MRFA Member Rod Lindberg's Book entitled
It’s almost Christmas Eve, 1972.
The Paris Peace talks are deadlocked and the Vietnam War could go either way, peace or World War III, by New Years Day.
While the world holds its breath, a mouse begins to stir. An aging American gunboat is sent on a secret mission into Vietnam carrying eight million dollars…and one hundred cases of contraband beer.
As the jungle closes in, Lt. (j.g.) Peter Erhlien and his crew are suddenly caught in the maelstrom of war and their actions begin to affect larger events occurring in far distant capitals. Not only must the sailors deal with a senior Viet Cong officer bent on their destruction, but also a spy of almost Satanic proportions. Then, Marianne, the voluptuous but down at the heels saloon keeper of the Dieu Drop Inn further complicates the mess.
As Peter Erhlien and his crew dig deeper into the mystery surrounding their destination, the river village of Num Khat, the noose tightens, their chance of escape diminishes, and the plot turns again.
As Peter Erhlien succinctly puts it, “just when I thought things were going to work out, the doors fell off again. I think we need a new plan.”
The question is, “Will it get them to New Years Day?”
Pho Thuy was weary of hiding down in the cold damp ground. The dank life of a worm did not suit him. "And I thought being a guerrilla in the forest was bad," he grumbled. He slid back the lid over the spider hole and made a quick dash for one of the garbage cans behind Marianne's inn, dropping down inside it just as visitors arrived.
Peter paused under a dripping eave by the garbage cans and leaned his back to the wall. Although tensed up like a waiting trap spring, he appeared relaxed on the surface. That was the bait. He lit a cigarette and held out the flame far longer than necessary.
"Good evening, Mr. Erhlien," Walker said politely. Peter opened the blade on the rigging knife.
"What's up?" Peter asked. It was hard to get the words up beyond his Adam's apple.
"Oh, not much. Just out for an evening stroll. I saw you through the window."
"Yeah. Came outside for a smoke. Too much company in there," Peter said slowly, trying desperately not to sound nervous. His hand tightened on the hilt of the knife.
"I understand how you feel. I try to avoid people myself."
A change in the light thrown from the kitchen window caught the glint of the rigging-knife blade.
"My goodness! That's quite a big knife you have there," Walker said. His voice expressed arrogant amusement.
"Meant to do some whittling," Peter said nonchalantly. "Maybe make myself a slingshot or something."
"Oh, I'm sure you did. A little bird came to me today and said you were sharpening your knife. Another dove offered me something amusing to forgo our appointment on Monday morning. I accepted the offer but I'm afraid I must renege on my part. Just business, you know. Money is money and more is always better. Don't you agree?" Walker said as he unbuttoned his jacket.
Peter did not reply.
"Since I have been blessed with so much advice today, perhaps I could share some with you. Never, ever, bring a knife to a gunfight, Lieutenant Erhlien," Walker admonished as he ripped a Luger automatic pistol from the waistband of his trousers. The pipe-like muzzle was leveled at Peter's midsection.
"Good advice. I'll remember that in the future."
"Oh, I don't think you will ever have need of it again. I think your Mister Putterman may have a better understanding of my financial situation then you do. I hope you will not be offended if I take my business to him on Monday morning."
"No problem at all. He's better with figures and dick-heads than I am anyway," Peter said. His nervousness had vanished. Now his voice matched Walker's for vile, but conveyed insolence instead of arrogance.
Walker could not abide Peter's tone. "Most of the time I caress the forehead of those about to leave this earth. It comforts them. Others get to grip the means of their end, like a pistol to the ear, for that last second before I help them pull the trigger. Even a barber believes he still controls his life if he holds the razor briefly, his hand wrapped in mine, before I slit his throat ear to ear. For a change of pace, I meant to shoot you through the window right in front of your sailors. You coming out in the alley made this killing easier for me.
Unfortunately, convenience always has a price. I don't get to witness the shock, terror, and abject sadness on those young sailor's faces seeing your head get blown apart in the middle of their evening meal. Nevertheless, thanks for being so thoughtful and goodbye."
Walker slipped off the pistol safety, giving a last wary look to Peter's rigging knife to make sure there was no danger from that direction, then began to pull the trigger.
"Wrong card," Peter coldly said as Henri eased open the back screen door and raised his arm.
Pho Thuy reached up from the darkness of his garbage can and touched Walker's elbow, ever so slightly distracting him.
As Walker glanced down, Peter flashed the lost ice pick from his bandaged left hand and drove it savagely up into Walker's armpit; cracking through the joint socket and marrow until it broke through to the other side.
The jarred Luger exploded, sending a wild bullet into Marianne's stucco wall.
Henri saw the shining tip of his missing ice pick protruding out of the shoulder pad of Walker's white linen suit, and Peter still standing, apparently unharmed.
`So that's where it went,' thought Henri before silently retreating into the kitchen. He replaced the revolver he had readied behind a loose brick in the oven wall.
Pho Thuy dropped back into the shadows.
Walker staggered and began to vomit down the front of his trousers. As the dark flow of blood increased from the wound, his balance faltered, and he settled butt-down in the mud.
Peter bent over the sick figure and asked mildly, "Cigarette, buddy?"
Walker threw up again.
"Guess not," Peter said and lit one for himself. "I told you not to play cards with me, but you wouldn't listen. You had your eyes on the wrong hand, friend. The bandaged one held your brand new ice pick."
The sound of rushing feet came from behind. His sailors had arrived.
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