From The Novel :The Texas Bounty Hunters

 

 

The two men erected a tent that provided a welcome windbreak from the chill that had blown in from the north two sleeps ago.
The wind increased and a small twister blew past, picking up dust and debris on its way.
Shoots Plenty drew his blanket about his shoulders and looked in the direction of Esben who was leaning on his saddle by the fire.
“This whirlwind reminds me of a story,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Everything reminds you of a story.”
“That is because I know many. Have I told you the story about Coyote and death, Esben?”
“Most likely, you have told me just about everything you know, you crazy old Indian, and then some things you don’t know. You talk more than a squaw.”
“This I have not told you, so you should listen, Wasichus. In the beginning of this world, there was no such thing as death. Everyone lived until there were so many people that there was no longer any room. The Chiefs held council to determine what to do. One stood and said that people should die and be gone for a while and then return.”
“How did he figure that would solve the problem?” Esben asked. “It would just be a temporary fix.”
“Listen to the story, Wasichus. When that chief sat down Coyote jumped up and said that people should die forever. The world did not have room for everyone. If people who died came back to life, there would not be food enough for everyone.”
“It seems this Coyote fella is pretty smart.”
“Coyote is very smart, you must listen, Wasichus. The other chiefs objected to what Coyote suggested, saying they did not want their friends and family to die and be gone forever.
They decided they would build a grass medicine lodge facing the East and that the people who died would be taken to the medicine lodge and this is where they would bring them back to life by singing songs, calling the spirit back to the grass lodge. This made the people glad.
When the first man died the medicine man and the people gathered in the medicine lodge and sang songs.
In about ten days a whirlwind blew in from the West. The Coyote saw it and as the whirlwind was about to enter the lodge, the coyote closed the door. When the whirlwind saw that it could not enter it whirled on by.
In this way, the coyote made death eternal and from that time on, people grieved over their dead and were unhappy.”
“The Coyote causes you Indians much grief. Why do you let him in your council?”
Shoots Plenty ignored him and continued with his story.
“Now when my people hear a whirlwind they say that someone is wandering by. Ever since coyote closed the door spirits look for somewhere to go until they discover the road to spirit land.
Coyote then ran away and never came back, for when he saw what he had done, he was afraid. That is why he now runs from place to place, always looking back over his shoulder to see if anyone is pursuing him. And ever since he has been starving because no one will give him food to eat.”
When he finished, Shoots Plenty looked in the direction of Esben and noticed he was sleeping.

Tracking Chief Tasacowadi And The Comanches

From the novel, The Texas Bounty Hunters

A sudden movement to the far left of the woods caught the cowboy’s attention and he reined in his mule. A horse and rider were slowly moving between the dogwoods and ash trees.
He removed the glass from his waistband and put it to his eye. The rider was an Indian. He was wearing a black stovepipe hat with an eagle feather stuck in the band and a light cotton shirt and deerskin leggings. He had a quiver of arrows on his back and a bow attached to his horse pad. The horse he was riding was a large spotted Appaloosa. It was his friend Shoots Plenty, a Lakota Sioux.
The cowboy nudged the mule and moved in the direction the Indian was traveling. He stopped behind a copse of pine trees and heavy brush and waited. Soon he heard Shoots Plenty approach. He was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
When Shoots Plenty passed the rider yelled out, “ Inaji, halt. Raise your hands and slowly turn around.”
“Is that you, le mita-kohla, my friend?”
“Yeah, I thought it was supposed to be hard to sneak up on an Indian?”
“It is,” Shoots Plenty replied as he turned his horse around, “But I am old and civilized now. Why are you riding a one-eyed mule?”
“Because he is easy to sneak up on and the Seditionistas stole my horse.”
“So, you are easy to sneak up on too? I see they stole your pants and your guns also?”
“That’s true, but I’m gettin’ them back.”
“Of course you are, Wasichus, on this one-eyed mule. And when will you be doing this?”
“Soon, where are you headed?”
“I waited ten sleeps for your return. I figured you traded your old Lakota friend for a squaw so I am returning to my people.”
“I need to find Tasacowadi, the Comanche Chief. His people are in danger. Basilio Ramos and his Seditionistas are planning to raid the Comanche camp while Tasacowadi and his warriors are on their hunt. They will make it look like the Texians are responsible for the massacre. I have to warn him. Will you ride with me?”
“Nothing my brother asks of me is too great.” He took a swallow of his tea then replied, “Let us go before your one-eyed mule dies of old age.”
“Or you, Shoots Plenty.”
Soon the two riders reined their animals in and sat looking over their left shoulders to the northwest as a blue norther approached.
They listened as the muffled whistle of an elk floated on the breeze that seemed to rise from the earth behind them.
The cowboy’s back ached. He had seen more than forty winters and was well into approaching another as was his companion, Shoots Plenty. Neither man was no longer a young man.
They glanced around and spotted many pony tracks.
“No metal moccasins. No pony-drags. Most likely a war party; forty to fifty, possibly more. Comanche,” Shoots Plenty said.
“A Comanche war party can easily travel forty miles a day. Judging by the freshness of the dung piles the trail is no more than two days old. The stalks of grass stomped down by the ponies hooves are beginning to rise back toward the sky.”
Esben nodded and they kicked their mounts and rode upstream for a quarter mile looking for more signs of the war party before returning to the trail. It took another three hours before they finally found what they were looking for. To the left of the trail was a gathering of white stones set in the shape of the quarter moon.
“They passed this spot at the time of the first quarter moon which was three nights before. See over there?” Shoots Plenty remarked, pointing to his left. “The two sticks jutting from the ground, one higher than the other? The Comanche have been on the trail two days from their last camp. They are at ease; not concerned about enemy movements around them.”
Both riders continued to scour the ground for more signs. It didn’t take long before the old Lakota Sioux located a straight line of small pebbles pointing east, indicating the direction the war party was heading.
Rain and sleet began to pepper them for the next mile before letting up, failing to soak them and, more importantly, the Comanche pony tracks remained visible.
That evening they could smell the smoke from the Comanche fires. They dismounted and staked their ponies in a stand of Dogwood and cautiously approached on foot. They watched a mounted procession of warriors circling the fire, leading up to the Comanche scalp dance. One warrior rode through camp on his horse, his buffalo headdress on his head and freshly taken scalps tied to his tomahawk. One after another, riders arrived and dismounted at a large dance area where drums began to beat and the warriors began to dance in their elaborate costumes; some dressed up as antelope or deer, some as bear or mountain lions. It was fascinating to watch as they screamed, growled and roared, imitating the sounds of the different animals. Then they all screamed blood-curdling war cries.
“This will last most of the night,” Shoots Plenty whispered. “Let us go.”
They turned and crawled back to the stand of Dogwoods where they spread out their robes.
“You know, Wasichus, the earth’s soil is soothing and gives us strength. It is also cleansing and healing.”
“I feel one of your stories coming on, Shoots Plenty. Why do you tell me all these stories? Go to sleep.”
“Stories have a spirit. They continue to live and grow. It is how my people teach our young.
I am old and have learned much and know there is much more to learn. This is why I still sit upon the earth. I do not prop myself up away from its life giving forces. For me, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think and feel deeply; I can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about me. Then I can tell you stories.”
He placed a hand on the ground and explained: “We sit in the lap of our Mother. From her, we, and all other living things come. We shall soon pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.
My people come from the Mdewakanton, Water of the Great Spirit. Your people call it Rum River. My people call it Wakpa Wakan, Spirit River. It flows through Ogechie Lake in what your people call the Minnesota Territory.
Originally, my people came up from the center of the earth and found themselves near Mille Lacs Lake, from which the Spirit River comes. Many moons ago, after a flood, my people went into Mille Lacs Lake and lived as underwater people. Then a whirlpool pulled them up to the surface and threw them out onto the shore, where they lived as people who walked on land again. They hunted and fished near the Spirit River and at other places around the sacred lake
When there were many beaver and otter, the French people came and brought peace between my people and the Three Fires People, who called themselves Anishinabe, the first people. When our people were at peace the white man made more money on trading the fur of our beaver and otter because both tribes were bringing them furs for trade. But when the beaver and otter were no more, the French people armed the Three Fires People with bullet firing muskets and my people were forced from the Spirit River, our ancestral homeland.
I am now old. I am filled with peace and good will. I no longer wish to fight. No longer is anger and fury lodged in my mind.”
He looked in the direction of Esben and heard him softly snore. He was asleep. He heard nothing of what he said.
“Hmm, I try to teach you, Wasichus, but you fail to listen.” He rolled over and soon he too slept.
They were awake and saddled up before the sun rose and rode to the Comanche camp. They knew the Comanche sign to give when approaching their camp, to alert the Sentinel they were friends. They rode their mounts forward twenty steps and stopped. Then turned to the right and walked another twenty steps and stopped before returning to where they began. The Sentinel waved them forward.
Esben was told to sit to the right of the chief, Tasacowadi, wearing a cape made from a huge bear. Shoots Plenty sat to his left.
Tasacowadi looked at the white stranger for a moment and then at the Lakota and said, “Why do you travel with this white man riding a one-eyed mule?”
“I have known him for many moons. He was raised by my people. Also, I am old and he thinks I am a Lakota Chief. He rides that one-eyed mule because it is easy for him to sneak up on that mule.”
Tasacowadi grunted and turned to the white rider, and said, “Speak.”
“We followed you for three days since you crossed the Rio de los Brazos de Dios, The River of the Arms of God,” the white rider said. “You are brave. You weren’t concerned about enemies being in the area. We watched your scalp dance last night before spreading our robes and finding sleep.”
“And why should we be concerned? We are Comanche.”
“A hombre named, Basilio Ramos, and a group of his followers from Chihuahua Mexico, calling themselves Seditionistas, are planning to stir up trouble between the Comanche and the Texians. They are committing atrocious acts against women and children of the Texians and making it look like the Comanche committed the attacks and also on the Comanche making it look like the Texians were to blame.
I know the Comanche has no fear, but your women and children are left unattended and are in danger as the Seditionistas have been spotted east of the Brazos. We have come to let you know.”
“The Comanche will kill this Ramos if he comes near our women and children.”
“Now the Texas Rangers are coming and you must be careful so that you and your people do not get caught in the middle of this bloodletting.”
“ We do not fear the Texas Rangers nor do we fear the Mexicans. We drove off the Apaches and the Kiowas and will do the same to the Mexicans and Texians.
“Many are the warriors of the white man. If we take the war trail for revenge, we will need the help of Cochise and his warriors.
Where have these Mexicans been spotted?”
“We will show you. But we must leave before the sun moves a fist in the sky.”

