There were so many things I wanted to explain about how
Starsky and Hutch made their individual decisions to join the police and also how Starsky first met Traff. And ultimately
how the guys started to work together. So, I set about writing this Trilogy. It's the longest thing I've written and has taken
me a long time to fine tune. I hope you like it. Some of it is violent, some of it deals with sex (warning there, and I will
put a warning at the beginning of each chapter if there is content I think some people may find offensive - they are red blooded
young men, when all is said and done!). But I have tried to deal with the things that the two guys in their late teens/early
twenties encountered. Things that no-one so young should really have to deal with, but which shaped the men who Starsky and
My thanks to Karen B for her wonderful words of support,
to Jill for beta reading Part Two - "Ken" and to my wonderful Brook, without whom I just couldn't write.
Disclaimer - as is usual, no money is made from this, its written
purely for pleasure. I don't own them but I borrow them and use their bodies for my (and your) pleasure. Hehehehe!
This first story introduces Major Sharpe who some may remember
from one of my first stories - The Major Incident. Ever wondered why Sharpe hated Starsky so much?
‘Starsky, eyes front and centre’ O’Malley
the drill Sergeant yelled at the new man on the base. He stood on the front rank of the 12 men now standing at attention and
his eyes had roamed around his new surroundings.
‘Just where they’ve always been’ the dark
haired boy muttered almost under his breath.
‘What?’ O’Malley’s eyes drilled into
the handsome young man’s eyes seeing only defiance and self assuredness.
O’Malley stood over the young man, hands on his hips.
He’d seen the young 18 year old swagger cockily into the Major’s office hours earlier and he’d smiled to
Another one of the “chosen few”. Thinks
he’s Gods gift to this man’s Army an’ he’s out to show us old hands just what a great guy he is. Just
like all the other young guns I’ve had through here. And now it’s my job to show him just how small, insignificant
and ultimately expendable he really is.
‘Sir nuthin Sir’, Starsky replied promptly and
more accurately, squaring his shoulders a little more as he heard a stifled snort behind him.
‘That’s better soldier! You think you’re
the most important guy here, do ya? Drop and give me forty’ O’Malley ground out.
The young man dropped to the ground, stretching his long legs
out behind him and placed his hands at shoulders width beneath him, commencing the press ups and counting them out under his
breath. Why did he always have to open his mouth? Why the hell couldn’t he just keep it buttoned? Always the same. Always
some cute, sarcastic, clever remark, and then the consequences. And now this, in front of his new unit too. He could feel
the eyes of the others boring into the back of his neck and redoubled his efforts to execute the push ups strong and fast.
He felt a boot in the middle of his back and the strain on his arms doubled as O’Malley leaned lightly on him.
‘You’re gonna find a few things are different here,
Private. First. We don’t answer back. Second. We do what we’re told without question. Third. We follow orders.
Starsky counted forty under his breath and lay on his belly
in the dirt waiting. The boot ground into his spine.
‘I didn’t hear you soldier. I said did you get
‘Sir, yes Sir’ Starsky said loudly trying hard
not to pant with the added exertion. Behind him he heard the snort again and this time O’Malley heard It too. He got
to his feet and stood smartly to attention, the 35lb kit sack on his back pulling at his shoulders.
‘You got something to add Cade?’
‘No Sir No’ the blond haired man’s voice
sounded loud and clear behind Starsky.
‘Then keep it buttoned soldier. Tomorrow we’ll
be starting with reveille at 5:00am, out on the parade ground by 6:00 and…tonight you’ll be in bed by 9:00 ….’.
‘Or home by half past’ Starsky’s mouth formed
the words before he could bite them back and he cast a brief look sideways without moving his head as O’Malley approached
‘This must be some kind of record soldier. Two interruptions
in as many minutes. Is there nothing between your ears? Don’t keeping it buttoned mean nothing?’ He paused and
Starsky wondered whether he should answer or whether the drill Sergeant was being rhetorical. He decided on the latter as
the big man continued. ‘Maybe I can help you son’ he bent closer to the young man and took on a fatherly air.
‘Maybe I can do something to help you understand. Would
you like that Private Starsky?’
The brunet looked at the man in front of him and decided this
time the sergeant required an answer.
‘Sir yes Sir’
‘Then I hope you take this in the spirit in which it’s
given’ O’Malley said more quietly. ‘You’re gonna run. Five miles, full pack. Once around the perimeter
and perhaps at the end of it you’re going to have too little breath to come at me with wise cracks again. This Army
needs men who shudup and listen, not comedians. Got that?’
Starsky tried to keep his tone even although his temper flared.
‘Sir, yes Sir’ he ground out through clenched teeth.
The change was not lost on O’Malley and the big man saw
in the brunet something of the recruit he had been all those years ago. Despite what the young man might think now, O’Malley
was indeed trying to help. On the second rank, he caught another noise and the tail end of an ‘Oh Jeez!’ He pushed
his way though the front rank to the man standing diagonally behind Starsky and stared down at the other soldier. He’d
been in the unit for a month now and he too had trouble keeping his feelings on command decisions, the weather, the food and
anything else to himself. O’Malley liked him too, but recognised that both he and Starsky would need firm handling.
‘Got something to add Trafford? Coz I don’t recall
opening this up for debate’.
Emerald green eyes stared straight ahead as the soldier answered
smartly in the negative, but O’Malley wasn’t mollified. He saw the same defiance he’d seen earlier and knew
he needed to knock it out of this man too. Stepping back he dismissed the young solider.
‘You too Trafford. If you want to make a friend, you’ve
got five miles to do it. The rest of you, dismissed’.
‘But Sarg its ten to nine. You said we had to be in out
bunks by nine’ Trafford argued quietly.
‘Then you’d better start running fast, though I
doubt even a super soldier like you can run five miles in ten minutes. The rest of you men…don’t wait up!’
The rest of the unit dispersed as Starsky and Trafford looked
at each other and shrugged. With a last look at O’Malley, Starsky held out a hand to the other man.
‘Wanna show the visiting team the sights?’ he said,
squinting up into the darkness as the rain started to fall.
‘My pleasure’ Trafford said as they both set off
at a comfortable jog into the gloom.
The rain started to fall steadily from the darkened sky as
the two men jogged along in companiable silence. To anyone looking at the two, they would swear they were in fact twins. Both
stood a whisker shy of 6’ and were of lithe, muscular stature. Both too had dark, chocolate brown hair, and if they’d
been permitted to grow it longer than the regulation buzz cut, they would have discovered that both men sported curls that
their mothers adored and they would do anything to be rid of.
‘Dave. Dave Starsky’ the 18 year old grunted in
The other man took it in a firm warm grasp. ‘Tom Trafford.
Traff to friends. What brings you to this paradise?’
Starsky snorted. ‘Just lucky I guess. I left school,
bummed around for a while and did the biker thing, but I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. And then this guy was
standing at a promotional display in the mall. I got to reading the information he gave me about the Army and it looked good’.
‘They gave ya the hard sell did they? The “we’ll
make you into a real man " line?’
‘Uh huh. and then I got to boot camp an’ realised
it aint like they sell it to ya. There’s always someone telling you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it -- and
you've got to do it. An’ I just can’t keep my damned mouth shut!’
‘Tell me about it’ Traff said with feeling.
‘An’ the other thing they don’t tell ya in
the bumph is that in the Army, you work the hours you’re told to work, you work "overtime" with no additional pay, you’re
supposed to do what you're told to do an’ ya live where you're told to live, and you'll deploy where and when you're
told to deploy. Which is how I ended up here’.
‘Sounds like me. I turned 18 an’ I had to get outa
the place I was living. My Dad was military through an’ through. I swear if you chopped in half he’d have it written
through his middle. Anyhow, he went out to work one day. Didn’t tell me he was going to war. An’ he didn’t
‘Jeez that’s tough. My Dad was a cop. He was shot
on duty an’ my Mom cou….well, I ended up living with my aunt in Bay City Cal’.
‘My Mom died when I was born. I never knew her’
Traff said matter of factly.
‘And the place ya had to get out of?’
Traff snorted. ‘Orphanage. So I went from one institution
to another. Don’t tell me. You were picked out at boot camp an’ sent here’.
‘Uh huh. They said I could shoot well enough and they
needed snipers. An’ did I want some excitement? You too?’
‘Yup. I managed to get five outa six slugs into the bull
an’ next thing I know I was in the Major’s office ‘n’ they’re doin’ this hard sell thing
about how my country needed me’.
‘How long have you been here?’ Starsky asked, stumbling
slightly in the dark and rain.
‘A month. One month of pure joy! The guys are ok. Ya
have to watch a couple of ‘em. They think they’re Captain Marvel or sumthin. But the rest are sound enough’.
‘O’Malley seems a bundle of laughs’.
Traff grinned. ‘He’s a pussycat when ya get t’know
him. He does care. He just makes us tough it out coz that’s what it’s gonna be like over there’.
Traff stopped running, bending over to get his breath. He looked
at the other boy with pity in his eyes. ‘Didn’t they tell ya?’
‘Tell me what?’
‘What this place is an’ where you’ll end
Starsky stopped, also bending over to catch his breath. In
the distance he could see the lights of the nissen huts and he stole a quick look at his watch. 11:45. ‘No, they omitted
that little snippet’ he grunted. ‘Care to enlighten me?’
Traff heaved a big sigh. He put a friendly hand on his new
friend’s shoulder. ‘We’re being trained as snipers’.
‘Well where in this country would we need a sniper?’
‘Dunno. I never thought. I just enjoy firing guns. Shit!
Why do I get the impression I’m not gonna like what I hear?’
‘Coz that’s about the size of it Chief. The reason
they need a whole bunch of snipers is coz we’re being shipped off to ‘Nam in four months time’.
Starsky stood upright, trying to assimilate the information.
‘Nam? As in Vietnam. Jungles; rain; all those film reels we keep seein’?’
‘Uh huh. We have the dubious honour of seeing the world
– through the crosshairs of a rifle’.
‘Shit! No wonder the other guys at boot camp didn’t
seem real sorry that they weren’t chosen’.
‘Well there are some good points’. Traff said as
they started to jog the final leg back to the base.
‘T’riffic? Somehow I’m not sure I believe
‘Oh there are. We’re classed as SPCs – Specialists.
So although it ain’t exactly a promotion we do get a bit more in our pay packet. An’ although you won’t
believe it now, we don’t have such tight regulations as the rest of the grunts. We even get to go off base to the bars
Starsky looked skeptical. ‘Don’t exactly sell me
on the thoughts of getting’ shot to death in ‘Nam’ he grumbled.
‘No? Well wait till ya tell the girls you’re doin’
undercover missions for Uncle Sam. Drives ‘em wild! Believe me Chief. What those girls at Mo’s Bar can do with
an ice cube ain’t worth mentionin’. Traff grinned as Starsky’s face lit up.
‘Now that’ he said happily ‘is definitely
something to get shot at for. Hey! I got something to celebrate at the end of this month’.
‘I turn 19’.
Traff regarded the dark haired boy. ‘Funny, you look
Starsky stared levelly back into the emerald green eyes. ‘Yeah,
you too. How old are ya?’
’19 four months ago’ Traff replied.
‘Well, old man. Race ya back to the bunk house. I want
a hot shower an’ bed’ Starsky grinned, sprinting ahead quickly his backpack bouncing uncomfortably against his
O’Malley was waiting for the two young men when they
got back. They were soaking wet, the rain dripping off their noses and eyelashes and their clothes were stiff with the rainwater.
The Sergeant ushered them inside without a word and directed them to the showers before handing them cups of steaming coffee.
‘You missed supper. Get washed up and then get to bed.
You’re up again in five hours’ he said gruffly before turning in his heel and leaving.
Starsky walked into the shower room, peeled off his dripping
clothes and hung them up in the drying cabinet before turning on the hot water and ducking under the shower. The running water
warmed him through and eased the tense muscles in his shoulders. The news Traff had given him had been a shock, but, he reasoned,
if he joined the Army, he’d have to see action, and right now, the action was in ‘Nam. He tried to shut out the
pictures he’s seen on the news reels about the conflict and instead concentrated on the present. Time to worry about
oversees later. Girls. Traff had told him that their unit was a magnet for the girls, so for that he was happy.
The water started to run cold and he got out, wrapping one
of the rough green towels around his waist. Traff was doing the same and each boy appraised the other. Both were well muscled
and both had a fur of brown hair across their chests, fading to a thin central line which disappeared below the waistband
of the towel. But whereas the hair decorating Traff’s chest was thick and straight, Starsky’s hair formed brown
curls across his chest’.
Traff grinned. ‘Yay, Curly boy’ he said, regarding
his new friend with some humour in his emerald green eyes. He spoke in a soft Boston accent which Starsky found oddly calming.
‘That’s me, like a freakin’ poodle’
Starsky agreed with a chuckle, his own New York accent still strong despite spending the last four years of his life in California.
They dried quickly and got into their regulation green boxers
and vests before padding out of the shower room and into their bunk house. The lights were out and there was the sound of
eight other guys all softly snoring and dead to the world. Traff pointed at a lower bunk on the right hand side of the room
‘That’s yours. I’m over there’ he pointed
at the far corner of the room. ‘Sleep well’.
Starsky walked over to his bunk and carefully put his kit back
at the foot to unpack properly in the morning when he could see and wouldn’t disturb the others. He pulled back the
sheets to his bunk and looked around for his pillow. He knew there should be one, but there wasn’t and he bent down
to look under the bunk just in case. Nothing there either and he looked across the small space to the next bunk. He saw the
blond fuzz on top of Cade’s head as the young man turned over and was sure he saw the grin on the man’s face before
he presented the back of his head.
The brunet paused, torn between having it out with the blond
that he’d taken an instant dislike to, or making do with what he had and keeping quiet so that the rest of the bunk
house could sleep. Looking at the other sleeping guys, and realising he now had only four hours of sleep ahead of him, Starsky
decided to let sleeping blonds lie. He’d get even later. He lay his weary body down on the hard mattress and rested
his head on his folded arm.
He wondered what his Mom would think if he knew he was going
to see action in ‘Nam. He’d forgiven Rachel Starsky years ago for sending him away from New York. He’d been
young and even more impetuous then and had taken his neighbours gun and gone in search of his Dad’s killers. A couple
of his Dad’s cop friends had picked him up and locked him in the cells overnight as a short sharp shock. But in the
morning, his Mom had made the heartbreaking decision to send her eldest son away for his own protection. At the time –
he was only 14 – Starsky had hated her for her decision, feeling abandoned. But as the months went by, the hatred faded
to unhappiness and then to understanding. He could never hate his Mom, and now he wondered what he could tell her to stop
her worrying too much. Sleep overtook him though and he dreamed of guns and blonds and shouting Sergeants.
Four hours later Starsky was rudely awakened at 5:00am by a
clattering of pan lid on pans and O’Malley’s dulcet tones telling them to rise and shine. After 8 weeks of basic
training, and before that boot camp, Starsky was used to this type of alarm call and he was instantly awake, bounding out
of bed and standing to attention at the foot of the bunk, shivering slightly in the cold of the very early morning. O’Malley
stood at one end of the bunk house, his stick under his arm, ready to commence the day.
‘What are the army values?’ he called loudly
‘Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity
and personal courage, Sir’ the men reeled off like a host of green clothes parrots.
‘And what is the warrior ethos?’
‘I will always place the mission first; I will never
accept defeat; I will never quit; I will never leave a fallen comrade behind, Sir’ they chorused loudly.
‘Stand at ease’.
Each man placed their feet shoulder width apart, their hands
clasped one inside the other in the small of their back, their right foot never moving. O’Malley walked down the length
of the bunkhouse, then back again, taking in each of the ten men.
They let their arms fall to their sides.
They stood relaxed and waited for O’Malley to tell them
their orders for the day.
One day blended into the next during the following weeks of
training which the men endured in the specialist unit. The Army had, during the past few years discovered the usefulness of
snipers in major war zones and now this base, on the Mexican border was used to train young recruits who’d shown an
aptitude for marksmanship. While their basic training had been the same as for every other recruit, they were now expected
to partake in extra exercises in shooting anything from pistols to semi automatics and to riffles and rocket launchers. Starsky
and Traff both scored equally highly on all the different weapons they used and became popular with all the other eight men
in their unit save one.
From the first moment Cade had seen Starsky, he had take an
instant dislike to the handsome young soldiers. He hated the fact that Starsky and Traff had such an easy rapport with all
the other men and also to some extent with the drill instructors. While all the drill sergeants used the same techniques of
training; yelling and shouting and generally putting their soldiers down was the standard Army approach to training efficient
fighting machines, the two dark haired boys seemed to be able to let the noise and chaos roll over their heads, coming back
from each gruelling training day with a smile on their faces and a joke always on their tongues. While Cade took every insult
thrown at him as personal, Traff and Starsky laughed it off and in doing so, they made their comrades feel better, talking
over problems, making light of discomforts and generally leading their team.
And all the while, Cade looked on from his self imposed exile,
never missing the chance to put Starsky or Traff down. But while Traff had been with the unit for months, Starsky was still
seen as the new recruit and the blond soldier saw him especially as fair game.
