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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor lesson

Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 and the lesson not learned.

The following offered with much respect to all of my brothers and sisters in arms who have served and those serving now.

An act of war was carried out against the United States on this date and the few survivors remaining and their descendants still mark it with remembrances and tributes. That date has taken on a kind of "holy" day status and to not remember it properly is a sin of some kind. Don't get me wrong; I do believe that it is fitting that the men and women who served their country be recognized.

We were on the receiving end of an attack that targeted military objectives like warships and airfields. It was bad, but it carried with it a military logic that later on made it more understandable in a cold historical way. If it had been carried out by U.S. forces against a Japanese city it would have been called a courageous, brilliant, and well executed plan.

Since the attack was against our territory it was/is viewed as a dishonorable, sneaky, and reprehensible act of an over-reaching aggressive nation. Remember also that the only reason that the attack happened before war was officially declared, was the bumbling incompetency of politicians on both sides.

There was an extremely important lesson in the bombing of Pearl Harbor that has not been learned by our leaders or taught to our children. That lesson is simple: If you randomly kill the citizens of any country, the survivors will hate you for generations, if not forever.

Since Pearl Harbor the United States of America has undertaken an ever expanding policy of bombing opponents into "submission." Can you imagine the hatred and vengeance that would have arisen if schools, hospitals, or downtown Honolulu had been targeted? Don't waste your breath saying that we would never do that, because I have walked through the rubble personally. Talk to any Iraq War veteran about the destruction they saw.

I have heard the first hand stories with my own ears from the mouths of those who lived through the events of World War Two. Their hatred of the Japanese still burns brightly in their hearts. I have experienced the chaos personally from Vietnam to Beirut and heard the dialogue of both sides from Bosnia to Afghanistan.

The truth is still the same: when you rain death on people you do not instill fear or humble them into submission, you make generations of people who will hate you until their dying breath. The only winners are the people who make the weapons and munitions used to kill "other people's children."

We need to learn the lesson of Pearl Harbor and stop making new enemies. Remember how America felt when they heard the news about death reaching their shores: the heartbreak, the frustration, and then anger. Everyone immediately ran to the recruitment office to sign up to fight.

If you want to remember Pearl Harbor, remember how that event wrecked lives and don't allow that to be passed on. Being strong isn't about blowing people up, it is about solving problems.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving past

International Thanksgiving in Alaska 1976
Ft Richardson Army Base, near Anchorage, AK

Being stationed in Alaska from 1975 to 1978 was a great thing for an outdoor type like myself, with a wife, little girl and dog to keep me company. We had each other and our shared hobbies and interests.
For those Air Traffic Controllers who worked for me it was quite different, they were alone. Stanley did bring his wife up and had a house to go to, but their families were far away, just like the others. We needed each other to make our own family group.

The idea started out simply as a Thanksgiving meal where everyone could gather and not be by themselves. A good plan, but as we added people to the list it began to show a different color to me. The names that I wrote down on the page were what did it.

There was the Southern boy, with an Ohio wife and a Georgia born daughter in the house already. Add to that a Japanese kid from Hilo, Hawaii, and Polish guy from New Jersey. A German man from New York City with his British imported wife. A Czechoslovakian from Michigan, a French Canadian from Wisconsin, a pair of Nebraska yuppies of mixed Scandinavian ancestry, and a nutball from Guam by way of Puerto Rico.
What we had was a U.N. meeting without the politics. From that realization came the theme of: International Thanksgiving.

I called upon my second-in-command, Stanley, to assist me with finding cultural dishes from each ethnic group represented. This could prove to be a strange conglomeration of dishes, but that would just make it more interesting.
For our Hawaii born Japanese son, Clifford Mitsuo "Mitch," we decided that octopus was a good representative offering. There were none to be found in the commissary, so we headed into town and stopped at the big chain grocery store. The man at the meat counter laughed at me when I asked for a whole octopus. I guessed that was a no to my question as to whether they had any.
As is common in remote parts of the world, everyone listens to everyone else's conversations and Anchorage was no different. An older Chinese gentleman heard our question and was too polite to interrupt the rude grocery man, so he waited until we turned to leave to summon us to his side.
 He was dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and looked to be very ancient, but he spoke better English than the clown we had just dealt with. "Gentlemen," he said, "You may find what you seek at this market" and handed us a card. It sounded like a line from a James Lee Wong story!
We drove to the market and went inside a small building with a huge shop stuffed inside. It truly looked like a black & white movie from the 1930s with all of the stuff hanging in that shop. There were live chickens in crates, canaries in bamboo cages, eels in pots of water and more of the little ancient Chinese guys smoking pipes. The place was a trip!
I couldn't find the cash register, which is where every American shopper goes to find out about anything, so I asked the youngest looking man in the place if he spoke English, and he said, "No, but my grandfather does," pointed at a really old guy and left. What?!

The man in charge came to our rescue and told me that the others were a bunch of jokers and asked if he could help. I explained what I was trying to find and he lead us around and through the maze of shelves to a big deep sink. Covering the sink was a sheet of glass with bungee cords holding it in place.
I thought that was odd until the moment he unhooked the cords. A tentacle pushed under the edge of the glass and kept growing in size until the body of an octopus appeared. Evidently they are supreme escape artists that can and will get out and slip into the most inconvenient places imaginable, and probably some that we couldn't imagine. The shop owner deftly grabbed the creature by the head with his fingers in the eyes and breathing openings. He said will this one do?
“Well, yeah!” we said, thinking how the Hell, and what the Hell do we do with this thing now?
The man had already figured out that we didn't have a clue so he took us farther into his shop to a free-standing butcher block. There he grabbed a wooden club similar to a belaying pin on a sailing vessel, and whacked the life out of the beastie in one stroke. He then took a meat cleaver and had the beak and the internals out of the octopus before we could really focus on what he was doing.
The gentleman gave us instructions on how to wash the creature to properly prepare it. He suggested that we dunk it in boiling water, and then steam cook this meat. Why didn't we remember that they have McDonald's on the Big Island? This was going to be a lot of work. “Hey wait a minute,” we thought, “let's make Mitch do it!” Cool, this was going to work after all.

Stan kept fussing that his German food was next, but at least it wasn't so hard to get. He wanted Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and German beer. The man was actually a pretty good cook too. I guess it was his bachelor years between wives.
His first wife didn't like him being on the road all the time playing bass for great jazz horn man Chick Corea and had emptied his bank account, filed for divorce in Reno, (Hey!) and driven off in his brand new Cadillac. So Stan had to fend for himself.
When he married Geisla (Geese-La) in London, he didn't realize that he would still have to do the cooking if he wanted to taste anything. Even though she was born in Germany of German parents, she was raised in London by relatives who had made her into a complete Brit. No flavor in her food at all.

Our man Andre was a French-Canadian transplant to Wisconsin. He was born there and was a US Citizen, but all of his family lived in Canada. When he joined the Army, his parents and siblings went back north to live where the rest of the clan was.
His contribution was Canadian duck, a really tasty meal, which used chopped up duck meat, ham, onions, celery, some kind of green peppers, a lot of butter, flour, and all kinds of spices. He fussed around with it in the kitchen all morning singing stuff in French and being just a happy chef. It required a lot of stirring, I do remember that, and it was awesome tasting.

Scott was a unique individual. He was the crudest, rudest person that I have ever known. We couldn’t take the man into a bar with us, because a fight would start within five minutes of his arrival. He was also one of the most brilliant electronics technicians that ever lived.
He could look at any piece of equipment and know what it did and how to deal with it. If textbook fixes weren't possible, he would invent something that worked. I can't tell you how many times he made something out of nothing for me. Of course this was the same guy that lit his hind end on fire lighting flatulence too. Can't have everything I guess.
Scott was only allowed to bring alcohol. No cooking should ever be consumed if he had anything to do with it. He could somehow cause food poisoning in an unopened can of peaches. He brought about 3 gallons (No, I am not kidding) of hard liquor and we called it good.

My number three guy, Jerry, was of Polish extraction and had been raised in New Jersey. He right away jumped on the idea of Kielbasa and a surprise, which he wouldn't tell us until he brought it. It turned out to be six large pizzas with anchovies on every one of them.
He was a sick individual. He knew that if he said "anchovies" before hand, only he and Mitch would say yes. This way no matter which pizza he got to, it would have his beloved little dead, sea creatures on it. The Kielbasa was very good though, and it was cooked in some kind of seasoned oil that his grandmother told him to buy.

Alexander was the only boy of six children in his 100% Czechoslovakian family from Upper Michigan. He was never in the kitchen growing up to do anything but eat. He chopped a lot of firewood and did all of traditionally male oriented chores, but didn't have a clue about cooking anything.
We told him that we had lots of food and we just wanted him to join us and enjoy. He finally settled on bringing the staple of every American gathering, potato chips… bags and bags of potato chips. He couldn't decide what kind went with our meal (like who could?) so he bought a big bag of every kind the store had.

Alex was a big, sensitive, quiet guy, who I had to coax into speaking into a microphone when he first arrived, but could now hold his own working traffic at the control tower. You were never quite sure what he was thinking, but the man never missed anything going on around him.
When he arrived back at my house after he dropped off his bags of chips and went to the barracks to get cleaned up, he was again carrying a bag. What the Hell is he doing I thought, not more chips! But it wasn't.
His family practiced a tradition which is largely thought to be Russian, but many cultures in the area pursue it; that tradition being that of carving eggs and painting them as gifts. He had two large eggs for Stan’s and my house, and smaller, chicken egg size ones for everyone else in attendance at that dinner.
They were all ornately carved and painstakingly hand painted with a tiny brush, inside and out. We aren't talking Easter egg dye job painting either. Alex had painted scenes inside of each egg and crosshatch patterns with gold paint on the outside. Think Faberge eggs and you would be close to what they looked like.
OK, they were certainly not that same quality, but every bit as precious to us. He had stayed awake every night after work creating these gifts instead of sleeping, because he wanted to contribute something to our celebration. There were a lot of allergic reactions all through the room as the manly men rubbed their eyes and tried to regain composure. It was a very touching gift you must agree.