Texas Is Cattle Country

 

From the second book in the Esben Hjerstedt western trilogy.

A flat piece of rawhide covered the soles of his feet, protecting them from sharp stones and cactus. He had a narrow band of tanned doeskin that kept his long blond hair from falling into his face. The only other clothing he wore was a G-string. They stole everything of his they could find down to his boots and last pair of pants.
He reached in his rawhide bag and pulled out what remained of the corn and dried meat he had been carrying the past few days. He drank some water from a bottle made from the large intestine of a horse. The only weapon he had was a knife that he had secured in his G-string. He had been walking for days.
Nothing bothered him. When he was in dangerous situations he had nerves of steel which were manifested in the many battles he had participated in while scouting for General Crook and the U.S. Army.
He noted a volume of dust moving at a slow rate in the distance; it wasn’t much and he figured it must be a wagon drawn by two mules. Definitely not ox-drawn. Oxen do not lift their feet as high as horses and mules and they create more dust.
He removed his glass and put it to his eye. He could see two men sitting on the box of the wagon. By the time the shot reached his ears, the driver had crumpled and fallen forward. His companion reached out to catch him when an arrow struck him in the shoulder and he was knocked to the ground and slipped softly beneath the left rear wheel of the wagon. The mules came to a stop.
Soon the wagon was surrounded by twenty warriors, Apaches, faces painted, led by none other than Geronimo.
The Apaches circled the motionless wagon, whooping and firing arrows into the sides of the wagon and the slumped over body of the driver.
Two warriors dismounted and started to unhitch the mules when one of the mules bolted. They shot the remaining mule and began to skin it.
The rest of the warriors surrounded the injured man who was beneath the wheel of the wagon. They dragged him out and two warriors held the wounded man to the ground and another cut the soles of his feet off and made him walk around the wagon for sport before one of the warriors grabbed the front of his scalp and cut it off and shot him. The warrior held the scalp up in the air and started whooping and dancing around while the remaining members of the war party began to rummage through the goods in the back of the wagon before setting it on fire.
He cut off a piece of the dry meat and slowly chewed it while he watched the carnage unfold below him before he stood.
“I guess I’ll see if I can catch that mule.”