After one particularly tedious, hard day, during which the
unit had been left doing a 10 miles run in full pack through a rain storm, Cade had once again decided that the time was right
to get his own back on the popular boy. He waited until Starsky was at his super, then snook back to the bunk house and took
the safety catch off the brunet’s rifle. After they’d all eaten, O’Malley took the unit back to their bunks
for final kit inspection and as each soldier stood at the foot of their beds with their rifles in present position, he took
each weapon in turn and checked it for operational efficiency and cleanliness. As he got to Cades, O’Malley made some
observation about the amount of mud still adhering to the stock of the weapon and shouted at the blond that he was slovenly
and shoddy. Handing the weapon back, Cade’s cheeks glowed red with embarrassment, but he knew he’d get his own
back pretty soon. In Cade’s eyes, the only one in the unit who deserved the shouting was standing right beside him.
O’Malley took Starsky’s rifle next, expecting the
perfection he’d seen in the young soldier from day one. Only Starsky’s anger marred an otherwise perfect soldier,
but deep down, O’Malley knew that anger could also benefit a man out on the jungles of ‘Nam. He put the rifle
to his shoulder, sighting down the barrel and his finger slid into position against the hair trigger. As he was about to give
the weapon back, his finger snagged on the trigger and unexpectedly the rifle boomed into life sending splinters of wood flying
left and right from the hole made in the bunk house wall. Soldiers too flew left and right as they ducked behind their beds
to take cover and O’Malley’s face paled.
Recovering his composure quickly, he flipped on the safety
and flung the rifle back at the shocked soldier.
‘Are you trying to kill us ya fuckin’ moron?’
he yelled, his face inches from Starsky’s.
‘Sir, no Sir’ the boy said in a shocked voice.
He never left the gun with the safety off. As young as 4 his Dad had taught him about gun safety and how to leave weapons.
It was second nature to him to always check that weapons were left unloaded and with the safety on. He heard a stifled snort
and looked sideways. Cade had his hand up to his mouth and his shoulders were shaking. The blood boiled in Starsky’s
veins but he knew now was not the time to get even with the blond. He concentrated instead on what the drill sergeant was
telling him and caught up with the part where O’Malley was telling him that he was a liability and would spend two days
in solitary to help him focus his mind. As he was marched from the room, he saw once again the grin of satisfaction on Cade’s
face and his hatred of the blond grew more intense.
It was a more careful brunet who emerged from the stockade
two days later. O’Malley had been to visit him and had asked him if anyone could have sabotaged his weapon and although
the drill sergeant knew Starsky was lying when he denied it, he couldn’t force the information out of the young man.
And so Starsky was back to join his unit for the final exercise
of the training. It was a 2 day route march to an unknown destination out in the desert and at the end of it would be a marine
type assault course. The first day went well although it was exhausting as the soldiers were once again in full packs and
had to cover 25 miles at a reasonable pace in the hot sun, before setting up tents in the dark and cooking a meal over an
open fire. The men slept well that night although it was cold. The desert air was frigid and in the morning, Starsky awoke
to see his breath misting in front of him. His clothes were damp and cold but he took the discomfort in his stride and by
7:00am, they had broken camp and were once more on the move.
By midday, they reached their goal which was an area used by
the military for training marines. The testing ground looked like an over sized assault course and O’Malley drew his
unit around him and explained what was going to happen.
‘Right men. This will be the last exercise we do together.
This is a pass or fail day. Not all of you will complete the course, but for those who do, there will be a passing out ceremony
and a ticket to active duty. For those who don’t make the grade, there’s still the regular units’.
Over the next ten minutes, the drill sergeant outlined what
each man would be expected to do. The test took the form of physical activity, while they cleared various obstacles and at
marked points they would be expected to fire at chosen targets. The whole exercise would be done under battle conditions and
there would be soldiers firing blanks at them and the simulated noise of battle around them. They had a specific time to get
around the course and they were to act as one unit. After checking they were clear in their instructions, O’Malley blew
a whistle and the exercise was on.
Traff set out in the lead with the other nine men stringing
out behind him, Starsky automatically taking up the rear position as the guns stated to blow off on either side of them.
The first obstacle was an eleven foot high wall which they
had to scale. This was something Starsky hated. Most things he could cope with, but heights scared him witless and Traff and
one of the other guys helped him over as he swallowed down his fear in the heat of the battle.
Over the next hour, they went through their paces, climbing,
jumping, balancing and belly crawling their way across the obstacles, pausing at the respective points to loose off round
after round into given targets. While Starskys bullets always hit their mark, more often than not into the bull, others were
not so careful and twice, Cade missed the target altogether, his panting and gasping making his aim wide and off mark. He
looked around him, expecting a wise crack from the brunet, but none came. Starsky was too involved in his own performance
and his commitments to getting his team through the exercise to worry about cheap jibes. And yet that seemed to fuel the blond’s
anger even more.
The last obstacle of the course was a submerged concrete tube
which they had to get into and swim through to the opposite side. The tube was about 10 yards in length and the water was
dark, greasy and murky. Traff, who was still leading paused and got the men into order.
‘Ok, it’s a tough one but we can do it. Just take
a deep breath an’ follow the guy in front. When you get out at the other side, haul yourself outa the water and then
pull the guy behind you out. Got it?’
The nine other men nodded and got themselves into order, Traff
first and Starsky still bringing up the rear. Right in front of him Cade shivered as he waited for his turn.
One by one, the soldiers lowered themselves down into the grimy
water, took a lungful of air, and disappeared into the murky depths, emerging gasping and spluttering at the far end of the
tube as Traff counted them out. The young soldier was busy helping to haul bodies out of the water to leave the way clear
for the next soldier through and finally it was Cade’s turn.
‘You next’ Starsky said.
‘Well go on. They’re all waiting. We’re still
on the clock ya know’ the brunet urged impatiently.
Cade licked his lips apprehensively.
‘It’ll be ok’ Starsky said. ‘I’ll
be right behind ya. If ya get stuck I’ll help’. He saw the pale face and the shaking hand and he could tell that
the blond was scared out of his wits.
‘C’mon Cade. It’s easy’.
‘It’s easy for you. You’re so fuckin’
perfect it’s all easy for you’ the blond muttered viciously.
Starsky snorted. ‘Yeah right! So easy for me. Shut your
pie hole Cade an’ just swim huh. Or are ya too yellow? Want me to go tell O’Malley that you’re shittin’
yourself huh?’ He said it not unkindly, more to get the soldier to move and start the obstacle. It had the desired effect.
Cade lowered himself into the water and disappeared below the surface as Starsky too plunged in.
The water was tepid and greasy and it stung at the brunet’s
eyes as he submerged, the water filling his ears so that the sounds of the gunfire and explosions above ground were muffled
and distorted. He took a deep breath and set about following the quickly flashing boots of the man in front. Although he knew
the tube was finite, it was still eerie and he had the feeling immediately that he could drown at any moment.
Stowing the fear deep inside him, he launched himself off and
followed Cade’s heels, feeling the deep burn inside his lungs as the oxygen was swiftly used up. The tube seemed to
go on for an eternity and soon Starsky started to panic a little. He hated the feel of the water around him, cocooning him
in a deathly embrace and he longed to pull pure clean air into his lungs. Ahead he saw light and with renewed vigour, he struck
out for it, his arms pulling him along strongly now that his target was in sight.
But as he started to surface, he felt his way blocked. Looking
up, air bubbles streaming from his nose, he saw the bulk of the blond soldier in the exit to the tunnel. He pushed against
Cade’s heels, but instead of the big man getting out of the way, he felt Cade kick downwards against his head.
Struggling now with his lungs almost at bursting point, he
tried to push past the other man’s body to get to the surface. But Cade had seen his chance to get back at the popular
soldier and did his best to obstruct the brunet.
Starsky felt his head start to spin, the tunnel of light becoming
a mere pinprick in his consciousness as he gave up the unequal struggle with the water. As he felt his lings screaming for
air, he made a last effort to push Cade out of the way before darkness surrounded him for good.
Traff saw Cade standing waist deep in water at the mouth of
the tube and shot forward. ‘What’re ya waiting for soldier?’ he yelled.
‘My hands are numb. I can’t get out’ the
blond whined as he held his hands up for help.
Two of the other guys took hold of him and pulled him from
the hole as Traff yelled at him. ‘Where’s Curly?’
Cade flopped down onto the ground like a stranded fish. ‘He
was right behind me. I don’t think he can swim too well. He’s probably still back at the beginning of the pipe.
Some loser he turned out to be’.
Traff looked back but couldn’t see anybody still at the
mouth to the tube. It didn’t sound like his friend. So far as Traff was aware, the only thing Starsky was afraid of
was heights, and even that fear didn’t stop him tackling the obstacles on the course. He bent down by the murky pool
and stared into its depths. He saw nothing and was about to stand up again when he caught sight of the flash of something
shiny and metallic floating in the depths. Swiftly, he plunged his arm into the water, his fingers questing and grasping hold
of some sodden material.
‘Over here. Help needed’ he grunted out loud as
other hands snaked down into the water next to him. They hauled as if their lives depended on it and finally the sodden limp
body of the brunet broke the surface. Traff heaved it out of the water and rolled Starsky over onto his back, noting the pale
face and the waterlogged appearance, the brunet’s lips and the area around his eyes having a blue tinge. He pushed his
fingers against Starsky’s neck feeling for a pulse but came up empty. Swiftly, he unbuckled the brunet’s helmet
and loosened his collar.
‘Help me get him breathing’ he muttered as Cade
looked away. Alan Merryweather knelt by Traff’s side. The younger man looked on in horror, but he swiftly shook himself
and stooped down to help.
‘Merry, you do the compressions an’ I’ll
At a nod, they commenced the resuscitation, working hard over
their fallen friend as the rest of the unit looked on, hushed. Despite the fact that they were all wet and cold, sweat started
to drip into Traff’s eyes as he concentrated on getting life back into the limp form before him. Even the simulated
sound of the battle seemed to recede into the background as seven of the nine men in the unit concentrated on the drowned
soldier, willing him to take another breath.
Curious at what was going on and wondering why the whole unit
had come to a sudden halt, O’Malley trotted over to the group and bent down just as the two first aiders were commencing
the third round of compressions. As Merry started to press down rhythmically on the brunet’s chest again, Traff searched
the young handsome face for signs of life, urging his friend to breathe. At last relief flooded through Traff’s body
as Starsky’s eyes fluttered open and he coughed a mouthful of dirty tepid water out onto his uniform. He groaned and
rolled onto his side, quietly vomiting the murky water out of his body as the drill sergeant looked around.
‘What the hell happened here?’ he thundered once
he’d established that the young soldier would be ok. He watched as two of the soldiers helped Starsky to his feet and
led him away to the hospital tent to be checked out fully.
Traff stood and looked directly at Cade. ‘Yeah JC. What
the hell happened?’ he asked coldly.
The blond backed up but was quickly stopped by the rest of
the men closing ranks.
‘It wasn’t my fault. He couldn’t swim’
O’Malley stared at him in disbelief as the blond blustered
on. ‘He was right behind me. He said he couldn’t do it. I tried to encourage him but he just froze. In the end
I said I’d show him how it was done, and got into the water. I thought he was gonna follow me’.
‘Well he did, but it looked to me like you weren’t
for letting him up’ Traff spat out. ‘An’ he could swim just fine. You knew that. What’s this all about
JC? What’s your little game huh?’
James Cade’s face fell. He knew he’s been rumbled
and now the blood boiled in his veins. ‘He deserved it’ he shouted defensively. ‘He deserved everything.
He’s always there, top of the class like some fucking machine. He needed someone to give him a shock – take him
down a peg or two. He had it coming to him’.
‘And you thought drowning him would be the answer wise
guy? You could’a fuckin’ killed him, an’ what the hell’s he ever done at you? You were the one who
sabotaged his rifle. You were the one who played all those tricks on him’ Without pause for thought about the consequences,
Traff took one step closer, pulled his fist back and brought it crushing down onto the blond’s jaw. Cade took a step
back and Traff delivered another telling blow to his stomach, bending Cade over so that he gasped and lost his breakfast on
the ground in front of him. Traff was warming to his task but as he wound himself up for another punch, his fist was caught
from behind. O’Malley held it in a strong grasp.
‘There’s only so much I can overlook, son’
he said gently. ‘Go see to your man, then be back on the parade ground with the rest of the unit in an hour’.
‘But what about him?’ Traff ground out, looking
at the gasping blond in front of him.
‘He’s my problem. Now go’ O’Malley
An hour later, and against the advice of the medical officer,
Starsky was back in the line up with his unit on the parade ground, as O’Malley had ordered. He was still pale and he
wheezed some when he breathed, but once he’d learned that Cade had wilfully stopped him from surfacing, the brunet wanted
to face the blond soldier and show him he wasn’t afraid.
The unit fell in to attention, more comfortable now that they’d
had chance to change out of the wet clothes and into snug dry uniforms. They stood shoulder to shoulder, proud to have lasted
the course as O’Malley and the camp commandant, one Major Sharpe walked down their line, inspecting them. The surly
drill sergeant had a half smile on his face. This was one unit he wouldn’t forget in a hurry, and although he was proud
of nine out of the ten men, he was also sorry that probably half of them would never make it back from Vietnam, such was the
ferocity of the fighting.
The Commandant stood back and appraised the men, then muttered
something to O’Malley. The drill sergeant nodded, smiled then ordered the men to fall out. He followed them back to
the small barracks and waited till they’d all sat down expectantly.
‘Despite you being the worst, most unprofessional, slovenly,
sloppy unit I’ve ever had the misfortune to take through this training, I’m here to tell you that almost all of
you have passed this training phase. Only two of you will be returning to normal duty at the end of today’.
The faces looked back at him expectantly and O’Malley
felt a surge of pride at these young men who were ready, willing and able to go to a foreign land and put their lives on the
line for their country.
‘Sir, yes sir’ the young ginger headed man stood
up at full attention, knocking over the chair in his rush.
‘Stevenson, you will return to your previous unit. I
think you realise that you didn’t make the grade as a marksman. In fact I’d go so far as to say that you couldn’t
hit a barn door if you were sat on the hinges! I’ll be having words with your CO about who put your name forward for
this training. It was unfair of them to raise your expectations. But in every other area of training, you can be assured that
you have passed with flying colours. Dismissed’ He saluted the young soldier who nodded curtly and marched from the
room, determined not to let his fellow soldiers see the tears in his eyes.
O’Malley continued. ‘The other failure, and this
time I use the term I its full glory is you Cade. Stand up when I address you!’
The blond man stood rigidly to attention, but he had a look
of disbelief on his face as though the drill sergeant had called the wrong man.
‘Never in all my years of training have I seen such an
out and out display of cowardice and jealousy. If I had it in my power, I’d dismiss you from the Army right now. But
that is not something open to me. Instead, you will report back to your previous unit where you will be placed in the stockade
for 1 month while you contemplate your behaviour’.
Cade’s face coloured to the shade of a tomato and he
was about to challenge O’Malley, but then thought better of it. Instead he looked sullenly ahead.
‘Dismissed soldier. The MPs are waiting for your outside’.
Cade jumped at the mention of the tough police, but turned
smartly on his heel to leave. Finding that his way took him past Starsky, he paused, but then decided that he was more afraid
of O’Malley than he was conscious of the brunet. As he marched in front of the young man, Starsky kept his eyes front
and managed to keep the grin off his face.
The drill sergeant continued.
‘For the rest of you, you have all passed this phase
of the course and from now on, you will all carry the rank of SPC. You will behave in a manner which befits your new rank
at work and also when you are off duty. You have one days R&R tomorrow before returning here for further instructions.
You will be shipping out the day after tomorrow. Is that clear?’
The young men in front of him glowed with pride. ‘Sir,
yes sir’ they chorused smartly.
‘Stand at ease’ the sergeant said almost affectionately.
‘And rest. Now, get out of my sight before I change my mind and boot you all back to basic training!’
The unit reeled out into the open air where there was a general
whoop of victory and much backslapping. They made their way back to the bunk house they’d been assigned for the night
and picked their respective bunks.
‘So what’re we gonna do to celebrate?’ Merry
asked as they all lounged on their bunks relaxing. They were all sore, tired and sore some more. But each of them was full
of pride at having made it through the course and come out the other side relatively unscathed
‘Drink, get laid and drink some more’ one of the
others piped up.
‘Well its um….its my birthday if we need any more
reason to celebrate’ Starsky said quietly. He’d never really been one to celebrate his birthday too much, but
now he had the urge to spend time with his new friends. They’d been through a lot together and he was eternally grateful
both to Merry and Traff for dragging him out of the water.
‘Yeah? Well that’s settled. Tomorrow night we’re
out on the town, if this place even has a town to go out on’
Chapter 4 -
ENORMOUS WARNINGS FOR GRAPHIC SEX IN THIS CHAPTER,
IF IT OFFENDS READ NO FURTHER AND SKIP ON TO CHAPTER 5
At 7:00pm the next evening, he eight men were washed and dressed
in their civvies as they made their way out of the barracks and towards the small town nearby. It was even more apparent now
that Traff and Starsky were almost like twins. They’d both dressed in butter soft, well worn Levi jeans and had added
white shirts, opened at the neck to reveal and expanse of furred chest. From a distance they both looked older than their
19 years and both walked with a confident, almost swaggering gait which made their lean, tightly denim clad hips sway alluringly.
