The powers that be decided in their infinite
wisdom that Lieutenant
Goldman and his men would head straight back out
with no rest after
their last mission to S&D a munitions cache in
the north. They were
going to be air dropped about 15 miles south of
the 'alleged' site and
walk in. In a three days the bird would
rendezvous at the same LZ to
air lift them out. They were under strict orders
to maintain radio
silence for the duration of the mission and only
radio their arrival at
the LZ on the last day.
Still in flack jacket and pack, helmet tucked
under one arm, mud caked,
battle weary and dog tired Lt. Goldman stood
before Major Darling's desk
listening to his company's latest orders.
"Permission to speak freely, sir." said
Lieutenant Goldman, trying very
hard not to not loose his temper.
"Of course Lieutenant." encouraged the major.
"Sir. Why are you're sending my men out first
thing in the morning.
They've been out for 6 days straight already.
It's stupid! It would be
risking their lives. . Sir."
"Your opinion is duly noted Lieutenant. But the
orders stand. You're
on that bird at 0500 hours. Dismissed."
"But, sir . . . !" started Goldman.
"DIS...missed, Lieutenant." He turned his
attention back to a map on
the desk, his tone left no room for further
"Sir." Goldman snapped a brief salute before
whirling around and
storming from the major's office.
Sargent Zeke Anderson stood outside the major's
office waiting for the
Lieutenant to come out and when the Lt. roared
right by him mumbling
hotly to himself, Anderson had to hurry to fall
into step beside him.
The Lt. glanced absently at him and kept on
"Doesn't look like the Major's going to change
his mind any time soon."
The Lt. stopped abruptly. The Sargent kept
walking and had to go back
to the Lt's side.
"He is such an arrogant bastard. He is going to
risk our men because
he's not willing to admit that he made a
"What can we do about it?"
His anger rising again, the lieutenant stormed
off, heading for the
barracks. Sargent Anderson just shook his head
and followed silently.
He usually found it amusing when the Lt got his
back up, but this time
he was as concerned as Goldman was. It was
really stupid to send out a
bunch of exhausted men to get a job done right.
The room fell silent as Goldman clumped into the
barracks. The men
rose and gave him a salute, puzzled looks on
their faces. The Lt.
stood a moment looking at his men as the Sargent
edged his way into the
room around the him.
"At ease, men."
"What's the word, Lt?" Purcell asked the
question on all their minds.
Goldman sighed and put his hands on his hips.
"We fly out at 0500."
The room exploded in protest.
"Hey! Knock it off." snapped Anderson, getting
the men back in line.
"I know this is whole mission is a load of crap,
but the Darling isn't
budging, I'm sorry guys." finished the Lt. seeing
the disappointment in
their tired eyes.
"All right, you better turn in. We're on the
bird at 0500."
The Lt. was already out the door before the men
could react. He was
sick and tired of the bullhsit that the brass
kept flinging at him and
his men. The last mission was a great success
and the reports would
probably generate a couple of medals. But this.
This was a recipe for
Heading for his hootch, movement caught his eye
behind the latrines. It
looked like a G.I. kneeling behind the huts.
"Everything all right, soldier?" he asked coming
closer to see if he
could help the man out. The crouched man turned
and bolted away into the
"Hey!" called Goldman, dropping his helmet and
going after him,
reaching for his service revolver. He cleared the
row of huts and saw
the man heading for the perimeter. He took aim.
And suddenly he was
lying face down in the dirt, blood seeping from a
scalp wound and his
gun was gone. In a daze he tried resisting weakly
as his pack was pulled
from his back and he was stripped him of his
"Hel . . ." he began to yell before being
knocked out cold.
Zeke stopped in his tracks, listening, waiting
to hear it again.
Something was wrong, he could feel it.
his way slowly across
the compound taking in every shadow and noise
around him. He spotted
the discarded helmet by the latrines and he
immediately recognized it as
the Lt's. He scooped it up and ran back to the
barracks. He burst in
startling the guys.
"It's the Lt. Something's happened!" he
blurted out, holding out the
helmet as evidence.
"Sarg?" asked Baker coming out of his bunk
reaching for his fatigues.
"I found this lying on the ground behind the
latrines. We need to get a
search party together, start looking for him,
now. I'm going to go tell
the Major." he ranted before he turned and left
the confused men
"Sir, something's happened to the Lt. Request
permission to take out a
search party." Anderson stood saluting the major,
waiting patiently for
the return salute.
"How could something have happened to your
lieutenant, Sargent, he was
just here with me not more than ten minutes ago."
"Yes sir, beggin' your pardon sir. But I found
this lying on the
ground behind the huts, sir. Lieutenant Goldman
would never just toss
his lid on the ground."
"He's probably blowing off steam somewhere,
Sargent. He was, a little,
annoyed, when he left here. . . Dismissed."
"I know all about why he was 'annoyed' sir. And
rightly so. He's not
like most Officers, sir, he cares about his men."
Anderson saluted and
stared at Major Darling until he received the
stunned return salute,
turned and left.
The VC party slipped through the jungle, seeming
to know where to avoid
branches and holes. Head pounding, Goldman was
pulled along behind them
by a length of rope noosed around his neck. With
his hands lashed
behind his back, he struggled to stay on his
"SARG!!!!" screamed Ruis sprinting away from the
The men spilled from the barracks, all toting
"Sarg. Bomb! Latrines!" panted Ruis gesturing
"Ruis. Calm down. What's wrong?"
"There are bombs sitting behind the latrines."
he finally blurted out.
Anderson pushed by him and ran for the latrines.
To his relief, the explosives had not been
armed. The Lt. had probably
interrupted them before they could finish, he
thought, and he may have
gotten himself killed for it. A hero's death,
the report would say.
The sarg scooped up the bits and pieces and
returned to the major's
office, calmer than when he left.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir. Thought you should
see what Specialist Ruis
found behind the huts, sir. Looks like the Lt.
may have saved a few
lives with his unselfish actions."