Max Fly In Buenos Aires, Argentina

The phone rang.
“Rocco’s Pub.” It was Bubba, Rocco’s three hundred pound bouncer
“Hey, Bubba, is the Rocco Man there?”
“Just a moment. Rocco, it’s the Cheese Head. Can you talk?”
“Yeah, give me a moment. I’ll get to my office. Hang up the phone after I pick up.”
I could hear laughter and chatter in the background and then Rocco was on the line.
“Okay, I got it, Bubba, thanks.”
I heard the extension click as Bubba hung it up.
“Cheese Head, you still there?”
“Still here, whatcha got?”
“The connection’s good, like you are on the south side or something. Okay, I got this from Harry last night. The magazine rented you an apartment. It’s the one they told you about. The first-month rent has been paid and the key is where you would expect to find it. Inside you’ll find more detailed instructions.They want you to write an article on the Buenos Aires Cowboy Fair, La Feria De Mataderos. It’s a weekly fair with folk dancing, handicrafts, and food, as well as gaucho demonstrations.”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Do they do the polka down there?”
“Don’t think so. At least I haven’t seen it yet, but there are a bunch of Krauts walking around. Anything else?”
“That’s it.”
“Thanks, Rocco, I’ll be in touch.”
It was a studio apartment in the Puerto Madero district where rusting ships and decaying warehouses littered the area. I walked in and cleared off space on a bookshelf and set down my bottle of brandy. Now I was moved in. I found my instructions. They were from my handler.
He said to go to La Capilla, a boliches, a nightclub, in downtown Buenas Aires. It had been dry-cleaned and I would meet a deep cover agent, an agent of influence, a raven who had been working Buenas Aires the past three years. She had been briefed and was waiting for contact with me. She was in her late 30’s, about 5’ 4” and 110 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Her codename was Snake. She knew my code name and had more information about the Nazis and what happened in Poltava, Ukraine.
When she walked in the La Capilla it was already after midnight and the bar was still crowded. She was wearing jeans that hugged her like they meant it and a crimson T-shirt stretched tight across her breasts. She had on an open leather jacket, and tennis shoes and wore a holstered and belted six-shooter, a .357. She walked to the bar, turned, and stood with her elbows on the counter and her ankles crossed. Her eyes were as cold as hung beef and her mouth pitched at an angle that made me squirm in my seat as if I had a diaper rash. She promised trouble. She was my contact and damn if I didn’t know her. Medusa, still tough as nails.
She ordered a drink and took a sip and then looked around. Our eyes locked on each other as I walked toward the bar. Her eyes lifted from mine. They were blank, clouded, lost somewhere in the long roll of her life.
“Hi, I’m a Cheese Head from America, the state of Wisconsin. Names Max, may I buy you a drink?”
“Sure, you can call me snake, I’m from Georgia.”
After the drinks arrived, she thanked me.
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
“I see you are still walking on the green side instead of lying under the brown side, Max,” Medusa said.
“I am. Guess I’ve been lucky. How long have you been in this racket?”
“A long time.”
“I was told you would have some information for me?”
She laid an index finger against my lips. “Shhh, quiet my love. Not here. If you want to hear my story, you must have patience. Are you hungry, Cheese Head? The fresh pasta, calamari, and Patagonian wines are particularly good, as are the desserts. Perhaps you could buy me dinner after we finish our drinks?”
“I’m always up for a late night snack,” I replied.
“I know you are,” she replied with a smile. “I see you are back to writing once again. The vaqueros down here are an interesting breed. Very tough and manly. I have enjoyed myself while here.”
“I can only imagine.”
“Yes, please, imagine. It gets el toro raging in you, Cheese Head. I like you best when el toro is loose and running free in your mind,” she smiled.
I looked around and noticed a fat man in the far corner of the bar, eating a sandwich and drinking a beer. Later he was still sitting there. His sandwich was gone but his beer was untouched. He was looking in our direction.
“You notice that fat man in the far corner?”
“Yes, he’s been watching me for awhile now. He hasn’t touched his beer.”
I got up and gestured for Medusa to get up.
“Let’s go over there,” I said. “A little more privacy.”
She picked up her purse and I led her around the corner to a booth in the back.
I was facing to the front of the bar so I could watch the movement of the fat man with the sandwich and beer. He didn’t appear.
“Look,” I said turning back to face her. “The man who has been following you may have killed one of my assets, Selena, so you have to be careful. I am trying to be patient but I need you to answer my questions about Poltava.”
“Everyone wants to eat but only a few are willing to hunt, Max.”
I knew what she meant. Medusa wasn’t afraid to hunt and she was damn good at it.
She reached into her bag and removed a brown manilla envelope and began to unwrap the string holding the flap closed. She removed a sheath of papers about one inch thick. The cover sheet was marked, “STRENG GEHIEM” in bold red letters.
“What’s that mean?”
“Top Secret.”
“Is the whole report in German? I can’t read German.”
“That’s okay. That’s why you have me.”
I looked at her smiling face.
“I thought I have you for other reasons.”
“That too,” she replied with a coy smile. “This report has been very difficult to get. Nobody in law enforcement gives anything away for free, pissing matches over pride and turf too often leaving everyone with nothing to show for it except wet shoes,” Medusa said with a frown. 
“I had to be very creative,” she smiled that knowing smile.
I nodded my head acknowledging her hidden meaning.
“Let’s finish our drinks and go to my apartment. I have a bottle and you can translate what you have there.”
“I thought you would never ask.”

