepted them. Their future seemed settled and secure and they looked forward to a happy life in the community. Bob was quite content and even when a vacancy did occur in Portsmouth he discussed it with Mary and both felt they were happy where they were.
When the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics was founded in 1976 they hired Ahmad Jahangard as a supervisor. Again he was lucky. When Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran on February 1st,1979, Ahmadís father with all his sons by his side was there among those waiting to welcome him. They were also there two months later to celebrate the landslide victory in a national referendum to found the Islamic Republic. Although he was hoping for an even higher position, Ahmadís reward was control of the largest department of the IBB.
Ahmad had in fact hit the jackpot, since he could now play the role, which his ego told him he had the right to play. He used his overbearing manner to instill fear in all those that worked in his department and those that did not submit did not last long in that employment. All praise for anything good his department created came to him, although often he had done very little to deserve it. Also since he did not do very much, he could distance himself from any failures and blame it on some other poor employee. His attitude toward those employees, depending on the severity of the failure, could be merciless. When he was having a bad day, all the employees avoided his gaze and tried to stay out of his way. One supervisor in his department, Mohamed Hassan, was very astute at not only avoiding Ahmadís wrath, but also picking the right time to stroke his bossís ego. He succeeded in winning Ahmadís trust and became his right-hand man.
Police Officer Robert White was in a hurry to get home after his shift ended. His wife, Mary, was waiting for him and together they went to keep their appointment with the doctor. Mary was very nervous and apprehensive about this appointment. They had waited to have a family until they had settled in Billington and they were very happy here, but they had been trying for almost a year now without success. She felt she was letting Bob down and she wanted so much to hold her own baby in her arms. Today they would find out for sure whether that would ever be. When they had parked, Bob took both her hands in his and told her she was the most important person in his life. He also told her that tomorrow she would still be the most important person in his life, whatever happened this day. The doctor was very gentle, as he broke the news to them. Mary would never have her own child, and the news devastated her. Bob consoled her as best he could, but obviously her heart was breaking. She kept apologizing to Bob, though he told her that it did not matter. He was disappointed that she could not have children, but more because she had been looking forward to it than his own desire.
Bob could see he was not getting anywhere, as he got her some dinner, which she did not eat. Finally he called Sergeant Roger Bignell and, when he had explained the situation to him, asked for some time off. Roger agreed and Bob arranged to take Mary to Cape Cod for a few days. They had a quiet few days, which was almost like a second honeymoon. By the end of their trip, Mary, although still disappointed, had accepted the situation. When they returned home, Bob still had a few days left and he used them to help Mary settle into this new stage of her life. They had a delightful home in Billington and got deeply involved in the small church they had been attending. Pastor Williams, the spiritual head of the church, saw that Mary needed to be busy and kept finding things for her to do at the church. Bob and the Pastor became very close friends. Bob and Mary settled into their life together and as time passed so did the desire to have a family.
Sergeant Roger Bignell recognized Bobís ability and dedication to duty and four years later, when they appointed Roger Police Chief of Billington, he and the retiring Police Chief recommended promoting Bob to sergeant. The promotion and increase in pay meant they did not have any financial worries and had a good vacation each year. Life was good and Pastor Williams was quick to point out that they deserved it.
When Iraq massively invaded Iran on September 22, 1980, many people panicked at the initial battles won by Irak. The panic evaporated, however, when the Iranian army, which Irak and many Iranians had thought weakened by the Islamic Revolution, achieved surprising success at defence. By the summer of 1982 they had recovered all the land, which Irak had seized at the start of the invasion. The two armies still faced each other and they had many skirmishes. Iran was aware of the large stockpile of biological weapons held by Irak and in late 1982 Iranís intelligence started to get indications of the possible use of these weapons. Iran contacted other Islamic countries requesting that they use their influence with Irak to keep them from using their biological weapons and for a time it appeared they were successful. Toward the end of 1985, however, the situation deteriorated and Iran realized it had to have a counter threat to make Saddam think twice before using these weapons. They dropped the problem in the lap of Ahmad Jahangard. With his typical arrogance and overbearing manner he promised he would have the solution within six months.
All rights reserved.
October 21st 2006.
. I thank you also for the kind words you said about Michael. I guess I now know how the parents of all those boys that did not come back from Vietnam felt. It is a terrible sacrifice for any family to pay, but when it is a small child, I think it is the ultimate sacrifice no family should have to pay.Ē