The first time Veeresh saw her, he learned what a true heartbeat was. It was more than two years before he would find himself in a prison. The son of the city’s wealthiest man was getting married to a girl from a highly respected family and nearly every townsperson was in attendance. Dressed in their finest garments, men wore bright-colored sherwanis. The heavy fabrics had the presence of a lining and were a cross between the British frock coat and Indian kameez. Alongside their male companions, women were covered in vibrant shalwar kameezes or saris. Their garments came in many colors and sizes. Some were heavy while others were light.
The groom’s family owned a large three-story complex where the entire family from the great-grandfather to the great-grandchildren lived. It was the largest home within a hundred mile radius of Bhagwanpur. The red-bricked building could be seen for miles around and its architecture was something to be marveled at. It reminded many of the palaces of old.
The festivities were being held in an open field next to the complex. Red, green, and gold tents and canopies had been set up throughout the grounds, protecting the wedding’s guests from the evening sun. The largest canopy, a red and gold patterned one, was set up in the center of the fields. The last marriage ceremony, the Saptapadi, had been performed under it only hours ago. The fire that the groom and bride had circled seven times still burned and its thin line of smoke continued to rise into the air.
A professional band played joyous music in the field, using a variety of instruments ranging from stringed instruments to aerophones to drums. But the two most prominent were the drum-like dholka and tabla. The musicians expertly beat upon them and their sounds could be heard in every corner of the field.
Children could be seen running around the tents and dodging the adults as they chased one another. To them, this was the highlight of the wedding. Their laughter filled the air as they played their games. Their jubilant voices were so loud that they rivaled the music.
Women wore the decorative henna on their hands and the younger ladies took every opportunity to compare their temporary body art with one another. After all, whomever had the better design would have bragging rights until the next occasion. Older woman all spoke of the new couple and surmised what their thoughts were. They guessed whether the first child would be a son or a daughter. And as they did at every wedding, they tried to predict which eligible singles would be next in line for marriage.
Men spoke with one another of politics. Tensions had been escalating between the Company and the people of India. Some spoke of revolution, but most did not believe it would come to that. At least not in their lifetimes.
Over the last century, blissful occasions like this had become rarer and rarer. People could not afford lavish ceremonies such as this and the ones that could were not willing to do so. After all, it had not been long ago that countless Biharis were forced to migrate to the West Indian islands as indentured servants. And at the root of all the chaos was the misrule of the Company and Crown.
But today, that was on nobody’s mind.
Veeresh was well-groomed for the function. His cheeks and chin was cleanly shaven. The only facial hair he wore was the traditional Brahmin mustache. He wore a light brown outfit with loose, white trousers that covered him to his ankles. After witnessing the ceremony, he chose to go to the complex like many of the men. He was not one who enjoyed being in the middle of a celebration. Instead, he preferred to be outside-looking-in. With his hands behind his back, the handsome and well-spoken man walked along the balcony of the third floor as he looked down at the function below. He could see the entire thing in one glance from his high vantage point. Although he was a man of eloquence, he was not one to start a conversation. He was an observer. Many described him as a man of quiet strength.
As he passed by numerous people, they all spoke their greetings to him and he returned them with respect. Every person in the town recognized Veeresh, but it was not just because he was one of the strongest and tallest men in the city. Instead, it was because he was a man who many youth aspired to be and a person who many elders even looked at with reverence.
His eyes came back onto the scene on the ground floor. It seemed that there was more excitement as the day went on. Men mingled with men and women mingled with women. Outside of the children, there was not traditionally much interaction between the people of opposite genders.
And it was here, at this point, that he saw her beautiful face.
When he first laid eyes on her, she was smiling and laughing. Dressed in a vibrant, yellow outfit that covered her slender figure, each lock of her long black hair seemed to fall perfectly into place. Her face was fairer and lighter than any other person’s just as his was. She appeared to be a few years younger than he. She was surrounded by other girls her age and younger. Their laughter filled the air and drowned out the music at times. However, he could make out her pretty laughter above the rest. Its sweet sound filled every inch of his heart and he felt his heart rate start to accelerate.
