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.

Max Fly And The JFK Conspiracy

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The man in front of me was big with his hair clipped short on the side, military style. He was wearing a white trench coat and a brown hat, brown oxford shoes, white shirt, brown tie, and I assumed he had a government issued revolver on him somewhere.
He didn’t offer his hand and neither did I.
I was wearing my brown Dan Post cowboy boots, brown corduroy sports coat, Wisconsin Badger sweatshirt, Wrangler Jeans, and my silver belt buckle I won for being the runner-up all-around cowboy on the Texas Rodeo Circuit in 1937. I had my Colt .45 belly gun in its rig, situated snuggly under my left arm. I topped everything off with a white Stetson hat. I looked good.
I had a brandy manhattan in front of me and he had a Scotch and some change. He bought the drinks. It was his meeting.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, Max. I realize you are a busy man.”
“That’s true but Harry said it was important. Something to do with national security?”
He ignored my question and asked one of his own.
“You and Lieutenant Harry Marshall pretty tight?”
“I guess. What’s this about?”
It was a Monday afternoon, 2:15 p.m. Central Standard Time, to be precise. We were sitting in the back of Rocco’s Pub, near the ladies room and close to the phone where I receive most of my calls. My friend and proprietor, Dan Ciorrocco, known as, The Rocco Man, was busy wiping down the bar and filling the cooler with beer, preparing for the evening crowd that would start arriving around 4:00 p.m. It was dark. I asked Rocco to keep the lights turned down and he agreed. This was a secretive meeting.
”Yes, well, I’m Colonel Jack Clarkston, I’m the Assistant Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.” He paused to let the importance of that set in, I guess. I stared at him.
He continued. “What do you know about the CIA, Max?”
I thought a moment and realized I didn’t know a great deal about the CIA, so I did what I usually do when I found myself lacking knowledge, I lied.
“Quite a bit actually. You are a bunch of weird spooks snooping around in everybody’s business trying to overthrow governments of small defenseless nations. How’s that’s for starters?”
He stared at me nodding his head.
“That’s fairly factual. Actually, we gather intelligence. We deal with two types of intelligence gathering. First, there is white intelligence which is information gathered from open sources such as newspapers and magazines and then there is covert intelligence gathering and this is what I am interested in hiring you for, to work directly for me outside the normal channels of the agency. I believe you are the perfect candidate.”
“Hire me? What for?”
Clarkston stared at me for an instant before pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. He blew smoke over his head and took a sip of his Scotch.
“Max, you have military and investigative experience. You don’t have a family. No siblings, your mother is dead and your father disappeared years ago, most likely died and buried in a pauper’s grave somewhere. Your history with women is shaky at best. You don’t have a wife or any kids, no attachments. You are familiar with the southwestern states as well as Mexico and South America and you cheat on your taxes. In other words, you are a perfect candidate for covert operations, this operation. We need someone outside the agency, someone we can trust. Are you interested?”
“And why should I do this?”
“Because you love your country and because we are asking you to do it. You don’t need any special talent or high intelligence. If intelligence, talent, and ability were hereditary, we would have to dig deeply into your family tree to find its source,” he said with a flicker of a grin, “and we don’t have the time to do that.”
I didn’t appreciate his failed attempt at humor.
“I don’t know. I’m making some pretty good money now. I would hate to give it up.”
“Max, we know what you are making and it isn’t what you have been reporting on your tax returns. We don’t care about that. We are willing to pay you twice as much as you brought in last year and we’ll lose the information we have on you so the Treasury Department will not get their hands on it. We don’t play games, Max.”
We looked at each other across the table.
I picked up my brandy and took a big swallow.
“Since you put it that way, I guess I’m your man.”
“Good, that’s good, Max.”
He took another drag on his cigarette and continued to look at me.
“We found over the years a man becomes a spy for different reasons, hatred, anger, political zeal, money, and sex and then some of them are coerced. You exhibit all these qualities. Hell Max, you voted for Senator Joseph McCarthy. In addition to theses qualities, you seem to have inner demons which could also help you be successful.This is an opportunity to do something special, something important for your country. Because of your tradecraft, and independent nature, we feel you would be a perfect fit for this job. There is no reverence in what you will do. I have to tell you, now that you are a part of this, there is no way out. You can’t fuck around with these people. They will break you and turn you into something awful.
“I’m just a private dick, Colonel. I’m not a Spook.”
“We’ll make you one and you will be one of the best. Hap Schultz will join you.
We want you guys to fly under the radar. When someone comes to us saying they have some information relating to this job, we want to send you and Hap, someone who cannot be traced back to us. You set up your network of friends you can trust. No more than ten people. We will train you and pay you well. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. you and Hap Schultz will meet me in Lieutenant Marshall’s office down at the Milwaukee Police Department’s 16th Precinct. Don’t be late. Hap is being briefed by another agent as we speak.
“Have you heard of a sleeper agent, Max?”
“No, I can’t say I have. What is a sleeper agent?
A Sleeper Agent is an inactive deep-cover agent. What we are about to tell you came from a sleeper agent. It is top secret and if any of this information leaks out, it could cause the death of many people and that will make me angry and you don’t want to make me angry, Max.
After you sign these forms I am going to tell you somethings and you cannot breathe a word to a soul. You are also going to meet some very powerful people who are going to pass along some top secret information to you and you are going to forget you ever met them. Do you understand?
I nodded my head. I figured I had already forgotten more than I know and forgetting more shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“Good. Your cover will be that you are traveling and writing about life on the rodeo circuit throughout the southwestern United States, Mexico, and South America. We will assist you in getting jobs as a pickup rider at the different rodeo events. Those where we can’t help you, you will be on your own and will have to figure out how to maneuver around the event. We want you to mingle with the cowboys in the area as well as the people who are putting on the event. You will just be another rodeo junkie while you spook some really bad people.
“Since you are a writer and a former newspaper man your background fits.
“We will teach you a code and provide you with a code book.
“Dan Cirrocco will be your contact. You will leave your encrypted reports here at Rocco’s Pub with Dan. You will learn the code. Mr. Cirrocco will have no idea what the codes mean. He will hand them off to Homicide Detective Harry Marshall who in turn will get them to us.
“We will never leave you naked. We will have friends in the area at all times but you will never know who is covering you.
“Your code name will be Cheese Head.”
“Cheese Head? Where the fuck did you come up with that?”
“It doesn’t matter. All your correspondence will be signed Cheese Head. No exceptions. I’m going to leave now. A car will be out front in fifteen minutes to pick you up and take you to the Pfister Hotel. You will be meeting another Harry, Harry Truman.”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“President Harry Truman?”
“It’s the only one I’m aware of, the man who created the CIA, this Frankenstein I work for. This is big, Max, real big.
“Oh, and by the way, if asked, I was never here. We never talked.”