The last two members of our group were the newest arrivals to the family of controllers. The female partner was the controller, “Can't Cook Kate,” with her husband Sam, who worked in Personnel. The husband told us her nickname when we first met them at their check in to the Company HQ. He was explaining a scorch mark on her duffel bag, saying that she had dropped a flaming pan of something on it and he had rolled the bag to put it out. We all assumed he was joking. Turns out, he wasn't.
Kate was to bring a big garden salad. The two wives had advised us that no one could screw that up, so we gave that assignment to Kate. She asked if she should bring salad dressing too, and thinking of bottles of stuff you pour on your green salad, we said, sure, why not.

Their car had not arrived in Anchorage yet, so Stan and I drove over to the temporary quarters they were in to pick them up. As we walked in the front door, the smoke was rolling out to meet us and a smoke alarm was playing a melody that we were to hear so often at their house.
Kate was coming out of the kitchen towards the metal trash can outside with a pan of blackened something, which turned out to be French toast… after the Revolution, I'd say. Sam was nonchalantly walking out of the bedroom in his country club tennis attire complete with the sweater tied around his neck. I fully expected him to say, "Oh Buffy, shall we go." But he didn't.
There was still a layer of dark smoke hugging the ceiling as Kate came back from changing into her matching tennis outfit, again complete with a sweater around her neck. We started out to the car and I asked, “Weren’t you bringing a salad?” “Oh yes,” she says and runs back towards the next remodeling job for the housing office on base. She didn't pop right back out, so I went in after her.
She was mixing something back and forth between two mayonnaise jars and looking puzzled. I should have known that was a bad sign, but I was in a hurry and didn't. I picked up the bowl of salad looking stuff and she carried the jar in her own hands.

We had pans of food everywhere there was space to set them down. The octopus was still in the pan of water it was cooked in, the duck was in a big pot on top of the stove, the Kielbasa on a cookie sheet in the oven, as were the bratwurst, with the sauerkraut on the back of the stove, stinking up the place.
The pizza was delivered in a snow storm by a goofy looking guy from a ratty old pickup truck, and Mitch met him at the back door and took delivery. Mitch was funny; he would not allow anyone to walk into our house wearing their shoes. There was quite a pile of boots, shoes, coats, etc., piled up just inside of our back door.  
My daughter Jenny, who was three at the time, decided to help and threw all of it down the basement stairs, and then brushed her hands together and declared, “There, that’s better.” She had done such a good job that later when people were trying to leave, no one remembered her comment and didn’t have a clue what happened to all the gear.
The six pizzas and the big salad occupied the dining room table, so we just grabbed plates and did the buffet line thing and filled up with goodies.
This brings us to the actual meal time and a very touching moment where each person said something in the form of a blessing in the language of their heritage. It was truly a special moment and I had no idea how much we would need those prayers.
As we all started with the salad, being the more or less traditional beginning to American meals, it was predestined that we should all react in the same way at the same time. We put the salad in our mouths at the same time, and we all spit it out at the same time. 
Kate had poured the entire quart jar mixture on the bowl of salad and saturated it really well. It was primarily a whole bottle of vinegar and an unknown type of oil which she had found in the cabinet in the kitchen in a clear bottle. I for one didn’t think that I would ever get it off of my tongue, even though I was licking a kitchen towel.
Moving right along, we tried to stab a piece of octopus and found that one could not stab the pink morsel, you must scoop it up. Mitch grabbed his with his fingers and drug it through the soy sauce and popped it into his mouth. We all did the same thing eventually. Then we chewed, and chewed, and chewed a lot more. If these were pink pencil erasers they wouldn’t have been any harder to chew up and swallow.
The Canadian Duck was excellent, what there was of it. We told Andre not to make a lot of it because we had so much food and he did as instructed. The brats were good, but very greasy, and the Kielbasa was good but spicy as all get out. The sauerkraut still stunk like crazy, but we ate on it.
Jerry was happy as could be eating his anchovy pizzas, and in fact ate so much of it that he had to go outside and unload some it, well, and tequila and beer, before he could start eating more.
By the time the evening was over, we had consumed all of the duck, most of the brats and Kielbasa, all of the alcohol and all of the potato chips. Four large pizzas were gone, and two whole ones were left. There was lots of salad and octopus to be had. Maybe we should have mixed the two together; the oil might have softened the meat to where it could be chewed. We did learn that we had over cooked the octopus a teensy bit. OK, ten times the amount of time we were supposed to do, but who knew?
The only thing we remembered for sure was that we had all been together for the day and evening and we enjoyed each other’s company immensely. No one was alone, or left out, and that was tremendous in a place where being alone can be fatal to your mind and well being.
It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Old Dog

My Old Dog

Mikki doesn't know that she is an old dog and really doesn't care from what I can tell. She also doesn't seem to hold my being an old human against me. We just meander through life a little slower than we used to and it's all good.

You can learn a lot from an old dog if you pay attention. She never, ever misses an opportunity to take a nap and is especially fond of movie time. We spend many hours together with Charlie Chan or Nick Charles solving "who-done-its" on the big screen.

She waits until I am settled into my recliner for sure and not going to pull a surprise trip to the bathroom or kitchen, and then plops down on her cushioned doggie bed with a big sigh. Mikki can snore through the longest movie that I own without a problem.

This is not to imply that she is lazy, but just that she has her priorities straight.

If anyone or anything dares to enter her domain she will race to repel all boarders. Her fierce defense of her property is well known to all dogs, cats, birds, leaves and other floatie things (like plastic bags) which might violate the perimeter. Nary an adjoining neighbor may enter their own backyard without being announced by her majesty.

During the years that I produced the Desert Home Companion her militaristic attitudes earned her the title of Colour Sergeant Mikki of the Highland Regiment of Border Collies. Her conduct has never wavered and her behavior has always been exemplary.

Early on in her canine teenage years (1 & 2) she had to deal with a couple of other dogs living at her house and it didn't work out well. They were both rescued German Shepherds with emotional and physical problems and conflict ensued regularly. Both ended up being put down for unsolvable health problems.

Later we tried to provide another same species companion, this time with a Border Collie. Jessie was a hyper active looney-tune from the start. There was a reason that she was the last puppy to be chosen and leave her mother; she was nuts!

Mikki was stressed to the max. At times she would just go outside and bark at nothing to voice her frustration. The younger dog would pick at her and pester her constantly. The puppy was a dedicated chewer and destroyed everything that she came into contact with.

Finally after many months of trying to make it work we contacted a Border Collie rescue specialist and found Jessie a new home. She is now a working sheep herder and as happy as can be. It was constant hard physical activity that she needed and now she gets it.

Mikki slept nearly twenty-four hours straight without moving and was her old happy self again, once the pest was gone. She can tolerate other dogs for a short period of time but they have to be willing to leave her alone when she is done visiting with them.

I can totally relate to that. I can tolerate people for a short period of time and then I want them to leave me alone. Why can't humans get that?

Anna and I travel as often as we can given that we still have responsibilities regarding parental care and the other commitments we have taken on. Mikki is happy to stay home and guard the house.

Early on in our association we tried taking her to a boarding kennel recommended by trusted friends when we had to travel. They described the place as a sort of doggie day-care or camp where their animals got to romp and play with other dogs. For Mikki it was more like doggie Hell.

We tried the place, which was clean and appeared to be well run, twice. Both times Mikki would uncharacteristically attempt to bolt past us when we picked her up, in her haste to get to our car and leave. She was shaking so badly that it took hours for her to calm down.

The third time that we used the facility I went back into the kennel area to collect her and she was huddled against the side away from the other dogs trembling in fear. I never took her back again. What we thought was the best option for her care turned out to be the worst for her.

Since that time we have either had someone stay at the house with her while we are gone (best option), or at least visit her each day to check her food and water and be with her for a few minutes of human contact. There have been no more terrified shaking episodes. Being in her own environment alone was preferable to her to the overwhelming presence of other dogs in a strange place. I do understand.

Mikki's happiest times are when she can physically touch both of her humans at the same time and be the center of attention. She gets jealous if we pay more attention to each other than her and will try to get in the middle.

When other humans come to visit she greets them at the front door by sitting in the middle of the entryway where you can't possibly come in without petting her. She does not jump up on people or behave aggressively in any way but never misses an opportunity to be in the right spot to be touched.

She is especially fond of our grandchildren and will wear herself out trying to herd them into a tight little group where she can touch all of them at the same time. It can be comical to watch. The kids and grandkids quite often look after Mikki when we travel.

Mikki has learned the sound of the mail truck and the UPS truck and will go sit at the front door when they are in front of our house to let me know that we have a delivery. As my hearing began to fail it was a helpful thing to have the extra ears on duty.

The old girl has a pretty good command of human speak and will help us old people find each other when asked to. She does know exactly where both of us are at all times.

It is very nearly impossible to go to the bathroom without her escorting you there. She extends this courtesy service to any human who visits, much to the consternation of some who are more sensitive about being watched.

If I had any complaint about her it would be her need to bring her dry dog food to wherever I am to eat it. She crunches loudly and leaves bits of the food for us to step on. This is a common behavior among pack animals and involves a need to be safe while vulnerable, as in with their head down eating. It doesn't seem to bother her that I don't like it.

Mikki's second favorite things are dog biscuits, which have become "cookies" in our communications. They were used to train her in basic obedience and then to reward specific activities.

She has graciously allowed us to think that we have control over the whole process while she taught us when to give her what she wanted. Thanks, your Dogness!

In the currently accepted equivalency formula (15 years for the first human year and then 5 for each succeeding year) Mikki at twelve human years of age, is seventy in "dog years."  She is pretty spry and agile for a senior citizen!

It is apparent that she is not done teaching us how to be an equal sentient being yet and strives to communicate each day that we must live in the now and appreciate what we have around us.

She harbors no grudges and lets each night wash away anything negative that may have happened. She treats every person she meets as a friend until they prove otherwise. She doesn't kill everything that she encounters just because she can, preferring to check it out and learn what it is instead.

This old dog greets me at the door with the same enthusiasm and love whether I have been in the garage for sixty seconds, or out of town for weeks.