But the thing he saw most was her eyes.
They were the eyes of beauty and innocence. Almond shaped, the brown eyes had a hint of yellow in them. It was seeing them that Veeresh knew what perfection really was.
His gaze remained on her as she moved her hands through the air in excitement and spoke to her peers. As she turned her head to look from one companion to the next, her hair moved flawlessly. Her eyes held so much excitement and happiness. Veeresh was not sure how long he spent looking down and marveling at her beauty and perfection. It may have been minutes. A slight smile formed at the corners of his lips without his knowing. He became lost in her. Lost in her movements. Lost in her voice. Lost in the sight of her.
Another girl began to speak and they all looked at her, including the girl. But her eyes did not stay there for long. Feeling his gaze, she slowly looked up and saw him high above her.
And for the first time, their eyes met.
"The chapter on 1857 reflects so accurately the depth of despair of Indian masses and the nerves the revolutionaries held through the extreme torture. The description looked so real and so painful that I had to take breaks. The language has an amazing simplicity in making deep emotions come alive. Its natural flow keeps you bound. In utter darkness, the way it portrays the protagonist's thought process, how he bears all that torture with the sparks of memory of his wife, and at times his countrymen, is absorbing. I have read very few novels and those too in my mother tongue Hindustani (mix of Urdu and Hindi). This is the first one in English. Ammar made me feel as if I am reading something in my mother tongue. He is so young yet he reveals a genius of portraying the mind of people in the middle of a tough struggle." -Dr. Vipin Tripathi
Other books in this genre:
AFRICA. Where corruption often rules and human life can be the most worthless commodity. Read the story of Sierra Leone and its people in this bloody, harrowing, and heart breaking suspense thriller.
This is a work of fiction, except for the parts that really happened.
Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp. (MEO).
To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander - General Icechi Walker, known as 'Body Chop' - a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.
As the battle for control of the land unravels, stories spread of horrific bloody massacres and mutilations in towns and villages, many of them by child soldiers. The capital, Freetown, is threatened by a full-blown mindless rebellion led by the RUF.
To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army. But control will not be handed to him so easily.
Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway, is a major part of the mercenary brigade. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander's involvement.
His personal life in shambles, Dalloway and his troop goes against Body Chop and his supporters, to avenge the death of his men and all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the RUF.
Finalist for Book of the Year Military Autobiography in 2015 and Nominated for Best First Book of the Year in 2016
A GRIPPING, TRUE STORY TOLD FROM THE FRONT LINES AS THE WORLD FACED THE POSSIBILITY OF NUCLEAR WAR
This is a personal account of military service and the historical events that were happening during President Reagan's time in office as the world faced the possibility of nuclear war. The author was in the US Army from November 1980 until March 1988 which coincided with President Reagan's time in office. He quickly went from a naive seventeen year old boy to a dedicated die hard soldier ready to sacrifice his life for his country.
An assignment that likely would have been at Ground Zero of a nuclear war.
On the verge of World War 3 and nuclear war, "We Were Soldiers Too" is about the difficult job of serving in the infantry during a very critical time of the Cold War.
Serving as the first line of defense for a Soviet invasion in Germany, he found himself assigned the responsibility of defending an area in the Fulda Gap with only one objective, to hold the advancing Soviets until reinforcements arrived.
