“Tea. Just Tea.” He didn’t even look at the menu, which was annotated in English. Marco watched her pert small ass move away. He was struck by a sudden pang of grief and put his head down on his folded forearms. If tears came they wouldn’t be seen.
“You are from the war?” An elderly soft voice was directed to Marco’s left ear. A scent of sandalwood incense accompanied the words.
Marco lifted his face from his arms to focus on the old Asian. The man had silently moved to sit on the chair to his left. “Who are you?”
“I am Lin. I teach religion at College. I, like you, come for tea and solitude.” The old man was thin and his face lined with the wisdom of age.
“Yes. I’m from the war. My best friend was killed.” Marco stared at the man. He looked frail and his clothes hung on him like loose pajamas. The shiny brown silk cloth had no wrinkles. The well-defined mandarin collar was turtle-like with extra room.
“You are sad but you are still living. Your life must go on. Life is a cycle. We all live until we die.” The voice was soothing and clear, yet it was a whisper.
The man was clearly Asian but an aura of serenity and trust blended into his opening question to Marco.
“But Leon was more than killed.” Marco gripped the edges of the forest green square table. “They cut out his eyes. They’re inhuman. They’re butchers.”
“They are of a religious belief in their action. They believe in what they fight for. The job of a soldier is to kill the enemy.”
“That’s my job too but I don’t carve up someone’s face just for the hell of it. They’re sick and evil.” Marco’s brow and upper lip were beaded with sweat.
“Are you sick and evil? You have lost a true friend as your enemy also may have lost.” Lin, the sage with the soft bass voice almost devoid of a Thai accent, placed his tan parchment covered hand on Marco’s left forearm.
“What about the eyes? That’s barbaric.”
“For all Vietnamese, communist doctrine produced an indigenous belief that if one dies and the body is without eyes then the soul will not ascend to heaven. They believe their enemies know this. The message the North Vietnamese delivers is clear.”
Marco stared at the old man’s hand still on his left forearm. “The message is clear for me too. They’re animals. They deserve to be killed.”
“No, my dear soldier. The meaning to the Westerners is not as you perceive. The VC are telling Americans that they will not go to heaven if they die on the battlefield. Such is the message. Such is their deterrent.” Lin removed his hand from the forest green sleeve of Marco’s uniform.
The Marine stared anew at Lin. Marco gulped his tea and placed some coins on the table. He stood up and walked from the restaurant. Marco didn’t look back. His thoughts were in more turmoil than before. Why had he listened to this strange person? His pace quickened and he fumbled to put his envelope-shaped cap on. To the jostling masses he was just another soldier to be bumped and nudged aside.
His aimless flight ended at G Street. Marco’s breathing was still faster than normal as chaotic thoughts blended self-pity, grief, guilt and remorse at being the only survivor from his patrol. He was not only the sole survivor but his problem and inner conflict was that he hadn’t done anything about it. Marco reflected on the scenario again. He should have found his M-16 and wiped out those face-cutting gooks. The thought was a recurring theme cycling in his head. But he hadn’t done that. He agonized with this regret and then thought of the old man. Lin? Had he forgotten the name already? Yes it was Lin. Marco stopped and leaned against a wall at the intersection of an alley. The old man had tried to bring some rationalization to an atrocity of the war.
As he looked around, Marco became more aware of the local soliciting populace. The air had changed. It now smelled of aromatic liqueurs, beer, cheap perfume and sewage all wrapped up in one gaseous envelope. The shuffling and scurrying people all had slant eyes like those VC bastards. If it weren’t for the U.S. Marines, the VC would be here hacking them up on G Street. Dusk was turning into night. The blinking neon signs on both sides of the street seemed to extend for over a mile. Why do the signs have to blink? They were giving him a headache.
“I canny geh you anthin’ you nee or wan, maline.” It was a whispered soprano male voice that suddenly appeared next to Marco in the alley. “Girlee, bollil gin, marywanna, anythin’.”