There is much to be learned from her about accepting life as we find it and enjoying it as we go. I am glad that she hasn't given up on teaching me.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The hardest thing about PTSD

Written by request of dear friends who asked that I share what I have learned. This only my opinion and is not meant to be anything else.

Many of us who served the country in the armed forces have a condition called PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It is not exclusive to the military; anyone can have it thrust into their lives. Police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s, rescue workers, and others, commonly endure it too.

The hardest thing about PTSD in my opinion is that it is invisible. No one can see it like a missing limb or visible scar, and like a vampire, it doesn’t show up in the mirror. And, like a vampire, it can suck the life out of you. 

It can manifest itself as depression, irrational actions, aggressive behavior, or in other ways. You may have one or all of these problems riding around inside you, not only unseen by others, but it can be unknown to you why you do things or feel angry or sad.

Those of us who have taken human lives and/or had injuries to our physical bodies can at least point to that as a possible reason as we try to rationalize why we behave or think as we do. But it can just be exposure to the sights, sounds, smells, or even knowledge of things so horrific that our minds do not want to accept them as any part of who we are.

The internal battle of trying to either live with, or expel, these memories can change how we think and behave. Passive, gentle people can be a ticking bomb of emotional TNT, exploding for no apparent reason to those around them, even lashing out at those they love.

It is like the learned “automatic” response to catch or block something (like a ball) thrown in your direction. The “ball” in this case is unseen because it is a memory and the automatic response is a form of self-preservation. You lash out either verbally or physically to try and prevent that bad memory from getting into your head again. People around you have a hard time comprehending what is going on, which is understandable, because you may not either.

For many of us, PTSD can manifest itself as depression. Nothing ever seems right in your world any more. Years may pass before it hits you, or you may experience years of suffering from nightmares where you live out the bad experiences over and over again. We are all unique individuals in our body chemistry, as well as mental makeup. You are who and what you are.

There are programs offered by the VA and others to help those who suffer from PTSD and if you are a person who can talk to the social worker or shrink types without getting even angrier or more depressed, then go for it. Some of us get worse instead of better in that scenario.

For me, peace with what I did and lived through is coming from something quite unexpected, at least to me.

Many had suggested going to church and praying, etc., but I found that too hypocritical and full of BS. The chaplains always blessed the missions as we went out to kill other human beings. Really? Organized religion has always seemed to be a scam to me… I mean come on, I have to pay (tithing) to belong to a group that tells me how to think and act according to their own made up set of rules, and I am supposed to not trust and actually dislike anyone who doesn’t agree with those rules? Nope, not buying it; it just makes me angrier.

So finding my way to becoming whole again by following the Buddhist path was a complete surprise to me. Here is a teaching where: you do not pray to a deity or god creature, you don’t pay to belong, the teacher says to question everything including him, and the only thing you have to do is work on making yourself a better person. And we are completely cool with anyone believing what they want around us. It is all good. So why does this work for me?

I have learned through the teachings of Buddha, to look inward and accept what has been done in the past as lessons and experiences. I can work on improving my own thoughts, words and actions each day, to make me a better person. This means that I can let go of the bad things.

So I have found a way to help myself. Will this work for everyone who has PTSD? I have no idea, as like I said, we are all unique individuals. But it works for me and other people I know.

What can you do if you have PTSD or are having depression or anger issues since coming home, and don’t know what to do or where to turn?

Talk to someone you trust in a quiet setting and preferably without alcohol involved. I have nothing against appropriate drinking, but I have seen many discussions go the wrong way when booze made the brain disconnect from common sense. Talk to me if you need to, I’ll listen.

What if someone close to you has diagnosed PTSD, or you think that they may be suffering from it?

See the above advice. Don’t blast them with questions that can be controversial or embarrassing in the middle of a party or family dinner, etc. Don’t fuel the discussion with alcohol to get them to “loosen up.” It may turn ugly in a flash.

Don’t ask “How many people did you kill?” That is rude and unkind.

Do ask leading questions like, “What were the people like there?” or “was the weather really hot and dry, or cold and wet?” etc. Let the memories flow on their time table and energy.

Listening to and reassuring your friends or loved ones that you care about them and know that they did their best is important to healing. I strongly emphasize the listening part; the more that you can get the bad stuff out in a non-judgmental setting, the more the burden lifts.

Be kind, be compassionate, and be understanding. Until you have walked, (to paraphrase this a bit) their miles in their moccasins, you have no idea what kind of load is riding on their shoulders.

Am I a doctor or a counselor licensed and/or credentialed to talk about this subject?

NO. I am a veteran who served from Viet Nam to Beirut and has been there, done that. I understand how hard life can be when the black cloud lives inside your head.

My only goal for writing this is to promote understanding and compassion. Peace to all, brothers and sisters.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ride 'em Cowboy

Ride ‘em Cowboy     

It is an amazing thing to see how even the tiniest bit of self-confidence can surmount any amount of common sense in a teenager when you add even a small amount of alcohol. Yes, I speak from experience.

We were rootin’, tootin’ buckaroos solidly on the fast track to becoming legends in our own minds! You could say (justifiably) that the group of us who rodeoed together had grown confident and cocky with our successes. I am told that this was a very common pairing of traits in males of the human species when things go their way more often than abject failure. To put it in today’s vernacular, we thought that we were “badasses.”

The four of us who were together that night had all made the buzzer (rode for eight seconds) in the final round of bull riding at the big Orange Blossom rodeo. Our abilities and derring-do increased with every telling of our rides, and that was before we were given a case of beer by an older cowboy who was calling it a night and going home to soak his battered body.

Our good fortune in obtaining free (and illegal for us) alcohol just reinforced our belief that we had the world by the tail and could not be stopped. We had enough sense left at that moment to know that we had to get away from the rodeo grounds if we were going to drink and celebrate; there were cops everywhere and they knew how old we were.

One of our older friends who did not ride (bulls) was there with his red Chevy Impala convertible and was very willing to do the driving while we drank the beer. He had a head start on us as he had been drinking while we were competing and only sipped on his own beer as he drove. I fully acknowledge that this was dangerous and stupid behavior on all of our parts; but we did it.

We cruised around on the back roads of our county, occasionally stopping to relieve ourselves in inappropriate places like under the traffic light in the middle of an intersection at 1 a.m. One such time one of our party was late getting back inside the car and leaped onto the convertible top of the car and hung on. We drove several miles before we finally realized that he wasn’t in the car with us.

It was while in this impaired state that one of our number suggested that we needed to ride something else like an elephant or a polar bear – because two thousand pound Brahma bulls weren’t tough enough for us anymore. IF we could have thought about where such an animal might be found, our journey would have taken us to the Crandon Park Zoo near Miami. I know that we (thankfully) would have lost interest well before we got there and ended up at a Waffle House somewhere.

Our pickled brains couldn’t process that much, and we were almost safe from that idea until we saw the sign for Pioneer City. Pioneer City was a local “Wild West” attraction that had just gone under due to bad location more than anything else. We knew that there were still animals being housed there and it was only a few miles away.

There were suggestions made that we might find an ostrich, or a giraffe, or maybe even a rhinoceros (which we could not pronounce at that point) to ride in their corrals. Fortunately for all concerned none of those creatures were visible.

We did however see something stirring in the paddocks from our vantage point atop the front fence. I make no excuses for why our driver had a large pair of bolt cutters in his trunk and only note that he called them his universal key. The chain on the gate was soon history and we drove into the first corral… literally; our driver missed the brake pedal and hit the gas.

There were a couple of Sicilian donkeys in the next corral and they were far too small to bother with trying to ride. We did give them water though as their trough was completely dry. The fellow who rode around on the top of the car once again wandered off to relieve himself and started screeching like something had bitten him.

Upon reaching him we found him excitedly pointing into a larger corral at some really shaggy beasts banging around inside. They did not appear to be happy to see us at all. Once again we filled the empty water trough and in the headlights from our car we recognized the heads as belonging to buffaloes, or more appropriately, American Bison.

You will recall my opening sentence about confidence and alcohol overcoming common sense. Yeah, we were on a Busch beer and testosterone high and any kind of sense was on vacation. The shouts to get the gear out of the bags and get ready to ride a wild buffalo were bouncing off the buildings. “Where were the cops when you needed them?”

I can tell you with certainty and personal conviction that bison and beef cattle are not of the same temperament. A bull may get irritated with you trying to put rigging on him to ride and may look for some payback for a few seconds after the ride, but a buffalo hates you on sight.

We thought that we were being smart by singling out the smallest adult buffalo and crowding him into a corner to attempt to put rigging on him. It was a lot like trying to catch a large alligator by holding onto the tip of his tail.

My mother asked me a couple of days later why I had holes in the front and back of my best western shirt. I had to use the standard teenager answer for everything, “I dunno.” I couldn’t very well say that I had been repeatedly hammered into the barbed wire that lined the inside of the buffalo corral and that the holes corresponded with the ones in my chest and back.

To say that we were hard-headed would be kinder than just saying the truth; we were stupid. Over and over again we tried to hold onto that furry freight train as it ran around the pen banging us into the wire, the fence posts, and even the other buffalo. One guy leaped up onto the shaggy back and only managed to get his body across its middle, like a “dead man riding.” He wasn’t there long.

Our older compadre was now drinking again and laughing until he wet his jeans. Of course he said that he spilled beer, but I had never, ever seen him spill a single drop before. He did what any good amigo would do for his brother cowboys; he brought us more beer. From his perch atop the fence he had the best vantage point and held the flashlight on our antics in the early light of dawn.

As the sun began lighting the eastern sky we conceded defeat: buffalo 4, cowboys 0. We were nearly sober by then and began to notice how bad we smelled from hugging that buffalo. The realization that we had broken into the park and were sure to be found if we stayed prompted our departure for the beach and a sunrise swim to get the smell off before we went home.

The abandoned animals of Pioneer City were there far longer than they should have been and we snuck back in several times to water them and bring some hay and grain to them. Eventually an animal rights group rescued them.

We never tried to ride the buffalo again; he won fair and square.

Our actions on that night bring a favorite Einstein quote to mind:

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955) 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sixty and Still Here

Sixty and Still Here

Imagine if you will being six years old, watching your grandfather die at fifty-nine from lung cancer and having your own grandmother tell you that you and your father will also die before age sixty. Terrifying, right?