Read what other veterans think of "We Were Soldiers Too"
"An excellent illustration of the lives and sacrifices of our Cold War enlisted service members. I recommend it to all. It brings back memories of those days and what we did during that era." Edward A. Chesky
"I highly recommend this for anyone to read, especially for anyone that has served this great Nation. I suspect that my fellow Cold War Veterans will be able to relate to a lot of what this author writes about." Tracy A Stephens
"An excellent book about those men who served during the Cold War. Excellent insight into how the Army prepared for a possible Soviet invasion. I highly recommend this book." Gary E. Earls
"I too am a Cold War Reagan Soldier and I Enjoyed this Book very much. I think Bob did a great job by putting in writing how we all feel. We were highly Trained and Ready to meet any Challenge and Subdue any Threat. We were part of the Strongest Army in the history of the United States. We were and Still are Soldiers. I am Proud to have served with such fine members of the Military." Curtis Nazelrod
Elizabeth opened the door to the stranger letting her mouth hang upon in surprise, as the woman shouldered her way into the cottage, stooping so as not to damage her plumage on the lintel.
Once inside she looked about her. One room downstairs by the look of it and a ladder to another room above; a labourer’s cottage, plain to see, with its sparse, home-made furnishings. Earthenware pots littered a plank table along with the remains of a meal of cheese, plum bread, sliced apples and beakers of ale. Bill, her younger brother by a year, took a step towards her in surprise. His face looked grey and careworn. Was he only thirty-six?
‘Betsy, is it you? How did you know it was Mary’s funeral?’
‘I didn’t. I had business in Brigg so I thought to surprise you. I have been meaning to come for some time. I am sorry for your loss, brother. I wish now I had visited earlier.’ A polite mistruth as the fact of his recent loss made her plan easier to accomplish.
‘Sit down and take some refreshment. Elizabeth, this is your Aunt Betsy. You’re named after her. Fetch her some ale will you.’ Elizabeth dropped a quick curtsey and left to do as she was bid.
Betsy perched herself on a low, wooden bench and, after delivering further commiserations, she asked Bill the names of his children.
‘Well let’s see, there’s Elizabeth our eldest, then Tom, Hannah, William, John, we call him Joe, and our youngest Uriah. James, the baby died soon after his mother.’ Bill counted them out on his fingers. ‘That makes six, doesn’t it?’
‘If you don’t count James,’ Betsy concurred. ‘That’s the reason I came to visit. I have a proposal to take one off your hands. I have a very comfortable income and I need an heir. The doctor, I kept house for, left me a good-sized house in Grimsby and a respectable annual income.’
Bill did not know what to say. It did not feel right to give away one of his and Mary’s children. He thought for a moment and said. ‘Our Hannah will be a good mother to the youngest, we can just about manage. They don’t go hungry; Elizabeth is in service and brings in a little and Tom works on the farm with me. It’s better now than it was at the start of the war. At least there’s no shortage of bread now.’
‘That’s good. In these dismal times, I wondered how you’d been faring. I wrote to the vicar in Broughton and he told me where you were living.’
Bill looked baffled. To be honest it had been a few years since he had thought much of his sister. Times were hard and he had enough problems of his own to concern him, without thinking of his sister’s situation. It must be nigh on fourteen years since he had last seen her, the day of his wedding.
‘Just consider the advantage for the child. He will have an education and be able to choose any profession.’
Bill continued to look puzzled until he dragged his mind back to Betsy’s proposal. ‘One of my sons then; you want a boy?’ He studied the tamped down earthen floor for a long moment, turning the offer over in his mind. ‘I suppose Uriah will not remember us if you take him.’ Bill swallowed hard; perhaps it would be best for the child. He was barely two years old and it would free up Hannah for service in another year or two.
‘No I want one that’s old enough to be biddable and young enough to learn. What about that one?’ She pointed to William.
‘Not William. He’s his mother’s favourite.’ Her brother checked himself and said ‘was,’ in a way that caused Betsy to pat his hand.
‘He can be my favourite then.’ Betsy liked the look of William and she disliked the name Uriah, an unlucky name, for did not David have him killed to claim Bathsheba? She was indifferent to John. Had not Salome demanded his head on a plate? William, however, was a strong name, a lucky name, the name of their father, another William Holtby. Yes, she liked that. As she studied him, she began to see a likeness to his grandfather, maybe not in his colouring, but in his green eyes which were set wide apart and the long, thin nose and the square set to his chin. He would grow up to be handsome and she was not averse to handsome.