"Sargent Anderson. I, uh, I've contacted HQ and
they have given us the
green light to use all means available to mount
an S&R for your
Lieutenant Goldman. You and your men can head
out at first light." said
the major a little sheepishly even if it was to
give a subordinate an
"Thank you, sir!" He laid the makings of the
bombs on the majors desk,
stood back and saluted. He turned and left once
Darling returned his
"The mission to the north is going to Delta
company in the morning.
We've been given the green light to find the Lt.
We move out at first
light." announced the Sargent as he approached
his waiting men.
troop returned to their barracks to get what
sleep they could. A check
on the perimeter sentries turned up two dead
g.i.'s with slit throats.
The VC had slipped in and out of the compound
The seemingly tireless VC rushed on silently
through the moon lit
jungle. With heart pounding, the Lt. was doing
his best to keep up but
the blood that oozed from a ragged gouge across
his forehead was doing a
good job of nearly blinding him. Miscalculating
a step, he spilled
forward, and landed with a pained grunt. He lay
there unable to get to
his feet on his own with hands bound behind him.
The toothless little
man that held his 'leash' bent over and slapped
at him, jabbering
wildly as he did.
"I'm trying!!" screamed Goldman, assuming the
slapping and wild
gesturing meant that he should be getting back on
his feet. The little
toothless man, displaying surprising strength,
hoisted the Lt. to his
feet, shaking him till his teeth nearly rattled
and shaking scraps of
paper and a lighter fell unnoticed from the Lt.'s
pants pocket, shoved
him on his way.
Early morning streaks in the sky signaled a
start to a new day. The VC
slowed their grueling pace as the heat rose with
the sun. Goldman,
covered in sweat, dirt and blood, his energy just
about drained, wobbled
dangerously on his feet as they lead him into a
jungle-surrounded clearing. He froze in horror
when he saw the layout
Bamboo cages the size of crates, sat
in rows under the
already baking sun. A majority of them were
occupied by wounded, sick,
exhausted, dejected U.S. soldiers.
A few of the men in the cages watched his
arrival with indifference.
Others were just too sick or injured to even
stir. The VC who'd dragged
him through the night jungle herded their prize
into a bamboo
constructed cabin and shoved him down onto his
knees in the middle of
the room before a rickety folding table.
Purcell and Ruis were the last two to join the
Sargent outside the
barracks and shouldered into their packs as the
major crossed the
compound, the early morning chill clouding his
breath around his head as
"Men. You've got 48 hours to achieve your
objective. You return in
two days regardless of the outcome. That is an
order. Is that perfectly
clear? Sargent?" he turned to eyeball Anderson
when the men remained
"Sir. The Lt. . ." he started.
"I will cancel this mission if I don't see any
cooperation here. I
don't know what your lieutenant let you get away
with, Sargent, but it
ain't gonna fly with me. Now. Have I made
The men around him mumbled their assurances that
"Dismissed, Sargent. Good luck. Bring him home
"Sir!" Anderson snapped the major a crisp
"You tell!!" barked the chubby VC officer.
"Go to hell." spat out Goldman, ears were still
ringing from the clout
to the back of the head that knocked him off his
knees. He hissed when a
length of rope whipped through the air and licked
across his thigh. He
kicked out defensively at the man who whipped
him, to his satisfaction,
his army boot landing squarely against the man's
down on him until he lay there bleeding and
senseless. A curt order
from the VC officer had two of the troops drag
They tossed their unresponsive burden headlong
into a bamboo cage and
left him lying there in a heap, tied as he was.
"Hey. Yo. . . Soldier. . . Lieutenant ?. . ."
He heard it coming from
far away. Like a weak radio signal. He wanted
the radio to shut up.
He tried to roll over, to get away from it, from
the pain it was letting
"Goldman? Is that what it says? Lieutenant
Goldman. Sir. Lt?" came
the persistent nagging. Annoyed fully awake,
groaning, the Lt. tried to
find the source of his aggravation. But intense
pain and the inability
to move reminded him with a jolt of where he was.
"Back among the living dead, sir." came the
voice again. Goldman
craned his neck and found the source. He also
took in his immediate
surroundings. He found himself in one of the
bamboo cages he'd seen
when they'd entered the camp.
"Roll towards me, up against the bars, I'll try
and reach across and
untie you." offered the mystery man in the
adjacent cage. With some
effort on both their parts, the Lt. managed to
roll closer and the
soldier managed to reach across and get the Lt.'s
raw wrists free.
"Thanks." said Goldman gratefully. He took a
careful look around sizing
up just how big a pile of crap he was in.
"Don't bother thinking of breaking out of here,
Lt." volunteered the
Goldman looked at the man seeing empty eyes
looking back at him.
"Your name, soldier?" asked the Lt. rubbing
absently at his wrists.
"Some days I can't remember. Today it's
Hammell. PFC, sir." his
attempt at a salute failed miserably.
"How long have you been here, Hammell?"
"Not too sure anymore. I'm guessing maybe six
months." he picked at a
scab on one of his scrawny knees.
"Six months?!!!" Goldman couldn't believe it.
Hammell just nodded.
"How many guys here?"
Hammell glanced around taking in the sea of
cages around him.
"The numbers fluctuate, sir."
"So some have managed to escape." said Goldman,
feeling hope for a
"No sir. . ."
"This isn't happening." whispered Goldman,
refusing to believe the
private. But as he looked around at the cages
and a fist of fear
clenched at his stomach.
Anderson and Bravo Company stepped into the
jungle at first light. A
heavy silence weight on them as they moved
cautiously through the trees.
"Sarg." called Taylor, excitedly.
The rest of the men squatted where they were
keeping their attention on
the trees around them, knowing that they could be
easy targets if they
let their guard slip. The Sarg. dropped to a knee
beside the squatting
Taylor and saw the signs that had the young
soldier so excited.
Relatively fresh drops of blood were splashed on
some low grasses. A
concentration of footprints assured that they
were tracking in the right
"He's wounded, Sarg." said Taylor.
