A non-sequential series of fictional shorts:
Encounter in Zamboanga
“Pulling the trigger would damage or destroy the Rolls Royce of dicks, I assure you, causing women to mourn throughout Indochina.” Kennedy’s hand was frozen inside of his flashy suit. “I need a lighter for my cigarette.” He winked behind wire frame glasses, but it wasn’t an, I-know-something-you-don’t wink. It was more of a nervous, you don’t have anything to worry about – honest – sort of wink.
I laughed, pulled the .45 Colt out from under the tablecloth, and sat it on the table next to my mug of hot tea. “I prefer a cigar.”
Patrons seated around us glanced at the handgun, now in plain site on the tablecloth. None of them appeared to find that action in any way unusual. It was a mobbed up dim sum restaurant in Zamboanga.
There wasn’t much in Zamboanga worth seeing. The dim sum joint just off Valderosa Street was a gathering place for the underworld, which included people like me, Kennedy and a host of others who were up to no good. The drinks were watered down, the Chinese dumplings were tolerable but nobody asked any questions and that was more important than cheap whiskey and mediocre food.
“Dunhills.” Kennedy pulled out a gold plated cigarette lighter and torched the end of his cigarette. “They blend the tobacco to my specifications and charge me a king’s ransom. They’re not bad. Try one.” I held up a cigar declining in the process. “Suit yourself.” He lifted the cigarette case gently from the table and it disappeared in an outside pocket of his silk safari style jacket.
He drew deeply on the smoke and relaxed in his chair. “I needed a smoke,” he confessed.
“What happened to your wife?” I asked, lighting my cigar carefully with a lucifer match.
Kennedy looked confused. “Which one?”
“The Vietnamese lady that was with you the last time I saw you.”
“Oh, her. That was my fifth wife, Ngoc. She went crazy.” Kennedy said sadly. “I think I have that effect on women.”
We didn’t speak for some minutes.
Kennedy broke the silence. “I’ve got a dirty mind, so I still think some details have been kept from me, to spare a blood bath. It was last year or maybe the year before in Ho Chi Minh City and she was with me when the Security Police made a big round up. I bought my way out but didn’t have enough for her, uh, bail.”
“She was in heavy custody, getting the shit slapped out of her accused of being an anti-communist, but it wasn’t too serious by our standards. It was your typical heavy Vietnamese treatment with women—tie their ass up all elaborately for a few days, fuck up the shoulders and the arms, slap the face, talk smart, threaten rape but settle for denying shampoo and soap. It’s strange about Oriental sensibilities when they set out to insult a lady as distinct from torturing a whore. I swear the fuckers are almost polite.”
He motioned the waiter to the table.” It must be respect. Anyway, I had a hot asset working in the Defense Ministry. This guy had world-class stroke, but considering the time and circumstances, I had a communication problem that was beyond belief. Finally I tasked him with a vengeance and Ngoc was freed.”
“So she takes about a month to calm down, and then she dolls herself all up and goes back to this Vietnamese Senior Colonel that had control of the situation. She tells him, ‘I couldn’t say anything because of what was happening. I didn’t want to cause any problems in your job or your family, but I really admired the way you handled things and I’m sorry if I caused you any problems.’ So naturally, this asshole is interested right away, but Ngoc excuses herself and dances away. Well, now he is really interested, and this thing goes back and forth for a while, with Ngoc all timidly concerned for the implications to his career like a fluttering dove.”
“Anyway, this Senior Colonel is shortly found dead and the cause of death is found to be that he was buried alive in his dress uniform in a vacant lot in Thanh Binh District. I guess he thought he was going on an important date, eh?”
“And God forgive me but I smacked her upside the head, and I asked her, ‘did you have to fuck that bastard to kill him?’ She just smiled that Mona Lisa smile and said, ‘don’t judge me by what you will do, judge me by what I won’t do.’”
“Did she do it by herself?” I asked casually.
“No, I don’t think so.” Kennedy replied. “My old driver was in on the scam and probably buried the asshole. He took me aside a few months later and told me, ‘that woman has honor you still can’t see.’”
“You love her?”
“Ngoc? Damned straight I love her.”
“Is she here?”
For a moment he looked helpless and panicked. The waiter broke his mood and he ordered Bushmills. I stuck with tea. Then he smiled. “As you might expect, she went through considerable stress being married to me.”
“That has to be the understatement of the year.” I drank my tea, still piping hot in the china mug that held it.
“I took her back to the Land of flushing toilets. This Agency psychiatrist was assigned her case because she was having problems because of everything she had been through with me.”
Ngoc went everywhere with two stuffed rabbits back then. She named them Barbara and Elizabeth. She took them to the doctor’s office down in Reston, not far from headquarters. Naturally, the doctor asked about them and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask them yourself, and I’ll be your interpreter.’ The Agency doctor asked why they couldn’t speak for themselves, and she said, ‘they can, but they only speak Vietnamese, and you don’t, so I guess I will have to interpret, won’t I?’”
“So the doctor agreed and he asked Barbara, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Barbara said, ‘I don’t feel well at all.’ The doctor asked why, and Barbara said, ‘Because that bitch Elizabeth is on my nerves and I want to kill her.’ So the doctor asked Elizabeth, ‘How do you feel about what Barbara said?’ Elizabeth said, ‘Let her try.’”
“So the Agency doctor said to Ngoc, ‘You must be feeling some conflicts.’”
“Ngoc said, ‘No, I’m sitting here interpreting for a doctor who can be persuaded that stuffed animals talk, so the only thing I’m feeling is disgusted.’”
“That’s pretty funny.” I said.
“To tell you the truth, it’s pretty fucked up. She’s in a mental hospital even though she’s just as sane as you and me. Ok, not me. Not me—as sane as you are. Maybe she’s there because she knows I can’t get to her there and persuade her to come back here running and gunning.”