The previous evening, while Starsky had taken a shower and
turned in for an early night to recover from his drowning experience, the others had got together and had a small collection
for him, amassing enough to give the birthday boy a night to remember. Now, as they entered the nightclub, Traff looked around
him, appraising the joint to see if it had what he needed.
He walked over to the bar and ordered drinks for the others
and had a quiet word with the bartender, who nodded and pointed at a door in the corner of the room. Traff disappeared, emerging
five minutes later with a smile on his face. He walked up to the small group of men and pulled Starsky to one side.
‘Um, the guys an’ me wanted you to have a good
night on your birthday so we um….we had a little collection an’ your presents waitin’ outside that door’.
The brunet had the grace to blush and mumbled some words of
thanks as the rest of the men grinned, adding a few choice comments as they pushed him towards the door. He opened it and
Traff pushed him through, closing out the noise of the bar.
In the dark corridor behind the bar, a young oriental girl
stood waiting, a welcoming smile on her face.
‘Well hello there. I’m your birthday present’
she said in a soft sultry voice.
‘Um….hi’ the young man said, lost for words.
He fidgeted, not really knowing how to proceed. But the girl beckoned him and set off up the steps at the end of the corridor.
Starsky followed the woman back to her room, a mixture of excitement and apprehension flooding though his veins. Oh my God.
His friends had assured him a good time, but this! He was at a loss. A prostitute? Shit, he’d never been in this position
before, although he’d often fantasised when he was alone in his bed. But what was he supposed to do? Did he tell her
that he’d never really been with a woman before? Oh sure, there had been the odd dalliance with girls behind the bike
shed. And there had been that one time at Pete’s party with his sister. But that had been more about her seducing him
rather than the other way around. And at the end, the 14 year old Starsky just couldn’t control himself, the whole event
taking less than five minutes.
But this woman was different. She must have had countless men
in her time. And that was the operative word. Men. Despite what he thought of himself and the years that his dark hair and
muscles leant to his appearance, Starsky was not exactly a man. He snorted to himself.
What the hell are you doing Davey boy? What
of she laughs at ya? What if….Oh my God. What if ya can’t get it up? Shit!
Starsky walked into the room and looked around. It was unlike
anything he’d anticipated. Having watched black and white films where the man always took the woman to some seedy motel
room, he’d expected something similar with grimy walls and a threadbare rug. In actual fact, Yokino’s room was
small and well decorated, close carpeted and smelled of jasmine and lilies. There was a large bed against one wall, covered
by a faux fur throw and piled high with white pillows edged in lace. The room was lit softly by a lamp on the night stand,
the shade a deep crimson which leant a soft pink light to the surroundings. This was the most feminine room the brunet had
ever been in. And it exuded sex.
Yokino turned and appraised her new client. Starsky appraised
the woman. She wasn’t what he thought a prostitute should be either. She had a kind, sweet face decorated with just
a hint of make up and her slim frame rippled beneath a silk kimono decorated with chrysanthemums. Her long black hair hung
down her back and was cut in a short fringe at the front. It was difficult to put an age to her, but Starsky decided she couldn’t
be more than 25. She smiled at him.
‘Your friends must think a lot of you, I don’t
come cheap’ she said in a heavily accented voice.
‘Yeah, um…we…erm…’ for once,
the brunet was lost for words and he looked at his feet, his self confidence having been left outside the room.
Yokino took hold of his chin and pulled him to her as she planted
a delicate kiss on his lips. ‘Would you like to make yourself more comfortable?’
Starsky nodded and fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, his
hands shaking a little in anticipation. Softly the woman drew his hands away and started to unbutton the buttons herself,
kissing each portion of Starsky’s chest as it revealed itself. He sighed against her. She pulled the shirt from the
brunet’s waistband and continued her work until the shirt was open down the front and she pushed it over his shoulders
so that it fell to the floor behind him. Without thinking, Starsky laced his hands into her hair and pulled her to him so
that he could kiss her deeply. She responded, moaning into his mouth as his tongue started to explore, shyly at first and
then with more passion he pressed the centre of his body against her.
He felt her hands on his waistband now and realised that he
needn’t have worried about achieving an erection. Now his only worry was maintaining it for any length of time as her
hands worked their way into his tight pants. He shuddered beneath her grasp and moaned and she looked up into his face, uncertain.
She read apprehension and stopped her exploration for a moment.
‘Is this your first time?’ she asked gently with
no hint of recrimination in her voice.
‘No!...no its…erm….well it the first time
erm…..properly’ he finished in a strangled whisper, blushing furiously.
She pushed him away gently. ‘You should have said. It’s
so long since I had the chance to educate’. She took his hand and walked with him to the bed. Putting her hands on his
bare shoulders she pushed him down so that he was sitting on the edge of the mattress. She knelt on the floor between his
knees and looked up into his face, seeing the uncertainty which tempted her.
‘Do you want to learn, or do you want something else?’
He swallowed. ‘Learn?’
‘About just how good this can be. The pleasure you can
give and receive with a little practice’ she said softly as she unbuttoned his flies and his cock sprung free.
‘I erm….I hadn’t really…..oh shit’
he gasped as her lips closed around his dick in a practiced embrace.
Yokino worked her lips around his manhood, surprised at just
how big this boy was. His essence filled her and she set to work in earnest, licking, sucking and flicking her tongue around
the tip. He moaned again, his head thrown back as she pushed softly into the small entrance and tasted his excitement.
He’d always taken the lead; he’d always been the
one to call the shots and set the pace which was usually frantic, his climax coming in minutes. And he’d never really
worried about how the girl felt. It was his pleasure at stake wasn’t it? But now, he felt himself a bigger part of the
proceedings. As though he was a participant in the most important thing in the world and the world revolved around this room,
this woman and what she was doing to his body. She played him like a violin, bringing him to the very edge of his control
before backing off and allowing him some time to come down before the next assault on the centre of his body. He’d never
felt this way before, his heart hammering in his balls, the fullness and heaviness almost intolerable in their exquisite torture.
He balled his hands into the fur throw and threw his head back again, calling her name as she brought him almost to climax
again with her talented mouth. She gently took his balls in her hand, stroking the smooth skin and gently massaging the tender
contents of the sac as he ground his hips forward, seeking more and more pleasure. Feeling the cock in her mouth harden to
the consistency of purple marble, she raised her head and looked down the length of his sweating body.
‘Not yet, my love’ she whispered.
Panther like, she crawled up the length of his body until she
was leant over his raptured face.
‘Oh my God you’re fantastic’ he gasped as
she leaned over him and planted a kiss on the sweat beaded forehead.
She giggled. ‘The night is young. We’ve only just
begun and soon you’ll be begging me’. She rolled over onto her back and pulled him on top of her, his jeans puddling
around his ankles as she opened the front of her kimono. He kicked his ankles free of the material and knelt above her. Starsky
hitched a breath as he saw her perfect pale skin in the warm pink light of the bedroom. He dipped his head and kissed the
hollow of her neck below her throat, licking a wet line down between her breasts as she sighed beneath him.
He’d never worshipped a woman’s body before, always
being in too much of a hurry for his own gratification, but now he found pleasure n the little gasps he heard her making.
He discovered how his kiss could make her sigh; how his tongue rimming her navel could make her arch her back and how she
gasped when he took each pink rosebud nipple in his mouth and alternately sucked and gently bit down. And the more noises
she made, the more aroused he remained. He needed no instruction, seeming to know intuitively what she needed and what would
give her the most pleasure.
Ducking down further, he was amazed to find that unlike the
girls he’d had in school, this woman was very carefully trimmed between her legs and he ran his tongue over the pink
bare skin as she shivered below him. Running his tongue lower, he dipped into her secret places and she hummed, groaning and
wrapping her fingers into his short curls as she ground his tongue into herself. Starsky lapped at her moisture, sucking on
her clit as she whimpered, her body shuddering as she arched her back and thrust herself towards him.
He paused and looked up at her.
‘Don’t stop’ she said breathlessly. ‘Please
‘I thought it was me supposed to be begging you’
he grinned wolfishly. He’d never considered that giving sex could be so fulfilling, but he found himself longing to
have her plead with him to take her.
Starsky went back to his task, licking and sucking until Yokino
was shivering and shouting his name out into the room, her voice raw with emotion. He put one hand on her stomach, the other
hand insinuating a finger into her. She moaned and ground her hips against him until he added a second and then a third, filling
her so that she moaned again. He moved his fingers inside her, experimenting and as they touched that most sensitive G spot
she shouted out, her voice rough with emotion. Tenderly, Starsky worked her body some more, his own needs temporarily forgotten,
although his cock stuck out thick and long between them.
Finally he knelt above her, his dick springing to attention
again as he prepared himself. He smiled at her and she nodded. Slowly he dipped his body down to hers and felt the head of
his cock nudge at her entrance. He almost came there and then but with a superhuman effort, he summoned all his self control
and pushed steadily inside her, feeling her body close around him in a moist warm embrace. He sighed as he felt himself seat
fully inside her. He was bigger than average and he’d never had a woman who could accommodate all of him before. Even
though he wanted to enjoy himself, he’d still always been considerate enough to not hurt his girls and consequently
he’d never really let himself go.
But now, with Yokino, he realised she could take his whole
length and for a moment he relished the feeling of being fully inside a woman. Yokino seemed to be holding her breath and
very slowly Starsky started to withdraw almost his whole length before pushing back inside again. His pace picked up as the
woman arched her back and pushed up to meet his thrusts until he was slamming into her with reckless abandon, his balls slapping
against her body, his whole world now centred on the pleasure from his cock. Amazingly he lasted for almost four minutes before
finally he felt his balls tighten and his cock shuddered as he shot his load deep inside her. But even then, he didn’t
stop, instead slowing his pace down gradually until he felt her own climax and then her body relaxed beneath him.
He lowered himself down until he lay at the side of the breathless
woman and rested his head on her shoulder as she ran her fingers through his hair. They kissed, Yokino stroking the hairs
on his chest and further down his body until he felt himself growing hard again. Four times during the night they took pleasure
in each others bodies until they had no energy left; nothing further to learn. And together they fell into a satisfied sleep.
Hours later, Starsky awoke to find himself alone. He looked
around and saw Yokino once again dressed in her kimono.
‘I was going to wake you’ she said. ‘You
have to be dressed and back at the base in an hour’.
‘Uh huh. We’re shipping out today’ the brunet
said, his voice still thick with sleep. He shuffled off the bed and started to get dressed. He smiled at the woman and kissed
her once more before he went to the door.
‘Thanks’ he said simply.
She put her arms around his waist and held him tight. ‘Be
careful’ she whispered and he felt her push something into his pocket. He looked questioningly at her and took the wadded
up money from his pocket.
‘Happy birthday’ she said. ‘I enjoyed it
as much as you did’.
The eight men sat uncomfortably on the hard bench seats lining
the walls of the troop transport plane ferrying them to Vietnam. Their departure from their base on the Mexican border had
been low key, but O’Malley had been there to see them off, the drill sergeant snapping smartly to attention as the big
plane started to roll down the runway.
Their first couple of hours in the plane were taken up with
nervous excited chatter as the soldiers talked over their missions and what was likely to be expected of them, but as the
tedious journey continued, one by one they lapsed into silence, using their kit bags as pillows as they lay down on the hard
metal floor of the plane and tried to get some sleep.
Traff and Starsky sat in one corner, talking companiably about
any topic that sprang to mind. Starsky gave Traff a blow by blow account of his night with Yokino at the bar and Traff grinned,
slapping his friend on the back when Starsky explained that she’d even given him his money back.
They talked about their childhoods and Starsky explained how
his dad had been killed and how he’s come to live in New York and Traff talked about his childhood in Boston. But eventually
even their close friendship and eagerness to find out abut each other became slow and onerous and they too succumbed to sleep.
Hours later, the soldiers were awakened by the sound of the
landing gear dropping and locking into place. They stretched and sat back up onto the hard seats as the wheels of the plane
touched down in Saigon. Starsky had spent five years of his life in the balmy warm weather of the Californian coast, but nothing
prepared him for the heat and humidity that hit him as the door of the plane opened and he took his first look at Vietnam.
The moisture in the air seemed to wrap itself around him and sap the energy from him before he’d even set foot on solid
ground and the scent of damp, hot vegetation drilled into his senses. It was a smell he would never forget to his dying day
and one that would never again be associated with pleasant thoughts.
As a man, the group shouldered their packs and walked down
the ramp of the troop carrier and to the waiting army trucks. Each one was an open backed wagon which could carry over twenty
men at a push and again, the brunet and his friends found themselves on hard metal seats as their driver set the truck in
motion and they rumbled off into the countryside towards CanTho and the Mekong Delta.
Everywhere he looked there were strange and almost exotic sights
and if he blotted out the destruction and the looks of pain and hunger on the villager’s faces, Starsky could almost
enjoy the experience of being somewhere so incredibly foreign. But as they started to travel further south and into the deep
lush countryside they had a rude awakening of what this war was all about. The truck was rumbling in convoy down a red sand
road with pot holes deep as crevasses when overhead they heard the dull roar of a plane engine. The sergeant who had been
at the airport to collect them, and who had been in ‘Nam for seven months, looked skywards, squinting into the sun and
shading his eyes with his hands.
He waited until he could identify the plane overhead, its bulk
flying ever closer and yelled at the men in the truck.
‘Welcome to ‘Nam! Everybody out and down’.
They followed him as he jumped from the vehicle and leapt into
the ditch which lined the road. Starsky and Traff hunkered down next to each other, jamming their helmets on their heads as
they ducked their heads low. The plane flew low over the road and started firing, the bullets from its machine gun sending
a tramline of divots running up the sandy road, kicking up sand and dirt on either side of the truck, which remarkably remained
Up ahead, Starsky could see a group of villagers, frozen like
rabbits in the headlights of a car. As the bullets came closer one of the women screamed and clutched her baby to her bosom,
but her feet refused to move. The brunet stared in horror as the bullets bore down on them and made a snap decision. He nudged
Traff and nodded and without thinking the two young soldiers, followed by three of the other men in the unit dived out of
the ditch and ran hell for leather up the road. Starsky targeted the woman with the child and literally dived at her, knocking
her down onto her back and covering her and the child with his body as he saw Traff, Merry, Tugs and Driver do the same. The
soldiers remained pinned down as the dirt kicked up around them, and then, as suddenly as it had started, the strafing run
ended and there was silence, broken only by the muffled sobs of the villagers.
Shyly, Starsky knelt up as the woman slithered out from beneath
him, still clutching her child to her breast.
‘Cam on bon, cam on bon’ she kept repeating over
and again, ducking her head down in a little bow. Starsky stared at her. She could be cursing him for all he knew, but somehow
he didn’t think so. He smiled at her and touched the baby’s face with a grimy hand.
‘Cute’ he said softly, seeing the fear in the woman’s
eyes. She was young, no more than 15 or 16 and suddenly Starsky had an insight into how these ordinary folk were managing
under extraordinary conditions.
He looked around, seeing the others picking themselves up and
patting the dirt from their clothes.
‘Are we all in one piece?’ he asked generally.
‘All apart from my nerves’ Merry responded wryly.
‘Some welcome huh?’
Starsky grinned. ‘Yeah. Looks like it’s gonna be
an exciting kinda place’.
They retraced their steps back to the truck where the sergeant
in charge was staring at them.
‘What the fuck did you think you were doing solider?’
he spat out at Starsky and Traff.
‘They were scared Sarg. We were just tryin to….’
‘You were trying to get yourselves killed, that’s
what you were trying to do. Now get back in the truck an’ shuddup’ the Sergeant thundered.
‘But Sarg, ain’t that what we’re here for?’
Traff asked, confused.
‘No soldier, it aint. You’re here to fight the
enemy, not waste your life on some two bit villagers who’d probably kill ya as soon as look at ya. Now get back in the
truck an’ try to get yourselves back to the base in one piece huh?’
The men piled back into the vehicle and the rest of the three
hour bumpy ride was accomplished in relative silence and without further incident. Their drive took them further south and
as they drove the vegetation closed in around them. Villages seemed fewer here and the rice fields had given way to miles
and miles of jungle, the perimeter of which bordered the road and seemed to close in around them. Starsky tried to peer into
the gloomy depths, but it seemed almost impenetrable and he wondered just how they were expected to conduct a war thought
all the trees and lianas.
Finally, after an exhausting ride, the truck drew into a clearing
surrounded by green army tents, each neatly bordered by a set of white stones. It had obviously been there for some time and
luckily the whole camp had not had to bunk out and move. The sergeant showed them to two tents, each sleeping four men on
the north side of the camp and Traff, Starsky, Merry and Tugs ducked inside one and put their kit on the four narrow camp
beds, looking around. The tent was big and quite spacious. They could stand up inside it and the four beds were arranged around
a central tent pole, decorated with hooks for various bits of kit. A stove stood at the centre for heat when the cold winter
finally arrived. Each bunk had a small cabinet next to it and was covered by a sheet and a blanket.
‘Home sweet home’ Traff said as he flopped down
on his bunk and laced his hands behind his head.
‘You call this home?’ Starsky asked, amused.
The dark haired man snorted. ‘After some of the orphanages
I lived in, this is the Waldorf. We got everything we need. A bunk, a blanket an’ hopefully some chow. By the way, where
is the mess tent?’