Betsy also noted the way William sat still on his aunt’s lap, not fidgeting like Joe, or picking his nose like Uriah. William appeared to be listening to the conversation going on around him. She could see him thinking. He would do very well and she made up her mind.
‘I’ll give you twenty pounds as a dowry for your daughters. The younger one has an eye that wanders; she will need money if she is to find a husband.’
Bill sighed. His sister had always been bossy but how could he turn down a fortune, more money than he earned in a year? It was true, Hannah’s squint was going to be a burden to her. He rubbed his head as though it would make his thinking clearer, but tiredness, grief and resentment muddied his mind. Why did Mary have to die and leave him with all these problems? He’d been content with his lot but within forty-eight hours his world had blown apart. Betsy tapped him on the arm, impatient for an answer.
He took the safest option. ‘Mary was never one to mollycoddle the children but she thought William special, said he would amount to something. Maybe it’s you who will make that happen, Betsy, because all I can see for the future is more poverty. If the fields are enclosed and we must work for a pittance, how will we cope? Then there’s all this talk of invasion. Tom and I have been called to train for the militia, although we only have pikes for weapons. I often worry what will happen to the children if I am killed fighting. Pray God it never comes to that.’ Bill swallowed hard again and shook his sister’s hand to seal the deal and she passed him a bag of sovereigns, not that suspicious paper money the government had introduced, but gold. More money than he had seen in his life. He would need to find a good hiding place for it.
‘Well if we are to reach Brigg by dark we ought to set off. You’d best make your goodbyes brother. We’ll not visit again; it will unsettle the child.’
Friday, November 23rd 1888
Doctor J. Watson to Sherlock Holmes Esq:
Here, as requested, is the first of my journal entries made last evening, detailing the events and our involvement in what must surely be our most grisly case yet. I believe at least one of the dailies is running with the headline 'Jack the Ripper', which I think is mere sensationalism, however, history will demand the truth...
Having been brought up to date in the brougham by the effervescent Sherlock Holmes, he and I made our way to Whitechapel. I began to list some aspects of the crimes reported via our friend Lestrade, Mr Lungcutter the police surgeon and constables Armstrong & Miller (first on the scene at the most recent murder). There have so far been five murders - including the two last night - and various items were found at each murder scene. These items include:
A bucket and spade left near the corpse
A quantity of porridge in the victim's breast pocket
A lock of hair tied round the victim's ring finger
The words - yore neckst - written in porridge across the victim's chest.
Several incisions have been made to the bodies of all the victims, leading Lestrade to believe the murders may have been committed by a crazed doctor. In fact, Lestrade even questioned me, albeit briefly, as to my whereabouts on the dates in question and is satisfied (thank God) that I am not a suspect. He is currently questioning several hundred Doctors to ascertain their movements.
We arrived at Jones the Butchers Yard and were able to inspect the murder scene. Holmes spent several minutes lying prostrate on the ground, examining the cobbles for evidence. Though the police claimed to have been quite thorough, Holmes discovered a quantity of what he suspected might be French tobacco and two cigar stubs bearing a royal crest.
My old war wound is playing up, so I shall continue this narrative in due course.
John Arnold and Lily Smoot sat on a bench in the Santa Fe Plaza early that evening....
He looked at her in the dim light. “What are you doing running around with guys like Cummings and Damours, Lily?”
“Cummings is a U.S. Marshal, John. And I wasn’t running around with Damours. We were chasing him. What’s your point?”
“Cummings is not much of a Marshal and you know it, Lil. Is it true you worked in the Nevada brothels?”
She looked up at his face. Clearly his feelings had been hurt.
“Yes, John. When I left Utah, I looked into all the political and military and business management jobs open to teenage girls, but they were all filled. I didn’t meet any guys like you who were single and sitting around that I could safely live off, so I got a job where I could save some money.”