It took us about five minutes to walk to my new apartment. We were pretty sure the man with the sandwich and beer didn’t see us sneak out but we retraced our steps, just in case.
We didn’t see any sign of him.
I opened the door and ushered Medusa in.
I poured a hook of brandy in each of our glasses and sat down next to Medusa on the well-worn couch. She took a solid drink and reached into her bag and took out her report and began to read.
“Have you heard of Konstantin Ivanenko?”
“No, I haven’t. Who is he?”
“A Russian ufologist.
“Ufologist?”
“Someone who studies UFOs. Ivanenko was an expert, Max.”
“An expert on UFO’s? Is that like an expert on looney tunes?”
“Before you cast aspersions, Max, listen to this report.
According to Ivanenko, the Nazis established a German base in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains in Antarctica. It was discovered in 1938 by German Captain Alfred Ritscher. The area was renamed Neuschwabenland, New Swabia and was known only as Station 211. The Richter expedition’s scientists used their Dornier seaplanes to explore the area and discovered ice-free lakes that were heated by underground volcanic fissures and they were able to land on them. It is believed that the expedition was to scout out a secret base of operations. and the facility is known only as Base 211.
Now, if you had been a Wehrmacht soldier at the railroad station in Poltava, the Ukraine, during the summer of 1942, you may have seen a very strange-looking military unit. The unit consisted of women, all of them blond and blue-eyed, between the ages of 17 and 24, tall and slender, with sensational figures.
“My favorite kind.”
“Every kind is your favorite kind, Max. Each woman wore sky-blue uniforms and Italian-style garrison caps with the insignia of the SS. You might have thought the SS had recruited a platoon of high-class call girls, but the truth was far stranger than that. You would have been looking at Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s latest brainstorm The Antarctic Settlement Women or ASF. The secret Fatherland of the new 1000 year Reich.
Ten thousand of the racially most pure Ukrainians were transported in 1942 by Martin Bormann to the German Antarctic Base 211, in the proportion of four Ukrainian women to one German man.
If true, this would mean that Himmler transferred 2,500 Waffen-SS soldiers, who had proven themselves in combat on the Russian front, to Station 211 in Antarctica. This may be the source of the myth of the Last SS Battalion.”
“Are you trying to tell me that Nazi’s are living under ice in Antarctica?”
“I’m trying to tell you it’s possible and that it’s possible that life actually existed there long before the Nazi’s got there. There is strong evidence that Antarctica was charted long ago by unknown people when temperatures were much warmer.
In 1947, Admiral Richard Byrd went to Antarctica on Operation Highjump. They said the reason for the operation was to test military hardware under extreme conditions, the suggestion that it was a combat operation aimed at dislodging Nazi troops from their secret Valhalla has always floated in the air.
But that wasn’t all: Vice-Admiral Byrd had apparently stumbled into a magnetic anomaly that messed up his navigational equipment and his radio. He radioed back reports of seeing a completely different, verdant landscape under his aircraft.
It is believed the observatory contains vast crystals which put forth a certain kind of magnetism, which is used as a guidance system so that large spaceships could land at that location.”
“Where did you get this information?”
She was smiling in the mirror.
“South America, Buenas Aires, in particular, is crawling with ex-Nazis, including Richard Gehlen and Otto Skorzeny, Hilter’s former bodyguard. These pigs still like young women and have a difficult time keeping from bragging. Más loco que una cabra con pollitos”, they are crazier than a goat with chicks. It isn’t hard getting information out of them.”
I stared at her.
She smiled, “It’s a job, Max, and I’m damn good at it. “Echar un polvo, I get paid to fuck,” she smiled again.
“What do you think? Would you like to visit Antarctica?”
“I don’t think so, but thanks for asking.”
“Ok, well, I’m tired.”
“If you would like to make an old timer happy one more time, I sure would like you to spend the night with me.”
“ Max, you are more a survivor than an expert when it comes to women. I planned on staying.”
I woke to an empty bed.
I started some coffee and filled a cup. I walked to the little refrigerator and pulled out a carton of milk and added a couple of fingers to the steaming hot liquid and sat down on the couch, and thought about the evening before. If Medusa stayed on my calendar, I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the week. She sure had some unusual information on the Nazis living in Antarctica and I was trying to see how this all tied into the tragedy that happened on November 22, 1963.
There was a soft rap on the door. I picked up my revolver and went to see who was there.
It was Medusa. I let her in.
“I just got word from your handler. Your shadow has been thrown in jail.”
“What? When?”
“Last night. We have to go.”
There was blood on her chin and some on her hands and a spattering of blood on her shirt.
“What happened to you?”
“That fat man from last night? He followed us. I had to take executive action.”
“He’s dead?”
“What do you think?”
I felt like the glue that was holding the world together, was finally letting go.

Super Warriors: Drugged Up GI’s

HOME:

I felt the liquid creep through my veins and the tension and fear leave my body. I was mellow.
I was trying to escape all the ears in the walls. Every night it was the ears, always the ears.
Yesterday silence was the only friend I had. I thought the bottom was the only place I’d been but I wasn’t there yet. No matter how hard I tried I was always behind.
Tommy got into a fist fight. He didn’t fare well. His right ear was almost severed and he re-broke his nose and dislocated his ring finger. I didn’t know if we would be able to remove his wedding band without cutting it off. I fixed him up the best I could using my wife’s sewing kit to sew on what was left of his ear.
Thanks, Doc,” he whispered.
That night I watched the needle take another man and silently I cried.

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai told the president of Egypt in 1965: “Some American troops are trying opium, and we are helping them. We are planting the best kinds of opium especially for American soldiers in Vietnam…Do you remember when the West imposed opium on us? They fought the war with opium. We are going to fight them with their own weapons.

VIETNAM:
I fell in love with a Saigon butterfly of the night, a whore named Kim Lien and she kept my plumbing clean. She looked like a bottle of cheap wine and worked on Tu Do Street and swore in English like a sailor. But she was mine and I was hers. We had a need and we filled it for each other.
She told me she was a hired wife for a CIA agent in Saigon. “He had a lot of money, money to burn. The CIA was accountable to no one in the United States government. Congress did not have a clue what money they had or how they spent it. That the CIA was its own government with its own set of rules. He didn’t care what happened to his money. He said he could always get more. The mother fucker kicked me out because I could not cook his stew properly. I was not a good housewife, he said.”
She told me she started working in tea houses when she was 10 and now she only worked for her father on his Flower Boat, a sampan, and for her brothers who pimped her out on dry land.
She informed me she was 19 but I don’t think she was a day over 16.
That night I held her hand for the first time in the bottom of her father’s sampan. I kissed her for the first time five minutes later and it was then that I gave her father 300 piasters so we could spend three hours together. I gave him another 100 piasters for some opium. We smoked it before she cleaned my pipes.
I told her I loved her in front of a bar on Tu Do Street with her brother standing on a nearby corner.
I proposed to her in front of the Meyerkord hotel, ranked #11 by the GIs, #10 being the worst and #11 being beyond the call of duty.
We were wed by a Buddhist monk on her father’s Flower Boat.
We spent our romantic honeymoon in a hooch I rented for 1200 piasters a month.
I delivered our first child in that hooch two months later. A boy. He didn’t look anything like me.
Lien told me, “In my village, they call our son bui doi (“dirt of life”). I am shamed.”
I held her close to my chest as she sobbed. We shared a joint and made love.
“Don’t worry, Lien everything is going to be all right. Let’s live life like there is no tomorrow because for us, there may not be. Let’s make love all afternoon. I don’t have to be back until this evening.” We shared some opium.
HOME:
I wept at night as I thought of her and my son and what fate had in store for them. I feared my bui doi boy more likely than not, was forced into prostitution along with his mother.
I still meet her in our secret meeting place and our small son joins us. In my mind, miracles can happen. I need miracles.

