“Lieutenant Angelo Pinino?” The security officer answered the phone as if he was in doubt of his own identity.
“Pinino!” The gruff voice of LCDR Norton jumped from the mouthpiece.
“Yesssir.” The junior officer was at full attention in his chair. He was the Christmas Security Officer assigned to the Hospital Lobby Information and Duty desk
“Pinino, get your ass up to ICU.” Norton continued shouting into the phone “We may have an incident or potential incident which has to be contained. After we assess the situation we have to meet with Friendly and Fascetta. Get up to ICU. Now.” I knew I should have started Security Rounds with that Arab pilot. Well the fucker is dead and he died on my watch. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Norton took his job in the Navy as a Medical Service Officer more seriously than any other MSC officer in the entire U.S.Naval Command. Norton surveyed his to-do list and second from the top was Moustaffa’s name. The Egyptian consulate was scheduled to visit Moustaffa and begin arrangements for his transfer from the United States to Cairo. Norton’s job was to maintain security about the details of Moustaffa’s participation in the Vietnam War.
He surveyed the JNOOD’s report and tried to remember what Zettler looked like but he couldn’t bring her to mind. Huxley was a different matter. Norton had tagged Huxley for a devious prick. With his police oriented mind, Norton noticed that Huxley snooped all over the hospital. The respiratory corpsman kept to himself and was reported to be a good respiratory tech but he looked sneaky. He had a rodent-like face with a fine dark moustache and darting eyes. He never smiled. Huxley’s military record was clean and he had survived a tour in Vietnam. The last 3-months of Huxley’s Nam service was as Senior Corpsman assigned to a Field Medical Unit that was required to treat an entire company of North Vietnamese–the enemy. What the hell was that all about? It was as fathomable as Moustaffa being an Egyptian pilot flying missions against North Vietnam targets.
Norton remembered Huxley’s personnel record from that mission. The North Vietnamese Army commander spoke fluent English and both Huxley and the NVA Officer became very close as part of liaising with NVA patients. Huxley received a Navy Commendation Letter praising him for his actions. Rumor at Queen’s Naval Hospital, however, was that Huxley came back from Nam with an attitude of sympathy for the enemy. The feeling that the “United States was preventing just-unification of Vietnam by the North”, always emerged from Huxley after 2-or-more beers at the Enlisted Men’s Club on the hospital compound. Now the little fucker was involved with this fuckin’ Arab pilot’s death.
“Well guys, what are we goin’ to do?” Norton talked to the two photographs of himself at each front corner of his desk. To his right was a smiling faced E-3 SP with a white uniform, navy-piped bib and white spats over black combat boots. A white belt and black covered holster against his right hip revealed the in-place clip of his .45 automatic with the white braided cord running from the pistol grip to one of the belt eyelets. A black nightstick was on his left side attached to the holster utility belt. Being a member of the Shore Patrol was a natural for him. Norton had been a Police Officer in the NYPD for four years before joining the Navy.
Norton switched his gaze to his picture on the left corner of the desk. His uniform was different. He still had the SP white letters on the Navy blue felt band around his left upper sleeve. The .45 automatic was still there but instead of the nightstick on his left hip there was a two-way radio. Instead of the E-3 enlisted rank on his sleeve, his all white uniform sported the black shoulder boards and single gold stripe of an Ensign. He was an Officer. The time distance between the two photos represented 5-years of his life. After his first tour of duty in Vietnam, Norton completed his missing year of college at the Navy’s expense in return for two more years of military service. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in psychology. His first assignment after commission was on board the USS Forrestal as part of the SP force. It took over 32 Shore Patrol sailors to keep order on the 4000-plus-man compliment required to run the small city aboard this huge first angle-decked Aircraft Carrier. Norton felt that Queens Naval Hospital was no different than the Forrestal except there were less people and it was land-based. There were 2100 patients at Queens Naval and 600 personnel required to run just the Hospital. To that number, 300 more military and civilians were needed to operate the Post Exchange, Bachelor’s Officer Quarters, Liquor Store, Enlisted Men’s Clubs, Officer’s Club, Laundry, Food Services, Special Services, Building and Grounds Maintenance crews, Fire Department, Motor Pool, Train Station, Heliport, Gas Station and the four small stores throughout the complex. “You’re good Curly. Use your resources.” Norton imagined his two photos talking to him. Norton had only 12 SP members assigned to his command. Of these only six were regular SPs. The rest were Vietnam combat casualty returnees attached to his unit while they awaited reassignment and transfer back to active duty. Thirty-one marines, sailors and Army infantry returnees were also assigned as temporary MPs or SPs. These hardened former patients were combat experienced soldiers for the most part, but two were Green Berets and one was an unclassified CIA Special Forces assassin.
The Marines and the other three were under the command of Marine Major Montague Grungel and they functioned as a cohesive obedient force to be reckoned with. Grungel had been temporarily assigned to the Naval Hospital after he fully recuperated from his Nam injuries. He ran his Marines and SP team just like a combat force. They trained to meet Marine physical standards and under Norton’s weekday one-hour police classes they became indoctrinated to the reality that the enemy was also within their own ranks as well as outside the main gate. Norton made sure they learned the letters of the laws needed to be enforced at Queens Naval Hospital. Each man had to commit the regulations to memory or he would have them transferred to a VA hospital. None of them wanted that. They wanted another go at the VC and the NVA. They actually wanted to go back to “Nam”. Norton’s only regret was his inability to establish a brig on the hospital grounds. The only locked unit was the Psychiatric Ward on B-2 and that was for nut cases only. All prisoners had to go the Brooklyn Navy Yard brig.
“Yeah, Curly Norton is a can-do Officer.” Norton spoke to his nameplate in the middle of his desk: LCDR Winnipeg C. Norton USN, MSC–Security. The “C” stood for Charles but ever since High School with his head of black curly hair the name “Curly” had stuck. He lost most of his hair prior to his Navy Commission but the “Curly” had stayed with him. He had accepted his classification to the Medical Service Corps as the only means to get promoted above the rank of full Lieutenant. As a Lieutenant Commander, he was in total charge of hospital security and his vigilance to its operation was 24-hours no matter what. He had his hands full. In addition to policing the 800 walking wounded of the old Ramp wards he had to look out for visitors. Especially troublesome were the hookers and the press that constantly tried to get through the main-gate under false identity cards or posing as visitors to patients. Drug traffickers were another band of seedy characters that were on his vigilance list. Marijuana, heroin and cocaine were items peddled by these perpetrators. Norton had worked out an agreement with the CO, Captain Fortescue, to obtain random urine drug screens on all ramp patients twice a week. The Coxswains whistle of his radiophone chirped him from his memory lane reverie.
“Pinino at ICU. I put a lock on all of Moustaffa’s paper up here. Where are you? Over.” Pinino had one Marine MP with him. He grabbed Moustaffa’s ICU chart together with the air-evac Vietnam paperwork and confidential Egypt-U.S. Air Force contract. They were padlocked in a closed 2-foot square blue aluminum lock-box with a white U.S. Navy stencil on its top. Pinino gripped it by the Navy blue metal suitcase handle.
“Stay there. I’m on my way from HQ.” Norton referred to his office as Headquarters. “LT Potska will be checking the gates and the train station. You and I are in-hospital until the first air-evac.”
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