She looked closely and caught his scowl. “John, you're married, and unless you’re offering to adopt me or to start taking care of me, I have to look out for myself. And for my ranch.”
He looked down at her. For the first time ever, he hugged her. “I’m sorry, Lil. You’re right. It might not be appropriate, but I care about you and want to see you succeed.”
She stood up. Bent down to him and kissed him gently.
“Appropriate,” she said, “Is overrated.”
PROJECT ORION: WE COME IN PEACE (WITH NUCLEAR BOMBS!)
[DECLASSIFIED IN 1979]
It could have been just like the movies. Specifically, the soppy sci-fi melodramas of the 1950s, those humorless, grim-faced sagas of men (always white Americans), square-jawed and broad of shoulder, who faced that Great Unknown, outer space (cue the reverb) with stoicism and Yankee guts. The troupe of six to twelve individuals were usually clad in faded blue jumpsuits (probably because they were all of military bent, possibly US Air Force)—no space suits or helmets for these guys; worrying about decompression is for sissies. These were steely-eyed, anvil-chinned rocket men. The heroes would walk up a ramp or climb a ladder into the great, gleaming, cigar-shaped silver rocketship (a long-lost term widely used in the early 1950s) without assistance or fanfare—in that sunny postwar era, it took only a handful of servicemen and a few elderly scientists to launch a manned rocket. Once inside, the crewmen would close a submarine-style hatch, strap themselves into great steel chairs, take one last look around their girder-festooned, capacious cabin (1950s rocketship flight decks were the size of your average New York bachelor pad and built like battleships), nod silently to the eldest of the bunch (usually wearing colonel's eagles), who would then push the button. This was inevitably a large red push button, marked in true military parlance with something like "IGNITE ROCKETS" or more simply "FIRE!" and off they would go into the Wild Blue Yonder, while on the ground (in a similarly military posture, perhaps within a Quonset hut in New Mexico), a few worried guys in white lab coats watched a twelve-inch radar screen with a huge white dot ascending. A handful of servicemen usually stood nearby, looking vacuously at meaningless blinking lights dancing on their consoles. A single computer, the size of a small RV, would click and whir nearby. This was Space Command (or some other imagined, militarized NASA precursor) after all.
Upon reaching space, the colonel would grasp an ice cream cone–sized microphone cabled to the control panel, and as he looked in awe at a receding Earth on the giant "televisor" screen, he'd announce in dour tones, "This is spaceship X-1. We are in outer space." It was all very dramatic and thematically colorless. If you don't believe me, check out the classic 1950s cinematic space extravaganzas The Conquest of Space or Destination Moon, staples of the genre. Be sure to watch closely during the launch scenes, as the actors' faces are distorted by the horrifying, and as yet little understood, g-forces of launch. Within moments the 737-sized, single-stage craft was in space—no dawdling in orbit—heading in a straight line for the moon or Mars. It's all very humbling and fun, in a deadly serious fashion.
To be fair to the pioneering producers of these epic motion picture dramas, little was known of spaceflight before the 1960s, and sci-fi movie budgets were puny. Few movie studios took the genre seriously, and it's amazing that these innovative moviemakers pulled off what they did, given the general lack of respect these drive-in, Saturday matinee potboilers gained for them.2 But as we now know, the dramatic scenario outlined above is not exactly how human spaceflight turned out.
But it could have been.
The Apollo lunar landing program, initiated shortly after these types of films were made, mandated a different approach. NASA's moon rocket, Wernher von Braun's masterpiece, would be a multistage affair, operating right at the edge of its weight-lifting capability. NASA's first plan was to ascend directly to the moon, land, then, after a suitable period of exploration, return to Earth, shedding stages at appropriate junctures. But this brute-force methodology would have required a truly massive rocket (it was to be called Nova, and was much larger than its successor, the Saturn V), well beyond the means at hand. A bit more planning and a lot of innovative thinking resulted in the moon program we all remember, with the still-massive 363-foot Saturn V rocket propelling a tiny capsule and lander to the moon, of which only the thirteen-foot-wide capsule returned. It took hundreds of thousands of people to build it, thousands to launch and operate it, and somewhere north of twenty billion 1960s dollars to finance it. Apollo was a far cry from the rocketships of the movies.