An hour later, the four men, plus the four from the other tent
were summoned to the Major’s office, a smaller tent on the other side of the compound. They were surprised to see the
same Major who’d been on their final test ground in Mexico and he smiled at them coolly. Major Sharpe was a tall man,
standing well over 6’. He seemed to be Army though a through – a career soldier if ever there was one. He had
his blond hair in the most severe buzz cut Starsky had ever seen, leaving him with the appearance of being almost bald. His
face was florid, the red cheeks and forehead contrasting sharply with the green of his uniform and the red colouring extending
down his neck and into the depths of his shirt. His features were sharp and rodent-like and he reminded Starsky of nothing
more than a rat.
Startling pale blue, almost colourless eyes stared out of the
thin face edged with sandy blond eyelashes and Sharpe’s lips were thin and mean. His body was a muscular mass and his
neck seemed not to exist, the illusion being of a head set atop shoulders with nothing in between.
He sat behind a large substantial regulation wooden desk and
did not look up as the men filed in and stood to attention, waiting for him to notice them. He kept them waiting for almost
three minutes before he looked up, put his pen down, sat back in his chair and appraised the new additions to his unit. His
eyes roved over the two ranks of men before him, seeing eager faces and questioning eyes. His own eyes stopped on the two
men centre front. Both had the same physique – lithe, muscular and almost cat like. Both also had ruggedly handsome
faces for young men and both had piercing eyes, although one set was a stunning emerald green and the other an intense sapphire
blue. The two gems in his unit? He wondered.
For the next 15 minutes, Sharpe gave them the run down of the
unit, the area and the missions they were currently running. The men were to have one day to rest and recuperate from their
journey, then they would be on active service and two of them would be running a covert mission. All eight men stiffened at
the mention of what maybe their first job and Sharpe smiled to himself. Lambs to the slaughter. Only the best survived and
he had a reputation for wanted the best from his men. He knew he was known as a tough son of a bitch. In fact he nurtured
that reputation, cherishing it. And yet, to those of his men who deserved it; those he personally selected, he could be kindness
‘Sergeant Lomas tells me you were attacked on your way
here’ he said matter of factly, his eyes raking the men in front of him.
Traff took it upon himself to answer for the group. ‘Yes
sir. There were a group of civilians caught in the live fire. We decided to help, Sir’.
‘You decided to help?’
‘Sir, they would have been killed otherwise’ Tugs
piped up from the back.
Sharpe’s eyes hardened. ‘No kidding! So you thought
you’d risk thousands of dollars of tax payers money spent on your training by trying to get yourselves killed?’
‘No Sir. But we couldn’t just leave ‘em’
Starsky said defensively.
The Major turned his focus on the handsome soldier. ‘You’ll
do exactly as your superior officers tell you, soldier. And if they tell you to leave a bunch of civilians you’ll fuckin’
well leave ‘em. Got that’.
‘I said, have you got that?’ Sharpe ground out.
Reluctantly Starsky backed down. ‘Sir, yes Sir’
he said without enthusiasm.
Sharpe sat back again in his chair, liking the attitude of
the young man, but being careful not to show it. As he dismissed the young soldiers, his eyes lingered on the two dark haired
recruits. They looked right. Young, eager……pretty.
Starsky, Traff, Merry and Tugs returned to their tent having
thrown down some supper and a beer. It had been a long journey and they were all more tired than they could ever remember
being, but the excitement of the new place, and the adrenaline of their first brush with the Vietcong made them remain awake,
talking quietly and contemplating what the mission Sharpe had mentioned could be.
Next morning saw the eight men back in Sharpe’s office
at attention as he once again kept them waiting before looking up.
‘Ok men. We have a situation south of here. We have a
search and destroy mission on the Delta and we will be teaming up with the Navy river patrol boats in order to stop Vietnamese
soldiers from landing on the far bank. I require two men to go on the mission which will require snipers to assist the ground
troops’. He looked at the young faces, all of who were eager and ready for their first mission.
‘Trafford. Starsky. Get your kit together. Your jeep
leaves in ten minutes. The rest of you, fall out. You’ll get your turn later’.
The unit saluted smartly and Traff and Starsky quickly made
their way back to their tent, followed by Tugs and Merry.
‘You guys get all the luck’ Tugs said as he watched
his two friends started getting their rifles and ammunition together. Starsky looked up and grinned. ‘What can I say?
Some of us got it. An’ when ya got it ya flaunt it!’
‘Yeah, well don’t flaunt it too much. Ya might
get more ‘n’ ya bargained for’ Traff said tightly.
Starsky stopped his packing. ‘What’s that supposed
‘Nuthin. Just don’t go flauntin’ it too much
huh. ‘Specially round our CO. Trust me huh?’ Traff said cryptically.
Starsky shrugged his shoulders, wondering what the comment
was meant to mean. But right now, the excitement and nerves of his first live mission was more important and he loaded his
rifle onto his shoulder and followed his friend out of the tent.
Sharpe was waiting for them by the side of his tent. ‘Your
target today is a set of enemy positions along the Delta. Vietcong have been shooting our troops for the past couple of weeks
as we try to cross the river and we need to be out there, picking them off. I would have preferred to use bombs and just blow
then to hell, but the powers that be insist we take this quietly. You’ll be taking up position and picking them off
one at a time using your sniper training. Watch your backs. Watch each others backs and do your job. Any questions?’
‘How many of them do we expect?’ Starsky asked.
‘We have no intel. on that. Best guess, no more than
15 or 20. Get in, shoot, get out, clear?
They both nodded. ‘Clear sir’ the said, determined
their first mission would be a success.
They followed the directions given to them by the sergeant
and pushed their way down a narrow, overgrown path that lead away from the bunch of tents. The air was heavy and damp and
the reek of hot vegetation and damp earth filled their nostrils. The humidity of the place was oppressive. In the jungle there
was no wind; no cooling breeze to lift their hair and get circulation to their scalp. Every movement made them sweat and it
seemed that even breathing was an effort in that fuggy environment. The route march lasted no more than twenty minutes but
by the end of it they were breathing heavily, hot, wet and desperate to get out of the cloying heat.
The view they had of their mode of transport, however, had
Starsky wondering whether he could in fact walk to their destination. In front of them, it’s noise masked by the tall
trees until now, stood a Huey, the Army’s preferred method of transport into and out of hot zones. He stood stock still
staring at the helicopter, his vertigo reaching new heights. He’d managed quite well in the troop transport plane. There
had been no windows and with the jokes and camaraderie of his friends he could almost forget that he was hanging in the sky.
But the Huey had no doors, just openings at the back and a large bench seat with what he thought looked incredibly flimsy
seatbelts. And this, he knew was just to keep him anchored as he leaned out, his leg braced on the runners as he took aim
and fired. Shit!
Traff saw the look of terror on his face and pushed him forward.
‘C’mon Curly boy. Ya can do it. Trust me, when
ya get up there an’ into the thick of it, you’ll feel like Superman’.
Starsky licked his dry lips and forced a weak grin onto his
face. ‘I always wanted to be Captain Marvel’ he joked as he set off on wobbly, rubbery legs.
They got into the Huey and Starsky fumbled with the lap belt,
securing extra tight across his waist as he heard the rotors start to build up speed. He closed his eyes and tried to stop
the bile that reached up into his throat. Only the thought of the unending jokes he’d have to bear if his friends knew
he’d thrown up inside the ‘copter kept him from losing his breakfast and as he felt the bird take off, throwing
him forward against his lap belt he groaned low in his throat, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He felt a warm hand
surreptitiously close on his at his side and give it a reassuring squeeze and he chanced a quick glance at Traff.
‘See, as easy as pie’ the young man assured him,
‘Uh huh. I usually prefer my pie to stand still and be
at ground level’ Starsky ground out. But still he felt confident enough to open his eyes and stare with sick fascination
at the treetops flashing past below the ‘copter. And suddenly it didn’t seem quite so bad to be up there with
the birds. He even managed to lean a little way out of the seat to look further down, seeing small clearings with single houses,
rice fields, more trees and then in the distance the sparkling green expanse of the Mekong Delta.
The ‘copter started to fly lower as it approached and
the co-pilot turned to them.
‘Ya ready? Glad to be outa the numbha ten?’
Traff looked blank. ‘Say again’.
The co-pilot grinned. ‘Jeez, they sent a couple’a
FNGs to do a man’s job?’
Starsky leaned in to Traff. ‘Are they talkin’ English?’
The co-pilot held out his hand and the men shook it. ‘Hi,
I’m Freddo. The pilot’s Rabbit. How long ya been here?’
‘A day’ Starsky yelled over the noise of the rotors.
‘Hells bells! Ok, you’ll get used to the lingo.
Numbha ten. Means anything bad, usually the fuckin’ red dirt that gets everywhere. Even you’re dicks’ll
be covered before too long. FNGs are you guys. Newbies. So. Are ya ready for target practice?’
‘Uh huh. Point us at ‘em’ the young soldier
yelled and got his rifle into position.
During the next hour the Huey patrolled up and down the river
bank as the crew of four looked for any signs of the life hidden in the rich vegetation of the delta. Rice paddies formed
a patchwork quilt effect on one back while on the other, lush vegetation and trees of every shade of green dipped down to
the waters edge. The two snipers in the back of the ‘copter waited patiently, their rifles poised as they took out one
position after another, their scores increasing as they shouted out the umbers to each other. It mattered not to them that
they were killing men who they’d never met and who they would never know. They were fighting for their country and because
their CO had given them a task.
An hour later, Traff had five confirmed kills and Starsky eight.
Both men were grimy, sweating profusely and hyped up on the adrenaline from their private little battle. The Huey made one
more sweep up the side of the river as Traff and Starsky’s eyes scanned for tell tale flashes of metal. They were beginning
to relax when suddenly they saw a hail of bullets coming their way. The pilot swung the ‘copter viciously to the left
to avoid the incoming, but Traff, who had been sat at that side and had unbuckled his belt to get a better firing position
was taken by surprise. He slid almost all of the way out of the seat before Starsky realised what was going on. He had kept
his belt securely fastened but had slackened it somewhat. Now he leaned over as far as he could go and managed to brush the
waistband of Traff’s pants with his finger tips. He cursed as his friend slipped further away.
‘Hang on’ he yelled as he saw his friend’s
hands scrabbling at the doorway to the Huey.
Carefully, he hooked his feet underneath a heavy box of ammunition
in the well of the copter and unbuckled his seat belt. He leaned further over just as the copter took more evasive action.
The bird slewed sideways again and Traff made a desperate effort to hang on to the frame of the door. But his hands were hot
and wet with sweat and he let out a strangled cry as he felt himself falling sideways.
With a titanic effort, Starsky launched himself sideways and
as Traff’s body started to fall out of the copter, he grasped his wrist and held on. Now, with the Huey flying almost
sideways, Traff whole body weight dangled from Starsky’s one hand and he could feel himself too slipping towards the
‘For fucks sake straighten her up’ he yelled at
the pilot. But the man was having problems of his own. The Freddo was now slumped half across Rabbit having caught one of
the bullets aimed at the copter. He was fighting with the controls to the craft while trying to prop the co-pilot up and out
of the way. But there was an ominous red bloom across Freddo’s chest and as Starsky watched, Rabbit pushed one last
time and the co-pilots’ body slumped forward, lifeless. With both hands free to fly, Rabbit managed to get the bird
under control, straightening the craft so that Starsky could get back some of his equilibrium. He leaned further out now,
his legs re-anchored beneath the heavy box and reached out with his other hand.
‘Traff, reach up pal’ he yelled as Traff’s
terrified face turned up towards him. He saw his friend try to fling his arm over his head, but the hand came up short and
Starsky only managed to brush finger tips before Traff fell back.
‘One more time. C’mon Trafford, ya son of a bitch.
Reach!’ he yelled and Traff fling all his body weight behind his swing upwards, knowing this was either the time when
the other solder would catch him, or he’d end up ditched in the water and at the mercy of the enemy.
With a Herculean effort, Starsky leaned out a few inches more
and as Traff’s hand came into sight, he made a mad grab for it, almost overbalancing himself in his effort to save his
friend. Their hands grasped each other and Starsky panted with exertion before wondering what to do next.
‘I haven’t the strength to live you lift ya. Hang
on. Just hand on’ he yelled at the dangling man. He saw Traff’s pale face nod once and twisted to look over his
‘Can ya set us down somewhere?’ he thundered at
‘Not unless you want to be a POW. Can you hang on to
Starsky nodded. ‘for Gods sake fly quicker huh? I can’t
hang on for ever’.
The next five minutes were the longest of Traff and Starsky’s
young lives. With ever manoeuvre of the Huey, Starsky could feel his body slip and slide. His hands were damp, their grip
precarious at best. But the thought of letting go of Traff’s wrists was more than he could bear and he gritted his teeth
as he clung on with every ounce of strength.
Below him, Traff dangled dangerously, never again looking up.
He couldn't face the look of desperation on Starsky’s face and his only thought was that if the brunet did eventually
drop him, he wouldn’t want Starsky to be left with the sight of his frightened eyes fixed on his friend. And so he kept
his chin ducked down on his chest and his eyes closed as he felt the air whistling past him and when the Huey finally started
to drop down below the tree tops, he lost his hold on consciousness.
When the copter finally came to a rest on the ground, the pilot
had to get out and physically disengage Starsky’s hands from around Traff’s wrists. Both young men were almost
catatonic with shock and the older pilot raced off through the trees to get help. As they were left alone, Traff groaned and
opened his eyes, seeing the deep indigo ones above him. He had little strength left to speak, but managed to pant out a weak
‘thank you’ before unconsciousness overtook him again. And from his perch laid across the bench seat of the Huey
Starsky whispered ‘No problem pal. I gotcha buddy’.
From that moment on, the two men were inseparable. Starsky
having saved Traff’s life had created a lasting bond which nothing would be able to dissolve. The remaining 6 men on
the unit even termed them “the twins” but in a friendly, comradely way. And the duo didn’t mind in the least.
Over the coming months, they ran more missions always successfully
and always together. Sometimes Merry and Tugs came with them, if more men were required and although the other two were close,
they didn’t have the rapport that Traff and Starsky had. They worked so closely that on occasions there almost seemed
to be some sort of telepathic connection between them.
Although there was never anything like a safe day in the jungles
around the camp, there was never another incident like the first helicopter one, much to the two men’s relief, but each
mission brought it’s own set of criteria; its own danger; its own brand of excitement. And they were up to each and
By the end of their fifth month of active duty, and after running
more than twenty five missions behind enemy lines either taking out enemy positions, or riding shotgun for various convoys
though the jungle, Merry, Tugs, Traff and Starsky were called into Sharpe’s office.
Their CO had always been fair with them and the brunet tried
to like him. But there was something about the way the big ginger haired man treated him that made him shudder. In the early
days at the camp, Sharpe had tried to single Starsky and Traff out, giving them extra rest days and allowing them to pick
and choose the jobs they wanted to take on. Neither man had enjoyed the extra attention and Traff had been more than reticent
about going into Sharpe’s tent. Starsky had thought about asking Traff about his reaction, but something had always
come up to stop him, and as the months passed and they settled into the rhythm of life in the jungle, he let it pass.
The days passed in the same fashion. If there was a mission
to run, they would be up at the crack of dawn, breakfast and out, returning whenever the mission was completed, to a cool
shower, supper and their bunk. Sharpe was always there to welcome them home, even escorting them to the showers to make sure,
Starsky thought, that they weren’t too damaged. And in all the time he’d run the missions, there had only been
a couple of injuries to bother about. On one occasion, Traff had been winged by a stray bullet from a Vietnamese sniper before
Starsky had taken him out. And on another occasion, Starsky had twisted his ankle badly while trying to run to cover a Jeeps
position. It was an old injury that he’d sustained while at school, the ankle always being his weakness, and Sharpe
had helped him limp into the shower and had even stood back and watched as the young soldier had washed and towelled himself
dry. At the time, Starsky had thought it was just Sharpe being a good and conscientious officer. In later times, it would
all make sense.
Now the four men stood to rigid attention in front of the large
wooden table as Sharpe shuffled their files in front of him. He looked up.
‘Trafford, Merryweather, Starsky and Tuggleworth. I’ve
been reviewing your files, as I do periodically and I’ve just counted up that between you, you have more than 200 confirmed
kills. On top of that, you have all, on more than one occasion, put your lives on the line for your fellow soldiers both in
this unit and others’. Sharpe stood up formally as the four men looked quizzical.
‘I’ve had confirmation this morning from HQ and
it gives me enormous pleasure to award each of you the field rank of Corporal’.
Starsky felt as though he could have been knocked down with
a feather. He’d never expected a promotion and hadn’t really looked for it. Despite the discomforts of the jungle
and the dangers of his job, the excitement he got from the role and the friendship he’d fostered especially with Traff
meant more to him than rank. But still, Corporal Starsky! It was certainly the icing on the cake.
Each man in turn took a step forward and accepted the new shoulder
insignia from their CO, saluted and stepped back into line. At the end of the brief ceremony, Sharpe saluted them all.
‘As a thank you, I’m also awarding you a weekend
pass to Chong Dai. You have from 18:00 tonight and I expect you back in camp on Sunday at 18:00. Dismissed’.