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?”

THE CLEANUP HITTER By David Hesse

The well-dressed man standing in the window was admiring his manicure when he saw the young man walk across the parking lot toward the building. He shook his head in disgust and hoped he wasn’t making a mistake. He could see a cigarette stuck behind his ear. The young man was wearing a black leather jacket that had zippers all over the front and on the sleeves. It was open in the front in spite of the cold December day exposing his black t-shirt . His black pants were tight and high and he was wearing white socks and black loafers. He had his hair slicked and oiled back in what was the fashion of choice by all the punks. He was late.
The well-dressed man went behind his desk and sat down waiting for the young man’s arrival.
When the young man opened the office door he saw the man he was scheduled to meet sitting behind a large cherry wood desk. Against the wall was a matching credenza. Above the credenza was a large window overlooking the parking lot and the Wisconsin River. The young man took in the office and its surroundings. He looked out the window and noticed ice had started to form along the far bank, the current in the center of the river was too strong for any ice to form, at least until after the temperature dropped well below zero and it would have to stay that cold for quite some time. More likely to happen the end of January or sometime in February, if at all. It was only December 1st.
The desk was bare except for a black phone and one 9”x 12″ brown manilla folder that he assumed was meant for him.
He could tell the man behind the desk was a big man even though he was sitting. His head was large and bald and he was sporting a Fu Manchu mustache that traveled down the side of his mouth and around his jaw bone. It was a white blond. His skin was an alabaster white and his clear blue eyes were ringed in red, an albino he thought. He took a deep breath.
The well-dressed man squinted as he looked up at the young man.
“Close the door,” he commanded.
He did.
“What took you so long?”
“Traffic.”
“Fuck, ain’t no traffic.”
He didn’t say anything he just stared at him.

