Sandy sat in the kitchen with a wet towel around her hair thumbing through the new edition of “Soldier of Fortune.” Half track was in the canning kitchen browning some meat in the skillet for the stew he was making. It was too hot to cook in the main kitchen.
“Where’s Trish, Roland?” I asked.
“I let her off at the women’s collective. She and Harriett have some fiber arts project going,” answered Roland.
“I brought some groceries to chip in,” hollered Halftrack through the door. “There’s a box by the door.”
Roland went to investigate. Halftrack had made a nice contribution, a whole box of fresh veggies and berries. We’d been eating out of our garden but it was water-stressed and production was down and we were glad to see the box. He’d stopped by the roadside stand of the Cabbage Ranch, an organic, hippie farm in the valley. I don’t know if he told Molly where he was going but she’d treated him well. We still had raspberries but nothing like they could grow along the river with unlimited water. They had a pump that used the momentum of the river to raise water for the farm. They were pretty much on top of things. The had an acre of sweet corn the year before that was the best I ever ate.
Later, while Sandy helped Halftrack cook dinner, Roland and I rode down the mountain for another load of water.
“Could you hit up Mike for some money to help out with gas?”
“Yeah, he’s got a few bucks. He may even have an expense account.”
“An expense account! I didn’t know he even had a job. I ran into him at the 4700 in the U district and he was holding court in the middle of the day.”
“Yeah, he has a job. Didn’t you figure that out when you were in Saigon?”
“Well, I never did figure out exactly what he did. I met him through a friend in Saigon. He claimed to be on furlough. Then I ran into him again when I was assigned to repair a radar at one of the recon bases up country. He claimed to be a freight broker for Air America then. Shipped a lotta stuff in and out of the recon base. But I sat in on a conversation in Saigon before that and it seemed like he was arranging to buy rifles on the black market. I didn’t ask many questions and he didn’t offer much then. At the time DB and I were involved in some shall we say ‘banking irregularities’ and I didn’t want to attract attention.
“Ha! don’t bullshit me. You guys were small-time, changing money with the Indian tailors. Banking irregularities my ass. Mike was involved in some banking irregularities too, lots bigger ones. He used to hang out in Cho Lon trading with the Chinese.”
“No shit! That means he was buying dope for export.
“Not dope. Well, maybe at one time. I think Thieu and Ky had heroin sewn up by then. What year did you say that was?”
“Yeah, by then Thieu had cut the Chinese out of the US export market.”
“DB told me that the only reason the Chinese would sell to Americans or Aussies was for export. They wouldn’t deal with Virgil and DB at all.