"Who says it's his blood, Taylor? He could have
given one of theirs
some grief too." Taylor grinned appreciatively
at the Sargent's attempt
at wishful thinking.
"All right. Keep your eyes open. Good work
Taylor. Okay, men, nice
and slow. Don't miss a thing. Move out."
They made slow progress but opted for accuracy
over error. They rested
at mid day in a protected clearing. None felt
much like making small
talk and all seemed glad to be back on their way
when the Sarg ordered
them to 'mount up'.
Late afternoon shadows fell across the VC
compound. Goldman sat in the
corner of his 'cage' watching the hive like
activity around him. So far
he'd watched six g.i.'s dragged out of their
cages and brought into the
main hut. The excruciating sounds of obvious
torture held Goldman
riveted. He could not believe that this was
happening. Like most
educated Americans, he'd heard of the Geneva
Convention and supposed
that most countries honoured that agreement.
These people obviously
were choosing to ignore it.
He had made a couple
attempts to engage
Hammell in conversation but the private seemed
reluctant to talk. He
seemed to be closing himself off from everything
outside himself... To
'zone out' thought Goldman. Which was perfectly
what he'd been enduring for nearly six months.
If he could, he thought,
he'd be trying some way of getting out of this
mess. He would like to
be able to set the rest of these men free too,
but he also realized that
the majority of them would be unable to move if
he did. He would bring
in the reinforcements. He'd bring the cavalry.
He tensed when he saw the VC soldiers
approaching his cage. Hammell
moaned as he saw them approach.
"What ever you do, Lt, don't piss 'em off."
hissed Hammell quickly
before two of the soldiers pulled open Goldman's
cage and reached in to
drag him out. They hauled him to his feet and
shoved him in the
direction of the main hut. He walked ahead of
them showing them more
confidence than he really felt.
It took a moment
for his eyes to adjust
as he stepped into the hut. Hands ushered him
into a straight backed
chair and taking ropes, strapped him securely to
it. The chubby VC
officer sat behind the stained and wobbly card
table, watching him.
Goldman leveled a blank stare back at him.
"I see that you are a Lieutenant." started the
Goldman remained silent.
"Lieutenant Goldman. We know that you have
valuable information that
we will to further our advantage in this war." A
flicker of anger
sparked in the Lt's eyes, but still he maintained
"Lieutenant. To cooperate means to not suffer."
the officer nodded to
someone behind Goldman. His head snapped back as
he was back handed
across the face. Jaw muscles jumped as he
focused on keeping his mouth
shut, Hammell's advice coming back to him. He
stiffened as he saw the
second slap coming. He took it without
flinching. A small trickle of
blood formed at the corner of his mouth and he
licked the blood away,
staring across at the officer, his anger shining
in his eyes.
"I see that I have a very brave man before me.
This pleases me. I
will enjoy watching how long it takes before you
are on your knees like
a dog begging for mercy."
Blinking a few times to clear the stars from his
eyes, Goldman found
himself sprawled awkwardly across the floor on
his face, arms still
strapped to the chair that now lay on top of him.
"Is this your definition of the Geneva
Convention?" he growled back.
"I do only what American pigs do to their
Before Goldman could answer Chubby's
accusations, he was kicked solidly
in the ribs, the wind was knocked out of him. He
and the chair were
righted and Chubby came around the table to stand
before his prisoner.
"You will answer questions now!!"
"Go to . . , HELL!" was Goldman's answer as he
raised his boots and
ploughed into Chubby's stomach, sending him
backwards into the rickety
table. It collapsed under the officer's weight
and the man crashed to
the floor with an undignified grunt. He
struggled quickly to his feet
Goldman sat panting in anger
and anticipation, eyes
locked with Chubby's. He should have listened to
Hammell, he thought as
he was released from the chair and yanked to his
feet. The officer
walked up to him and pressed the muzzle of his
pistol to Goldman's
A VC soldier bound the Lt.'s wrists together
with a length of rope that
hung from the rafter of the hut, then took the
end of the rope and
tightened its slack. The officer stepped back as
Goldman's arms were
pulled above his head. He smiled at the surprise
in Goldman's eyes as he
was raised off the floor and suspended there by
wanted to scream as the ropes bit to the bone
under his own weight, but
like hell he was going to give this bastard that
"We leave you for while, lieutenant. You think."
he nodded to one of
his soldiers and left the hut. An unexpected
pipe came down across his
thigh made the Lt. cried out in surprise as much
as in pain. the second
one across the back of his head knocked him out
Anderson and Purcell stopped at the same time
when they spotted the
debris on the ground. The rest of the men
squatted in their places as
Anderson raised a warning fist.
"Think it's his, Sarg?" asked Purcell.
"Think so." Anderson knelt and retrieved the
papers and lighter
before him. He opened one of the folded bits of
paper. It was a note
from Alex Devlin. The Sarg folded it closed,
feeling like he was
intruding in someone's privacy.
"It's Lt.'s stuff." he said as he pocketed the
papers and lighter.
"What was it, Sarg?" asked Purcell.
"Nothing, just a grocery list. We're on the
right track." he answered
Goldman woke with a gasp, and water dripping
from his face.
"Lieutenant Goldman. We talk now." informed the
little chubby officer,
standing in front of his prisoner.
"I have nothing to say." answered the Lt.
He was rewarded for this with a punch to the
"We will resume this tomorrow, Lieutenant."
The rope was released and Goldman dropped to
the floor at Chubby's
feet. His shoulders were on fire, he couldn't
move his arms. He was
dragged from the hut and tossed back into his
cage. He lay where he
landed, too sore to move. Too tired to care.
"You okay?" came a small voice in the growing
"I'm not sure." sighed Goldman painfully as he
tested his aching limbs.
"You were in there a long time, man."
"I guess I pissed them off." answered Goldman
chuckling despite the
pain. He rolled on his side to face Hammell's
cage. He was horrified to
bruises and blood covering the other man's face.
"You look like hell!" he observed, ignoring his
own aches and pains in
the sight of this enlisted man's injuries.