Then visit a Jamaican voodoo woman with your girlfriend when you are sixteen and hear from this woman who does not know you that you will not complete your sixth decade.

Jump from there into the army during the Vietnam War and exacerbate the problem by entering into a special occupation with a six weeks to six months life expectancy. Not enough?

Add to that a visit to a psychic with your spouse when you are twenty-one for a question that she wanted to ask about getting cancer herself. While there have the woman take your hand and look you in the eyes and say “I’m so sorry.” You ask about what and she says “You will not see your sixtieth birthday.”

You can rationalize that it is all bull and that your grandmother was just a mean old woman who was hurting from her loss and was lashing out. The other two were just saying things that would scare you into coming back and paying them for further “readings” or potions to “save you.”

You can do all that. But it doesn’t take the creepy thoughts out of the back of your mind. The “what-if” machine works overtime and no matter how scientific and rational you are it is difficult to not wonder about it. Three people who don’t know each other and two of them know little to nothing about you, have all said the same thing.

When I was young and going at life full-tilt I didn’t worry about reaching sixty. Most of us didn’t believe we would see thirty. Considering what I did as a young man it was very unlikely that I would survive more than a few years anyway.

Then your child grows up a little more and you can’t imagine leaving her alone so you change your occupation to something less life threatening. Life throws you a curveball and you have to go back into the military, but you choose differently this time and try to be safer. Two more kids come along and you definitely can’t check out now.

Out of the military again and the transition period from soldier/sailor to civilian begins. The things you had to do in the military cause nightmares and guilt to nearly drive you crazy but you persist because your kids need you.

Age starts accumulating and another life change happens where one marriage ends and another begins. You still have the nagging voice in the back of your mind saying “remember the predictions… sixty is it.” You take out the maximum life insurance policy at work. Even at that stage when asked about retirement you give your standard answer, “I will die on the job. I won’t live long enough to retire.”

The opportunity to manipulate your service time around and retire at fifty-six happens and you go for it. The whole process is a fairy tale to you for years afterwards because even after you do it, you don’t believe that it happened. My own prediction of not living long enough to retire has failed. I’m good with that.

The years tick down to the magic number “sixty” and even on the night before your birthday you still have the voice in your head saying, “OK, this is it, get ready.”

It took until the day after my birthday to believe that I wasn’t going to die somehow and make those predictions come true. I didn’t want it to be true, but I have heard it since I was six years old and it was ingrained into my psyche.

So what happened, why am I still here? Was it because I changed my lifestyle, or altered my path? Did I do enough good deeds to help my karma? I don’t buy into the God’s plan story so it shall remain a small mystery.

What have I learned from this?

You live until you die, so don’t stop living prematurely. And, that the how and when you cease to be are vastly unimportant when compared to how you live right now. By “how you live” I mean how you treat the people, animals, planet around you. Is the world a better place because you are in it? If not, you still have a chance to make it so.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013



John Quincy Adams known to his friends as “Q” (and by the military as Staff Sergeant Adams, John Q.) was mulling over a problem that would affect his family as well as his career. His next duty assignment or “rotation” (transfer) was rapidly approaching and the army wanted him to move to Germany. That didn’t seem so bad on the face of things, but in reality it would leave his family alone most of the time among strangers in a strange land.

He wanted to return to the base in Georgia where they had lived prior to Alaska. It was a place where his wife and daughter would be within reach of family and friends should something happen to him. In his real line of work something bad was always likely to happen to him. He couldn’t even tell his family about what he did as it was far beyond “top secret” and would put them at risk.

Q. had been kept extremely busy with assignments and couldn’t squeeze in the time to address the transfer issue. It always seemed to be that way. Keeping him too busy to attend to personal matters until the last minute was a familiar psychological ploy that he remembered from classes at Quantico.

Tremendous pressure had been put on Q. to take the duty station in Germany which he told the detailer (assignment officer) he did not want. The words “operational necessity” were thrown at him repeatedly. There was never anything straight forward when dealing with the military (or government in general) it was always a chess game.

Other offers that were really terrible were pushed at him so that the alternative (their real preference) would always look better. Isolated duty in the Antarctic and northern Greenland were brought up as possibilities. It had been proven ad infinitum in the three years that Q. was stationed in Alaska that where he was assigned did not matter; he could do his job from anywhere.

The work that they cared about was not done where he lived anyway. Only his air traffic controller “day job” was; and they weren’t really concerned about that part. What Q. did wasn’t listed on any job resume or even talked about; if you wanted to stay alive.

SSG Adams was a member of a unit of soldiers which worked for a part of the military known generically as “black ops.” They were the shadow people who weren’t there and only existed in the darkness of secrecy. That group carried out assignments which were “outside” (for whatever reason) of the missions given to regular units.

As was common in any unit or career field, military or civilian, there were always deals to be made for choice of assignments. This is the story of one of those deals as told to me by the man who lived it.

The Good Deal

The call came in while I was at work in the control tower. I had to arrange for my duties to be taken over so that I could go to the communications center. Once I arrived there I could respond via the necessary "secure" line.
Inside the heart of Communications Central there are rooms which are supposed to be “listen proof” and use the highest security protocols. It was in one such room that I was connected with the senior member of the unit that I worked for. Conversations with the unit commander were always conducted this way.

He was on the east coast and it was very early in the a.m. in his time zone, but the call hour was his choice. My superior was not alone in his secure location as I was to find out before long.  

I was told up front that if I would take the mission being offered (and successfully complete it) I would be guaranteed to be stationed in Georgia as requested. There were prompts being given by someone else, to which my boss would reply, “Yes Sir” and then modify what he said to me.

Since he was the senior ranking member of our entire unit and reported directly to… let’s just say, very close to the top of the chain of command, it caused me concern to hear my boss in a subservient role. Whoever was in the room with him had a lot of juice on the hill.

We reached an agreement and the deal was done. I would have agreed to anything to get my family back to Georgia instead of the overseas duty station which would have required me to leave them alone among strangers, and they knew it. So, yeah, I was played. Politics is all about deal making and the military was in no way immune from it.

There are probably already questions as to why a soldier was “asked” to do anything. I mean we were the order obeying group, right? If it were a straight forward duty assignment, in a regular army unit, you would be right. 

Life was more complicated than that. When what you were being tasked with involved a certainty that rules would be broken and lives would be lost, including possibly your own, it was best to have a “volunteer.”

The Mission

A missing teenager is always an upsetting situation, but rarely requires military intervention, even when it is a white, blonde, and cute female. Historically those are the criteria that usually command the most reaction in our society. But, when it was the child of a sitting United States Senator, things accelerated and unusual methods and resources were brought to the table.

I was sent to a foreign country without benefit of customary identification or procedures. There would be no support, or local law enforcement presence, unless I messed up. The up side was there were also no limits or rules placed upon me to create “red tape.” I had “blank check” authority. 

Why me you ask? Because I was trained, experienced, had contacts in the region, and most of all … I was expendable. Hold onto these two words forever regarding the government: plausible deniability. Whatever I did, whatever went wrong, they wouldn’t know a thing about it. No records, no paper trail. I was also very good at what I did, as evidenced by my still being alive. I got “results” every time.

The girl in question had been grabbed in Istanbul, Turkey while wandering the Grand Bazaar along with two other American teenage girls. The other girls were found twenty-four hours later, beaten and raped, but alive. They were released (according to their statements) because they were not blondes. 

These events had transpired well in advance of me being brought into the picture. As anyone who has ever been connected to a missing person case can tell you, time is everything. The more time that has passed, the worse the prognosis becomes. 

It was not as bleak as that though, there had been action taken immediately by a federal agency with whom I was used to working. Through their in-country agents and local contacts, it was determined that Gail, (not her real name), had been moved out of Turkey and into Egypt before the other girls were released. 

I was on a plane to Washington, D.C. when I received an update on her movement. It may sound odd that I was able to get messages in flight, but I was being transported by an agency that we referred to as “The Company”. The same “company” whose agents were providing the information from Turkey, and Egypt. 

After landing and then a fast ride in a black windowed SUV, I was deep inside a building in our nation’s capitol. Where I was, I couldn’t have said for sure. The vehicle drove down a ramp into a basement parking structure which had guards and barricades.

From there it was into secure elevators which had card readers and guys with bulges under their left armpits waiting for us on whatever floor it was we stopped at.  It was pretty freaky to ride on an elevator with no floor indicators and which took multiple entries on the keypad to select your floor. Keep in mind that this was 1978, well before the public had internet, laptops, or cell phones.  

The purpose of my stop in Washington was to be briefed on the particulars of the mission. The briefing officer (not my boss, nor the Senator, they were already distancing themselves from any contact with me on this assignment) gave me the same information that I received via secure phone.

I got pissed off at the amount of “non-disclosure” in the meeting and told the junior agent to stop wasting my time and get my boss on the phone. He left the room and I packed up my notes and put on my jacket. My thoughts were all about how to get out of the building and back to Alaska.
“Junior” (the young agent) never returned, but his boss did. That (obviously more senior) agent had a better outlook on sharing information. Pertinent data started to flow and my questions were met with answers, instead of the infuriating “I’m not authorized to share that.” 

My freshly updated information showed that Gail was being held and transported by a white slavery group that supplied the needs of Middle Eastern and Asian markets. Their customers had more money and power than many small countries. They were not afraid to snatch any target that would fit a customer’s request.

From that bit of information I knew who I was up against, at least to start with. Things could change rapidly when you were far away and not in control.

The bigger problem would be which buyer she was en route to. She was a white, blonde, attractive, and teenaged American female. Criteria which would fit many requests I’m sure; meaning that she could be bound to anywhere.

The other possibility (and the one that I considered the prime option) was that she was the daughter of an American politician. As such she could be used as a bargaining chip in a ransom, or a blackmail plan. Or she could be a prime “trophy” for a collector of women. Those options would narrow the destination to a few Middle Eastern locales, known to the company. 

I did not question the explanation given by the junior agent regarding Gail’s different last name being a ruse for safety sake while traveling -- until I asked to speak to the other two girls and was denied. Those things, combined with lack of civilian authority involvement, set off alarm bells in my head. The incongruities rattled around in my head while the senior agent talked… until I had stewed about it enough.