VIETNAM:
It was 1969, Saigon, South Viet Nam and it was raining, again. It rained every day since we got in country.
“Name’s Pappy Smith,” he said, holding a half-empty bottle of Tiger beer which he told us tasted better than the Viet Cong Bia Hoi.
He had skin like leather and welcomed us to Viet Nam, “You are in for a helluva fight. The average age of a ground pounder over here is 19 years old. The average age of a ground pounder when he is sent home in a body bag is 19 years old. I’m 35 and I have spent three tours in Nam and three years in Korea when I was younger than you are today. I went along with General MacArthur, chasing those fuckin’ slope heads right to the Yalu River before Mr. Truman and the rest of those fuckheads in Washington stopped us. If they woulda’ let us finish business back then, you boys wouldn’t be here today.”
He stopped his orientation long enough to finish off the rest of his Tiger beer.
“You may not believe this, but the sun does shine here once in a while. You boys just missed all the fun, the big Tet Offensive. Of course, it was a huge surprise to the folks back home, and the reporters claimed it was a victory for the NVA even though we won. We set the NVA back quite a bit killing millions of the little Gooks. But you would never know it reading the Washington Post and the rest of the American press. Obviously, to our newspapers, black is white.
“You are all fresh meat, our new Cherry Boys, and I’m your caped superhero and you always trust your caped superheroes, not one of them butter bars back there,” he said jabbing his thumb over his shoulder referring to the gold bars on the shoulders of the new second lieutenants that just arrived and were being processed in behind us.
“I’m telling you up front even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. So always be doing something positive. Be alert it could mean your life and more importantly, mine.”
We knew now when he was around we never sat down.
“Okay, shitheads, let’s saddle up I’m going to show you how to ride the skids. You Cherries will sit in the middle and watch this time. After that, I don’t give a fuck where you sit. Just don’t sit in front of them Door Gunners.”
“Hey you,” Pappy said, pointing in my direction.
I turned around and looked at him and replied, “What, Sarge?”
“You our medic?”
“Yep,” I replied.
He looked at me a bit and finally said, “I don’t know what they told you in doc school back in the states, but here is the real story. You and me go out on the first unsecured insert and stay out and return with the last pickup. You and me are on call 24/7, 365 days a year until you either rotate out or you buy the six-by-three farm. I do it because I get the big bucks, you do it because you are the most important man here. We all need you. Now, di di mau, haul ass, and get your shit together.”
HOME:
I dreamed of Lien and our son again and woke up crying.
My wife asked me if I was okay. I wanted to tell her “Fuck no. What do you think? I’m fucking nuts. I’ll never be okay. But I told her, “Yes, everything is fine. I just had a spell.”
My wife takes me in her arms and rocks me. She’s a good woman and she loves me and I love her too. She thinks it’s PTSD that makes me cry. I don’t tell her. She wouldn’t understand.
“When do you see your grief counselor again?”
“Tuesday.”
“Do you think it is helping?”
“I think so,” I lied.
“That’s good. Do you want to go with me to pick the kids up from school?”
“I looked at her for a moment and said, “No, I think I’ll go see what Tommy is up to.”
“Please don’t do drugs again, please. The kids haven’t seen you straight in over a week. They are scared and so am I. Please, please don’t go.”
I grabbed her and pulled her close. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t lie to her, not anymore. I felt the warmth of her tears soaking my chest. I knew I was going to shoot up with Tommy. “I love you,” I said.
I felt like a shit when I left.
VIETNAM:
Our squad consisted of Bizo, Bug, Cotton Top, Dizzy, Doo Rag, me and Pappy Smith. We didn’t know each other’s real names and never did. To all of them, I was just Doc.
We were quiet as we contemplated what we were about to do and talked in hushed tones about our families and loved ones, and what we were going to do after our tour was over.
We packed our rucks, drew fresh ammo, cleaned our weapons and filled our Canteens and tied them on the back. For me, being the medic, I made sure my Aid Bag was packed and that I had enough dressings and meds for the next 10 days. Everyone was nervous about what was about to happen.
I passed out twelve Dexedrine to each man. We would be alert!
Then Pappy yelled, “Saddle Up and climb the hill to the pad the birds are on the way.”
And then we could hear them, that distinctive sound of the Huey’s as they approached the firebase; the chopping sound of their blades getting louder and louder the closer they got. It was at that moment as they were about to descend to pick us up that the adrenaline started to kick in. We got up, crouched over, and ran with our hundred pound rucks, weapons, and ammo toward the birds. We turned around as we got there and jumped on board. We sat with our legs hanging out of the bird; we were no longer Cherry Boys. We talked about the times we went out on recon and how we forced the “Cherries” to sit in the middle.
Once the Huey’s arrived and we were situated the bird ascended and the firebase receded as we banked and headed for our LZ.
As we approached the LZ we could see all the activity around it, the smoke and artillery fire and then the final dusting by the Cobra gunships flying down below us.
Then it was our turn, the 1st Bird, we made our way down. The Crew Chief and the Door Gunner unleashed their weapons spewing rounds on the LZ and perimeter.
We rode the skids in so we could get off faster and then we made our way to the perimeter to watch and wait until the last bird dropped its load.

HOME:
The needle goes in and I can feel it relieving the pain. I smile and look over at Tommy. Is he dead? I laugh. I don’t know why I laugh because I am sad.
I start to shake and my mind goes back to Nam. Then I silently cry.

VIETNAM:
While in Nam, Dizzy would shoot up and get high and we would ask him, “How’s the war going, Dizzy? He’d respond saying, ‘real smooth. Today we’ve got ourselves a real mellow war’.
When Dizzy was killed, we tried to convince ourselves that he was just high, in a higher place, that he had taken so much dope that he was up there floating in the clouds somewhere. To help us believe this, we all smoked what was left of Dizzy’s dope.

HOME:
I was catching bass and getting drunk the day I found out I was being sent to Viet Nam where I learned to hate my brother. Viet Nam robbed me of my liberty and I realized that I wasn’t going to live forever and then I realized that I was as free as I would ever be. You do what you do. It don’t mean nuthin’.
VIETNAM:
The bombs started falling pounding my brain and all I wanted to do was disappear.
I couldn’t see the bodies for the clouds of dust. It made me wish I was in Wisconsin drinking Mad Dog 20 20 not caring where I was or what I was doing. I was just a poor boy. Many times I walked away from trouble but I couldn’t walk away from this.
My dad told me to do what I could do and do it well. Shit, I don’t think this was on his list.
I was holding Pappy Smith’s body close to mine while pressing a field dressing against the gaping wound in his stomach, hoping his intestines would stay in. We were waiting for the last bird to drop its load and come back for us. This is why Pappy got the big bucks.
The bird finally arrived. It came with the dust and left with the wind and took the rest of our wounded and Pappy from us. This time Pappy didn’t make the last pickup. I was alone.
I tried to shut my eyes and get him out of my sight, but I couldn’t.
VIETNAM:
I stared down at the man I killed, more a boy, really. There was a star-shaped hole where his left eye was. His face was bloated. He hung upside down from a branch in the tree he used for his sniper position. Strips of skin were missing from his face; he was thin, like a woman with a concaved chest. His straight black hair was streaked with blood and hung toward the swampy ground below him. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing.
HOME:
I saw Kim Lien standing in the heavy mist ahead of me on the dock by her father’s Flower Boat.
“Lien, where are you going?” I sob.
“I’m going to find Tommy. Do you wish to come along?”
“Yes,” I cry.
She yells at me calling me pretty boy and to hurry. “Di di mau, dep trai.”
She beckons to me with her hand before turning and walking to the boat
I put the needle in my arm one last time and smile before calling to her, “Lien, please wait for me. I can’t make it alone.”
WAR:
You pay for your sins and this war was filled with more than enough sins on both sides.
The Vietnam War was many things and among them, it was a pharmacological war.
A 1969 investigation by Congress found that 15-20 percent of soldiers in Vietnam used heroin regularly and that over 40,000 soldiers returned from Nam as drug addicts.
The armed forces issued over 225 million tablets of stimulants to our troops, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in WWII.