"No disrespect, sir. But I was going to say the
same thing." he spoke
around torn lip.
"We've got to try and get out of here."
"No!" Goldman heard the man's intense fear in
that one word.
"Hammell. They are going to kill us."
explained Goldman bluntly.
"No. Leave me alone! I don't want no part of
Hammell grew progressively more withdrawn,
curling himself into a
foetal position the more Goldman tried to reason
with him. The
lieutenant eventually gave up and curled up too,
thinking of ways to
escape, eventually sinking into a dead sleep
Anderson made the rounds of the perimeter
sentries giving them pep
talks before he allowed himself a few hours of
rest. The rescue team
had made good time all that day. They were
following the trail easily.
The party they followed was confident that they
were alone in the
jungle. Anderson held onto that factor as their
Otherwise, the jungle would have swallowed up the
Lt. for good without a
trace. He settled in beside a snoring Taylor.
Sounds of struggling woke Goldman with a start.
He sat up and turned
around to see guards dragging Hammell from his
"Lieutenant! Oh God help me. Lt, please, . .
Tell my wife I love her."
cried the terrified soldier as they dragged him
towards the hut.
"Hammell! Fight back, Hammell. . . Hammell!!!"
Goldman screamed as the
man disappeared into the hut. The Lt. began
kicking at the door of his
cage. One bar cracked under his boot and he
redoubled his efforts. He
kicked out a second bamboo tube and was working
on a third when two
guards came for him. They pulled open the kicked
out door and grabbed
the Lt. by the ankles and dragged him out into
the night. He fought with
all his might to break free from their hold but a
good couple of clouts
to the head subdued him soon enough and they
hauled him into the same
hut Hammell had been taken to.
They shoved him into the hut and slipping on a
slick spot, he fell and
skidded to a stop against the wall. He looked
around to find Hammell
and froze when he saw him. They'd stripped him
and had him hanging from
the rafter by the ankles. Goldman tasted the
bile and threw up on the
floor. They'd slit the man's throat. That was
all he let himself see.
He squeezed his eyes shut and turned away. He'd
slipped and fallen in
Hammell's spilt blood. He began shaking then,
terrified more than he'd
ever been in his life. He knew now that he would
not be leaving the hut
Goldman became aware of the laughter above him
and he looked up into
the greasy face of the VC officer. Without
warning, HE leapt at the
little man's fat neck. His dirt caked fingers
dug into the man's
flesh. The two went over in a heap, the little
man flapping and gagging
under the enraged soldier. The VC soldiers
pounced on the lieutenant
and dragged him off their gasping leader. They
pummeled the lieutenant
until he was lying lifeless at their feet, his
living blood running into
the dead blood of Private First Class Hammell.
They had managed to
break his nose. One of them would later that
night find a chip of
Goldman's tooth embedded in his knuckle. They
left him with four
cracked ribs, bruised kidneys and a concussion.
The man that lay at
their feet would not be recognizable even to his
closest friends. A
hoarsely barked order had the men returning the
now useless lieutenant
to his cage where he would be left to die. He
lay in a broken heap,
blood oozing into the dry earth.
Anderson and his men were up and on the move
before dawn. They were
pretty sure that they were near a VC camp from
the slight change in the
terrain around them. They all were glancing at
their watches. Their
time was running out and they were far from home.
Johnson at point,
threw up a fist and dropped into a squat. The
look on his face as he
looked back to find the Sargent scared the men.
Anderson raced to
He followed the soldier's gaze and froze. They
had come up on the high
ridge on the west side of the prison compound and
they looked down at
the cages and their occupants.
"My God." whispered the Sarg. before he and
Johnson retreated away
from the view. Johnson said nothing to the
questioning glances he
"I need you men to listen to me now, understand?
It looks like we
might have found the Lt." he glanced at Johnson
"Now. There's going to be some upsetting things
you're going to see in
a bit, but you can't let it stop you. You are on
a mission. You can't
let down your guard until we have the situation
control. Does everybody understand me?"
"What's this all about, Sarg? We go in grease a
couple of Gooks and
bring the Lt. out. Wham bam . . ." grinned Ruis
getting a better grip on
"It's not gonna be that easy." said Johnson
"That's right. We've found a p.o.w. camp."
He waited until the deluge of questions subsided
"Listen to me y'all!" he snapped shutting them
"I've seen a p.o.w. camp. It was something I
hoped I never had to see
again, y'understand. This is going to be
something nightmares are made
of. You can't lose it in there. And trust me
you're going to want to."
The look on the Sarg's face and the hollowness
in his voice kept the
g.i.'s around him riveted on his every word.
"We gotta go in low and fast. We have to
restrict our gun fire to
single shot. There won't be a lot of room to
maneuver and we don't want
to hit the wrong targets. Hell! Nothing I say is
going to ready you for
what you are going to see. Just try and keep
your heads and come home
He had them all make their way over to the ridge
to see where they were
headed. It also allowed him to gauge the men's
reactions, and to see
who he'd have to leave behind or keep an eye on.
Before they moved out,
he could see that the group was psyched for this
and confidently, didn't
need to leave anyone behind.
The compound was quiet as the men of Bravo
Company surrounded it.
Anderson, Taylor and Ruis had taken out the
camp's three only sentries.
At the synchronized hour, the troop closed in.
They entered the
compound grim and ready for action.
Ruis scanned the area, movement in the nearest
cage to him caught his
eye. He looked down into the large frightened
eyes of a young,
"We're going to get you outta here, buddy."
whispered Ruis, the soldier
cringed in fright when he spoke to him. Ruis had
to tear his eyes away
from the desperate look that followed him.
Anderson and Purcell moved silently across the
themselves to ignore the cages they passed, to
not look just now for one
that might be Lieutenant Goldman. They slipped
into the nearest hut in
unison. They opened fire and killed all its
occupants. This brought
gunfire from other areas of the compound. In an
amazing short time
however, Bravo Company had eliminated all the VC
in the place.
Anderson and Purcell stepped into the big
central hut. Anderson had to
swallow hard to keep from losing his lunch.