Call it a gut feeling, but I stayed alive by listening to my gut, so I stopped the briefing. I told the agent that I didn’t like being lied to and I needed the truth to do what was asked of me. He picked up the telephone and dialed two digits, (so they were in the building!) and spoke to my boss briefly. Apparently he got permission to tell their version of the truth, because he was forthcoming and even more cooperative after that call.  

Gail was the illegitimate daughter of the Senator. Her existence was something not known of by the public, and he wanted to keep it that way. Her mother had already passed away. Gail lived with her grandmother who thought the Senator was just taking care of his deceased secretary’s daughter out of loyalty to her. 

Per my request I received a current photo of the young lady, but had to ask again for her vital statistics and private details. It was absolutely imperative that I could identify her from whatever glimpse, photo, or description I might obtain. The field agents knew the value of rapid identification and insider knowledge, but the office types were hampered tremendously by political pressure.
Gail had a birthmark on her lower abdomen, just to the inside of her left thigh, which was the color of melted chocolate ice cream. Today such a mark would be public knowledge and probably in a photo on her Facebook page. That was not the case in those days of enforced modesty for young girls.

I sincerely hoped that it didn’t come to that detail to identify her. I asked if there were any other details or secrets that I should know that would help, but the Senator had shut down the information feed. That was a mistake.

While we were briefing and the supply officer was gathering the gear I asked for, new intelligence information came through. Gail had been seen being put aboard a private jet in Cairo bound for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. We had to move faster if I was going to catch up with her.

I was in the air again in less than thirty minutes. A fast “company” Jetstar II jet with a crew of three and long range fuel tanks had been assigned for my transportation needs. I was traveling solo, bound for Jeddah with a fuel stop at Tenerife. Once in Saudi Arabia a quick assimilation into the local populace would be essential.  

Fortunately for me, I still had longer than military standard hair (left over from my last mission) and a good mustache. That made adding a beard and some color to my skin the only body alterations necessary. My hands were calloused and tanned from years of working outside with tools and exposure to the elements. I would fit in well with the working class of people that I would be moving through.  

At my request the plane was driven right inside of a cargo hangar upon arrival in Jeddah. I exited the plane inside of that hangar already in native clothing and met up with my Saudi contact. That man was my connection, not the company’s, and I made sure that the pilots never saw his face. Little things could cost lives in that business.

The plane moved out onto the line on the International side and parked for refueling. They were heading for Turkey after an eight hour crew rest and would stand by at the U.S. air base there. I had hoped that they would not have to wait long for my call. 

My local man, Hamid, (not his real name) put my dirty brown leather bag in his beat up Fiat and locked the trunk. We worked moving cargo for several hours so that I could be seen by the local security forces. Those guys had itchy trigger fingers and always had their machine guns pointed towards us.

At adhan (the afternoon call to prayer) we lined up outside on the tarmac facing Mecca, which coincidently, was not that far away. I stayed close to Hamid and focused intently on performing my prayer ritual without looking around. It was a good thing I did because the other men were watching me closely, as my partner noted as he glanced around.

Back inside the hangar Hamid made a telephone call to his men who were trailing the movement of the kidnapped girl. It was now eighteen hours since I received word of her flight to Jeddah. It was hard to be patient when I knew how critical time was. 

Hamid signaled me to get in his car and we took off through the security gates and eastbound through the city. Twenty minutes later we arrived at his apartment and had barely gotten my bag in the house when two young men knocked on the door. They were very wary and never took their eyes off of me as they talked excitedly with Hamid. 

My host shut the door and told me that we had to go to the coast right away; Gail was being moved again. We grabbed some cheese, bread and wine to consume on the way and got back into the Fiat. That car honestly sounded like it was going to self destruct. 

Thirty more minutes found us at the coast and engaged in negotiations with a boatman to take us across the Red Sea to Port Sudan. I kept my mouth shut, but listened closely. My hand was on my pistol under my robes, just in case things got ugly.

We would have been in a mess if the boat owner was more suspicious than greedy. He could notify Saudi police, or the military, or even local pirates if we didn’t reach an agreement. It was very fortuitous for him that he elected to take us across the sea that night. I would not have left him breathing otherwise. He could have gotten me killed. 

Crossing the Red Sea in the dark is not a pleasant journey in a small boat. There were many ships and many more small craft making the journey through these waters. Most of the large ones were lighted and cruising the north/south routes.

Other medium size craft were cruising the coastlines all a glow with dinner guests and music. In between the commercial craft were a few night fishermen trying to make an honest living. It was a busy place at night. 

And then there were the boats like ours; small, fast and fueled by cash. Many of these ran without lights, some of them using black market night vision like our captain. Hamid was asleep as soon as we cleared the Saudi coast, trusting that the deal we made would be honored by the boat owner. I was not as trusting and while I rested, I did so with my eyes on the driver and my firearm in my hand. 

Port Sudan was a commercial shipping city, but also an outpost for Red Sea gangsters and pirates as well. Multiple languages were spoken there and it became quickly apparent that anything and everything could be bought and sold there; including people. 

The new oil pipeline which had just been completed from Khartoum brought more wealth to the few in control. It did also bring some work in for the hungry masses that never had enough to live on. A trade boom was happening and many foreigners were passing through looking to make their fortunes.

It was very much an Arab controlled place, with black labor and Indian and Asian business men. Dressed and behaving like Arab businessmen we were able to move about without question or interference. Those engaged in commerce were always welcomed.

I learned in my short time in that city, that humans were regularly trafficked through there. The citizens of the United States have no idea just how little value is placed on human life in this part of the world. People were commodities to bought, sold, and used. 

There had indeed been a sale of women in the inner city of Port Sudan, but it was over before we could find it. Sources we questioned had information that there were three blonde white women on the auction block that morning but could not identify Gail among them.

The men that we spoke to could not say that she was not there, but were equally unable or unwilling, to say yes for sure either way. They were scared to death of being found out as an informant. Death comes to those deemed disloyal to the masters of the city.

On My Own 

Hamid had used up his day off from work and had to get back to Jeddah; he would arouse suspicion and possibly lose his job if he failed to report on time. That left me on my own to pursue the leads we were given. He was able to give me a list of contacts to help me in several locations.

Armed with the telephone number and instructions, he was to report my progress to the company. He departed back across the sea to Saudi Arabia and safety, such as it was at the time. The man was ultimately safer traveling without me; he was a simple Arab among Arabs. 

Our informant told us that two of the blonde white girls had been taken southwest to Khartoum, and the remaining girl, north towards the Egyptian border. Without any further identification or intelligence, I had to go with the better odds and caught the train for Khartoum. 

It was already warm enough with temperature being in the nineties, but with my gear carried partially in my bag, and partially hidden under my robes, it was a sweaty journey. I could not take a chance of showing any of my weapons and causing a search.

Even though I was carrying no U.S. identification (or made-in-America labels) the American dollars I had would start questions that would make life difficult for me. As I found out on that train trip, nearly every man was armed and I suspect many of the women were too. I had to keep thinking ahead and as I got more tired that got more difficult. 

Khartoum, Sudan 

Khartoum was three times the size of Port Sudan and had a more sophisticated feeling. I walked into a coffee house and found myself a corner spot near the back door where I could see who came and went. I did my best not to look at anyone -- while I watched them all.

A couple of hours passed and a man finally entered who looked around the room and made his way to me. We exchanged the customary greetings and he asked me about which coffee I preferred.

The agreed upon code words had been given and we spent another hour drinking coffee, so as to not arouse suspicion. It would be safe to say that everyone was suspicious in Khartoum. I would not have been surprised at all to have had someone enter with guns blazing… such was the feeling in that room. 

Sayeed took me to his humble home in a poor neighborhood and fed me well on lamb and couscous, but thankfully no more coffee. The tea he served was very sweet, especially after the abuse my taste buds had been given by the bitter coffee. I was very tired so I took a chance and caught a two hour nap before it was time to move again. As always, I slept fitfully and armed. 

The Harem  

Under the cover of darkness (and with the hope of ending this hunt) we set out to follow up on the leads that Sayeed had developed while I slept. Both of the blonde white girls had been purchased by the same wealthy man and were just outside of the city in a small palace. Sayeed had gained information from a delivery man about the location and the layout of the property where the girls were being held. 

Before I continue, I must say again that I was not on a polite diplomatic mission. The people I faced were more than willing to kill me, and would do so given any opportunity. The girl that I sought was only valuable as long as she didn’t present a problem for the buyer.

My orders were to retrieve the girl at any cost, no rules, no strings. If I failed, they didn’t know anything about me. The fact that my usual assignments outside of the control tower didn’t include getting “live results” should have caused more thought on my part. 

We parked the truck well down the road from the palace and walked quickly through the small village of servant homes, some of which were tents, and all included livestock. Camels grumbled and dogs snarled and barked at us all the way. We acted the part of unimpressed Arabs on business. The human life between the truck and the palace was not concerned with us and didn’t even look up from their cooking pots.

Once at the compound I located the security posts and watched them for thirty minutes to establish their habits. My life and that of the girl I was trying to find depended upon my diligence. There were no radios, no cameras, and no guard dogs to deal with.

The back side of the walled estate had a three story tall wall with peepholes (or gun ports) at strategic spots, all unmanned. The main point of entry for vehicles had a motorized double gate with two men in evidence there, but they were far from the main house.

Much more troublesome was the huge fellow with both a giant sword, and an UZI. His robe could cover the Rolls Royce in the driveway and he wandered the grounds like a prowling cat. I would not take a chance with that opponent. 

In order to protect Sayeed, I sent him back to the truck, telling him to catch some sleep but not to leave without me. It would have been a liability to have him with me. I didn’t want to worry about him getting hurt as he was our ride out of there.

I put silencers on both my pistol and rifle and put on my night vision gear. I found a spot where I could get up onto the wall and then waited for the big man to walk by on his rounds. Once he got far enough ahead of me to cover the sounds of my footsteps on the wall, I walked along behind and above him.

