Carolyn G. Hart_Henrie O_04
you’ve ever known.”
    I’d also retrieved photos of the children. All of this material was in a zippered compartment of my carry-on. But I didn’t need to get it out to remember. I remembered easily. Because one of the faces might belong to Richard’s murderer.
    And I would see all of them soon, very soon. If I got past my meeting with Belle.
    I jumped up from the chair and walked to the carry-on and yanked up her autobiography.
    A bookmark marked this passage:
    I was bringing up the rear with another correspondent, Richard Collins of Midwest Syndicate. We were following a platoon from A Company, Fourth battalion, Twelfth Infantry, on a jungle trail north of Saigon, seeking an encampment of Vietcong. Suddenly machine gun fire swept across the trail and soldiers sagged to the ground, blood splashing against the brilliantly green ferns, flooding down into the dust. The attack came so quickly, there was hardlyany sound except the clatter of the machine guns. A sunburned captain was hit three times as he tried to make radio contact for artillery support. Collins pushed me off the trail. A corporal with a machine gun held off the attackers. Collins and I were able to hide behind a well, then follow a path to an abandoned rubber plantation. We hid there for four nights, then returned to the trail and found our way back to an American outpost. Every man in our platoon was killed. Our escape was as fortuitous as the lives and deaths of thousands of GIs. Survival or destruction depended upon where you happened to be standing, which direction your patrol took, whether the artillery hit your helicopter or another. Since Vietnam, I’ve never had any sense of security—and I am haunted by the pointlessness of the deaths I saw. Why, dear God, why? They were so terribly, vulnerably young, those GIs. Every few weeks, I flew to Japan—a luxury unavailable to the ordinary troops in the field—and as I left behind the horror and despair, I often recalled the caustic comment of Mary Roberts Rine-hart, the first woman to cover trench warfare during World War I: “Old men make wars that young men may die .”
    I closed the book, stared down at Belle’s picture.
    Richard was mentioned three more times in Belle’s book. They’d been together the January night the Tet Offensive began and were among the last correspondents out of Tuy Phuoc. They were there when Marines fought through the streets of the old provincial capital of Hue. They covered the siege of Khe Sanh.
    I was as impressed by what Belle left out of the book as by what she included. There were very personal, caring vignettes about soldiers: the stubble-faced eighteen-year-old from Dubuque who carried a small terrier with his head poking out of his backpack; the captain from Pittsburgh who died trying to help a pregnant Vietnamese woman escapefrom her village during a Vietcong rocket attack; the gray-faced major from Toledo waiting for the return of his helicopters, waiting and waiting; and acid-etched portraits of pompous brass in Saigon and “celebrity” reporters who dropped by Vietnam, then returned to the U.S. to parrot the Johnson war rhetoric.
    But what was missing was Belle herself. Her chapters on Vietnam were a foreign desk’s dream, clear, crisp, factual. But only occasionally, as in the passage about the platoon, was there a hint of her personal response.
    And that was true of all the book. Belle on Belle was her report on the stories she’d covered, the people she’d interviewed, the history she’d observed.
    Oh, yes, you can’t read an entire autobiography and not have some picture of its author.
    I knew these things about Belle: She was brave, tough, smart, charming, aloof, imperious. She didn’t grandstand. And she didn’t spend much time in bars.
    Were she and my husband lovers? Her book didn’t tell me.
    Richard came home from that war bitter at the dissembling of our

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