A Professional Diplomat

author-at-golden-colorado-copy

I grew up in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. I had me a woman and she got it on like an Easter bunny. She rocked me, swept me away. She carried me along to places I’d never been and made me strong; until one night I came home and she told me to fix my own supper and she ran off with the Fuller Brush man. That woman rode me into misery. After she left, I didn’t care about tomorrow. To me, tomorrow was just another day.
I don’t understand the things I do. I was still a dumb kid who couldn’t see farther than the end of his dick. I hated my parents because of my old man. He was making every effort to drink the town dry and he left outta here like his dick was on fire. The last thing I heard him say was, “I’m going to ride the cold wind high and free and this will be the last you will see of me.”
He was right. Three months later his body was found floating in the Rio Grande, the truth of his evil deeds silenced forever.
I spent some time in Matamoros, a little border town in Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, where I blew my money on a gal with big brown eyes and bigger tits who swore she loved me long enough to get me drunk and in bed. Next morning, she and the money were gone, and I was hungover and broke. So I walked back across the border into Brownsville and I joined the army.
Two years later I finished my stint with Uncle Sam and, like a bad penny, I returned to Brownsville. Times got rough and cotton wasn’t selling and I figured all we get is the chance to play the game, not make the rules, so I went into business for myself. While I was away I learned how to kill and I learned it well. I could shoot the eyes out of a snake at one hundred yards.
I found out there was a dark side of our society that had a need for the skills I had and I wasn’t shy about hiring myself out. I help people make peace or make war, it don’t matter which as long as the money makes it into my account. Business was good. I spent a lot of time in South America assisting our government in removing undesirables from positions of power in countries we needed to control.
I didn’t know my old man had made enemies and that they were looking for something he had and they thought I had it.
It wasn’t long before they found me and left me bleeding in an alley behind Lucky’s Bar. Two armed Mexicans in civilian clothes rushed around the corner, charging toward me. One was tall and thin and the other one was taller and muscular. He’s the one that hit me with his revolver. I guess I should be happy he didn’t shoot me. They said they would be back and I had better have their pharmaceuticals. They must have thought they worked for Merck or something. Pharmaceuticals? These beaners couldn’t even spell the word. They told me I wouldn’t be leaving Brownsville alive if I didn’t have it for them by the end of the week. They hit me two more times to make sure I got the message. That was a mistake.
I wasn’t going to let these strong-arm deuces come into my town and try to play rooster and beat the crap outta me. I couldn’t let ‘em get away with it, pharmaceuticals or no pharmaceuticals.
So, a week later I set a trap and sprung it on them.
Late Thursday evening, I watched as a stolen van, the sides advertising a nonexistent plumbing company, pulled to the curb alongside Lucky’s Bar. One block away, I watched the two men who were sitting in it smoking cigarettes. They were studying the third-floor window across the street from Lucky’s as I studied them. A lone figure was visible moving around the apartment. It was my apartment, I liked to live close to where I spent most of my time, Lucky’s, and that figure belonged to Ice Malone, my long time friend.
Soon, the two goons exited the van and walked across the street and into the alley that ran behind my apartment.
I took a deep breath and vaulted through the door into the alley. Crouching I looked up and down the thin strip of dirt and saw them near the rear entrance. There was a commotion at the north end, the river side of town. A figure emerged like a phantom from the dark enclosure and took two quick steps behind them, and swung his club with everything he had. The blow knocked the big guy forward, sending him crashing into the sidewalk with a large gash on the back of his skull. It turned out he was the lucky one that night because we caught up with the second scum bag before he could make it back to the van. He lost a couple of teeth and a lot of memory, and from the beating he took, his own mother wouldn’t a recognized him.
Ice and I hogtied them and threw them into the back of the plumbing van and drove them over the border, south of Matamoros. We gagged them and pinned notes on each one of them, in case they weren’t given a chance to talk. The notes said the next time they showed up in Brownsville, we would send them back in a body bag, cut up into little pieces.
I also left my card in case they might be in need of my services at a later date.

An Old Cowboy Just Doesn’t Know When To Quit

Mustangs Rounded up by Helicopter copy-small-17

Ol’ Jughead Thompson and me were leavin’ outta Spooner, Wisconsin heading for Eau Claire for our next rodeo. It was 11:00 pm Friday, August the fourth and we had to be in Eau Claire by 10:00 am Saturday for the draw for Saturday night’s rodeo. We got a late start because we had to wait for Jughead to stop pissin’ blood.

I been knowin’ Jughead for going on thirty years now and I was hopin’ he learned a lesson in Spooner. At least he wouldn’t take a full finger tuck this time. He would play by the rules. Earlier tonight his bronc stood quietly as he pulled his riggin’. When he nodded, I opened the gate and he got wadded up into the gate. I thought they would give him another chance to nod but before he could get settled back in, that big flathead saw the crack in the gate and he blew out of the chute. His head, neck, and everything just disappeared as he bucked and kicked. For a moment ol’ Jughead actually looked like a bareback rider again until that damn flathead jerked the handhold out of his hand and it wasn’t long before Jughead was flat on his back. He was out for a few seconds and didn’t remember much when he came to. He said he recalled the horse’s head almost touching the ground and then the lights went out.

We picked him up and loaded him in my rig and then I went and got our horses and loaded them before we took off for the Spooner Hospital.

The doctor there in the ER wanted Jughead to spend the night but he didn’t want to forfeit his rodeo fee in Eau Claire, so we left. We no sooner hit the outskirts of town when I had to stop so he could piss out some blood.

My name is Bill Toft. My friends call me Buck, or when they are jabbin’ at me, Buck Toff. When I was younger, I rode saddle broncs and bare backs, but now I’m too old for that. No way I want to put myself through that pain anymore. My body hurts just gettin’ outta’ bed every mornin’

We arrived in Eau Claire in the middle of a heavy rain. Jughead drew #88 name of Widow Maker.

“I’m gettin’ on that son of a bitch,” Jughead declared.