The four turned smartly on their heels and filed out of the
office and back into the camp before Starsky’s face split into a broad grin.
‘I never had anyone need to salute me before. It’s
kinda nice. I could get used to it Corporal Trafford’.
Traff grinned back. ‘Well don’t look at me Corporal
Starsky. I ain’t salutin’ your sorry ass. I’m out for fun, fun, fun. We’re out on the razzle this
weekend and we’re gonna get us some hot chicks’.
‘In Chong Dai? What’s that miserable, flea infested
place got to offer? An’ look what happened last time you got me hooked up with a hot chick’ the brunet smiled.
‘That was one night to remember!’
‘Didn’t hear ya complainin’ too much Chief.
And there’s enough bars in the village. We’re sure to get ourselves a little diversion. They tell me that these
Vietnamese girls are like contortionists. They can reach places other girls can only dream about. An’ they’re
cheap. Roll on tonight. I’m hittin’ the first bar we get to an’ I’m gonna get so pissed’.
Starsky laughed. ‘Don’t get too pissed otherwise
you’ll never get it up. An’ if the girls are as good as ya say they are, you’re gonna need all your…um….faculties
to enjoy yourself’.
Traff winked. ‘Ya got a point, Curly boy. Maybe just
half a bottle of bourbon then. An’ after that I’ll show ya what a stud can do’.
The brunet looked around faking consternation. ‘Stud?
Where’s the stud? Ya got someone else comin’ in, or what?’
Traff thumped him hard on his shoulder and pulled him down
into a headlock, rubbing his hands through the curls that had grown back to almost half their usual length. One good thing
about Sharpe’s outfit. He didn’t seem too concerned with the petty rules of the Army, and that included allowing
his men to have longer than regulation hair.
As the two new Corporals trotted off to their tent, Sharpe
stood at the doorway to his, smiling. He turned and started to pack his kit bag. Maybe Traff and Starsky weren’t the
only ones who’d have a good time this weekend.
At 18:00 precisely, the men loaded themselves into the waiting
Jeep they’d been assigned and drove off through the torrential rain towards the village. The road had all but disappeared
in the monsoon like conditions, the wheels churning up the red mud and sending it cascading out behind the jeep. But with
the roof up and fuelled by their recent promotion, the four men inside were all in good spirits. They sang a couple of the
more ribald songs along their way as Starsky, who was driving negotiated his way around the water filled potholes in the road,
the vehicles bumping along sometimes up to it’s axles in water and red, liquid mud.
An hour later, they drove down the small main street of the
village, its sides lined with wooden shacks and larger wooden buildings containing bars, stores and a couple of whore houses.
Half way down the main street, the brunet drew the vehicle to a halt outside a bar sporting lantern outside that blew in the
gusts of wind driving the rain almost vertically up the road. They got out and read the sign above the door.
Lucy Chows. Best Bar in Town. All welcome.
They walked up the two steps and pushed open the rickety door
and the blast of light and noise hit them like a physical presence. The bar room was quite large, with the bar itself extending
right down the long side of the room. It was lined two deep with soldiers from other units all ordering drinks, their arms
round girls or their eyes scanning the joint for local talent. Starsky and Traff pushed their way into the bar, their ears
becoming acclimatised to the sound of foreign voices trying to sing American songs. In one corner, a small wizened Vietnamese
man was playing discordantly on a battered upright piano, although the tune was indecipherable and at small tables dotted
across the room, painted girls sat, smoking cigarettes through long malacca holders and screwing their eyes up as the acrid
smoke sent tendrils roof-wards.
Getting themselves a bottle of bourbon and four glasses, they
sat down at one of the unoccupied tables and poured drinks.
‘To four pretty heavy dudes’ Traff said, raising
his glass. The others followed suit and there was a merry clinking of tumbler against tumbler before they all downed the fiery
liquid in one.
Starsky looked around the room. The girls who were sat at tables
all looked pretty enough, but the MO at the camp had cautioned them against some of the local talent, saying he didn’t
take kindly to having to treat cases of the clap alongside all the other jobs he had to do. Idly, the brunet wondered how
he was supposed to know which girl was clean and which wasn’t. It wasn’t like he was going to ask them and he
didn’t think asking them for a certificate would go down too well either. But he’d been without sex for almost
six months and right now he didn’t really care what she had or what she looked like. He had an overbearing urge to fuck
something – the appearance was almost secondary.
In the far corner, he could see a group of girls who had just
walked in. they seemed a little different to the other girls in the room. They were better groomed. Their hair was brushed
and gleaming and their clothes less threadbare than most of the others. He nudged Traff and nodded at them, winking and Traff
Target identified Corporal. Acknowledge when target acquired.
Three large shots later, and with some dutch courage inside
him, Starsky stood up carefully. The absence of hard liquor on camp meant that the quarter bottle of bourbon he’d consumed
had gone straight to his head. But the other parts of him were working adequately, so he had no worries that his R&R would
He looked around and at the bar he saw a familiar broad back
and expanse of hair. He bent down. ‘Hey Traff. Did ya know Sharpe was here this weekend?’
The soldier’s head came up sharply. ‘No. Aww hell!
What the fucks he doin’ here?’
‘Well so long as he don’t get the girls, I don’t
care’ the brunet said quietly.
Traff snorted. ‘I don’t think ya got much worry
on that score Curly’.
Traff shook his head. ‘Nuthin. Where’re ya goin’?’
‘The john. Grab us some girls. I’m ready for getting
groiny if ya know what I mean’ Starsky grinned.
‘Getting’ groiny! Oh my God, I’ve created
a monster. One night with Yokino an’ you think you’re Valentino’.
‘Don’t. My Mom said I looked like Paul Muni’.
‘Yeah right. Ya got his money too? Ok. You go drain the
main vein an’ I’ll do the serious stuff’ Traff said, standing up and watching his friend weave a little
uncertainly towards the small bathroom in the corner. A moment later, another pair of eyes that had been watching also made
their way across the room.
Inside the small, dirty bathroom, Starsky was in the middle
of the main event when the door was pushed open and Sharpe walked in, coming to stand in the stall next to his Corporal.
‘I didn’t know you’d got R&R this weekend
as well Sir’ the young soldier said for want of something else to talk about.
‘Even Majors have to have some down time, soldier’
the big man said, unzipping himself and doing the necessary.
Starsky couldn’t fail to notice how Sharpe’s eyes
roved over the small dividing wall to glance at the younger man’s body and the curly hared soldier wished he could finish
up quickly and get himself tucked away again. He looked away, but could still feel his CO’s eyes on him.
‘So you’re gonna have a good time Starsky?’
‘Oh um….yeah. That’s the plan Sir’.
‘With the girls?’
‘You could always give them a miss and um…’
‘And what, sir?’ the young man said naively.
‘Corporal, I could have you promoted to Major before
the years out, for the right price’.
Starsky’s heart started to beat a staccato rhythm. Was
Sharpe intimating what he thought he was? No, surely not! And yet….Pieces of the jigsaw started to fit. The times Sharpe
had been so solicitous in helping him to the shower when he’d been injured; the times he’d had his pick of the
jobs. There was no way that he would be tempted by the man. Hell there was no way he’d be tempted by any man, let alone
an overweight ginger haired creep like Sharpe.
But how could he refuse? His confusion ran deep. He wanted
to be a good soldier, and that meant obeying, right?. But he wanted to be a good fighting machine, answerable to his men and
to his unit. And he didn’t want that to come at a price. Certainly not one as repugnant as this.
‘I um….I’m just happy to have made Corporal
Sir’ the young man stammered, starting to zip himself up hurriedly. A large hand shot over the small dividing wall and
soft as a whisper it grazed his cock.
‘Girls can’t give you everything son’.
The terrified soldier took a step back, out of the reach of
Sharpe’s questing fingers and completed zipped himself up. He started to back away, wanting to yell at the creep to
leave him alone, but still very aware that this was his senior officer and that in the Army, his CO more or less ruled his
life. His troubled indigo eyes darted from side to side, looking for some means of escape, but coming up empty. And slowly,
Sharpe was bearing down on him, closing the gap.
Starsky felt his throat dry as he fought for some composure
and an idea of how he could deal with the situation. He knew there were men who liked other men, and that amongst some career
soldiers, homosexuality was more common than the Army would like to let on. And he knew that months without women led some
of the men to give each other a little hand relief - nothing in it, no strings attached. But he never thought he’d have
to face it himself. He felt sick to his stomach and his knees felt weak. He was just about to turn and make a bolt for the
door, when it was opened and a brown curly head looked around it.
‘There you are Curly. Oh and hey, Major Sharpe Sir. I
didn’t know you were here’ Traff said with false jollity. He’d seen Sharpe follow Starsky to the men’s
room and knew he had to do something to get his friend out of there. The time Traff had spent in orphanages and other institutions
had left him with more than a passing acquaintance with gay men and their needs and the thought of the big CO forcing himself
on to Curly was more than he could bear. He was more aware of Sharpe’s previous behaviour and had seen the warning signs.
He’d tried to warn his friend without actually coming straight out with it, not wanting to be laid open to slander charges,
but Starsky was either too trusting or not sufficiently worldy wise to understand.
Starsky looked round, relief flooding through his veins as
he backed quickly out of the room. ‘See ya later Sir. Back at camp’ he said pointedly and followed Traff’s
retreating back out into the crowded room. Traff took hold of Starsky’s arm, feeling a slight tremble.
‘Are you ok Curly?’
‘Huh? Oh…yeah, yeah, why wouldn’t I be?’
blustered the young man. The incident was too fresh and the escape too narrow to want to talk about it now. He was grateful
to his friend for coming to his rescue, and he knew deep down that Traff knew what had been going on, but he wanted to forget.
And the only way he could think of forgetting was to go somewhere and get laid, quickly.
Chapter 8 - MASSIVE WARNINGS FOR SEX - IF OFFENDED, PLEASE
SKIP TO CHAPTER 9
Traff escorted Starsky through the crowded bar towards two
girls standing a little apart from the rest. They were petite, black haired Vietnamese girls who had wide deep brown eyes
and not too much make up. They both wore simple silk print shift dresses and giggled seductively behind their hands as the
two soldiers approached them. Traff winked at the brunet.
‘I got us a pair of twins. How’s that?’
‘How will we know who’s is who’s? Starsky
asked. The encounter with Sharpe had left him feeling unbalanced and off kilter and he took a while to catch on to what the
emerald eyed man was saying.
‘I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem.
Turns out Ai and Di.u haven’t been in the game very long and they share a room. They don’t speak a lot of English
but from what I can glean, they don’t mind sharing the bed if we don’t’. He grinned.
‘Ya mean we both…..with them…..on the same……oh!’
Starsky ended lamely.
‘Well if ya don’t want, I could have ‘em
both to myself’ Traff countered, knowing his friend wasn’t likely to pass up the opportunity for a hot night.
‘No, no…its fine…its just erm….oh hell,
nuthin. Whatever….just go for it’ Starsky agreed and followed the two still giggling girls as they wound their
way through the crowd to the door. From the door of the washroom, Sharpe watched them go, a deep scowl on his face until he
saw a group of young Vietnamese boys at a table near the bar. He straightened his back and started to make his way towards
Traff and Starsky followed the girls down the street through
the still driving rain, arriving minutes later at a small wooden house at the edge of town. Ai pushed the door open and they
stepped inside. Starsky had expected a kind of hovel, but instead it was rather like stepping into a polished cigar box, the
floor, walls and ceiling all being polished, seasoned wood which gave the place a warm and intimate effect. There was only
one room, set out in “rooms” divided by simple furniture and against the far wall was a large bed decorated with
a colourful patchwork quilt. The girls said something to each other in Vietnamese, then started to unselfconsciously get undressed,
the rain-wet silk shifts falling to puddle on the floor.
The two men looked on in admiration at the pale, naked girls.
The girls stared back and advanced on the two soldiers, snaking their arms around masculine shoulders and bringing handsome
faces down to their level to kiss.
Ai started to unbutton the front of Starsky’s shirt as
he nuzzled her neck and he shivered in anticipation as her hands caressed his flanks and flat stomach. She dipped her hands
to his waistband and practiced fingers unbuttoned the button and unzipped his fly, snaking inside to caress his burgeoning
erection. Glancing sideways he could see that Di.u was also providing a similar service for his friend and idly he realised
that far from being off putting having another couple in the room with him and his girl, there was some turn on in the soft
sounds of the love making.
He could hear Traffs’ soft mutterings and could make
out ‘Ohh yeah’ and ‘uh huh’ as Di.u explored the young muscular body
Ai pushed Starsky back towards the bed and he sat down on the
hard mattress as the girl sat beside him, pulling him backwards so that she could kiss down the length of his chest to his
navel. This time, he wanted the pleasure all for himself. This was no birthday present, no learning curve. This was a woman
providing services for hard cash and he was going to enjoy the service to the full. He lay back as her soft pink tongue rimmed
his navel and trailed lower and he sighed, growling low in his throat as he felt the familiar tightening in his balls. She
kissed lower, but instead of the expected, she missed his cock altogether and kissed right down the length of the inside of
his left leg, leaving a wet line of passion on the hot flesh. She paused at his ankle and even that received attention before
she changed legs and continued her way up the inside of his right leg. She stopped and bent his knees slightly so that she
could snake her tongue around and kiss the sensitive skin behind there and he sighed, wishing she'd move further north and
give his erection some attention.
‘Please….oh nnnnn God!’.he moaned, the sighed
He ran his fingers through her hair and she looked up and smiled
at him, whispering something in her language. He had no idea what she said, but the sound of her voice and the movement of
her luscious lips was enough to make him want her even more.
At the side of him, Traff was also pushed down onto the bed
as Di.u ran her hands through the hairs on his chest and giggled sexily. Starsky could feel the other man’s shoulder
against his and for a moment he felt it odd to be on the bed with another couple. Di.u leaned down and kissed down the line
of Traff’s neck to his shoulder, then crossed from one man to the next. Now Starsky had two warm mouths on his body,
one licking and sucking at his nipples, sending flashes of electricity through his body, while the other mouth started to
lick delicately at the tip of his cock. Traff rolled onto his side and grinned as he saw the look of rapt attention on his
friends face. As Di.u continued suckling at the small brown nipples nestled in the fur of Starsky’s chest, he ran his
fingers lightly up and down her back, dipping lower to burry the between her legs. She squealed and parted them slightly,
but carried on giving attention to the other man.
Starsky felt himself pushed to one side, rolling over onto
his left side with one girl at the front and the other at the back. Ai shuffled down his body so that she could take him in
her mouth and he cried out in ecstasy as her tongue flicked over his tip, sending small lights flashing behind his eyes. As
her hand started to pump his erection up and down, while her mouth continued it’s exploration, Di.u was licking down
the length of his back, sending shivers down his spine. He felt her hands delicately parting his butt and stiffened as he
felt her tongue lapping at his puckered opening. No-one had ever done such a thing to him. He’d never really thought
about having it done, but now, with the steady pressure on his anus and the sucking and pumping at the front, his body went
into overdrive and as he felt Ai take his balls in her hand and run her fingernails lightly down his sac, he lost all control,
shrieking out into the room as the centre of his body tightened and he shot his load down the girls throat. She gulped greedily,
pumping him until he was completely spent, then gently licked down his length and took each of his balls in turn into his
mouth to gently suck on them too.
‘Ohmygodohmygodohmygod’ he mumbled to himself as
his body reverberated from the orgasm.
Behind him he heard Traff moan and realised that Di.u had turned
her attention to his friend. Now Traff was receiving the same sort of treatment, but because the bed was quite small, Ai had
to lean over Starsky's body to get to Traff. It brought her nipples within range and he gently took one and flicked his tongue
over the hard nub. Ai yelped and Starsky bit down gently, bringing his hand up to massage the other breast and squeeze that
nipple too. Ai ground her body against Starsky’s as she licked and kissed down the back of Traff’s body.
Curiosity got the better of the brunet, and Starsky rolled
over so that he could see the girls working their magic on Traff. The curly haired soldier had his eyes closed, his mouth
open as he panted and his head was thrown back in ecstasy. Di.u went down on him again and he too managed to hold out only
a couple of minutes before his own noisy climax shook him.
The four lay, entwined like a heap of puppy dogs, satiated
and pleasantly numb as the warmth of their climaxes started to leave their bodies. Slowly Starsky started to play with the
thick curtain of Ai’s black hair and she lay against him with her back to him as he spooned into her. She in turn spooned
into Traff and Traff into Di.u, each caught up in the other’s warmth.
Within half an hour, Starsky’s hand was once again wandering
over the girl’s body, his own having fully recovered and needed more excitement. He raised himself up and breathed warm
breath down the back of the girl’s body and she sighed against him, pressing her butt into him again. Slowly, Starsky
raised himself up so that he was kneeling and Ai brought herself onto her hands and knees. Without any other foreplay, the
brunet positioned himself behind her and brushed her moist opening. She sighed again and with one smooth movement, he pushed
himself into her. She groaned and pushed herself back against him, grinding his erection further into her and at the side
of them Traff turned lazily and looked at his friend.
‘Again?’ he asked, his voice thick with lust.
‘Oh yeah. And again. Betcha I can hold out longer ‘n’
you’ Starsky grunted, beginning to slowly pull out of his girl.