Fortune smiled on this monstrous guard dog of a man that night. As I ascended the wall I found a spot where I could see into the palace rooms on the second floor and as luck would have it, directly into the hareem

In that large room with its loud colors and lots of silk drapery, were not only the two blonde white girls I had followed, but six more young ladies of various hair colors and skin tones. They were completely naked and engaged in a group bath while a fat older man sat in large stuffed chair watching them. By his rich garb and the gold braid agal holding his keffiyeh on his head it was obvious that he was the sheik.
Putting the binoculars on the girls I determined right away that neither blonde was Gail. I did watch long enough to get a good look at the other six ladies and none of them had the tell tale birthmark. I had to be sure that she hadn’t had her hair dyed before I backed off. 

There were collectors who wanted physical purity, and others who wanted things to look like they wanted them to. They would often dye the hair of normally dark haired ethnicities blonde or red. All of these girls were all natural, and appeared to all be having fun. 

Decision time was upon me. I knew that at the very least, the two blonde girls had been auctioned off at Port Sudan. It was likely that the other six had been obtained in similar ways. The question remained what if anything should I do about it?

The girls did not appear to be in danger -- there were no handcuffs or restraints on them. All of the girls were laughing and appeared happy and physically well.

My target was not among them, so I had no reason to kill the guards or the sheik, and it would delay my search for Gail. I made my decision and departed the palace grounds and walked back to the truck. 

I would have Sayeed contact Hamid and forward the information on to the company as to the whereabouts of these women, with their descriptions, and let them work out the problem of extracting them from their happy harem. Time was being wasted and I had to catch up with blonde number three.

Sayeed took me to the Khartoum train station and we called a friend of his regarding the other girl, whom we now had to assume was Gail. That young girl had been taken north to Abu Simbel in Egypt.  


Crossing the Egyptian border was a bit more difficult than entering Sudan, but there are always ways to do what you need. My problem was not only the weapons that I had on me, but the lack of a passport or official papers. Both problems were solvable with time, but that was my biggest shortfall, I did not have extra time.

I made my way to Wadi Halfa in northern Sudan and hired a boatman to take me north on Lake Nubia, which became Lake Nasser in Egypt. Whatever name you called it, this was still the Nile River and had a lot fewer police and military checkpoints to deal with. 

My waterborne taxi driver had a cousin with a truck on the Egyptian side of the border and that would be my way into Abu Simbel. As always I had to depend upon the trust of my network of contacts, but wouldn’t hesitate to “terminate” our friendship if my life was threatened. 

I watched carefully as we crossed the “dotted line” (on my map) and made our way up a side channel on the west side of Lake Nasser, always ready to dump my bag over the side if a police boat approached.  Not only did none approach us, but I never even saw one anywhere on the water. 

After a long, dusty, bumpy ride in the back of what must have been a WWII vintage truck (it had long ago lost its brand logo), we arrived in Abu Simbel.  

This was tourist land and there were lots of foreigners and many cars and trucks zooming around. It was a good environment for me to speak to local contacts. I went to the boat landing and checked for the first guy on the list that Hamid gave me, but he was out on a trip with tourists, so I went looking for number two. 

It was during this walk about that I spotted the suit following me. I changed directions, doubled back and delayed, all to see what he would do. He was obviously a company man because he operated by the book, so why was he tailing me? If we made contact it would be like pointing a finger at me.

I could take him out, or cause the locals to attack him, but he might have a message for me. I had to wait until dark and then lure him to a quiet location and make contact my way. The extra attention made it difficult to pursue my contact and find Gail. At that point I was quite willing to shoot the man for putting me and my mission at risk. 

While I watched and waited, my Abu Simbel contact, Mohammed, found me. He also had spotted the very white guy with a military haircut and American mannerisms following me. Mohammed, as you might guess, was very well connected in the area and arranged for the suit to be captured and detained. 

An hour later we entered a small house to find the young agent tied up in a chair with a bag over his head. He was OK and not in danger of being beheaded, but he didn’t know what was going to happen to him. 

Since I had control over what happened with this young man, I was not worried about talking to him. He could not speak to anyone else without my permission, or go anywhere. 

Company interference 

The agent was following me to find out what I knew and what I was doing, but not to help me. They got my message about the kidnapped girls in Khartoum, but did not go after them, instead forwarding their whereabouts to the countries law enforcement agencies who had reported missing girls who matched my descriptions. But that was all he was willing to say.

Mohammed spoke to one of his men and in a few minutes he came back into the house with a car battery and some electrical wire. They stood the still “bagged” agent up and removed his pants and boxer shorts and then sat him down again.

I whispered a suggestion to Mohammed that it would be more effective if the agent got to see the battery brought in, so he signaled his man to take the battery back outside. The other helper then was instructed to remove the hood. Once the young man’s eyes could focus, the battery came back in the door.

There are expressions that we refer to as “priceless” now days, what I saw next definitely qualified. The young agent processed the appearance of the battery along with his pants being removed, rather quickly. His face formed the most priceless expression, one that almost caused the rest of us to laugh, except that we were completely serious.

The connections and contacts that I had been working with Hamid, Sayeed and Mohammed, were life and death serious. Any compromise of this network could and possibly would, result in the death of one or more members.

Something as simple as causing a policeman to detain or question any of the players, could necessitate the breakdown of an entire network. Torture is routine in this part of the world and the only right you have is to scream when it hurts. 

Our guest with no pants, who we called Sam, was already terrified. So when I stepped in front of him and touched two wires together and made sparks, it was understandable that he should pee. I also understood why Mohammed had me do it, the guy peed on me. 

I told him that he had one chance at the truth before I made his testicles look like Rudolph’s nose and made the wires spark again; he was very willing to cooperate.  

The question was posed to him, “What are you doing in Abu Simbel following me?” 

He stated that he was to delay and hinder my progress as much as possible, on the orders of the same company bosses that had briefed me less than three days earlier. The chess game continued it seemed… was I a knight, or a pawn I wondered. 

I asked him very quietly and in desperate seriousness, “Have you reported any of my contacts or compromised them in any way?” His answer would mean his life if it were the wrong one.

He stated that he had not and was only ordered to interfere with me. I believed him, his reactions and face told me that he spoke the truth and had no desire to be a tortured hero.

Since I was under orders from my army unit and not the company, I was not inclined to worry about what they liked or didn’t. I really didn’t care for their constant politics and lies anyway. 

The issue of compromise was so important, that the young agent’s life was in question for much of an hour. I was finally able to convince Mohammed that holding young Sam for a week while they checked for leaks or compromise would give them the time needed to change their contact information.

Mohammed was worried about the many people that he was responsible for and showed a tremendous amount of courage and faith in what he saw in my eyes. If I had lied or was a double agent all of those lives would have been forfeited.

The week delay would give me enough time to do my job too. It wasn’t likely that they would send another agent until they knew where Sam was or what happened to him. I counted on what I knew about the company and my own gut feelings to be right. 

I was able to sleep until sunrise while Mohammed’s network worked for me. I had gained major respect with the locals from the events of the previous night and it was paying off in information. The sheik who bought the third blonde girl had traveled through Abu Simbel and had stopped at a local hotel. The local employees would have loads of information for me.

The Not So Nice Sheik 
I was riding in a nice looking Mercedes, if you didn’t mind the bullet holes in the door, when the sun was less than an hour old. It was heading northwest away from Abu Simbel on what were laughingly called roads, toward an encampment near some lakes that I had never heard about.

There we would find the recently fired driver of the sheik I was looking for. The driver, Abdullah, had returned to his family camp located just north and east of the biggest lake, and the only one with good water. 

We found the lake, and by just following the road on the east side we located the camp of the desert people we sought. Stopping in front of the largest tent we got out and accepted the hospitality of the occupants. Hospitality was a sacred obligation of the desert tribesmen and not something to make light of if you wanted to live. 

I was travelling with Mohammed’s son Benjamin (named for Benjamin Franklin, a hero of Mohammed’s) and one of his men that I called “Ibn”. He was real proud of his lineage and spouted ibn after ibn until it was all that registered with me. Ibn means “son of” in Arabic and he was definitely a “son of” something. The fact that Mohammed sent his chief enforcer (to use a gangster term) along with us showed me that he was worried about trouble finding us.

The camp that we were having tea in was not the right family but they wanted us to stay and eat with them anyway. Such is the way of hospitality in the desert. We made our excuses and begged their forgiveness for having to go, but it was important that we get on with our search. 

Meeting the Blue People 

Several kilometers north on the same dirt track (road) we found the correct camp and with it Abdullah’s family. The camp was well organized with a very large tent in the center and farthest away from the road. Other tents formed a protective semi-circle extending on either side. Numerous camels, goats, horses and a few cows were in evidence behind the tents, with boys on foot attending them. Everywhere I looked as we approached I saw intense eyes looking back at me.

The appearance of the gold colored Mercedes with the bullet hole accents caused a flurry of activity as we eased to a stop on the road and shut off the engine. Riders on flashy Arabian horses came from both ends of the camp and cut off any avenue of escape. From the tents, armed men with blue turbans and veils over their faces walked towards us. 

Benjamin exited the car first giving greetings and proclaiming our peaceful intentions. Just like that, the mood changed; the riders took off, and the women went back to work. When the potential threat had been reduced to merely traveling strangers, our hosts went into hospitality mode, preparing tea, coffee and increasing the size of the meal being planned to accommodate three more. There was no “hurry” in these matters, especially if you wanted something from your hosts, and we did. 

I noticed a problem in the body language of the men who surrounded the chief of the tribe whenever Ibn was anywhere near their patriarch. There was hate in their eyes and they were tensed up like cats waiting to strike. They knew that I didn’t fit into the Egyptian countryside, but there was no hostility directed my way. Getting Benjamin’s attention, I signaled for him to come over to where I sat and speak with me. Benjamin had also noticed the friction and quickly filled me in on the problem.  

The entire Middle East had been in turmoil for years and not surprisingly, Ibn was a soldier during many of them. His religious leanings were decidedly Muslim and of a sect that was not opposed to torture and killing to get what they wanted. The unit he belonged to had been stationed in the same region as this tribe and it seems that Ibn had taken his knife to the former leader of the clan. The big goon had threatened to skin the leader’s younger brother (the chieftain we sat with) if he ever saw him again. 