But there were alternative plans for a massive, battleship-sized single-stage spacecraft that could have flown to the moon and beyond. In its ultimate form, this behemoth would have dwarfed the motion picture versions. A hundred or more crewmen, leaning back in space-age versions of Barcaloungers, would have departed Earth with enough fuel, life support, and supplies to reach the moon, Mars, or even Jupiter and Saturn within months. Once in space the crew would have unbelted themselves and had far more room to drift, eat, work, and sleep than the International Space Station and even most modern submarines offer. It would have been like a well-appointed office complex in space, a true space liner—this majestic craft could have unlocked the entire solar system to exploration within the decade. And best of all? It was atomic.
The massive spaceship was called Project Orion (no relation to the modern shuttle-replacing spacecraft beyond the cool name), and it would have been a nuclear-powered behemoth. Orion was first formally conceptualized in a 1955 study by Stanislaw Ulam, a Polish American mathematician who was part of the Manhattan Project in WWII, and Cornelius Everett, working from notions that Ulam had first pondered soon after WWII. Besides working on the bombs dropped on Japan, Ulam was, along with Edward Teller, a prime mover on America's first hydrogen bomb project. Soon after completing his work on H-bombs, Ulam formalized his thoughts about nuclear rocket propulsion. Other work was being done on atomic rockets, but was less dramatic—these projects involved superheating a fuel mass, such as liquid hydrogen, inside a fission reactor to eject it at high speeds out of the rocket nozzle. While much more efficient than the chemical rockets being designed by von Braun and others, it was not the massive leap in propulsion that would take humanity to the stars. Ulam had a different idea—nuclear pulse propulsion, which was not fully declassified until 1979.3 From the abstract:
Repeated nuclear explosions outside the body of a projectile are considered as providing means to accelerate such objects to velocities of the order of 106 cm/sec.4
Yes, that's right. Rather than fiddling around with rapidly expanding heated gasses with a nuclear reactor, Ulam took the most direct path to high energy release: nuclear explosions. Ulam had been mulling this over for more than a decade, reasoning that chemical rockets were terribly constrained by both the mass of the fuels and the temperatures at which they could realistically operate. Other proposals to detonate tiny nukes inside combustion chambers (one proposal suggested a chamber diameter of 130 feet, or almost four times the diameter of the Saturn V), while an improvement over chemical rockets, were deemed impractical, and did not offer a large enough increase in performance to impress Ulam. But what if the combustion chamber could be eliminated altogether and a small nuke simply detonated in open space? A percentage of the energy released by a reasonably sized nuclear explosion—not specified in the paper, but probably on the order of a half to one kiloton (about 10 percent that of the Hiroshima bomb)—would nudge a nearby spacecraft with propulsive force that, while brief, would be enormous.
Ulam characterized the spacecraft as an unmanned thirty-three-foot diameter, disk-shaped ship, with a mass of twelve to twenty tons. It would experience an acceleration of up to 10,000 g (the Apollo astronauts, riding atop the Saturn V, maxed out at just under 5 g, though the rocket was capable of more)—hence the unmanned nature of the design. Human occupants would have been turned into puddles of red jelly within moments. This robotic probe would carry dozens to hundreds of bombs, to be released at roughly one-second intervals (accompanied by a disk of plastic or container of water that would vaporize when the nuke ignited, to enhance the effect), and the resulting force of these continual explosions would propel the craft forward—right now.
Ulam was concerned about the heat impinging on the base of the craft, and suggested that a magnetic field might help to shield the spacecraft from the high-energy, one-millisecond flashes.