‘You should know better than to bet me anything’
Traff muttered, pulling Di.u on top of him. She willingly complied, positioning herself over Traff and sighing as he slid
And now the four found a steady rhythm, conscious of each other
but at the same time wrapped up in their own erotic world. Time had no meaning and for Starsky it was difficult to know where
one body ended and the next began. He remembered throwing back his head and finding Di.u’s mouth on his, her tongue
pushing into his mouth and wrestling his for space while he pumped himself into her twin. He moaned into her and at the same
time picked up the pace as he rammed himself home into Ai. He gasped for breath, sweat trickling from his brow as he felt
himself ready for another climax and beside him he heard Traff howl, the lithe body stiffening as he shuddered his own orgasm
into Di.u. It was all Starsky needed and he let himself go as he too pumped his seed into his girl before collapsing back
utterly spent onto the bed. He rolled off Ai and she kissed him gently on the lips before curling up beside him and falling
into an exhausted sleep. He was about to close his eyes and follow her when he heard a tired voice at his side.
‘Ok stud. You won this time. But we have a replay before
Monday saw the four men back at the camp and ready for the
next round of missions, rest days, camp food and sleep. Tugs and Merry had gotten themselves a couple of girls over the weekend
too and Starsky and Traff chuckled when the other two men told them of their escapades. Yep, all in all, they’d all
had a pretty cool weekend pass and for a while, Starsky could even forget the encounter with his CO.
About 11:00 on the Monday morning, Sharpe’s Corporal
came to their tent, where they’d been lounging on their bunks and regaling each other with stories of how good their
respective girls had been. Corporal Millin had been Sharpe’s aid for almost a year and the young, fresh faced boy had
always had a worn and hunted look which Starsky had put down to homesickness and poor diet. Now, as he looked at the teenager
again, he suddenly realised that the deathly pale complexion and the dark circles around Millin’s eyes might, in fact,
be due to the Corporals extra curricular activities. He felt bad for the young man and sat up as he came into the tent.
‘Corporal Trafford. The Major would like to see you in
his office right now’ he said formally then relaxed. ‘He seems pretty pissed Traff. I wouldn’t hang around
Traff grinned at him. ‘Wouldn’t want to keep the
CO waiting would we? What’s the old goat want?’
Millin snorted. ‘You’re askin’ me? Like I
ever know anythin’! Just get your butt over there quick’.
‘My butt huh? Is that what this is all about?’
Traff said, flashing a sideways look at Starsky who stifled a laugh. He got off his bunk and departed, trotting across the
compound quickly and arriving at the Major’s office tent smartly. He ducked inside, stood to attention and saluted.
‘Corporal Trafford reporting as ordered Sir’ he
said as the Major looked up.
‘Corporal I want you on the Jeep waiting out back now.
There’s an urgent escort job come up and I want you to take charge. The Sergeant will fill you in. Dismissed’.
‘Isn’t Starsky part of this Sir?’ Traff asked.
He’d never been sent on a mission alone before. In fact it was unheard of.
‘I said alone Corporal. Is that clear enough? It’s
a small escort duty. Nothing dangerous. They just want one man riding shotgun. Are you sure you can handle that? Or shall
I ask one of the cooks to go instead? I’m sure they’d be able to handle it’.
Traff stiffened. ‘No, Sir. I’ll head back and get
‘No need. They have rifles in the jeep and they’re
Traff saluted, turned on his heel and left, wondering what
this was all about. As he got into the truck and was driven away, he saw Millin heading back to his tent.
‘Sharpe wants the rest of you in his tent now’
he announced to the three remaining men…..and don’t ask me what for, I still don’t know’ he continued
as he saw Tug’s mouth open.
The three men walked quietly across the compound and presented
themselves at Sharpe’s tent, saluting and standing to attention.
‘Stand easy’ the Major said. ‘I have a special
mission for the three of you. Its top secret and you will take it. Senator Thorpe’s son, Mark was with the 7th Battalion.
They were stationed outside Chong Dai. Two days ago the entire camp was attacked and Private Thorpe its believed has been
taken prisoner. We know the Vietcong have a large facility on the outskirts of Nah Am. It’s your mission to get in there,
get Private Thorpe out and get your asses back here. Got that?’
‘How do we go in Sir?’ Starsky asked, his concerns
with Sharpe temporarily forgotten.
‘You’ll be flown in by high level plane and make
a halo jump to within a mile of the facility. From there you’re on your own. Corporal Starsky, you will be in command
of the operation. You now the drill. Look after the men under your command and get them back safely’.
‘Where’s Traff?’ the brunet continued, calculating
‘He’s on another mission. He won’t be joining
‘But Sir. We always go o…’
‘Do you have a problem soldier?’ Sharpe thundered,
his face and neck reddening.
Starsky bit back the comments, torn between questioning the
decision and wanting to know why Sharpe had split them up. ‘No Sir’ he replied quietly. ‘When do we ship
‘An hour. You’ll walk to these co-ordinates, then
the loach will pick you up and fly you over to the plane. You go in light, fast and careful. Any questions?’
‘What happens if we don’t find Thorpe?’ Merry
‘Don’t even go there son’ Sharpe shot back
and lowered his eyes back to his work.
The three men quickly got sufficient kit together and started
to walk through the jungle towards the ‘copter pick up point. They were quiet, each harbouring their own thoughts about
the mission. This was what they’d trained for, but it felt odd to be one man light and it set a sombre air over the
mission, as though they were somehow doomed before they’d even started just because Traff wasn’t with them. Starsky
had dark thoughts about the Major. Would Sharpe really be petty enough to split him and Traff up on the strength of the snub
Starsky had given him in the bathroom? Surely not! Surely his military career would have been on the line if his sexual preferences
were made public. The brunet put the dark thoughts out of his mind, instead concentrating on the mission. Sharpe had put him
in command – an honour, and at the same time so much responsibility. He looked at Merry and Tugs. There was no animosity.
They took his command as read and were willing to follow any orders he cared to give. But did he really want to order his
friends around? He didn’t think so. Instead, he would try to operate as a well oiled machine. Get in, grab Thorpe and
get out. Simple!
Starsky eyed the Loach with mistrust. Smaller than the Huey
at least this copter had doors, although it was very much smaller than the other bird had been. The three got into the back
and the single pilot flipped them a quick salute and lifted off as the brunet made a swift, self conscious grab for the door
handle. He snorted to himself. Some fine, brave commander you are Davey boy!
The copter flew them to the aircraft and they changed vehicles.
The plane was basic and they suited up, the patchwork of jungle and rice paddy clearings all too familiar now as the soldiers
looked down on the terrain and soon the plane started to slow down. Nah Am was not too far from the village that Starsky had
visited the weekend before and he saw it now in the far distance as they turned south west – the only civilisation fro
miles around. As it slowed, the men jumped and landed without too much drama and as they packed their chutes, Starsky lead
his men out of the drop site, remembering the pilot’s directions.
‘You have a day. A loach be back at the same drop zone
at 20:00 tomorrow. The orders are to wait around for 30 minutes then return whether you’re with them or not’.
‘Gotcha’ Starsky replied curtly, aware that Sharpe
hadn’t mentioned that little snippet. And stupidly, he’d never thought to ask. He shouldered his pack and with
a nod, set off walking into the jungle.
The air once again was oppressive and as he looked upwards
through the towering trees, the curly haired soldier caught glimpses of a sky that was grey and heavy with unshed rain. It
was the beginning of the rainy season now and each day started bright and hot. The temperature rose steadily throughout the
morning, culminating in highs over 100 degrees although the humidity was also over 85 percent. By 14:00, the clouds started
to gather and one hour later, the heavens would open and the deluge would begin. Starsky looked at his watch – almost
15:00. shit, you could set your clock by this weather!
The started to walk, picking up the pace. Although they’d
lived in the climate now for almost 6 months, the brunet and his friends could never quite get used to it. Movement made him
sweat. Breathing made him sweat. Hell, even thinking seemed to have the same effect. His clothes were always damp and even
in the relative cool after the rain, there was no respite from the wet and his clothes never truly dried out. He was wet,
uncomfortable and tired for most of the time but with everyone else, he ploughed on regardless.
The jungle in this stretch of the country was more dense than
it was around his camp and vegetation grabbed at his booted feet so that he tripped and staggered through the vague paths
made by unidentified animals. Behind him, he could hear Tugs and Merry cursing under their breath as they too fought their
way through. They came to wide, but slow moving river and Starsky crouched, his hand held up and fisted as he signalled his
men to stop. Cautiously he crawled forward on his belly until he could see up and down the overgrown river bank. There was
no sign of life and he got quietly to his knees as he prepared to plunge into the greasy looking green tinged water. Tugs
and Merry followed him until they were all waist high in the murky depths, rifles held two handed, high above their heads.
The bottom was slimy and slippery and the current tugged at their bodies, but the water wasn’t cold and the strength
of the current wasn’t sufficient to pull them off their feet. They had almost gained the other side when Starsky heard
a twig snap on the bank in front of him. He froze and felt the others come to a halt behind him.
Uncertain whether this was an animal or whether they were about
to be ambushed, the brunet made the decision to plough on quickly, reasoning that they would have more ability to fight of
they gained the bank. He pushed on, the water giving resistance and making him struggle to put one foot in front of the other.
Progress was agonisingly and frustratingly slow and he longed just to be able to launch himself full length and swim for the
bank, knowing that would be quicker, but he needed to keep his rifle dry at all costs and so was left with no option but to
fight the current.
Slowly they made their way to the bank, the breath whistling
in their throats as they looked left and right, scanning for any sign of what had made the noise. As Starsky started to climb
the greasy bank opposite, he heard another noise and caught sight of a small deer fleeing into the undergrowth. Was that it?
Was that what he’d heard? His nerves relaxed a little as he reached down and started to pull Tugs out of the water.
Merry came next and they stood on the bank, regaining their breath and taking stock of their position. Looking at his compass,
the brunet took another bearing and set of on a line diagonally through the dense undergrowth. Above him the rain started
to fall, lightly at first but within minutes the drops were large and fat and spattered off his helmet, deafening him as they
plinked against the metal and bounced off the leaves above him.
The ferocity of the downpour hammered loose leaves from the
trees and they too fell to the jungle floor so that it was as thought the men were walking through a green snow storm. Larger
twigs and branches that had become dislodged rained down with the droplets and within seconds all three men were drenched,
the rain trickling down their collars and seeping through their trousers to run in rivulets into their boots. They squelched
onwards, deafened now by the tropical downpour, their visibility reduced even further but the curtain of water surrounding
There was never really a chance for them to see or hear the
small raiding party of Vietcong who came up behind them. They had no way of protecting themselves or hiding. They never heard
the shouted command in stilted English to halt, but they did come to a rapid stop when the shot ricocheted above their heads.
Starsky dived for the ground, his training taking over from
his conscious mind and he heard his friends do the same behind him. He waited, his heart hammering in his ears until he saw
the shiny toe of a boot in front of his nose and looked up into the face of the enemy.
Note to the readers the tortures described in the next few
chapters are authentic and were used extensively on POWs during the Vietnam war.
'Starsky, David Michael. Corporal 231-51-3155. United States
Defiant eyes shone straight ahead as the curly haired soldier
tried hard to keep the fear from his voice.
They had been marched though the jungle at a punishing pace
as the seven Vietcong guerillas kept their tarnished, old fashioned, but still deadly rifles trained on the three men. They’d
been relieved of their own weapons and now had their hands laced behind their heads, making walking even more difficult and
exhausting. The guerillas knew where they were going well enough, but it seemed to the terrified men that they were being
marched round and round in circles. The rain poured down as they squelched along in their boots which were already drenched
from their walk through the river.
Eventually, they were brought to a ragged halt at the edge
of an opening in which there were various tents, wooden nissen huts and some animal cages arranged around a central open space.
There was a large concrete building at the back, stretching back and filling almost all of the large clearing and in the distance
they could see more of the cages. The place had been cleared of trees and now, as the sun shone down again, the soldier’s
clothes steamed in the heat.
Starsky bent down to suck in his breath, but was forced upright
by harsh words and the butt of a rifle being brought down forcefully on the back of his neck. He yelped and cursed but straightened,
leaving his hands still on his head. They were pushed forward and directed to a larger tent in the very centre of the compound.
So this was Nah Am. Not exactly the paradise that Starsky had
imagined and as he took a second to look around him, he realised that one or two of the cages that he’d thought were
for animals were in fact inhabited by naked men, their bodies thin and wasted and covered in sores and dirt. He shuddered
and swallowed down the nausea and fear as he was pushed into the tent.
At the far end of the canvassed enclosure there sat a small,
monkey faced little man wearing the Vietnamese army uniform and peaked cap. He looked up as the three men were pushed to the
front of his desk and listened as their captors rattled off a string of sentences during which he nodded
‘Dung, dung, lOi ich’.
He looked at the prisoners and said in heavily accented, though
understandable English. ‘Who is in command?’
‘That’d be me’ Starsky said as confidently
as he could.
‘And you are?’
‘Starsky. Corporal. 231-51-3155. United States Army’.
‘Prettily said Corporal. Just what you Americans are
taught to say, yes?’
Starsky, Tugs and Merry stared back defiantly but remained
‘I’m General Mai. You will get to know me quite
well, I think. What was your mission?’ His voice was low and silky smooth with an ominous evil quality.
Starsky snorted. He too had the sickening feeling they would
get to know Mai and his goons. ‘Starsky, David Michael. Corporal 231-51-3155. United States Army’.
‘You will become as tired of telling me that as I will
become of hearing it. Maybe tomorrow your discomfort will have argued with you long enough for you to answer me’. He
looked over the American’s shoulder.
“Tên anh là gì? đợt bay, phi vụ”
The soldiers behind them took hold of each man by the arms,
forcing their hands behind and up until their wrists were level with their shoulder blades. Thus incapacitated, they were
pushed out of the tent and towards the wooden nissen hut. Inside, their escort let them go and they stood still, waiting.
The hut was small, separated into much smaller rooms by stout
wooden walls and now one of the soldiers opened a door to the first pen. It was no more than 8 feet square with no furniture,
no toilet, nothing. The soldier mimed them taking off their clothes and Starsky shook his head vigorously.
‘Never on a first date’ he said to cover his fear.
He was going to hang on to as many of his belongings as he could for as long as he could.
Without warning, two of the soldiers took hold of him, pulling
his arms behind his back and holding him steady as the third rammed the butt of his rifle into the brunet’s stomach.
He gasped, bending over and strings of silvery saliva strung from his lips to drop in wet beads to the ground. Tugs sprang
forward to help Starsky but the guard turned on him and smashed the rifle into his face. Tugs screamed and his hands flew
to his broken nose, trying to stem the blood that coursed down his face to drip from his chin. There was a general noise and
an air of confusion as the three soldiers struggled and shouted.
‘Leave him alone ya yellow bastards’ Starsky grunted
as the rifle landed on the back of his neck. The blow caught at his exposed nerves and as suddenly as the rifle descended,
the brunet’s world winked out.
How much later, he didn’t know, Starsky awoke to dark
and the stench of sweat and the warmth of human bodies that were too close to him. He pushed the closest one away, his eyes
still closed against the sickening headache, but someone caught hold of his wrist and held it.
‘Hey Curly, easy now’ a familiar voice hissed.
The brunet forced open his eyes and looked up into Merry’s
face. He grunted and tried to sit up, but the soldier put a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to remain on his back.
‘There aint too much room in here. Just lie easy a minute
an’ come around some more’.
‘Al? Whadappened?’ he asked, his voice thick and
‘You met the business end of the rifle’.
‘Oh yeah! How’s Tugs?’
‘Been better. He aint gonna win a beauty pageant any
time soon, but he’ll make it’ Merry leaned to one side and Starsky could see the third soldier sitting propped
in a corner, his head back as he tried to stop the ruby droplets still dripping from his smashed nose.
Forcing himself to sit upright, the brunet looked around him.
They’d all been stripped of most of their uniforms although mercifully they’d been allowed to retain their boxers
and vests. They were being held in the same tiny wooden room that he’d seen before the world winked out, but with three
of them in there, they’d been reduced to one lying, one sitting with knees drawn up and one standing or kneeling. There
was no window and no ventilation and the only light came from a single overhead light embedded in the ceiling giving a harsh
white light that flickered continually on and off.
‘How long was I out?’ Starsky asked.
Merry blew out his cheeks. ‘Tough to say. Probably a
couple’a hours. We were getting a bit worried. You were well and truly out cold! How’re ya doin?’
The brunet checked himself over. Lifting his vest to reveal
a red and blue bruise across his midriff. He prodded it, winced and decided against conducting the experiment a second time.
‘I’m good. I’ll survive. You?’
‘They haven’t laid a finger on me yet. Guess I
got that pleasure to come huh?’ Merry laughed nervously.
‘Hey, we’re all shit scared. But we’re gonna
get outa here, ya got that?’ Starsky said seriously. He was 19. He was in command and now it was his responsibility
to make sure his men were ok.
Merry looked skeptical. ‘Did you see those fuckin’
cages? How long d’ya think those guys have been sayin’ that?’
‘I said we’ll get outa here. An’ I mean it’.