Bad to Worse 

Things were about to boil over in that big tent and as perceived associates of Ibn, if it went bad we would have been targets too. I had my pistol in my hand under my sleeve as I sat listening, trying to appear relaxed and I had to assume that everyone else in the circle had a grip on their weapon of choice too. 

As I feared would happen Ibn snapped under the strain and lunged for the chief with his big dagger in his hand. There was a loud bang and the round from my pistol knocked him backwards instead. He had earned a third eye with which to view the world more clearly.

The chief was on his back with two men covering him with their bodies, more than willing to give their lives to protect him. The other men in the tent had blades in their hands and adrenalin pumping through their veins. Only young Benjamin was still sitting at his spot with his tea cup in his hand.

The chief was helped back to his cushion and his first words were “Masha Allah” which means “God has willed it.” Young men in blue veils grabbed Ibn’s arms and drug him out of the tent and out of sight. What they did to, and with him, I did not know. 

Because of my actions I had gone from a stranger receiving hospitality to family with that one split second decision. The tribe saw it as an act of heroism. It was really an act of self-preservation I must admit, but one that would pay great dividends in the future. 

Once the drama and hostility were gone the tribe was a lot more helpful. Abdullah was on his sleeping mat in a tent at the far north end of the camp. He was ill, which was why he had not been a part of the greeting party. When I entered his tent I could see, and smell, that he was both ill and injured. 

The illness I recognized from having seen it before, Sleeping Sickness. It is caused by parasites which are carried by the Tse Tse fly and Abdullah had been in southern Sudan which was experiencing an epidemic of the disease. Allah smiled on this camp again because I had Pentamidine in my medical kit, just for such a problem. I gave him my bottle and told the woman caring for him, through Abdullah who spoke English, to give him one pill (and only one!) each day with his evening meal. 

The injuries that the huge man sustained were more common to their lifestyle where cuts, scrapes, bruises and punctures happened routinely. I did not think that they made a habit of putting out lit cigars on each other’s faces though.

Abdullah said that he had objected to the abuse and degradation of a young girl by the sheik and he was attacked and held down by the bodyguards. The sheik was in a rage and attacked his driver with the cigar that he had been burning the girl with, nearly burning a hole through his cheek.

For good measure the bodyguards tied him up and then beat, kicked, and stomped him. Round two had the sheik cutting the expensive suit off of Abdullah, leaving him with cuts all over his body. Then for added humiliation the bodyguards relieved themselves all over the big man’s face, which earned them praise from their master. 

They tossed his naked body in the bed of the truck which carried the fuel for the three vehicles and left him there until they departed the next morning. About twenty kilometers out of Abu Simbel they dumped him in the dirt, still tied and naked.

The next vehicle which traveled the road stopped and the driver untied him and gave him a robe to wear. He had been lucky enough to connect with a large truck going all the way to his family’s camp. Since arriving home he had fallen seriously ill. 

I pulled out the picture of Gail and asked Abdullah if she was the blonde girl his former employer had with him. He said that he never saw the girl’s face because the sheik had ordered her head covered since before she joined the group in Port Sudan. That was certainly strange, but so was the sheik. I asked Abdullah how many were in the party.

He said that in the lead car were himself and two girls in the front seat and two girls, two even younger boys, and the sheik in the back seat. Abdullah laughed and said that the sheik was so paranoid of assassination attempts that he made the women sit next to the windows and the young boys sat on either side of him.

The second vehicle had the four bodyguards with AK-47s and UZIs on their persons at all times. The last vehicle was their supply truck which carried fuel for the three vehicles, food and water, and a large tent for when the sheik wanted to stop between hotels. It had a driver and a helper who were required to sleep in or under the truck and were not allowed inside the hotels or restaurants.  

Normal procedure was for each bodyguard was to hang onto one of the women and the two boys were always glued to the sheik whenever they were in public or traveling outside of the vehicle. Abdullah had to get the doors, fuel the vehicles, take food to the truck driver and his helper and whatever else the sheik wanted him to do.

Abdullah was able to say the blonde girl was about 1.6 meters, small breasts, pale skin, maybe 45 kilos, which is all about the same size as Gail. 

The biggest break of all was that the entourage was heading for El Kasr and would stay there for a month. I would be there as soon as I could arrange transportation and I would guess that Abdullah has some interest in visiting as well.

El Kasr

There were no grand hotels in which to stay in El Kasr. The large fortress of a palace that the evil sheik would call home for a month was three hundred years old. It was made of large earthen bricks of the same color as everything else in El Kasr, mud brown.

Inside the plain brown dwellings were more colorfully tiled and decorated and had life to them. There was no sense wasting time and effort on the outside creating something that the desert sun and winds would just destroy anyway.

Abdullah had a cousin in that small community and we were invited to stay with them. It was a difficult challenge to remain as invisible as possible and not create any talk about my presence. Such talk would have been disastrous to my mission.

I had been able to scout the location where the sheik and his party had taken up residence. Along with the now twelve members of the traveling party, there were two housekeepers and several more girls. I had sent Abdullah to the market place to drink tea with the locals and find out what the routine of the house was.

I traveled in the concealment of darkness as much as possible and watched and looked for positions of advantage. There were a couple of buildings nearby which allowed for observation from their rooftop terraces. It was on the best of those that I spotted a tattooed arm peeking out from under a robe sleeve.

What a surprise! My old friend Asato was on the roof with a spotting scope pointed at the same building that I was interested in. He and I had worked together before and he was rock solid and trustworthy. It isn’t often that can call a member of the Yakuza a “good guy,” but he really was.

I had made myself known (made intentional noise) before I approached him and could hear him chuckle. He said that he had watched me walk up the opposite side of the street and pass the building. Asato said he was pretty sure it was me when I disappeared into the shadows and didn’t come out for thirty minutes. When I crossed the street and circled around the building before approaching it he was sure. 

After my old friend finished giving me the business about having a predictable routine I was finally able to ask him what he was doing there. He was tracking a missing girl from the Japanese royal household at the request of one of the royals.

I noted out loud how odd it was to have the two of us not only trying to keep a target alive (not in keeping with our usual jobs), but doing so in the exact same location. It made us both nervous as neither of us believed in coincidence. 

We spent three hours on that roof with his long eyes and my night vision trained on the rooms that we could see into. One room was productive, but the others were not. We needed another vantage point and more intelligence to formulate a plan of entry.

When the streets were completely quiet we departed in different directions and met up again three streets away, satisfied that we had not been followed. Several times we split up and regrouped as we traveled the unfamiliar territory, always looking for anyone tailing us. 

Back inside the home of Abdullah’s cousin we were able to listen to what the big man had found out, besides that he needed to duck his six foot six height when he entered the house. He had whacked his forehead on the wall above the door when he came home in the dark.  

The marketplace tea room was very productive as it was the favorite hangout of the “palace” cook and she talked a lot in the little back room where the women sat. Abdullah has positioned himself at the table nearest to the backroom and sipped tea all afternoon listening to her talk.

Inside the palace there was an “outsider” woman who was bossing everyone around and who the cook seriously disliked. There were also six girls of various descriptions, with the common factor being that they were all teenagers. Those girls had been there for several days before the sheik arrived with the four additional girls and the two young boys. 

There was a party for some high ranking military and secret police happening the very next night. The cook and the housekeepers were to prepare all of the food and drink and then leave. They had to sleep in one of the outbuildings instead of in the main house that night which irritated the cook and made her very talkative. 

The most important news for me was that a blonde girl had been the first to arrive of all of them. She was delivered by two tall blonde American men in suits and aviator sun glasses along with the beautiful Egyptian woman who gave orders.

They had driven the blonde girl there a week earlier in a closed limo all the way from Cairo. The American men left early the next morning after sleeping a few hours. The Egyptian woman woke the household that same morning screaming about the blonde girl being an impure fake. 

Abdullah said the Egyptian woman had called the cook and a housekeeper into the room to hold down the naked teenager while she examined her. The bossy woman was even more agitated and violent afterwards. The girl was blonde on her head, but dark brown “below” which started the yelling.

When the young girl was examined and found to not be a virgin the woman started throwing things and cussing all the American whores. It was that same day that she was first injected with heroin and physically abused by her female captor. The cook heard her yelling repeatedly that the sheik was going to kill her for being an impure whore. 

Every day and night since her arrival she had been kept naked and repeatedly injected with heroin and harmed in one way or another. I had a very strong and sinking feeling that it was indeed, Gail. 

Asato interrupted and voiced the thought that we all had, this is not the way you would treat a valuable acquisition for a harem, but what you would do to a captive that you intended to use badly and dispose of. There was no argument.

He asked Abdullah if there had been any mention of the Japanese girl. The big man said yes, she was the last to arrive before the sheik and his party rolled in. The cook made special mention of her delicate features and pale beauty. She had been taken to a room and a bath drawn for her immediately like she was a particular prize. She was there and OK, so far as he could tell.

Abdullah said that it was well known that the sheik preferred young boys for sex and he abused and tortured the young girls he bought until he tired of them. Then they would be sent to the brothels or, if they were lucky, to a military officer with a lot of pull or a secret police commandant who could stay out of President Sadat’s party member sights. 

The entire group surrounding the sheik was vocally against Sadat and his plans of peace with Begin of Israel. They had much worse things to say about President Carter interfering with the Arab world.

Party Night 

Abdullah spent the entire day in the tea room at the marketplace and noticed a lot of traffic from the very beginning. The groups were arriving in Mercedes limos and military staff cars from all directions, including Libya, Sudan and all over Egypt.

Most noticeable to him was that they were all from the hard line anti-Sadat party and appeared to be mostly all Muslims from outside of the local sects. Abdullah was Tuareg and as such, not a strict observer of Islam. His comment was, “They worry me.” 

The housekeeper appeared early in the day with payment for the many and varied supplies for the party. She flashed it around before she paid for everything in fresh new American money. Now THAT worried me. 

Asato was the essence of a ghost operative. He could walk through a crowded room and nobody remembered seeing him. Of course if you ever saw him in the bath house and viewed the full body suit of tattoos on his body, you would never forget him either.

