Special thanks to Doc, Snowy and Mel... who continue to convince me
that I can write. And for helping me sort out this story.
I would like to dedicate this to Lt. Mac. You've been very special to
me. Thank you.
Captain Rusty Wallace listened to the rain drumming down on the roof of
the CP bunker. A silence surrounded him and the two men who stood before
him as he sat back in his chair. The smoke from his pipe rose lazily in
the damp air while he calmly assessed the situation before him.
The mission had been regrettable. Taking out that relay station had
been necessary and required. Goldman didn't flinch back from the simple
truth that it had gone horribly wrong. Having been tipped off by careless
mistakes his men had made, the equipment and the NVA using it had slipped
back over the border to Laos. Goldman accepted his responsibility with a
minimum of words as he stood with hands behind his back; his dark eyes
fixed on some point just beyond the Captain's head. Anderson had not said
a single word as he stood beside the younger man.
The rain continued to pour down.
The failed mission was not what concerned Wallace. What had happened between
the two men at some point during that mission was Rusty's real concern. He
watched them; taking in everything as he listened to the rain and the
breathing of Goldman and Anderson in the lengthening silence that filled
The two now stood almost shoulder to shoulder, but to the Captain's
trained eye, they may as well have been miles apart. What Rusty saw was
clear. One man's fragile trust had been broken and had sent him back
behind guarded walls. The other man was wrapped in a sorrow and
disappointment of things he could not change.
Rusty sighed and climbed to his feet. The other two men shifted their
weight a bit uncomfortably. Anderson was still refusing to look at anyone
in particular. Myron glanced briefly at the Sergeant before looking
squarely at Wallace. Dark eyes tracked the Captain's movements as Rusty
stepped to the far side of the bunker.
Every emotion Goldman held always showed in his eyes. And the more
upset or angry, the darker they were. Those eyes were now nearly black in
the dim lighting of the bunker, the younger man's face impassive. Dark
waters rarely cast reflections; Rusty considered when he met with Myron's
endless gaze, yet this young man fairly shimmered with his barely
Rusty found himself suddenly remembering when Myron Goldman had first
arrived at Ladybird a few short months back. The young Lieutenant had come
in like an approaching storm front, all edges and angles when he came to
attention and saluted Wallace upon entering the command post. Rusty had
smiled and greeted Goldman warmly, watching with sudden interest when the
younger man raised his chin and blinked.
Rusty's first impression was of an angry young man. He met the
Lieutenant's gaze and found himself captured, if only momentarily, in very
dark eyes. It was so fleeting that Wallace wasn't sure what had happened.
But in that open moment, he found there was a great deal more to Myron
than he had at first realized. And that this wasn't just an angry young
man who stood before him, but one who was also very much afraid.
Rusty quickly reasoned Myron was not here by choice, but by some type
of obligation. That Myron had other plans, plans he had pushed aside and
given up. When Wallace then mentioned he knew of a famous Goldman back in
WWII, he had not missed the flash of hurt and disappointment that had
slipped across Myron's expressive eyes. Which answered more questions than
Myron would ever have guessed at.
Indeed, thought Wallace, who now rested his backside on the table
behind him as he continued to smoke his pipe and watch the two silent men.
Myron had not disappointed. He had been every bit as interesting to watch
as Wallace suspected he would be.
Especially when it came to Zeke Anderson.
Myron may have been the storm front poised on the edge of the horizon,
but Zeke was anything but. Anderson was the storm front arrived. His
opinion was always forthcoming and blunt, whether you asked for it or not.
He was a fierce fighter, and fiercely loyal, and wore his emotions out
where everyone could see them. And he had little patience for young and
green Lieutenants who came in from out of nowhere and thought they knew everything
and inevitably got their young asses shot out from under them.
Putting the two together was nothing short of spectacular at times.
Rusty had often found himself grinning from ear to ear when these two men
got into it. Myron had a temper, no denying that. Zeke had the enthusiasm
and wit to match it. Exchanges had been lively and memorable and rarely
quiet. Hell, they were entertainment worth paying for!
Yet somewhere, somehow, out of all of that, a careful understanding had
been reached. A frightened young man who was determined not to trust
anyone but himself, reached carefully for a lifer who had somehow
seen through all of his defenses and decided there was indeed something
worth working with. A foundation of understanding and trust had been laid
for what Rusty felt would eventually be the rarest of friendships.
Except for now. All of that had been stripped away in a mission that
had more than gone wrong. Everything these two men had managed to build
between them, however fragile, had slipped away. Rusty continued to watch
them. Watched as Myron kept glancing every so often at Zeke with something
hidden deep in those dark eyes. Watched, as Zeke remained
uncharacteristically silent, looking at no one.
No, he decided. The foundation was still there. It was simply a matter
of awkwardness now. Both men afraid they may not be able to retrieve what
they had. Myron had been hurt, of this Wallace was sure. But so had Zeke.
They were simply going to have to work it out for themselves.
"Is there anything else you gentlemen care to add?" Rusty
finally broke the uneasy silence.
A chorus of "No, Sir," greeted him.
"I expect your full written report in the morning, Lieutenant.
"Yes, Sir." Myron took one final glance at his platoon
Sergeant before picking up his rifle from where he had leaned it against
the Captain's makeshift desk. With a nod, he pushed past Wallace and out
of the bunker into the pouring rain.
Anderson didn't move a muscle.
"You know, Zeke," and Rusty carefully considered his words,
his eyes never leaving the quiet Sergeant, "I've always been
comfortable with the fact that you could speak your mind with me."
The blue eyes finally met his. "I hope that hasn't changed."
"Who was this-" Wallace hesitated, seeking the name in his
mind, "Decker. What does he have to do with this?"
"He's dead, Cap'n. He don't have
nothin' to do with anythin'
There it was, the flash of pain and loss as it slipped across those
quiet eyes. The sorrow closed in a little more deeply.
Zeke wanted to let this go. Rusty wasn't about to let him.
"He was a friend, once. A long time ago."
"Friendship's something to be valued, Zeke. Nothing wrong with
that." Wallace turned and tapped out his pipe.
"No, sir. But it nearly got a man killed."
And it cost you the trust you wanted so much from that young man.
"Horn's gonna be fine, Anderson." Wallace found his pouch of
tobacco and quietly started to refill his pipe. "So will things
between you and the Lieutenant. Given time."
Zeke's eyes shaded darker in the dim lighting before he looked away,
shaking his head. It took him a long moment before he finally spoke.
"I messed up."
"It doesn't hurt for him to know you're not perfect, Zeke."