Purcell wasn't so lucky and
barely made it outside before he threw up what
seemed like his last
"Purcell! Get back in here." ordered Sargent
Anderson through gritted
"Yes sir." came a weak reply.
Purcell reluctantly came back in and stood
behind the Sargent,
concentrating on the pool of blood the toe of his
boot sat in.
"Help me cut him down."
"Sir . . ." Purcell didn't think he could move.
"Go cut the ropes then get the hell out of
here." said Anderson
stepping over to the bled body of PFC Hammell and
held him until the
ropes slacked then laid him down on the floor.
"Find a blanket or something before you go,
Purcell." called Anderson
as Purcell hurried from the hut. Anderson looked
around the hut's
shadowy interior and spotted the body of the
chubby VC officer lying
behind a toppled folding table with a fresh
bullet hole in his temple.
He saw a soldier more afraid of capture than
Anderson became aware of the commotion outside
and went out to find out
what was going on. Bravo Company was working its
way through the cages
and releasing their captives. Most crawled out
in unabashed tears into
the waiting, welcoming arms of their rescuers.
He scanned the scene before him looking for the
face of the man they'd
come to save. To find the deep brown eyes of
Lieutenant Goldman looking
back at him.
"Lt.?!!!" he called out as he approached the
"Lieutenant Goldman? Myron?" Anderson peered
into the cages where the
men were either too scared or wounded to move or
call back. He glanced
into one cage at a man sprawled in the dust,
caked in blood and dirt.
He moved to go to the next but something made him
look back. The dirt
covered fatigue jacket had a name. Anderson
fumbled getting the cage
open. When he finally did, he slowly crawled in
to have a better look.
The name on the pocket read Goldman. Anderson
was afraid to touch him.
He looked all broken up. He didn't look like he
"Sarg?! Is that the Lt.?" asked Johnson who was
breaking open a cage
beside the one he was in.
"I think so. . ." he pulled out his canteen and
gently poured water
over the soldier's face, washing away some of the
dirt and blood. The
man laying before him stirred and Anderson
watched the dark brown eyes
blink up at him. In a delirious fog Goldman
thought the guards had come
to drag him back to the hut. A terrified whine
escaped his clenched
teeth as he made a feeble attempt to roll over
and crawl away.
"Lt. . . Lt., it's Zeke. Myron. It's Zeke!"
yelled the Sargent to get
through the nightmare Goldman was trapped in.
Anderson pulled the flailing, panicked man into
his arms and held him
there until the fight was out of him.
"Hammell! . . . Hammell?" Goldman cried out
weakly trying to squirm out
of the Sargent's hold. Goldman looked up into
Anderson's face and stared
a moment in disbelief.
"You're okay. I've got you now. They’re all dead.
You're coming home."
he spoke softly so as not to spook the man.
"Sarg?" called Ruis.
"Go away Ruis. I'll handle whatever it is
"Zeke?" asked Goldman weakly.
"I'm right here Lt." he answered as he felt the
body in his arms begin
to shake. Shock was setting in and Goldman was
fighting to keep it
"It's okay, Lt. Let it go. We'll take care of
you. You're safe. Let
it go." he saw the tears well up in Goldman's
eyes and the effort he
made to fight them back.
"It's okay Lt., you're going to be fine."
He held him like that until the racking sobs had
stopped and the man
had drifted into an exhausted faint.
"Can he be moved?"
"I think he's got a couple of busted ribs."
answered Anderson looking
up at the doc.
"What say we get him out of this thing and take
a closer look."
They managed to get the Lt. out of the nightmare
cage with as little
pain as possible.
"Hey Sarg." mumbled Taylor, in shock at the
Doc instructed Anderson to lay him down.
"Besides everything else, looks like he's got a
have to keep him awake to make sure he's okay."
said Doc shaking his
"Do you realize what this man's just been
"Yes sargent, I do. But if you want to avoid him
going into a coma, you'd
better make sure he's woken up every couple of
"All right. Can you give him something for the
pain?" asked Anderson.
" I don't want to risk it."
"Okay. Why not check on the rest of them, Doc.
We'll radio for a pick
up. Purcell, stay with the Lt. I need to call for
"Yes, sarg." answered Purcell going down on his
knees beside the Lt.
"Keep his head elevated too." called Doc as he
rushed to his next
There turned out being 16 other g.i.'s beingin the camp. 16 still
alive. They found 6 men who'd either died from
starvation or disease. And of the 16 still
breathing, 9 were still
healthy enough to walk out of the jungle under
their own steam. 4 could
manage with a shoulder to lean on, the remaining
Lieutenant Goldman were to weak or wounded to
make it out on their own.
The numbers were good considering what they'd
Anderson radioed back to base with news of their
astonishing find and
set up a rendezvous time with the choppers. He
could hear HQ buzzing
from here. There would be a big PR blitz from
this one. They reminded
him to take a VC body count for the score
keepers, congratulated him and
wished him luck getting the men back in one
piece. But they were still
going to have to walk them out to the LZ to meet
Ruis came looking for Anderson telling him that
he better come quick.
"All I did was go help the doc move a couple of
guys into the shade,
Sarg. When I got back he was gone." apologized
"S'all right, Purcell. You done good. I'll have
a look around. You go
two go see if the doc still needs you." he
comforted, waving the two
Anderson thought he knew where Goldman had gone.
He moved slowly
towards the hut where they'd found the g.i.'s
body. That was who
Goldman had called out for when he'd found him
locked in the cage. It
took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the
shadows and he stood just
inside the doorway till he could see. Trembling
with fatigue Goldman
was sitting beside the blanket covered body. With
tears running down his
face he just sat there staring off into space. As
the Sarg. approached,
he could hear that Goldman was mumbling to
himself. Slowly, not to
startle the suffering man, Anderson eased himself
down beside him. He
watched Goldman, waited for the man to
acknowledge his arrival.
"It should have been me." came the small drained
voice beside him.
"You can't say that, sir." comforted Anderson.