My “Japanese Arab” had spent the day sliding in and out of buildings and found a way up to the top of another building within viewing range of the palace. He also had the disturbing news of crisp new American money passing between military officers and the feared secret police of Egypt. 

Abdullah had to avoid being identified by or to the bodyguards or the sheik so he had to hide his face from the palace staff and not make any impression on the recent arrivals. I advised him to lay low as his imposing frame would certainly cause comment and his burned face would give him away. He would get his chance to avenge his injuries and disrespect.

By the time the sun was low on the horizon, the little settlement of El Kasr was buzzing with talk and activity. The number of important strangers and vehicles had the locals stirred up and gossiping. It was very dangerous for us to move around.

Abdullah’s cousin had heard that the sheik knew of his presence in El Kasr. His size and the burn on his face had given him away just as I had feared. We were not going to be able to rescue the girls that night unless things changed far more than I thought possible. It could be bad for the girls. 

We had to maintain surveillance so Asato and I made our way to the new building and through an apartment and up onto the locked rooftop. My ghostly friend had made us some mud colored cover-ups during the day and we became part of the mud block building. The view was much more productive from the new hide and the party was already underway.

It was a political planning meeting or rally primarily, with side “entertainment” of sadism and abuse. The sights we saw were not pretty or nice. Most of the action was on the second floor in what appeared to be an interrogation torture room or modern dungeon.  

There was a woman with a completely shaved head and body being assaulted repeatedly in all orifices by multiple men. They appeared to be doing their best to damage the poor thing. I was not sure who it was, but I had my fears. 

Asato gasped, which really shocked me, I had never heard him make a sound in the field no matter what we were doing. The Egyptian woman came into view dressed in a Dominatrix outfit, complete with a huge strap-on penis. She directed two men to suspend the naked bald woman at waist height.

She assaulted the girl with such violence and ferocity that it took two more men to hold the victim in one place. The bald girl was visibly bleeding when she finished. One of the bodyguards appeared with a syringe, injected the girl, and then they just dropped her. 

My partner nearly jumped over the edge of the roof when the also naked Japanese girl was brought into view. She was bent over bench and anally assaulted by the Egyptian woman. The woman didn’t try to kill her with effort like she did the first girl. The young Asian girl was then put on her knees and had to orally service at least a dozen men. By this time all of the women were in the room and being used by those in attendance. 

If we attacked then there would have been little chance of getting the girls out. We could have killed several of the attendees, but with no guarantee of getting the sheik or the Egyptian woman either. It was one of the worst nights of my entire life. I know my friend Asato had died a bit too. We were helpless to save them.

The compound had constantly roving security guards with UZIs or AK-47s and armored vehicles stationed at the front and rear gates. There were snipers on the roof who would have seen us if not for Asato’s mud colored tarps. We did consider going in anyway, even though we likely would have been killed before we reached the girls, such was our anguish at what we had seen. In the end training and experience suppressed emotion.

We waited all through the night for an opening but the guards never faltered in their duties. The sick bastards in the torture room never gave up hurting women either. When the sun came up the girls were collected by the body guards and taken back to wherever they slept.

The bald girl was carried out like so much garbage. Her face had cigar burns all over it, as did most of the rest of her body that we could see. Asato and I both spotted the birthmark, it was Gail. I can not express the depth of rage and pain that I felt with that knowledge. 
The apartment was occupied when we had the opportunity to descend to ground level so we had to stay where we were through the beginning of the work day routine. The military vehicles began departing and within thirty minutes they were all gone. The Mercedes limos pulled in, loaded up and departed next.  

While we watched, a limo with blacked out windows arrived and two tall white Americans got out, took a bag out of the trunk and went inside. They returned with the Egyptian woman all dressed up like a Wall Street business executive. The men opened the door for her, loaded her bags, and drove off.

There was no doubt in my mind at all, Company agents. They had delivered Gail to the sheik, along with a huge sum of American cash. To a group that was dead set against the Peace Talks between Egypt and Israel. I thought, “What the Hell was I in the middle of?” 

Gail died that night of the party from the brutal injuries she received and an overdose of heroin. The Japanese girl broke a window in her room and slashed the femoral artery in her leg, also dying. The remaining women were loaded up in a Mercedes and driven to Cairo to be sold into prostitution. 

That night there were more deaths in the palace. The sheik was shot in the forehead, and beheaded. All four bodyguards had their throats cut, after they were beaten severely by someone with very large fists. 

Inside the palace were found documents with my name on them. The Egyptian Secret Police were looking for me, no doubt due to whispers in their ears from blonde guys in suits.

I told Asato to take a chunk of that American cash and get out of the country as quickly as possible, before someone tied him to me in all of this. I gave Abdullah another bag full of cash and told him to get somewhere safe and exchange the money as quietly as possible or he would be arrested for having American dollars in such quantity. 

I headed south and got as far as Mut in one of the trucks from the compound. When I got out of the truck to put fuel in it I was approached by Egyptian army soldiers with guns.

Deep trouble

I figured that I was done for good. Somehow they had already gotten the word out about the sheik and his goons and the secret police would be using their filet knives on me in an hour or so.

The decision to not carry any firearms on my exodus was looking like a really bad choice at that point. At the very least I could have gone out in a blaze of glory, saving the last round for myself. That wasn’t happening. I had a bag over my head and my hands tied behind my back and was unceremoniously dumped into the bed of a Toyota truck and hauled off. 

It was rather humorous in a stupid sick sort of way. I was so tanned, filthy and smelly that they failed to recognize that I was a white American looking person. They questioned me and then beat me for not answering, in a language that I could barely speak any of.

The instrument of punishment was a soft leather bag filled with wet sand. They could beat the Hell out of you and not leave a mark. It was easy on their hands too. I decided to stick with my not answering routine because from what I could understand, they didn’t have me for the murders, just stealing the fuel in the back of the truck. I was obviously too poor to afford that much fuel, so therefore, I was a criminal. 

When they got tired of beating me across the back, just above my kidneys, they tossed me into the large holding cell with the bag still over my head. I guess they didn’t want to be recognized because I knew that they were going to steal the fuel on the truck I was driving for their own use.

The cell was so full of men that we all had to stand up. There was no place to sit or lie down without being trampled. I had the bag off pretty quick when I started getting groped as I was shoved inside the cell. Roughly every fifteen minutes or so, we would start to walk around in a circle, all together to keep the circulation going in our legs.

After a few hours a couple of men fell down and were trampled by the masses in the cell. A little while longer and a couple more men hit the dirt. The night passed and the guards opened the door and I was close to the door as we rotated around the cell. I was directed to drag the dead men out of the cell and out the back door and onto what was probably the same Toyota truck that I arrived in. I was given a shovel and joined three other live men sitting on top of the dead ones. 

The truck drove us away from the settlement into an open area and we were directed to dig a grave, just one, for all those dead men, and us I suspected.  The guards were not the professional soldiers I had encountered previously. These men were bumbling local thieves with a convenient job that gave them a way to profit from the misery of others. 

My fellow survivors and I dug the mass grave and were dragging the unfortunate deceased men off of the truck in the heat when opportunity knocked. The biggest and meanest of the two guards had gotten lax and turned his back to me. I did not hesitate, I whacked him on the back of his head as hard as I could with that shovel and pulled his gun and shot the other guard in the eye. Then I shot the first guard for good measure.

I had the other prisoners throw the guards in with the dead prisoners and told them to fill in the hole. I motioned to the prisoners get in the back of the truck and we drove to the next settlement where I made them get out. They waved at me as I drove off like long lost relatives, because they knew that we were all going to die that day and I had changed that. 

From there using a map I found in the truck I headed for Abdullah’s family camp as quick as I could drive. He was there and had his family put the truck inside of a tent and scraped the identification off. When it got dark we moved it back out and drove to an airport where a private plane was available for hire. We both knew that I had to get out of Egypt immediately and the roads would be watched at the borders.  

The pilot was a member of the chief’s family and placed himself at great risk by flying me out, but he knew what I had done for the chief, and for Abdullah; I was family to them. We figured if he could get me to the Algerian border I could avoid capture by the Egyptian secret police or their friends in Libya.  

We flew across Libya with the fear of military jets intercepting us all of the way, but they were occupied by the US Navy along their coast for the entire time that we buzzed across westbound. Refueling was paid for with crisp new American money (courtesy of Abdullah) at each stop and not once did the seller hesitate to accept it. 

There was a branch of the family still running caravans across the Sahara and they would take me across Algeria and into Morocco. The Tuareg are an honorable people and fiercely loyal to family and friends. No one would know a thing about where I had gone.

I was delivered into the arms of the Blue People and never felt safer or more welcome anywhere on earth. A story similar to the journey across the western Sahara can be read in “Time of Sands.”

Once in Morocco I made connections to get picked up by my Army unit people. The same company Jetstar picked me up like nothing had ever happened.


I know that you have questions; what did the Senator know? Was the search for the daughter actively interfered with? Did he ever learn the truth? 

I can’t prove that the company snatched Gail from Turkey and delivered her into slavery and worse, even though I know that they did. That is the way that real world bad things often happen… no proof.

I will always feel like they (the company and its bosses) were trying to derail the Peace Accord that President Carter engineered with Sadat and Begin. There was an awful lot of money and information being handed to the anti-Sadat people by “suits.”

I had my suspicions that the Senator was cleaning up loose ends with the removal of his love child, because her grandmother died in a car crash while all of this was going on. How convenient. It was interesting that his secretary, Gail’s mother, had also died in a car crash a few years earlier. Yes, I do still know who he was.

Going on gut instinct I told them that I never did find Gail, but learned from reliable intelligence that she had died of an overdose of drugs and aborted the mission and made my way back to Morocco.

I believe it was this version of what happened that allowed me to live on. It kept me separated from the heinous political doings that would have necessitated removing me.

Asato caught up with the Egyptian woman in Cairo and cut her head off with his sword in her office at the secret police building and nobody saw him enter or leave. If there is ANY justice in this story I count that as it.

P. S.

SSG John Q. Adams got his assignment to Georgia … and left the army at the next re-enlistment opportunity. He had had enough.

Character resemblance to anyone alive or dead is… interesting.