The big man asked him, “What’s your name?””My friends call me The Cleanup Hitter.”

“My friends call me The Cleanup Hitter.”

“So, I should call you the cleanup hitter?” The big man asked.
“I guess,” the young man replied.
“Okay then, let’s get to it.” He stood up and handed him a gun.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s a .25 caliber” he replied.
“I don’t need it. I got a .357. Should do the job.”

“You need it. That fuckin’ .357 makes to much noise and will draw attention to you. Plus it’s messy.The .25 caliber is a hitter’s gun. You take it when you know it’s going to be a head shot.
“It’s a worthless gun,” he said. “I know a guy was shot on a Saturday night with a .25 and was back at work on Monday.”
“Yeah, well, you ain’t goin’ to no shootin’ match with this one. You are going to place the barrel up against the back of his skull and then pull the trigger. The slugs will ricochet around inside the head. It’s like putting the victim’s brain in a blender. When you finish you can drop it or take it with you. They can’t trace it. But, if you drop it, make sure it’s wiped clean. Make sure you get all your brass, though. Many guys got nailed by leaving partials on the brass.”
The young man looked at him and nodded okay.
“All right, then,” he said, handing the young man an envelope. “This has a picture of the guy along with his home address and where he works. Joey followed him for three weeks and we got every place listed that he went to. He’s got a little lady that works at Dinah’s Tap off Carson Street. You know where that is?”
He nodded his head again as he removed the contents of the envelope. There was an eight by ten picture of an overweight older man wearing slacks and a Hawaiian shirt along with three sheets of notebook paper documenting his daily routine for the past three weeks and $2500.00 in cash, all in twenty dollar bills.
“Who is this? I think I recognize this guy.”
“You don’t need to know. Just take care of business. The cash is yours. That’s half in advance and once it’s done, you’ll get the rest as we agreed upon.”
The young man nodded again. “So, this .25 caliber gun won’t attract any attention?”
“No, it won’t. I make more noise when I fart. Just get behind the bastard and pulled the trigger. The slug will do the rest. I’d pop ‘im again, just to make sure.”
The young man nodded again. “What did he do to you that you want him gone?”
“It’s none of your business. Your business is to take care of this. Make it clean, you understand?”
“Okay,” the young man replied as he put the $2500.00 in his pocket and picked up the .25 caliber. “I guess I better get this over with then.”
The young man placed the barrel of the gun against the big man’s head and quickly fired two shots at point blank range into his skull.
The large man fell forward over his massive desk. His eyes were open with surprise etched on his face. It was turned to the side and blood was pooling around his neck and down the back of his suit.The young man said, “You were right, this little gun is real quiet and that second slug just to make sure was a good idea.”
He bent over the body and said, “I think I can hear them slugs ricocheting around in your head cocksucker.” He stood up and looked at the .25 caliber gun. “I think Joey will be surprised to see this, don’t ya’ think?” He chuckled as he put it in his jacket pocket while grabbing the cigarette from behind his ear and popping it in his mouth.
“Damn, I forgot my lighter,” he said as he walked to the door.
The young man stopped and was about to open it when he turned back and said, “Oh, I almost forgot, the brass, and by the way, my pa said to say hello. He wanted his picture back.”