Chapter 8 – Rifles for Halftrack

“So the two of them show up about six months ago, Secret security clearances and all. Young guys, bright, like you’d expect, technical wizards, you know, attractive young men and the one of them catches Agnes’ eye. So they become friendly and talk at lunch, keeping it all very formal and professional, you know, “Miss Yen” and “Specialist Allen.” And they keep it up like that for months but anyone can see the sparks fly, Toms says it’s cute to the point of being funny. So one day she invites both instructors for dinner at her family’s villa. They both go and on Monday Tom’s asks them how their outing went. And he says Allen is now completely head over heels about her but he’s still trying not to show anything.

But Allen is a problem. He’s really smart technically and he’s a quick study. Agnes taught him French in a couple of months. But he’s really naive. Grew up in the Seattle suburbs. Father’s a Boeing engineer. Religious family, no dancing except at church socials, six inches apart, no card playing, church Boy Scouts. I mean, really, he’s the original boy scout. He has just no street smarts at all. Sgt. Pigeon says he needs looking after but he doesn’t have time or taste for a babysitting project. Besides he’s black and Allen wouldn’t fit in his social circle at all. To complicate things, Allen’s got this buddy from back home who’s not a boy scout and has considerable street smarts and has recruited Allen into money changing. Apparently they’ve made quite a bit at it.

“Come on Suel. Lots of guys do currency arbitrage. Where’s this going? I haven’t got all day and it’s getting hot and I want to go to the pool.”

“Well, hear me out. What makes this a problem for me is that Allen’s uncle is a Col. Borgman, who I worked with at the Pentagon. He’s Air Force intelligence and well connected.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember him. He used to fly in here from Honolulu a couple times a month, to keep his flight pay current or so he said but really it was to check up on Diem’s crew, and what Thao was up to. He wanted to know what we did with all the AR-15s at one point. I was in Laos at the time but Lansdale told me about it.”

“So Borgman had LBJ’s ear and recommended that Diem be kept on or all hell would break loose. In fact, he went to Johnson to stop the 243 program when Kennedy was out of town. He came down on the wrong side of that one and was passed over for brigadier and they force-ably retired him last year.

“So here’s his nephew in my command, he’s sleeping with Yen’s daughter who’s madly in love with him. She’s supposed to be his minder but isn’t very good at it and he’s involved in some money laundering scheme that’s getting bigger.”

“So what do you want me to do about it? Find another sparrow? That doesn’t seem likely to work if he’s already in love with the one you’ve got.”

“No, no. It’s way worse than that. Agnes came to see me this morning early on her way to work. She stayed downtown with him in their love nest last night. They’re getting so they really confide in each other and he told her that he’d been approached by one of Theiu’s colonels, Bau probably, to help them launder money to get it out of the country. This happened last Saturday. He has a checking account in New Jersey that’s direct deposit for his pay so I don’t pay him. In fact, he’s not even on my morning report. So his buddies figured this out and they want to enlist Bau to funnel money through his account to convert piasters to dollars, for a cut I imagine. Agnes said he turned them down. He told them it wouldn’t work. She said Bau wants to do fifty million dollars. Anyway, now they know he knows about their scheme but he’s not going to be part of it. She’s afraid they’ll kill him. He’s in way over his head and doesn’t have a clue, or so it seems. But, like I said, he’s pretty smart.”

“God, what a rat’s nest. Couldn’t you have derailed this sooner?”

“You know, it’s not like I have nothing else to do but watch Allen. I have more than a dozen advisory teams to keep track of. Keep some of them from stepping on your toes. Tom’s is being watched closely by the ARVNs because of the communications desk and he has to be careful of what he says. So I have Msg. Surgeon report to me in person weekly on what he sees but he wouldn’t know a romance if it hit him over the head. He just makes the rounds of the brothels and sees the medics once a week for a short-arm inspection.

“Besides, Allen’s buddy long ago disappeared into the slums where he has a shack job. He’s sort of gone native and he’s hard to track. But he’s basically harmless, they just play the currency arbitrage game every month. According to Agnes, Allen spends too much time there instead of with her. So even between Surgeon and Agnes I don’t have a full picture.”

“Putting a tail on him or them isn’t going to keep either of them safe. All that’ll do is make somebody witness to the murder. If they figure out that he’s confided in her, she’s at risk too. I don’t have to ask where they got that kind of money but I know they won’t want any trouble over it. If Yen found out his daughter got mixed up in this I’d never hear the end of it. And Yen’s got some nasty friends too. Hmmm. Maybe Yen’s men could put the arm on Thieu’s colonel, I assume it’s Bau. He’s Thieu’s aide de camp. – no, no on second thought we can’t involve Yen in this. He’d go ballistic if he thought his daughter’s in danger. You don’t know where that might lead.

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