"He knew. . . He knew they were going to kill
"Myron, you can't blame yourself." insisted the
The lieutenant's face crumpled and he sobbed.
Anderson rested a hand
on his shoulder.
"He . . , he asked me to . . . to tell his . . ,
wife, his wife that he
. . . he . . loved her." he broke down and cried
openly now, the weight
of his imagined guilt too much to bear. Anderson
wrapped a caring arm
around the young man's shoulder, giving him a
"What, what am I . . . supposed to tell her?" he
gestured at the shape
beneath the blanket.
"I know you'll tell her what she needs to hear,
Lt." assured Anderson.
"Did you see them Zeke. Did you see them all?"
asked Goldman, wiping
the back of his hand under his running nose.
"Yes sir, I did."
"Some of them are dead aren't they?" he asked
weakly staring down at
"Yeah, but there are a lot more alive, sir."
The two sat there side by side in silence for a
long while before the
"I guess I can't sit out the rest of the war in
here can I." Said
Goldman trying to show 'a brave face'.
"The brass may have something to say about
"I hurt." groaned the Lt., glancing sheepishly
at his Sargent.
"Not surprised. Doc says you have some broken
ribs, for starters . ."
Goldman looked for a moment at the body,
absently picking at a scab on
"Are . . , how do. . . are . . ." he gestured
towards the body
searching for the right words.
"We're taking everybody with us, Lt." Anderson
said deciphering the
Lt.'s scrambled attempt.
"Good. . . good." sighed Goldman.
"Sarg? Lt?" called Taylor from outside. "We're
all ready to head out."
"Can you walk?"
"I think so," he however, hissed in pain,
clutching at his side and
fell back unable to lift himself to his feet.
"I think I need a little help."
Anderson helped Goldman to his feet. He swayed
"You have to take it easy now Lt., Doc says
you've got a concussion."
"Is that why I feel like puking?" he asked, his
light headedness not
getting any better. Anderson helped him walk from
the hut. Goldman was
greeted by the guarded smiles of the men of Bravo
"Hey, Lt." ventured Taylor, smiling hesitantly.
Goldman looked into the circle of faces a moment
and a puzzled little
smile came across his face as they started to all
slowly fade away.
They all made a reflex step forward as they saw
his eyes roll up into
his head and his knees go out from under him.
While one more makeshift stretcher was
constructed and the Lt. was
deposited into it under the watchful eye of the
team's medic, Johnson
and Ruis took care of Hammell's body. Taylor and
Purcell volunteered to
carry Goldman's litter.
"You two have to make sure you remember to wake
him up every two hours,
understood?" asked the doc pointing his finger
at them to emphasis the
importance of their vigilance.
"Yes, Sir." they answered and the troops headed
The going was slow and arduous, but after a day
and two night's walk,
the motley crew made the LZ where the birds met
them. The dead were
loaded onto one chopper. The wounded and the
mobile g.i.'s were put on
another. Bravo Company, with Goldman in their
midst rode home in a bird
of their own.
A contingent of press people, Military brass and
regular g.i.'s stood
waiting for arriving choppers. Among the crowd
stood a frightened Alex
Devlin. She had not heard clear word of whether
Myron was among the
walking, wounded or dead. She knew she had to
put her personal life
aside for the amazing story about a camp of
p.o.w.'s being found and
liberated, but her heart was racing with fear
that one of the covered
litters was going to hold the body of Lieutenant
"Here they come!" shouted a reporter waving
madly in the direction of
the arriving birds.
The waiting was excruciating, she thought she
might faint before the
helicopters would land. She gripped the
barricade, knuckles white with
fear. The crowd grew silent as the chilling
cargo of the first bird was
unloaded; the dead were placed in the back of a
truck and taken quietly
away. The second bird sank to the ground and
staff from the dispensary
rushed over to usher the prisoners into their
care. The third
helicopter came in smoothly and Bravo Company
came spilling out.
Alex felt her heart stop a moment until she saw
Sargent Anderson pull
sweet, shy, sexy Myron Goldman from the chopper
and help him slowly make
his way across the landing pad to an awaiting
orderly. The crowd began
applauding and cheering as Goldman gave them a
weak wave and his
familiar dimpled, lop-sided grin. She pushed her
way through the crowd,
missing the pain crease his features as he was
deposited onto a gurney
and wheeled quickly into the dispensary.
She rushed headlong into the dispensary building
and right into the
chest of Sargent Anderson. He had to grab her
arms to keep her from
"Miss Devlin . . . !" he smiled down at her.
"Hello Sargent." She wiped shyly at her red
"You can't see him right now. Doc's taking a
look at his innards."
"Is he alright, Zeke?" she asked, afraid.
"His body will heal." she looked up at him
confused by the comment.
"Was it bad?"
"Yes." was all Anderson would reveal.
"What . . . , is he . . . did . ." she wasn't
even sure what she wanted
to ask him. There were a million questions
racing around in her head
but she couldn't pick one to ask.
"Why don't you buy a tired soldier a beer?" he
asked putting an arm
around her shoulder.
"I don't know. I want to be here. . ." she
"He's going to be out of it for a while."
"Well . . ."
"Besides, you look like you could use that drink
too." he pulled her
out the door and went straight to the bar. The
rest of the Bravo
Company were in the bar uncharacteristically
subdued, not surprising,
thought Anderson, after what they all saw.
Goldman lay quietly on the gurney, cut out of
his blood and dirt caked
fatigues, too tired and sore to do any
protesting, as the doctor poked
and prodded him.
"Been through a lot haven't you Lieutenant."
commented the doctor as
he taped up the bandages around his ribs, their
white standing out
brightly against the bouquet of bruised that ran
from armpit to thigh.
"We're going to have to set the nose and stitch
up the scalp wounds
now." warned the doctor.
"I was afraid of that." mumbled Goldman.
A couple of choice swear words echoed through
the dispensary before
they were through. But Lieutenant Goldman finally
lay dozing with a
clean white bandage taped across the bridge of
his nose and butterfly
tape over stitched up lip, eyebrow and scalp.
