Illegally Sane 15
It was a quarter after 11 now and a glance from the front window told me that main street had been rolled up for the night, so I went on with my story.
When I got back to the office, I could tell there must have been one hell of a battle. The major was cool though and told me, “You’ll report to me everyday and on occasion you will go out with Captain Taylor on inspection tours. But I will let you know when, not the captain.”
I settled in over the next couple of days and was pretty sure I was where I was supposed to be. However, what I was doing, and who exactly I was working with still escaped me. I was sure it was Charlie at first, but then my little conversation with the sergeant major really threw me. Clark was a sergeant major so may be I was actually working for Devlin. He did make a lot of references to confusion and that where I was at, for now anyway. Then again, there was something about Major Harris looking out for me that added to unbalancing the screwy equation. The other problem was the army seemed to have the laundry situation well in hand, so there wasn’t much chance of me ending up with Ho Chi Min favorite aunt doing my laundry. Besides, even if she did, I didn’t have any buddies here who fluent in Vietnamese or French to tell me what she were saying any way. So all I could do was play the game and see what happened.
The first week it was just hi and bye with Charlie. I got the feeling he was kind of pissed off with me. Of course, I steered clear of the Sergeant Major, which is always a good idea no matter what is going on. Me and Harris kind of hit it off though. He was once stationed at Governors Island in New York and we could chat a little about The City.
Link told me that the Major was a big time up and comer once. He said something really bad happened and his career with the army was over. He told me Harris had two years to go for full retirement, so they were just letting him hang out. I guess that kind of explained the Major’s mild and mellow attitude.
My second week there Harris told me to get his jeep we were going for a little ride. I drove and he pointed the way, until we finally ended up a warehouse. He told me to wait in the jeep and he went inside. It was boo coo hot and when he came out an hour later, he apologized for the time. Then he smiled, “How’d you like to have lunch in a real restaurant, just like a real human being, my treat.” “Thank you, sir I’d appreciate that.”
We drove off into the lighter trafficked part of the city and pulled up to a place called Le Charabanc. It was a two story building with neon sign no less. It even had a small parking lot in the back.
When we walked in we were greeted by Andre, the owner. He was about 5 foot 5, medium build with a pencil thin mustache. He was wearing a white suit and he reminded me of a character out of an old movie. In fact, I looked over at the bar to see if Boogie was sitting there.
He seemed to know the Major quite well and greeted him warmly. He just looked me up and down and smiled politely. It was obvious that my rank was a disappointment to him. I could tell right away that he felt my presence threatened the elite ambience of his establishment. He graciously showed us to a table and spent a minute or two bantering with the major. Then he left and sent our waiter over.
Harris told me he had found this place on his first tour over here. He said it was in its heyday when the French ran things back in the 50’s. Andre had told him it was a favorite spot of the French senior command up until Dien Bien Phu. Then it died for a couple of years until we started showing up and business picked up again. I glanced the room and the patrons seemed to verify that account. They were mostly officers; even a star or two and what appeared to be a smattering of western businessmen. The staff was all Vietnamese of course.
All through lunch I waited for the Major to say something to identify himself, but he didn’t. We just talked about the Yankees, the office and what I was planning to do when I got out. When we got back in the jeep it Major and private again and we just headed back to the office.
The following week, I finally went out with Charlie. When I reported to him, he told me to get my weapon, pick up his jeep and wait for him outside. When he came out, he still had that old tool box of his with him. But now it was painted olive drab and had Captain Taylor stenciled on it in white paint. He just put it in the back of the jeep and pad locked it to the radio mount with a chain. When he got in the jeep I asked, “Where to sir?” “We’re going to check out some ARVIN MP outfit and make sure their masks and CS equipment is strac. Just drive I’ll tell you where to go.”
The inspection lasted a little over an hour. On the way back we got a chance to chat a little. “Where to now sir?” “Where going to my house, Moran, I’ll tell you how to get there.” When we got underway he smiled, “Like the bars young stud?” “Yes, sir, quite a surprise.” “Hey, I told you back at Dix I was going to get them didn’t I?” “Sure did sir.” “You know Moran; you could be wearing a set of these one day if you like, that is, if you want them.” “I don’t think so sir, I’m getting out when my times up.” “Look young stud, you’re doing the job, right, might as well pick up your paycheck when it’s done.” “Well, I’m still working on that in my head, sir.”
Finally we came to a stop at two story hooch. Charlie got out and was warmly greeted to by two gorgeous Eurasian girls. Then he waved me over with,” Come on Moran, let me introduce you to my ladies, he emphasized the MY. This is Michi and Claudette.” Michi just smiled, and Claudette giggled smiled, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Moran, won’t you come in?” Then they both giggled as Charlie draped his arms over them and we entered the house.
We walked into a sun lit living room and it was a startling sight right out of Better Homes and Garden. The floor was paved with white marble tiles that had been polished to a mirror shine. The large room itself was dotted with plush black leather furniture that appeared to float in the air when it silhouetted against the sparkling white walls. There was also the occasional framed black and white nude posters which hung on the walls to break up the all of that white and the whole corner of the room was filled with a black marble bar and six high back stools.
At Charlie’s invite we each pulled up a stool and Michi went behind the bar and starting mixing drinks. She looked at me and laughingly smiled, “Name your poison, sailor.” “Dwars and water if you got it.” She gave me an okay sign and smiled, “You got it.” Then Charlie proposed a toast,” Welcome to the jungle young, stud.” We downed our drinks and he quickly announced, “Time for business ladies, see you at dinner.” Michi and Claudette left the room giggling as Charlie walked over to a couch and sat down. He lit up a cirgarette and motioned me over to a plush chair next to him, “Okay, what’s your game, Moran?” “What’s my game? I thought you were going to tell me, captain.” “Well what the hell are your orders?” “Go to Vietnam, play soldier, and wait for someone to pick you up and get you placed.” “Do you have any idea what you are supposed to be doing?” “No sir, I thought you were going to tell me.” “My orders concerning you Moran were to just pick you up, get you placed and watch over you. Obviously something is really f..kd up here. I’m going to have to check with someone and get back to you on this. In the meantime, you just hang out and see what happens. You can do me little a favor in the meantime too, by paying special attention to Major Harris.” “What do mean?’ “Well, just keep your eyes and ears open and let me know from time to time, who he sees and what he does.” “This ain’t a personal thing is it, sir?” “Nope, it’s business.”