General Trinh is delivering papers

  by: Walter Guest



Someone was coming down the trail from the rubber plantation. Hao nudged Kincaid awake. They always took turns sleeping on overnight probes. That, combined with a lot of rest when they were off duty, managed to keep them fresh.

Kincaid heard it too. "Five," he whispered.

Hao listened a moment more. He could take the over or under. "Six," he finally said. The loser had to buy the beer. Hao usually bought.

They were well off the trail. It wasn't their intention to ambush the intruders. Hao had said that would bring retaliation down on the undefended village. But they needed to know how many went into the village this night and how many came back out, if they came back out. From their position they could see the trail easily. In their position they were safe.

The sound of equipment clicking on the march got louder. There was no doubt that these were armed men. Five men went by them on the trail.

"Shit," Hao said under his breath.

When they had passed Kincaid whispered, "Your turn to sleep."

They might have a long wait. There was nothing more to do until Charlie came back. Hao curled up in his poncho. He kept his arms free and his rifle within easy reach. Kincaid was wide awake after his nap. If he got drowsy later he could chew on sunflower seeds until it was his turn to sleep again.

His mind drifted back over the events of the day. Just the thought of Phouc got him exited all over again. This after being with her for six solid hours. No woman had ever had that effect on him

A man screamed down the trail toward the village. Then an AK-47 cut loose. Hao was awake and ready at his side. The rifle had fired two short bursts and then there was silence. They heard footsteps coming from that direction. It was one man running.

Kincaid decided to let him pass. That was the biggest trouble with night fighting. It was hard to know who to stop and who not to stop. Kincaid wasn't sure in this case so he would let the man go. Hao cut him down with a three round burst. They heard a weapon clatter when the man fell.

"Let's get out of here." Hao said softly.

He led the way directly away from the trail. After about a hundred meters he stopped.

"They won't find us here," Hao said. He found a soft piece of ground to lie on.

"Who"" Kincaid asked.

"My people. The Rhade." He wrapped himself in his poncho again. "Just in case they look for us but they probably won't."

Kincaid sat down nearby with his back against a tree.

"I didn't think they had it in them," Hao said. "They really mean business."

"Who""

"The Rhade. They ambushed Charlie with their lousy crossbows. That's what Minh had in mind," For the first time he told Kincaid what Minh had said about guaranteeing their safety. "I had to cut down the one running," he concluded. "We couldn't let any get back."

"What now""

"We"ll wait an hour or two until it quiets down. Then we"ll cut around through the fields to Phouc's house."

Kincaid liked the sound of that.

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