"We'll be back to see you in a couple of hours,
Goldman sat up with a start. He looked around
the ward and found all
the beds empty except for one. The covers were
pulled up over the face
of the patient in it. He watched in horror as
the covers began to
rustle, as the body sat up and the sheet fell
away. The blood drained
face of Private First Class Hammell turned and
grinned at him. No, that
wasn't a grin. It was the gaping slit across the
man's throat that
Goldman was looking at. He tried to jump out of
his own bed and run as
the Hammell thing swung its legs off the bed and
got up, but he found he
was strapped into the bed with restraints. He
was trapped there
watching the dead man shuffle towards him.
Doctor Seymour bolted out of her office when she
heard the first
screams. To her surprise she found the patient
in distress was
Lieutenant Goldman. Zeke had told her a little
bit about what they'd
found out there but realized he'd not told her
the whole thing.
She shouldered by the orderly and grabbed the
Lt.'s arms firmly and
pinned him down against the bed.
"Lieutenant Goldman!!! Wake up. Lieutenant!!
Myron!!!" she yelled.
She felt the tension leave the muscles beneath
her hands. Saw the
lines smooth out in his face. He, however, kept
his eyes squeezed shut,
"Lieutenant. . . Lieutenant. Look at me. It's
Dr. Seymour. You are
back at the base. You're safe. Myron. Look at
Goldman began trembling violently under her
"Orderly, 10 cc's of Pentathol. Stat." she
ordered then turned back to
the panicked patient in her grip.
"Hang on Myron, help's on the way," she spoke
soothingly to him.
"It's Dr. Seymour, Myron. Can you look at me?"
"I can't." he whispered to her, thinking Hammell
wouldn't get to him if
he stayed really quiet and didn't open his eyes.
Hammell's dead eyes
wouldn't be able to find him if he didn't move.
Dr. Seymour quickly administered the sedative
and stood by the bed
until the rigidity left Goldman's body and his
breathing became deep and
"That'll be all orderly, I'll sit with him for a
while." She pulled up
a chair and sat by the head of the bed. She
watched the young
Lieutenant while he slept until she fell asleep
She jumped a little when a pair of hands
massaged her shoulders.
"Zeke. I fell asleep."
"How is he?" asked Anderson nodding at the Lt.
"You didn't tell me everything did you."
"I think you better. I've got a bottle of scotch
in my quarters. . ."
"Do I have to?"
"If this young man is going to be able to sleep
at night again, you
better. And not leave anything out this time."
They sat together not talking right away. Both
seemed very interested
in their drinks all of a sudden. Jennifer
finally turned to Zeke and
reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand. He
turned his face into
her hand and shyly kissed the palm. Their arms
found themselves around
each other and their lips met with hungry
When they finally came up for air Jennifer
pulled away with a sigh and
looked up at Zeke.
Zeke took up his drink and stared down into the
amber liquid for a long
"We found the camp just after sun up." he
downed the scotch, Seymour
was ready and filled it right away.
"There must have been 30 cages down there. Only
half of them were
occupied. I don't want to think of why the
others were empty." he
looked at her not wanting to continue. She
rested a caring hand on his
"We had to go in and clean out the VC but had to
be careful we didn't
hit any of the men in the . . . in. We didn't
want to hit and of the
"That would have been anyone's priority."
"Yeah, yeah it was. But there was this one kid
that just kept staring
at me. Like I was pointing my rifle at him or
"He probably thought you were a hallucination,
"Do you think so?" he asked still feeling the
guilt the g.i.'s fear
triggered in him.
"Keep going." prodded the doctor.
"They were just kids, Doc. All of them. Y'know,
I don't notice how
young the Lt. is any more, but he . . . " he
took another long drink,
washing the lump that threatened his throat.
"Purcell and me, we went into this hut, y'see .
. ." he let that train
of thought go and he hesitated, the memory hard
to deal with.
"Tell me Sargent."
"Uh, there was this body," he swallowed hard and
Jennifer reached for
his hand. He clutched it hard and held it against
his chest. She could
feel his heart racing against the back of her
"I . . . I thought for a second . . . that it
was the Lt." he took a
swig of his scotch.
"The VC had stripped him, strung him up by the
ankles and slit his
throat. Bled him like a pig." he blurted it out
afraid he'd never be
able to continue if he stopped, with a shaky hand
he put his empty glass
down and rubbed at his eyes.
"And I thought it was the Lt." his voice broke
and tears spilled from
his eyes. Jennifer threw her arms around his
shaking shoulders, heart
breaking for the man she was falling in love
with. When Zeke was sure
of his voice again he continued. He knew he had
to share it with her or
he'd never escape the dreams that were already
waiting for him.
"Y'see, I thought it was the Lt. and then when I
knew it wasn't I was
glad. But I felt bad cause that meant that I
cared less for this man
hanging there." he sucked in a huge lungful of
air like he'd just broke
the surface of a deep lake.
"Zeke . . ." agreed Seymour.
"Purcell threw up. I didn't." he felt he
should mention that.
"It doesn't make either of you any less a
That made him feel better. He'd have to tell
Purcell that cause he
knew he was feeling badly about that. He thought
he should order the
rest of the men to come in and have a talk with
this little lady. She
could set them straight.
"Thank you, Zeke."
"What are you thanking me for. I should be
thanking you. I'm the one
feeling better here."
"Thank you for trusting me enough to share
"I'm glad I did it actually, Doc, I feel
better." he shrugged shyly
and gave her his little boy grin he knew she had
a soft spot for.
"Dr. Seymour?" came a disembodied voice after a
rapid knock at her
door. She stirred lazily and looked up at the
window seeing the height
of the sun in the sky. She and Zeke had fallen
asleep on the sofa in
each others arms. Zeke lay sprawled on his back
beneath her, a sleep
smile curled his lips.
"I'll be right there." she called.
Zeke came awake alert and ready to jump to his
feet. Her hand pressed
against his chest held him there where he was.