Marco was annoyed and when he saw the oriental face, he grew angry. “I kill people that look like you.” He stared down at the diminutive sized man in the shiny gold suit and bone-colored tasseled loafers. “I don’t need your booze or drugs. I won’t touch your diseased whores.” The man’s odor was like dill pickle brine.
“Maybee perha somethin’ to hell you fight?” He nodded his head up-and-down with a fixed but forced smile. “I have knive, pisols, guns en almos’ anythin’ you wan. Maybe you wou lie see what I have?”
Marco stared at him. Suddenly his thoughts coalesced. Lin’s information blended with his chaotic feelings of grief and anger. “Yes. I’m interested.”
The gold suit smiled and rubbed his hands down the sides of his suit coat. “You cum wi’ me.”
Marco’s thoughts became focused. R & R for him was not for rest or recreation but a time for planning. It was a time to formulate revenge for Leon’s death. The problem with the VC was they didn’t fear the U.S. soldier. Lin had implied this but had not specifically stated it. But the meaning was there. Marco just didn’t grasp it right away. He had to devise a means to instill fear and memory of that fear into the VC out in the bush. Marco followed the little man in the shiny gold suit staring at his black slicked-back hair.
The district became more red-light in character with all of the uniformed services represented. Sailors, Marines and Army R & Rs were all in clean uniforms looking for sexual release or drugs or both. The number of neon signs had decreased. Marco followed the man into a narrow hallway and up a small staircase. All the buildings were side by side and almost touching like townhouses. He entered a room on the second floor following the golden Asian.
“I am call’t…”
“Shut up. I don’t want to know your name.” Marco looked at his nameplate on his uniform and immediately removed it. But he was too late. The oily complexioned man saw the name–Marco.
The display of armaments contained in the three trunks was amazing. Switch blade knives and even stilettos. Marco selected one. In less than one second the blade shot directly from the matte black handle at the depression of the shiny button. It produced a sudden loud whack-like sound. It was like the sound of someone punching a side of beef. Sound was a hazard in the jungle. He needed something without sound.
“It makes too much noise. I need something quiet.” Marco dropped the knife on the small bed next to the trunk.
At the mention of a requirement for noise containment, the purveyor of the illicit lethal weapons stroked his black, flimsy fu-man-chu moustache. He produced a large 357 Smith and Wesson magnum revolver with an attached six-inch silencer. Leon had given Marco a 9 mm Browning automatic pistol before the last patrol when he found out that he was to be last man in the patrol line. Marco still had the pistol back in his footlocker.
“Do you have a silencer for a 9 mm Browning automatic?”
“I tole yoo, I have everythin’.” Gold suit brought out a Browning and attached a four-inch silencer unit. It was a round tube contrasting to the rectangular configuration of the Browning.
“Is this really quiet?” Marco looked at the gun.
“Isso quia tha we coul fire i’ in this small room and no wun woul’ hear. Bu’ of cour we cannaw do becau bulle coul go throo wall and hur’ someone. I coul give you a agoo price.” He handed the piece to Marco.
“I don’t need the gun. I just need the silencer but I want to make sure it works.” Marco took the Browning with the attached silencer into his hands and hefted the piece. It had a full clip.
“I no sell silencee withou pisol.” The golden sleaze attempted a little outrage–very little.
No sound emitted from the Browning as Marco discharged the firearm. A large puff of cordite-smelling smoke lingered after the weapon was fired. “This is perfect.” Marco felt good but did not smile. “But, like I said, I already have the gun. I just need the silencer. I’ll take the silencer and the 4-inch double-edged Special Forces boot-knife, if you don’t mind.” Marco was now euphoric. He had the tools to begin Leon’s revenge.
The small Asian man in the shiny golden suit did not mind as Marco pocketed the black anodized tubular silencer unit. He also did not appear to mind the presence of a third eye in his forehead that the test shot had produced. “And you certainly won’t mind this either.” He bent over to the unresponsive Thai with the absent occipital skull and descended on the face with the double-edged boot knife in his right hand.
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