This was about as far as he got—it was a short study, but an intriguing one, and did not go unnoticed. In 1955 a new company called General Atomics was founded. It was a subdivision of General Dynamics, a huge defense contractor and builder of military submarines. General Atomics would specialize in efforts to harness the recently liberated power of the atom—in effect, their mission would be to find profit in nondestructive uses of atomic fission. The company became involved in a number of ventures, including a commercial nuclear reactor power generator, which was widely deployed. They also became interested in Ulam's classified paper (to which the chiefs of the company were apparently privy), and decided to pursue a serious study of the completely theoretical ideas within. Thus was born Project Orion, the nuclear pulse spaceship.
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
The aid workers fed the children and were attending to the needs of the mothers when Frank noticed a group of small boys kicking a football. He commented to John, “No matter how grim things may be, kids will always find a way to play.” One of the mothers told him that they had found the ball in one of the deserted, burnt out villages they passed through.
During a break, Emile was able to share a coffee with some of the aid workers. He was told that the North Vietnamese had set up overnight camps close to the Ho Chi Minh trail, right through the border region. They were usually under heavy vegetation cover and usually near fresh water. This particular camp was not used as it didn't have enough cover. However, it was used a few times. It was common practice for their camp to be surrounded by several land mine fields. The fields are usually well defined with signs in Vietnamese, along with “skull and cross bone” signs. They were made because they figured that any enemy would attack under the protection of darkness, and if this happened, they would not see the signs.
While Emile talked to the aid workers, Frank and John looked around the camp.
A group of small boys was kicking the ball when suddenly a gust of wind blew the ball into the land mine area. One small boy ran after it. He grabbed the ball and turned to the other boys. The huge grin on his face showed how proud he was. He then heard the other boys shouting at “Stand Still!” He looked bewildered until he saw the skull and crossbones sign. His grin turned into a look of horror as he realised where he was standing.
John was the first who heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on. Frank followed him. When they saw the boy in the mine field, John shouted to the boy. “Vẫn bình tĩnh, và chúng tôi sẽ đưa bạn trở lại đây một cách an toàn, nhưng bạn phải ở lại vẫn rất yên tĩnh.” which meant “Stay still, and we will get you back here safely, but you must stay very still.”
The boy nodded. John ran back to the Land Rover and grabbed a long piece of rope. When he returned, he tied one end around a large tree and the other end around his waist. He then said to Frank, “Feed the rope out as I go towards the boy, but make sure you keep it taunt.” He then shouted to the boy in Vietnamese that he was coming for him.
John carefully and slowly edged towards the boy, at the same time he was looking for any signs of the boy’s footprints. There were very few as the ground was fairly well compacted over time. Finally, he reached the boy who at this time was clearly frightened and a stream of urine running down his leg was obvious.
In one movement he picked the boy up and turned around and faced Frank. By now the entire camp had gathered at the site, including Emile.
John then shouted to Frank to pull the rope tight and tighten it around the tree. No sooner had Frank tied it around the tree, he walked out to John and the boy, using the rope as his guide. When he reached John, he took the boy in one arm and the rope in the other and slowly edged back out of the mine field. As he reached the edge, the whole camp roared into applause. He handed the boy to Emile and turned back to John.
John called to him to untie the rope from the tree and to place it on the ground. John then undid the rope around his waist and placed it the ground. He then took a step towards Frank and then another. Everyone was quiet until he took the third step and the sound of a “click.” John froze, and everyone else gasped. John had stepped on a Jumping Jack land mine.
John had a little knowledge of how it worked. He remembered his father telling him years ago that when someone stepped on it, the fuse was dislodged. Then, as the target person stepped off it, the main fuse ignited the first charge and propelled the unit about 2 metres into the air, where it then exploded. This way one mine could injure everyone within range.