They smiled warmly at
"I've got to check in on Myron. I think he and
I aught to have a
little chat today."
"I'll come with you and say good morning."
"I don't know if he'll be up to seeing anybody
just now but what say we
They walked into the dispensary together,
guiltily fighting the urge to
see if anyone was watching them. They crept up
to Goldman's bed and
stared down at him a moment.
"Lt.?" he looked down at Jennifer when there
was no response from the
"Lieutenant Goldman. It's Dr. Seymour. We've
got to talk."
Goldman stirred and peeked at the two at the
foot of the bed.
"How you feeling, Lt?" asked Anderson.
"Good." he was a terrible liar.
"Sargent, if you'll excuse us, Myron and I have
to talk." she gently
shoved Anderson away.
She waited until Anderson was out of ear shot
before she spoke.
"You've got to learn how to lie better than
that, Lieutenant." she said
as she moved a chair closer to the head of the
bed. She watched him
picking nervously at the scabs on his knuckles,
"Want to talk about private Hammell?" she sucker
punched him to see
what his reaction would be. Bingo. He just about
leapt out of the bed
at the mention of the dead soldier's name. She
plunged right in.
"Zeke told me that the prisoners were all kept
in, a barracks?" she
went on, purposely misquoted him to pull the Lt.
into correcting her and
start talking about the experience himself.
Goldman gave her one of his shy lopsided grins
"Tell me what happened."
"Didn't Zeke give you all the gory details?" he
asked going to work on
the scabs again. Seymour took his hand in hers.
"He had his own stuff to get out."
Myron raised his eyebrows in surprise. The
Sargent always seemed
unflappable to him. This had been tough for all
of them he realized.
All of them - he'd not thought of the other men
from the compound until
now. He sat up wincing at the sharp pains he
triggered moving so
"The g.i.'s! Are they . . ?" he eased back
down into his pillow under
the doctor's gentle hand.
"Everybody's doing great Myron. We're taking
good care of all of
"They weren't kept together." he said in a
small voice finally getting
to the question she'd asked.
"No. . . No you see, there were all these, . . .
there were these
cages." He looked away from her for a moment to
compose himself. He knew
he had to talk about it or go crazy right in
front of her. He felt her
grip tighten over his hand and he looked at her.
"It was a VC p.o.w. camp. The compound was full
of these cages. There
were men inside some of them. . . They, . . . I,
uh. . ." he struggled,
fighting the tears that threatened, and was
"It's all right Myron, let it out." she could
see the inner turmoil
tearing the young lieutenant apart. She'd seen
so many brave young
soldiers struggle against unchecked emotions. But
once the tears started
flowing, especially in front of her, a woman,
he'd be able to move
"I'm sorry." he apologized for breaking down in
front of her but at the
same time it felt so good to be telling someone.
"Don't be sorry."
He nodded looking down at his hand cradled
protectively in hers. He
took in a shaky deep breath and started again.
"After they, uh, 'questioned' me . . , when I
woke up, I was . . ,
inside one of those cages, Dr. Seymour."
Crying quietly behind a hand pressed to her
mouth, Alex Devlin sat
unseen, in an adjacent cubicle listening to the
lieutenant recount the
terrifying three days he spent in the hands of
the enemy troops. She
thought her heart would break when she heard him,
unable to go on, break
down and cry like a frightened little boy. She
wanted to rush in there
and hold him until he'd cried the images from his
mind. She was as
exhausted as the they were when the retelling was
over. In the end the
doctor sedated the lieutenant so he could get
some undisturbed rest,
free from tormenting visions and begin to heal
the physical wounds. Alex
composed herself and slipped from the dispensary
and back to her
quarters, crumbling into her bed and crying
herself to sleep.
"Miss Devlin, m'ame." She came fully awake with
a start thinking she'd
heard Sargent Anderson's voice.
"Yes?" she called wondering if she'd imagined
" Sorry to disturb you, m'ame. But there's a
g.i. requesting your
presence at his bedside."
She sprang from her rumpled bed, raked a comb
through her sleep
scattered hair and flew out the door.
"Did he really ask to see me?!"
"I quote; 'I gotta pee like a race horse,
where's Alex?' end quote."
"Thank you Sargent." she hopped up and gave him
a peck on the cheek.
"You're welcome, m'ame." he stopped at the
bottom of the dispensary
stairs and watched her step inside.
Dr. Seymour was doing her rounds when Alex
stepped into the hospital.
"Good morning, he's been asking for you." she
motioned in Goldman's
"Myron?" she whispered after a moment watching
him lying there so still
in front of her. His bruises livid in contrast
to the crisp white
He woke with a start and looked up at her a
little dazed for a moment.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she hurried to the head of the
"That's okay. I seem to keep falling asleep if
no one's poking a
needle in my butt." he said it loud enough for
the nearby staff to
"You look like hell." she told him plainly,
easing down into the space
on the bed he made for her as he scooched over.
"Yeah? Well, I feel worse." he absently rubbed
at his taped up ribs.
Alex gave him a devilish grin after looking over
her shoulder for
"That broken nose makes you look pretty sexy,
"Y'think so . . . ?" he poked gingerly at it
with a finger.
"Uh,hu . . ." she leaned over him and kissed a
spot on his cheek that
wasn't discoloured by bruising.
"Could you do that again?" he sighed, eyes
"What? This?" her mouth hovered a fraction away
from his. She licked
gently at the corner that wasn't stitched and
taped up. He slid his
hands up her back and pulled her against him.
"Maybe you two should rent a room."
The doctor's voice right behind them had them
springing apart like two
"Sorry." mumbled Alex turning beet red, matching
the Lt.'s changing
"I need to do a quick check and, then uh, I'll
leave you two alone.
Just wait outside a moment will you, Alex." Dr.
Seymour pulled the
curtain closed around the bed. Goldman asking to
see his girl, was the
sort of sign she had hoped to see in the mending
of the young
lieutenant. All his wounds would heal and she
was pleased to see that.
She'd allow them this little indiscretion, all in
the name of recovery.