Starsky gave a lop sided grin. ‘Hey, have I ever lied?’
Merry snorted. ‘There’s always a fi….’
His words were cut off as the door was yanked open and a guard
stepped inside, grabbing Starsky firmly by the arm. He tugged and said something unintelligible.
‘Hey where’re ya takin’ him?’ Merry
shouted as Tugs tried to get himself to his feet. A rifle was pointed at them and Starsky held up his hand.
‘S’ok guys. Me an’ the nice soldier are gonna
take a little walk, that’s all. Be right back’ he grinned to cover up the sheer terror he felt.
‘You take care’ Merry said quietly.
‘Don’t go anywhere’ the brunet grunted as
the soldier pulled him out of the tiny room. He was marched back through the compound in the growing gloom to the tent where
he’d first met General Mai. Ushered inside, the soldier at his back stood him in front of the desk as the General looked
up. Starsky hoped the small man couldn’t see the nervous shake in his legs or hands. He balled them into fists to keep
‘Do you have anything to tell me?’ he asked pleasantly.
‘David Michael Starsky. Corporal. 231-51-3155. United
States Army’. He stood at attention, his eyes never wavering from a spot above the General’s head.
‘Corporal, I’m a patient man, but there comes a
time when I need answers. Do we have to start causing you pain? It would be so much easier if you would just tell me why you
were sent here. Your American Government doesn’t care about you. Do you think there is anyone in the White House who
even knows that you exist? Just tell me why you’re here and you can be on your way’.
‘Corporal David Michael Starsky. 231-51-3155. United
The General cut him off with rapid fire commands and Starsky
felt hands holding him still. His clothes were ripped from him and he was pushed down until he was sitting on a hard wooden
He felt his heart rate hike up several notches and he tried
to stop his body from trembling, but the fear ate at him and he looked at the ground desperate not to let these bastards see
how terrified he was.
Ropes circled his wrists and ankles, lacing him to the chair
and another loop was passed around his chest. He fought against the bonds with all his might, but they were strong, the rough
hemp rope digging into his flesh. He yelled out as he saw the big generator brought into the room and the soldiers set about
impassively attaching electrodes to his chest, his back above his kidneys and between his splayed legs to clamp on his scrotum.
There was even one attached to each earlobe. He struggled again, breathless with exertion as he watched the general switch
on the generator, his hand hovering over the handle.
What would it feel like? He’d heard stories of excruciating
pain, but was that right? What sort of pain would it be? He’d always been able to cope quite well when he’d broken
a limb, or come off worse in a fight. Would he cope with this? His dog tags rattles against his chest betraying his shivering
‘Why were you sent here?’
‘David Michael Stars…….arrrgh’ he screamed
as the electricity coursed through his body. It took his breath away, his lungs spasming until he thought his eyeballs would
fall from his head. The pain went on and on and all he could do was scream, his breath finally giving out as the General turned
off the current. His body sagged against its bonds and he sucked a lungful of air in gratefully. His arms and legs continued
to jerk as muscles groups fired against his will. He raised his head and grinned. He knew now what it felt like.
‘Starsky. Corporal Serial numb……ungh….arghhhhh’
another bolt hit his body full on and he jangled in the chair, screaming more to let himself know that he was alive than to
ease the pain. Again the general flipped the switch and again he sagged against his bonds, sweat trickling into his eyes and
down his bare chest. He groaned, his head feeling as though it would explode.
The General crossed the small distance between them and took
a hand full of wet curls, forcing the young man’s head up so that he could see into the pain filled eyes.
‘Your Government doesn’t care if you live or die.
Why make it difficult for yourself? If you don’t tell us, one of the others will’.
The brunet gathered the saliva in his mouth and spat it directly
at the older soldier. It was tinged with blood and he realised belatedly that he’d bitten his tongue. The air was redolent
with the smell of cooked meat and it was only when he looked down his body and saw the burns and blisters at the point of
each electrode that Starsky realised that it was his flesh that was charring. A puddle beneath the hard wooden chair also
gave evidence to the fact that he’d lost control of his bladder.
He concentrated hard on making words, but he was exhausted
and his mouth refused to work properly.
‘Go t’hell’ he mumbled, screaming once more
as the man at the controls flicked the switch. A dozen times the General paused to ask him the same question, telling him
over and again that his government didn’t care about him; that he as a useless piece of shit and that even his Mother
wouldn’t care if he lived or died. Towards the end of the session, the young curly haired soldier couldn’t really
differentiate between the times when the current was flowing, and when the switch had been flicked off. His body reverberated
now to every touch; every movement. His skin crisped around the electrodes and the sickening smell of burned flesh pervaded
the tent. And finally, mercifully, his body told him that enough was enough and despite the General’s attempts to revive
him, Starsky remained unconscious.
He came back to consciousness this time in a different place,
his body trembling uncontrollably as it tried to cope with the shocks it had endured. He opened his eyes and groaned softly,
his hands wrapping around his chest as he struggled to breathe.
‘Easy there Curly. Just lie back. They did a real number
on ya’ Merry said worriedly. What happened?’
The brunet passed a hand over his eyes and tried to swallow
but his throat was dry as sandpaper. ‘Drink’ he croaked looking at his comrade.
‘Sorry pal. No can do. We got transferred from the Hilton
to the Waldorf just after they took ya an’ the room upgrade didn’t include water, or food for that matter.
Starsky forced himself into a sitting position. He was on a
bunk of sorts. Or rather it was a wooden bench fixed against one wall of the slightly larger cell. This one had the same sort
of bench against the other wall too so at least two of them could sleep simultaneously. The front wall of the cell was made
of bars and he could see out, although the view of the dirty grey wall opposite was not exactly inspiring. ‘Where are
we?’ he gasped.
‘In the main prison part. They took Tugs away’
Merry said, the strain in his voice more marked now.
‘Oh shit, when?’
‘Bout an hour ago. What did they do t’you?’
‘Hooked me up to the mains an’ tried to force me
to tell ‘em what we were doin’ here’ Starsky said, examining the large burns on his chest. Somehow, he’d
got his BVDs back and fortunately they covered the family jewels although he felt as though they were on fire. He decided
not to look for the time being and concentrated instead on his surroundings.
‘Did you get a look around on your way here?’
‘Not much. It was dark. There’s one long corridor
with cells down one side. Some have got guys in, some are empty. The guys I did see looked erm….well they could do with
some TLC’ Merry advised him.
‘Uh huh, somehow I don’t think we’re gonna
get a massage an’ a night of hot sex’ Starsky said grimly. His body was stiff and sore as though he’d been
beaten with a bat or had survived a road traffic accident. In a way he was proud of himself that he’d managed to endure
the torture without breaking and it made the pains in his body easier to bear. In fact, when he thought about it, they weren’t
quite as bad as he’d imagined they’d be. Oh sure, he hurt as though he’d had a prize fight with the world
heavyweight champion, but he could walk, talk and breathe. And then it hit him. This was just the first round, and he somehow
guessed that General Mai wouldn’t want to stop there. He shuddered and the fear once again gripped his chest.
He jumped and looked around as the door grated open and the
two soldiers flung Tug’s limp body onto the floor of the cell, closing the barred door behind them. Merry left his side
and shuffled over and gently rolled the unconscious man onto his back. Tugs moaned but his eyes remained closed. He was wet
and his breath seemed to bubble in his chest. Merry thought he looked like someone who’d drowned, but how could that
happen in the middle of the jungle?
‘How’s he doin’?’ Starsky asked struggling
to get up.
‘Dunno. He’s comin’ round I think. He’s
shivering like he’s been swimmin’ or something……hey Tugs. John…..c’mon pal, wake up huh?’
Tugs eyes flickered open, a look of pure terror in them. He
squirmed away from his fried and tried to curl into a ball away from Merry’s hands. Gently Starsky leaned over and touched
‘Tugs…John….listen to me. You’re back
in the cell buddy. You’re safe. Can you tell us what happened?’
Tugs gurgled and rolled onto his side, coughing up blood stained
water. He gagged and gasped, then rolled back onto his back and closed his eyes.
‘I’ve never known anything like it’ he whispered
in a terrified voice. ‘I was…..I was so fuckin’ scared. They t tied me to a wooden bench so tight I c couldn’t
move. They shouted at me to open my mouth, but I wouldn’t….didn’t want to make it easy for ‘em, so
they stuck something….think it was a rifle barrel or a stick in my mouth an’ pushed. Then they stuffed my mouth
full of some kinda cotton gag. I felt something like a …a wooden log or stone got shoved under my neck. They’d
put a blindfol….oh….shit’ he whimpered. ‘They tied it over ….. over my eyes an’ I couldn’t
see a damned thing, but I could hear ‘em walkin’ round me…..I could smell ‘em. Then they held my head
an’ I felt water on my face. It…..I can’t…can’t….’
Starsky held his hand on Tug’s shoulder. ‘Easy
soldier. Easy John. S’ok. Just rest. Tell us if ya want, but don’t get all bent up. You’re safe now’.
The soldier trembled against the brunet’s hand, but he hitched a breath and continued.
‘The water….. ran down my throat and up my nose
an’ I couldn’t breathe coz of the fuckin’ gag in my mouth was wet too. I couldn’t get any air an’
thought I was gonna die. An’ all the time they were tellin me you didn’t care about me, You were in charge an’
ya didn’t care, an’ I was gonna die. They kept….they kept pourin’ the water an’ I couldn’t
breathe. It was like I was drownin’ an they never let up. I kept passing out, but they’d just wait till I came
round. I coughed up crud an’ then they’d start again….Oh fuck I was so shit scared….I never told ‘em…..honest
I didn’t Curly…. Couldn’t even remember why we were here. Couldn’t think of anythin’ but the
Merry and Starsky exchanged horrified looks, only imagining
what it could have felt like, and very aware that they too might have to deal with the treatment.
For the rest of the day, they took turns holding the numbed
soldier as Tugs floated in and out of consciousness. There were times when he shouted out and thrashed his arms, knocking
them out of the way and other times when he lasped into a nightmare world where he curled into their comforting bodies. Slowly
his body succumbed to a fever as the fluid filling his lungs turned to pneumonia.
Over the next few days they came alternatley for Starsky and
Tugs. The brunet hated the fact that they picked on the other soldier. He was getting steadily more sick and the NVAs seemed
to take a fiendish delight in waterboarding him over and again. The fluid in his lungs now stopped him from breathing freely
and whenever the door to the cell clanged open, he would cower away, feverish and semi conscious. Starsky yelled at them to
take him instead, but they ignored him, knocking him and Merry out of the way until one day, perhaps ten days into their incarceration,
Tugs did not return.
Starsky and Merry were picking their way through the meagre
bowlful of rice that was their daily allowance. It was cold and tasteless, but they ate anyway, conscious that they had to
keep up their strength. Whilst Merry had still remained untouched, Starsky had had two more sessions of electricity before
the soldiers changed tack. On that day they’d taken him from the cell to a different room in the prison building this
time. They’d forced him down and had tied him to the chair same as always. But this time, instead of hooking him up
to the generator as he’d come to expect and loathe, they fastened his bare feet down to the legs of the chair and placed
them in bowls of water. The absence of any painful stimuli was almost worse than the current flowing through his body and
he’d yelled at them, fighting to get away. And then he was left tied in that state for a whole day, his body getting
stiffer and more sore and his nerves more and more frayed. At the end of that time, the General had some back into the room
and had casually asked him why he’d been sent.
Starsky started to rhyme off his name and number so the soldiers
had taken his feet from the water and ripped the softened big toe nails from their beds. The pain was exquisite and he’d
screamed louder than ever, unable to bear the feeling of the air and water on the bleeding, raw nail beds. And then they’d
dragged him back to his cell and left him. But the pain didn’t end there. Over the course of the night, as the nail
beds dried out, the skin tautened and stretched leaving his feet feeling as thought they were being dipped into fire.
In the three days since the start of this torture, he’d
been releived of another 6 nails and was unable to walk properly, his feet a mass of blood and yellow matter.
And so when the door to the prison wing grated back, he looked
up as the guards came to the front of his cell and levered himself to his feet. He’d expected Tugs to be brought back
to them and braced himself to once again deal with the moaning, the sickness and the fear in the man’s eyes. But his
time, the guards were empty handed.
‘Where’s Corporal Tugs?’ he yelled at them,
not expecting a reply.
The yellow faced man look impassively at the two captives before
dragging his finger over his throat. He didn’t need any English to make it clear that Tags had finally been killed by
the water treatment.
The two remaining soldiers lapsed into silence, on the one
hand mourning their friend, and on the other, thankful that he was out of harms way and had had an end to his suffering. Merry
paced the cell.
‘Where the fuck is Sharpe?’ he ground out. ‘Why
the hell doesn’t he send someone to get us out? Goddamned Senator’s son. I just hope that git Thorpe is worth
‘Hey, Merry. Save your strength’ Starky rasped.
In the twelve days since they’d been taken, he been taken for one sort of torture or another each day and his voice
was a hoarse parady of what it used to be. His body too was suffering, not only from the burns and wounds but also from the
lack of food and water. One bowl of rice and two small cups of water were designed to be just above starvation level and he
could already feel that he’d lost weight and had the beginnings of a low grade fever. But he kept that to himself. Merry
was already tearing himself up because the soldiers seemed to be ignoring him and taking Starsky and their now dead friend
That night they slept fitfully. The lights never went off in
the prison block and there was always some noise, either moans from men in other cells or the screams of those who’d
been taken for further questioning. It was all designed to wear down resistance and the brunet smiled grimly to himself as
he thought how effective it was.
The fear that both men had felt upon being captured had not
gone. In fact with the treatment Starsky had received it mounted day by day. “Living on his nerves” as his Ma
would have said. He had a constant pain in his stomach and felt nauseous most of the time, but still he continued to force
the rice and water down in an attempt to keep strong, never doubting that they would soon be set free.
Tom Trafford walked back into the camp after the “small
escort duty” that he’d thought would be an overnight afair had lasted almost two weeks. It had taken him deep
into the enemy territory and he’d served his purpose on a number of occasions by firing at disguised enemy positions
and taking out the enemy snipers. He felt pleased with himself and had even managed a night in a small local village with
a very pretty young girl who was more than accommodating. But now, after a half hour trek through the jungle back to camp
hauling his pack on his back, he was looking forward to a luke warm shower, a cold beer and to catch up on things with his
Walking into his tent, he saw that the other three bunks were
tidy and looked as though they had not been slept in for at least a night. Curious because kit bags were still there, he walked
over to Sharpe’s tent and confronted Millin.
‘Where’s the guys?’ he asked.
‘Starsky Tugs and Merry. Where are they? The tents empty’.
Sharpe heard Traff’s voice and came out from his inner
sanctum, plastering a sympathetic look onto his face.
‘Ah, Corporal. I’m glad you’re back. I regret
to inform you that your three friends were sent on a top secret mission. They were due back thirteen days ago. Traff, son.
We’ve heard back that they’re dead’.
Traff didn’t stop running until he was at least half
a mile from the camp. His breath was ragged in his throat and his leg muscles burned, but he knew he needed to put as much
distance between them and Nah Am as possible. Now he got to a small open glade by a fast flowing stream and gently he placed
his semi conscious burden down on the ground.
Starsky rolled over onto his side, his eyes still tight shut
as Traff fished in his pants pocket for his knife. He slit the rough hemp rope that bound the brunet’s arms so cruelly
behind him and unwound it gently, wincing when the rope was caught in the deep and bloody furrows caused by the tightness
of the bonds. Starsky groaned softly as the circulation started to flow again and started to mumbled under his breath
‘S Starsky, David Michael, Corporal serial nnnnumber
Traff ran his hand over his friend’s brow.
‘Sssh Curly. C’mon buddy open your eyes, I gotcha,
I gotcha now. You’re safe. You’re gonna make it’ he took a bloody wrist in his hands and gently started
massaging some life back into it, but the simple action made Starsky flinch back, pulling at his arm as he mumbled his name
and rank again.
Traff sat back and assessed the damage. Starsky’s hands
and feet were bloody, infected messes, each finger and toe swollen, red and hot to the touch. Blood and pus oozed through
other dried residues which seemed to have been caked there for some time. The brunet’s chest and back showed the outline
of every rib and spine bone as the skin stretched taut over them. Traff assessed that he must have lost at least 15 or 20
pounds. Sores, cuts and bruises decorated the skin and added their own bloody patterns to the brunet’s body. What appeared
to be burns also festered over the chest and back and Traff cursed, angrily wiping away tears of frustration that flowed down
Tenderly he picked up the emaciated body and held it close,
rocking it like the kind lady at the children’s home used to rock him.
‘Hey Curly. Can ya hear me? Its me Traff. I gotcha Chief
an’ I aint gonna let ya go. Can ya hear me, huh?’ he looked down into the handsome, though bruised face and slowly
the indigo eyes opened a little and seemed to focus on him.
‘There you are! S’me Traff. I got ya now. Not leaving
without ya’ Traff whispered.
Starsky’s face cracked into a painful smile. ‘Traff?’
‘Uh huh. In the flesh. How’re ya doin Chief?’
‘Didn’t think……make it’ the injured
man forced out. It cost him and he panted with exertion, coughing painfully.
‘Well ya did ‘n’ I’m here now. We’re
gonna get ya outa here to a nice hospital. All those cute nurses an’ a nice soft bed’.
