Red Flags

Red Flags by Juris Jurjevics

Book: Red Flags by Juris Jurjevics Read Free Book Online
Authors: Juris Jurjevics
buddy system is built on units of three," he said. "Everyone we saw made purchases for the other two."
    "The cadre allowed sixty soldiers at a time into the market for no more than fifteen minutes. Two hundred and fifty total."
    "Right," he whispered. "Multiply that by three and that's their unit, bivouacked up there in the mountains someplace."
    "Seven, seven fifty."
    "Seven hundred sounds right. And there are signs of lots more hardhats out there in the hills—more than two or three times today's group. More customers for Madame Chinh's next country market."
    "Our province chief's wife?"
    "It's her show, according to Little John's sources. She's behind the black market operating in town too, but that's small potatoes compared to this."
    "Then Madame Chinh's running a fucking supermarket for the NVA. Forget the snacks and smokes; they were selling enough staples to keep a large group fed for a week or more."
    Ruchevsky sipped his water, sweat pooling in the corners of his eyes.
    "Whatever you do," said Ruchevsky sternly, "don't put a word of who we saw at this shindig in your report."
    "You don't think the colonel should hear about this?"
    Ruchevsky stared me down. "Not a word until we figure out what we're dealing with. A priest, a missionary, a USAID rep, and an unarmed ARVN meet with a VC commander in the jungle. It's like the setup for a joke. But what's the punch line?"
    "You know," I said, "you could have warned me the two of us were going to get so up close and personal with hundreds of VC."
    "Well," Ruchevsky said, "if I had, you might not have come."
    Little John finally showed. We mopped off the face blacking and changed into our regular clothes. When we got back to MACV, Ruchevsky went straight to our room, and I went to report to the colonel, but he wasn't in his office. So I sat down at Checkman's big Underwood and, using two carbons, typed up an intel summary describing the scope of the market and our encounter with the infiltrator we'd killed. As instructed, I made no mention of the meeting between Wolf Man and the odd quartet, and I gave the reporting agents a high reliability rating of B. Colonel Bennett would know they were John and me, but we went unnamed. In case the information leaked, we didn't want our methods known.
    I left a copy on Bennett's desk in a sealed envelope and marked it
commanding officer—eyes only.
He wasn't going to be happy about the market, and even less so about the growing NVA force out there in his province.
    The original went in the courier bag Checkman would swap tomorrow morning at the airstrip for one coming in. I took the carbon papers and the second carbon copy to Sergeant Rowdy in the signal shack to teletype immediately to MACV in Pleiku and Saigon and warned him not to discuss it, even with the other enlisted man who had clearance for the crypto van. He gave me a surprised look. I hesitated, said, "Never mind," and ducked into the crypto rig and typed it myself. Afterward I got Miser to follow me out to the barrel in which the detachment burned its classified paper and handed him the sheet. He shook his head in dismay as he read.
    "How are we supposed to look for Mary Jane and opium production with NVA and VC crawling all over the province, stocking up like fucking squirrels for winter?"
    He reached in his leg pocket and pulled out a map that he snapped open. "The province is five thousand square kilometers—five thousand itsy-bitsy one-kilometer grids on this map. You could hide a whole division in a corner of a single grid, much less a bunch of VC dope. Who knows how many NVA are out there. What do we go looking for and where do we look?"
    "Not me, not tonight," I said, feeling the waves of fatigue.
    I set the sheet aflame with my lighter, holding it by an edge until I was satisfied, and burned the two carbons. Before I left, I filled him in on what wasn't in my report.
    "And Ruchevsky didn't want you to write up the meeting in the woods?"
    "No."
    "He doesn't

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