“Don’t you think it’s about time you acknowledge the corn. You just ain’t made out for riding bucking stock. You have a lot of heart, little talent, and no quit in you. Like a bull, you don’t know when to quit. That’s a recipe for a quick death, little buddy. Let’s just stick to being pick up riders and hauling rodeo stock and leave the rest of this shit to the young ones. You ain’t going to like hearing this, Jughead, but…”

“Some things are better off left unsaid,” Jughead replied, glaring at me.“But you are going to say it anyway, aren’t you,Buck?”

“Yep, can’t help myself. If you do this, you will be sucking blended food through a straw for the next six months. Worse case, you’re going to end up in the bone orchard.”

“Hell, I still got some kick in me, Buck. I know I can ride this horse. Look at him. That horse looks dead.”

“So do you Jughead. I gotta say this, you lasting eight seconds on that horse is as likely as the Pope leading a gay pride parade.”

“Well, we’ll just see, won’t we?”

“Yep, common sense is like deodorant. The ones that need it the most don’t use it.”

“I assume you are referring to me?”

“Yep, Jughead, I am. Listen, if you feel yourself losing it, just choke that horn, will ya?”

“No way. Ol’ Jughead never has and never will be caught choking the horn. It just won’t happen.”

Well, that ‘ol dead horse threw Jughead ‘bout up to heaven and when he landed, he landed on his head before a hind foot from that bronc landed down on his chest.

I was looking down at Jughead in a crowd of cowboys and he gave me a warm smile as well as a thumbs up. Then I heard someone say, “Okay boys, let’s get as many hands as we can under him and lift him onto the stretcher.”

They put him into what I assumed was an ambulance. I crawled in after him and we took off. The driver was cursing as we hit some pot holes.

“I don’t know if I’m going to survive this one, Buck Toft,” Jughead groaned.

“You’re going to make it, Jughead. I remember that time in Noches, Texas, about twenty years ago, when you were in the recovery room and your spleen ended up in the operating room trash can. You walked away from that one. You’ll walk away from this too. From now on, we will spend our time spreading hay and hauling bucking stock, not trying to ride ‘em.”

Jughead nodded, smiled, and closed his eyes.

“You all right back there?” the driver asked, as the stretcher rolled across the floor and slammed into the side of the vehicle.

The ambulance driver wasn’t actually an ambulance driver, he was tending the beer tent and he had to close it down when they asked him to drive Jughead to the hospital. Actually, it wasn’t an ambulance, it was an old yellow cab and the driver was slurring his words.

“Damn, the gate is closed. Hey, girls, have them boys open that gate,” he yelled. I was sitting next to him. He turned around and was holding a can of Blatz Beer.

“How’s he doing?”

“Not good, he’s rolling around like a damned billiard ball,” I yelled.

“God damn right it’s rolling. We’ll get him there in no time. Now don’t let him die on me. He’s pretty old to be doin’ this, ridin’ broncs, ain’t he?”

“That’s what I’ve been tryin’ to tell him.”

Turns out Jughead didn’t last the ride. I don’t know if it was the ride on the bronc or the ride in that old Yellow Cab that did him in, but deep down in my heart, I know’d it was his stubbornness that finally did him in. He just didn’t know when to quit. I think the good Lord finally did him a favor calling him home but I sure am going to miss that boy.

Max Fly – U977 German U-Boat

UFO Athens Ohio 1965
UFO Athens Ohio 1965

 

Max Fly and Hap Schultz are recruited by an outed CIA agent who heads up a clandestine element of agents that believe that the JFK assassination was orchestrated by former Nazis and their boss, Allen Dulles and that it goes higher than that – much higher.
Max and Hap resurrect their rodeo career as the cover for their covert activities as they travel the circuit from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before they head to Mexico and finally South America as they search for missing Nazis. There, Max and Hap find themselves falling into a vortex of a bizarre hidden society and the unknown living hell framed by the Nazi Party.

In the beginning…

You work like a son of a bitch for weeks on end and nothing makes sense. You begin to wonder why you are wasting your time and your client’s money. You are confused and lost in a convoluted world of lies and misleading statements. But then one day it clicks. Somebody tells you something. You think of something you saw, read, or heard and suddenly, everything makes sense but here’s the kicker, most of the time you wish it didn’t. Because the things we are hired to figure out are some of the most revolting things in the world.
One day you wake up and find yourself thrust in the midst of other people’s flotsam and you wonder how you got there and that is exactly what happened to me. The story I’m about to tell you is true. It happened a long time ago and some of the details are becoming blurred in my old age. It all began in the winter of 1969, December to be exact, six years after the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Let me rephrase that, my involvement began in December of 1969.
The story of the Kecksburg incident begins at 4:45 PM, December 9, 1965.
From northern Canada to western Pennsylvania, thousands of witnesses described “an orange fireball tearing across the evening sky towards the southeast, followed by a trail of smoke. Thirteen witnesses included pilots spread throughout Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio. They were along the flight path of this bell-shaped object.
Once over Ohio, however, the object clearly demonstrated that it was not a typical meteor, nor a crash in the ordinary sense of “space debris,” for according to witnesses, it stopped, stood still “for a few seconds” and then changed its course towards Pennsylvania.
Then I got that phone call, the one that would change my life forever.