He also remembered his father once telling him that, if you lie flat on the ground and a grenade was set off next to you, you would be unlikely to be hurt. This was because of the angle of the explosion. Provided that both you and the grenade were on the ground.
With this in mind, he shouted to Emile, “move everyone away for at least fifty metres, no, make it a hundred metres.”
“I am going to jump down and lie flat on the ground, If I am lucky, the explosion will go above me, and I should be alright. You both move back a bit!”
As soon as they moved back, John jumped forward, but before he reached the ground, the device exploded in the air.
John was killed instantly!
Frank and Emile were also struck! Emile had several shrapnel wounds on his arm, chest and leg. Frank had his left leg severed. Several of the aid workers gave first aid while their leader had called over the radio for help!
Monday morning Clarkson is on the hotel roof top, the sun already hot on his back. Around 8:30 the balcony door opens at Bobrowski’s room. A waiter wheels a food cart out before him. With a practiced flourish the man snaps a table cloth and places it on the table top. Placing the plates and silverware on the table first, he brings the silver domed food platters from inside the cart. Checking the table to be certain everything is in place, the waiter goes back into the room pushing the cart.
Ally and Fay are the first two people to appear. Clarkson brings the rifle up and sets it on the roof’s ledge. The women are pouring coffee into cups and beckoning the men to the table. Clarkson pulls the rifle stock to his cheek. Two men come out on the balcony. Clive sits with his back to Clarkson. Reggie sits across from Clive.
Claire Fairthorpe rushes back to her room to get her Walther pistol specially equipped with a silencer. The fat man rises from the bed and grabs her wrist. “Come back to bed my sweet little dumpling, I am ready for you again.”
Claire yanks her wrist from his grip and takes the pistol from a dresser drawer. Turning back toward the man Claire points the pistol at him. “Do not be here when I return, you fill me with disgust.”
He puts his hands up defensively and turns away. Claire grabs her purse and rushes from the room. At the cab stand in front of her hotel she steps in front of a couple and slams the door closed. She yells at the cab driver, “Get me to the Harbor Hotel now!”
Throwing money to the driver when they arrive at the hotel she bolts from the cab. Facing toward the front of the hotel she sees two wings of the building that jut out from the center rooms. She knows where Bobrowski’s room is but now must decide which of the wings Clarkson would choose. She rushes to her right.
“Son of a bitch,” mutters Clarkson. Clive’s head is in the way of his shot. Clarkson takes the rifle down and moves further out to his right. The shot will have to be at an angle he did not foresee. Laying the rifle on the ledge he puts a blanket down to kneel on. Looking through the scope he brings the center of the crosshairs to bear on the left side of Reggie’s head.
Claire reaches the roof top of the building’s wing she chose. Opening the door to the roof slowly, she looks through the gap. Not seeing anyone she goes through the door. The roof is empty, no one is at the ledge overlooking the rooms below. “Damn it! Wrong wing.” Fairthorpe runs back to the door.
Ally and Fay are putting the food on plates and setting the plates before the men. Clarkson waits for the women to sit down. With the women settled he pulls the rifle’s stock into his shoulder and sights through the scope. Ally’s head is just forward bending toward her food. Reggie’s head is perfectly in the crosshairs. Clarkson takes a deep breath.
A week after uncovering the secret of what really happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, history professor Matt Conroy was lying in a morgue with the back of his head blown off.
SFPD homicide inspector Tom McGuire, a long-time friend of Conroy’s, volunteers to assist the FBI in bringing the killer to justice. The FBI, however, is ordered to stand down for “national security” reasons.
They thought that would be the end of it. They were wrong.
Tom McGuire was not about to stand down. Not for anyone, not for any reason. That decision put him in the crosshairs of one of the world’s most secretive and dangerous organizations – an organization whose rich, powerful and ruthless members would stop at nothing to make sure their 140-year-old secret remained hidden.
Drawn into a labyrinth of conspiracies over a century old, Tom McGuire has just walked into his worst nightmare
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