JFK Murder Solved – Fiction By David Hesse

He glanced at his watch. It was 11:45 pm and the street was still deserted. He had been standing there for fifteen minutes. It was a Sunday night and the buildings were dark. A lone streetlight cast shadows across the street and sidewalk and he watched the mist as the wind blew it across the yellow beam put forth by the light. It was remarkably quiet. Not a sound. Nothing!
Earlier that evening, the fog moved in and soon after the heavy mist began to fall. The tall thin-faced man pulled the collar of his trench coat up around his neck and pulled down the brim of his hat to keep the dampness out. Nothing about him drew attention. He kept an eye on the phone booth down the street. It was still empty. He reached into his breast pocket and removed a package of Chesterfield cigarettes. He tapped the package on the back of his hand and bent down and removed a stick with his teeth. He replaced the package in his pocket and removed his lighter. He spun the wheel, igniting the flint and a flame shot up momentarily illuminating his lined and haggard face. He hadn’t slept in two days. He snapped the lid shut and returned it to his pocket. The smoke he exhaled was lost in the thick fog that enveloped him.
He looked around. He didn’t see anything, but he felt it. He didn’t like the feeling. He stuck to the plan to make sure he wasn’t followed, but you just never knew. From experience, he knew he couldn’t trust anyone and it was one helluva way to live your life.
He glanced at his watch once more. It was 11:53. He took one last drag of his cigarette and flipped it in a nearby puddle. He listened to the brief hiss before the butt was extinguished.
He inhaled deeply and looked to his right and left once again to make sure nobody was around before he moved out. Hurriedly, he crossed the street to the phone booth. He stepped in and closed the door. A light went on. He wrapped his hand in his handkerchief and smashed the light, enveloping him in darkness. He lifted the receiver and dropped in a dime. He knew the number by heart and had dialed it many times in the dark. The phone rang once before it was picked up. There was complete silence on the other end.
The tall man said, “7-1-1-3-4. I’ve been burned.”
“Where are you?”
“Zone three, drop one.”
“Stay there.”
The line went dead.
He hung up the phone and took a deep breath. He lit up another cigarette and hungrily sucked in the smoke. His throat was raw. He had been smoking too many of these things. He opened the door and tossed it across the sidewalk. He reached under his coat and removed his gun, a 9mm Beretta. He chambered a round and put his hand and gun in his outside right coat pocket. Even though he dry cleaned the area he could never be too careful.
Quickly he walked to the corner and turned left heading toward an alley behind an old warehouse. He stepped into the shadows and waited. His mind wandered to his earlier conversation with Serena and he couldn’t erase it from his mind.
“Paul, she said, “I have the bona fides, documents that prove the CIA along with a German expat, one of those Paperclip Nazi’s, named DeMohrenschildt, a Dallas oil geologist and close friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s, was in on the plot to kill John F. Kennedy and it goes higher than we thought. Paul, this makes me sick.”
It had been so long since anyone called him Paul, he had to pause for a moment to gather his thoughts. “Okay, put it together and meet…”
Was that a click on his phone, or hers? “Selena, did you hear that?”
“Yes, I have to go. I’ll meet you…”
Those were her last words. He heard her scream and a moment later an unknown voice came on the line.
“You’re next Paul. We know where you are.”
The line went dead.
It wasn’t long before a black Lincoln limousine pulled around the corner and came to a stop in front of the alley. The back door opened as it slowly rolled by and Paul jumped in closing the door behind him.
When he caught his breath he said, “We lost our Asset, Selena. They got to her this morning and they outed me. They called me by name.”
As they drove away his handler looked at him and gave him a scotch. “We are going to have to bring you in, Paul.”
“Why? I am about to tie this whole thing up. We got ‘em right where we want them. What we gathered isn’t chicken feed. It’s some serious stuff.”
“No, we don’t.”
“What?”
“Your swallow was killed last night. She was beaten and raped and dumped in the East River. They found her body this morning. She is currently at the morgue. Her apartment was trashed and her camera, typewriter, and files are all gone. Nothing.”
The tall man was quiet for a moment, taking this all in. If this was true, all the work he put together for the past year was ruined, compromised. Without supporting documentation, all he had was his word and he would be going up against some of the most formidable men in the world, not just the CIA but the President of the United States himself.
Paul threw back the scotch and looked over at his handler and found himself looking down the barrel of a silencer.
“I’m sorry Paul.”
Phatt, the sound of the silenced gun was the last thing Paul heard before the .22 caliber slug entered his skull, mixing up what was left of his brain. The slug didn’t exit his skull. It was the perfect caliber round for an execution.
He died instantly.

The Big “H” A Short Story By David Hesse

 

 

Hat and Boots

“We’ve been waiting for you.”
The sound of the blast had been deafening. Blood and brain were splattered against the mirror hanging behind the couch. One of the hinges on the door to the kitchen was blown off. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. The guy who stood next to me was now in my grasp. I could feel the flutter of his heart against my hand as his life left him. His face had been ripped like canvas; whoever I was holding, would not have an open casket at his wake. I felt something warm running down my face; blood. I was shot. My left shoulder was also covered in blood, my blood. It oozed out of the holes put there by the rat shot fired from the twelve gauge sawed off shotgun in the hands of the person standing against the far wall. I heard the cha-chunk of another round being chambered. There were two of them. They were small and thin and dressed in black and covered in tats. They looked like kids, both were wearing white hockey goalie masks. Their eyes shone like black obsidians through the slits in the masks. One held the shotgun and the other held an automatic Tec 9 with a 32 round clip. Both weapons illegal. The Tec 9 since 1994. The sawed-off shotgun since1934. But that doesn’t matter. The bad guys still have them.
I was paralyzed and numb; frozen where I stood. The black eyes behind both masks stared at me. The one holding the shotgun pointed it at my face and squeezed the trigger.
I sit up in bed, drenched in sweat and gasping for air, another fucking nightmare. My body feels limp and I am unable to speak. My head feels like someone is applying hydraulic pressure to it. I don’t know where I am at first. I look around. The surroundings are unfamiliar to me. The furnishings are cheap. So is the television sitting on the maple dresser against the wall at the end of the bed. On the wall over the television set hangs a mirror. I see my face looking back at me. I hardly recognize myself. What I see scares the shit out of me. I look like a fucking zombie, an upright cadaver. I am pale and clammy. My cheeks are drawn-in; my breathing is slow and shallow and erratic. I feel for a pulse, it is erratic as well. I must have lost twenty pounds. I look at my hands. My skin and fingernails have a purplish-black color to them.
It all comes back to me slowly. I am an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and have been for the past ten years. Now I am through. I wanted out for a long time and finally, they came for me. During those years undercover, I did some shit I would just as soon forget. I started on flea powder, the big H, about three years ago and that’s why they brought me in. That and the fact my cover was blown. I was told to stay away from the heroine, that blue magic. They said that it would kill me. I now wish it would have.
I was forced to shoot up by members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, better known as the MS-13 gang, considered by the FBI as the most dangerous gang in America. I think the FBI has that right.
I leaned over the side of the bed and vomited into the trash basket. It looked like it wasn’t the first time.
I smelled. I couldn’t remember the last time I bathed. My clothes were torn, threadbare and filthy. I couldn’t remember the last time I washed them.
I throw the bedcovers off and stand. My legs are shaky. I stagger into the bathroom and turn on the cold water, I throw it on my face before cupping my hands and greedily drinking. My stomach begins to toss and convulse again. I grab the toilet bowl and let it go. Nothing but yellow bile comes up. I can’t remember the last time I ate.
I flush the toilet and turn to leave and notice a prescription bottle on the counter. It says Buprenorphine. It comes back to me now. A woman brought me here yesterday and gave me this drug. It is supposed to stop withdrawal symptoms and my craving for heroin.
There was a knock on the door. I freeze and my heart feels like it will burst through my chest. My breathing is shallow.
The handle on the door turns slowly and I hide behind the bathroom door. I look out between the door and the wall and see a statuesque woman walk in with a purse over one shoulder and carrying a paper bag and two cups of coffee. She has short dark hair and is wearing a dark skirt and jacket.
Tentatively I walk out into the room.
“Where am I?”