‘Yeah? Sounds….nice’ Starsky breathed, his
voice no more than an echo on the still air.
‘Curly, where’s Merry an’ Tugs?’ Traff
asked softly, already braced for the answer.
A look of pain flashed across the other man’s face. ‘Dead…..bastards….killed
‘em’. The thin body squirmed. ‘Couldn’t stop ‘em. They…..’ he was stopped by another
bout of coughing that robbed him of his breath and Traff held him and rocked him until the spasm had passed. He could feel
the heat radiating from his friend and knew he had to do something in order to make Starsky fit enough to travel. Fit as Traff
was, there was no way he could carry him all the way.
He lay his friend down and rooted through his kitbag for the
supplies he’d brought from the camp, bringing out bandages, water and some rations. Ripping a piece of gauze he dipped
it into the stream and started dabbing at the myriad of cuts and bruises, at a loss what to try to deal with first. He was
pretty sure that none of the cuts were life threatening, but he felt that Starsky had a fever and it was probably as a result
of pneumonia or similar. The hacking, bubbling cough told him that the brunet had a chest infection at least. And whatever
he had in his pack, it didn’t include IV antibiotics. But he was trained, as they all were, as a field medic and so
over the course of the next couple of hours, he set to, to wash, clean, treat and bandage as many of the wounds as he could.
He winced again when he examined the brunet’s fingers and toes noting that all the nails had been removed. And even
with his strong stomach, at one point he had to crawl off to one side to be sick, the sight and the smell of the infected
flesh compounded with the fact that this was his friend being too much even for a trained soldier..
All during that night, after he’d finished with his triage,
he fed Starsky powdered quinine and aspirin and frequent small drinks of water. He knew that any more than that would make
the brunet even sicker, and only tiny amounts of food would be appropriate. Starsky slept fitfully, plagued by nightmares
and hallucinations brought on by his fever but by morning, dressed in Traff’s spare clothes and with his various sores
tended to in a fashion, Starsky started to awake and look around him.
The fever still burned in him and he seemed to view the world
through a ripple of water, the trees wavering around him, but he recognised his friend properly now and tried to get himself
into sitting position.
‘Traff?’ he whispered to the snoozing man.
The young soldier was instantly awake.
‘Curly. How’re ya feelin?’
‘M’fine….’ He looked at his bandaged
hands and feet. ‘Well, maybe not fine, but…..’ A single tear forced its way out of his eye and fell unchecked
down his cheek. ‘I’ve never been more glad t’see someone. You’re beautiful man!’
Traff snorted. ‘Now I know you’re feverish! But
I’m glad I got you too Chief. I just wish I could’a got here sooner’.
‘Knew you’d never give up’ Starsky said,
his eyes closing again. Even talking hurt, but it felt so good to be with his friend again, Traff’s hand gentle on his
body instead of the harsh blows and maltreatment he’d come to expect. ‘Oh shit, look at me cryin’ like a
baby……I was so scared Traff. So fuckin’ scared. Every single day. An’ then when….when Tugs ‘n’
Merry….well…..i guess I just wanted t’die too, but I didn’t tell ‘em nuthin’.
‘Nah, but I bet ya really pissed ‘em off’
Traff snorted to cover up his own tears. Jeez, some rescue party he turned out to be! He pulled himself together. ‘D’ya
think you can walk some?’ he asked seriously. ‘We need to get as much distance as we can between you an’
that freakin’ General’.
‘I’ll drag myself if I have to’ Starsky grunted,
although when he tried to get up, the pains in his feet made him up chuck into a nearby bush. ‘Shit!’ he cursed,
wiping his mouth with the back of his bandaged hand. ‘Guess they did a real job on me huh?’
‘Yeah, you’re one helluva mess! Here. Lemme help
ya’ Traff said, holding out a hand as he helped Starsky to his feet.
The brunet stood uncertainly, the world spinning around him
as he swallowed down the burning bile in his throat. He was determined not to throw up again, and equally determined that
he wouldn’t have Traff carrying out of the jungle. Cautiously he took a faltering step, riding out the pains in his
toes and feet, then another. He stopped and grinned. ‘Won’t win a race, but I’m good t’go’.
The brave words covered up the fact that he felt insubstantial, light headed and as though even breathing was too much of
Traff understood and gathered up his kit, stuffing everything
back into his bag before standing next to his friend. ‘Sorry I didn’t bring a pair of boots for ya. Can you manage?’
‘Don’t think I could get boots on. Yeah, I’ll
handle it. Lead on’ the brunet grunted, looking at his newly bandaged feet. The blood was already seeping through the
white gauze, but the thought of putting anything rigid like boots on his feet was more than he could bear. He shuffled another
step, sweat beading on his brow as he started to follow.
The going was slow. The heat in the jungle was overbearing
and oppressive, sapping at their will and draining their bodies dry. Starsky had very little energy and despite an almost
superhuman will, he needed to stop every few hundred yards to rest, have a drink and ride through the pains in his feet and
the rest of his body. By midday that first day, they’d covered barely a mile and Starsky’s hair, which had grown
longer since his incarceration, was plastered against his scalp and his breath was coming in ragged gasps, interspersed with
periods of hacking coughing. Traff saw how grey his friend was and called a halt.
‘We’ve made good progress’ he lied as he
sat down besides his friend. ‘Ya just need to rest’. Maybe we can wait till evening, then do some more’.
Starsky opened one eye and regarded the other soldier. ‘You’re
a shit liar Trafford. We’ll never make it out at this rate. You should go on. Leave me here and come back when you have
‘Up yours Curly! I haven’t gone AWOL just to leave
you in the middle of this shitty place. We rest now, wait till evening, then we go on again huh?’
‘You went AWOL? I thought Sharpe had sent ya. He did
didn’t….’ Realisation hit and he cursed weakly. ‘The yellow bellied bastard! He was just gonna leave
me to die? Shit!’
‘You can kill him when we get back. Give ya some goal
to work for huh?’ Traff grinned.
‘Goal? Don’t need him as a goal. Just need to get
outa this hell hole’.
‘I know. Rest up now an’ we’ll try again
tonight huh?’ Traff muttered, watching Starsky’s eyes close despite his anger. The eight weeks of incarceration
had taken such a toll on his young body. He’d need more than a couple of days of recuperation to get fit again.
‘Whatever you say Pal’ Starsky mumbled, leaning
his head back against the tree trunk at his back. He hadn’t the strength to argue. He had barely the strength to breathe.
He felt responsible for the lives of Tugs and Merry and he so desperately didn’t want Traff to die because of him too.
But he’d reason with the curly haired soldier later. Right now, he needed to rest.
By nightfall, the brunet’s body had seized up so that
he could hardly move. His hands and feet were on fire and he felt as though he had a red hot band of metal around his head.
Each time he blinked, fireworks exploded behind his eyeballs and when he swallowed, his throat was dry and sandpaper-like.
Traff was busy lighting a tiny fire and had heated some soup
in a foil packet. He handed it to Starsky, but the injured soldier couldn’t hold it in his damaged hands. Instead, Traff,
held it and fed it to the brunet, a spoonful at a time and then held a cup while Starsky drank. During the afternoon, it had
once again rained and now the bandages on Starsky’s feet were sodden and muddy, the fabric rubbed at his already painful
toes, but he refused to complain. Being out of the camp and in pain was far preferable to remaining a prisoner. He’d
Traff helped him up and together they staggered on through
the darkness, the jungle being almost pitch black in areas where the trees were at their thickest. They stopped several more
times before morning, but by then Starsky’s reserves of energy were depleted and he was leaning so heavily on Traff
that the soldier was more or less carrying him. They ploughed waist deep through another muddy river and as Traff pulled Starsky
out of the water and up the bank, he knew he too needed to rest.
He managed to get them both into the cover of the trees and
laid the semi conscious man down on the ground. Starsky barely moved now and Traff knew that he had to make something more
than a rudimentary camp if the injured man was to stand any chance of getting out of the jungle alive. He took a piece of
cord from his backpack and slung it tight between two trees about 5’ apart. Taking a thin but durable sheet of dark
green plastic from his pack, he draped it over the rope to make a rudimentary tent, anchoring it down with fallen branches.
He gathered fallen leaves and some ferns to make a soft bed of sorts and then stood back to inspect. Not exactly the Hilton,
but at least the bivouac would keep the rain off them. He dragged Starsky inside and lay him down on the soft ferns as he
made a small fire. The yellow flames instantly made the place a little more cheerful and gave Traff a chance to assess their
situation. The soldier knew that the naked flame would be easily seen by anyone who was looking, but he had the impression
that this part of the jungle at least was devoid of the Vietcong.
With a sigh, Traff sat down wearily. He felt as though he'd
been ploughing through the dense vegetation for years and despite the fact that he'd found his buddy and rescued him; despite
the fact that Starsky was right there by his side, he couldn't ever remember feeling so alone. He took off his boots and socksseeking
a small measure of comfort from maybe treating himself to dry clothes - or at least getting out of his wet ones, when the
breath hitched in his throat. He looked down and stared in horror at the fat black leech which had attached itself to his
leg. He shuddered, repulsed by the slimy creature and took one of the glowing embers from the fire. Touching it to the slick
black body it contracted and let go, plopping down onto the ground where he stomped on it with an obscene squelch. A nasty
thought occurred to him and gently he started to undress the unconscious soldier next to him, bracing himself for seeing one
or two of the leeches on Starsky’s legs. As he worked the trousers off he saw three of the black monsters on the brunet’s
upper thigh on the inside, but as he moved the boxers to one side he recoiled at the sight of a whole mass of them attached
like a black quivering ball the Starsky’s scrotum and the underside of his penis.
Traff worked over his friend all night. Not all of the leeches
had come away cleanly. Some had clamped down as he burned at their slimy bodies, and he could see that they had left their
mouthparts embedded in the soft flesh. One of the first things they’d all learned early on about being in the tropics
was that any sore or cut, no matter how small, could soon suppurate and become infected in the damp, warm conditions. By morning,
Traff could see a thin red line of infection tracking down the brunet’s legs and Starsky was no longer responsive to
The young soldier was at a loss. Why hadn’t he tried
harder to persuade Sharpe to let him rescue Curly? At least that way he would have had help and backup to get the brunet out.
But now, it was just the two of them, and despite behaving like a hero, they were both still only 19 years old. Back home,
in happier times, they’d be going to a ball game, or taking some pretty lady to a disco. Traff put his head in his hands.
Those times seemed so long ago and he felt so very lonely and frightened.
He shuffled around so that he could take Starsky’s hot,
shaking body in his arms, needing the comfort almost as much as Starsky did.
‘I wish you’d wake up for me Chief. I think I’m
goin’ stir crazy here. What the fuck is this all about huh? What difference can the two of us make to this whole useless
war? God I wish we were home! Just think about that Curly. Think about home huh? It’s November. Thanksgiving. Think
about the turkey and the cranberries. What about Christmas? Bet ya got lots of nice things from your Mom and your Aunt Rosey
Curly? Dave? Aww c’mon Pal, gimme a sign here. I need
you as much as you need me buddy. Why d’ya think I decked that guy Cade? Remember him? All that time ago when we were
back home in the camp back home. Remember how ya nearly drowned coz of that geek? So I decked him. Nearly broke my hand but
I hit him so fuckin’ hard. Coz he hurt you, an’ I wanted him to hurt coz he hurt you’.
‘I never had a friend like you before. Someone so close
I feel like you’re my brother. An’ it hurts that they did all this to ya. I didn’t know. Honest I didn’t.
That prick Sharpe told me you were dead an’ it wasn’t till Ai an’ her sister……what was her name?
Twins…..they were twins. Ai an’……’ Traff’s voice tailed off as he became lost in his own
‘Di.u….’ the sound was no more than a breath,
but as Traff looked down, he saw a sliver of indigo peeking out from eyelids still at half mast.
‘Curly? Oh my God you’re awake! Oh shit am I glad
to hear your voice?’
‘Did ya….really do that? Starsky whispered.
‘Oh boy did I ever. An’ he had it coming to him.
Wasn’t till I was windin’ up for punch number three that O’Malley stopped me. Said there was only so much
he could ignore!’
‘Thanks……love ya man’.
‘Hey don’t thank me, just help me get ya outa here’
Traff said in desperation. The whispered thanks sounded so final it scared him.
‘Leave ya? Jeez Curly boy! I couldn’t leave ya.
We’ve got this far. Ya just need to hang on a while longer huh? Just another day an’ then we’ll be out’.
‘Yeah, just one more day. An’ I’ll even carry
your sorry ass outa here if I have to’.
Starsky’s face split into a weak grin. ‘Ssssorry
ass….huh? When ya….put it like that….’
‘Well I do! So don’t go talking ‘bout leavin’
anyone huh? An’ most of all, don’t you go leavin’ me. I need ya Chief. I….’
Weakly the brunet raised his hand and put it to Traff’s
face, the actions speaking more than a hundred words could ever do as the fingers trailed down the grimy, sweat soaked cheek.
‘I know. Just gimme …..’nother couple’a hours. I’ll be good t’go’.
And so Traff watched, wearily as his friend dropped back into
a feverish sleep. He knew there was no way on earth that Starsky, despite his determination, would be able to walk out of
the jungle. And there was also no way that Traff had enough energy reserves to carry him. But slowly an idea formed in the
soldier’s mind and he got up to scout around.
Four hours later saw Traff making a makeshift stretcher out
of two thin tree trunks he’d found fallen amongst the leaf litter of the jungle floor and the green tarpaulin that he’d
used to make their shelter. He managed to bind the plastic onto the wooden shafts and even padded it with some of the fern
type plants he’d found. They were damp, but at least provided some padding and now he pulled Starskys body onto the
travois and started to bind it into place.
He soothed Starsky with kind words and gentle hands as he settled
the thin body onto the pallet, but as soon as Starsky felt the ropes circling his body, his fevered mind took him back to
the POW camp and the treatment he’d endured there. He cried out, thrashing weakly against the bonds as Traff tried to
‘David Michael S….. number…..ungh…..noooo,
no more, please? Nooo get ‘way from me….I….Davi….’
‘Sssh, s’ok. S’only me. Just rest easy Chief.
I’m gonna try ‘n’ make it easier for ya. Ok? Curly…..no don’t fight it. Just lie still huh?
Aww c’mon….Dave….David….Curly don’t fight it’ he urged.
Starsky’s cried tailed off into sobs of forlornness.
In his delirium, he was back, tied to a table waiting for the next round of torture to begin, and no amount of soothing words
from his friend would calm him. Eventually, Traff stopped trying, hoping that the curly haired man would lapse into sleep
soon. Discarding all but his essential kit, he looped a length of rope around his body and started to pull the travois behind
him through the jungle.
The going was tough, the vegetation and uneven ground making
progress slow and agonisingly tiring. Every few hundred yards, the young soldier stopped, gasping for breath in the cloying
heat and wiping at the sweat coursing down his face to sting his eyes. Several times he checked on his friend, making the
brunet take small sips of water, but for the most part, Starsky was lost in a world of pain and confusion. His ramblings alternated
between strangled gasps of pain as his body bumped over the uneven terrain, and mumbled name rank and serial number. And nothing
Traff could do seemed to make the injured boy aware that he was as safe as he could be, and away from the camp.
By the end of that day, Traff estimated he’d gone no
more than a couple of miles and he too was tiring more and more rapidly as the day went on. The humidity sapped at his energy
and his water reserves were low. He’d taken to giving the semi conscious brunet sips from his own water bottle and had
started to take his own drinks from any passing stream they came to, knowing it was unsafe, but aware that Starsky needed
clean water more than he did.
Each night, he made camp as best he could, using large leaves
to cover the two of them and on occasions lighting a small fire when he thought it was safe to do so. He felt lonely now that
Starsky’s periods of lucidity were growing less and less and he began to talk to himself, just to let himself know he
was still alive, and was still going to get them out. He constantly checked his compass, desperate to make sure they were
gong the right way. Any deviation would mean extra effort, and he was tiring rapidly.
As the morning of the fourth day dawned, Traff could feel cramps
start to roil around his guts and throughout the day he constantly stopped to either throw up or void his bowels, the energy
leaving him with each attack on his system until by day five, he too was beginning to run a fever. He knew he should never
have drunk the water from the streams without boiling it, but he didn’t have the luxury of a fire, and so he’d
done the best he could with his water purification tablets. They made the water taste foul, and now, he realised belatedly,
they were not particularly effective either.
Traff woke to a constant thud in his head. He opened his eyes
and rolled over to look at Starsky who seemed deathly pale and very still. He forced himself to his knees and pushed his fingers
into his friends neck. The pulse was there. Very slow and weak, but it was there nonetheless. Traff forced himself to his
feet and fell back to earth as another set of fire coursed through his body. He crawled away to the bushes, but without food,
he had nothing to bring up, instead heaving until he spat blood into the vegetation.
Great Trafford, just great! You’ve no time for this.
Curly needs out right now. Now get your butt in gear and haul him outa this fuckin’ jungle huh?
Pep talk over, he pushed himself upright and took hold of the
rope again. Both his shoulders were blistered from the constant pull, but he ignored that small pain and started to once again
haul the travois through the trees. They seemed to be thinning a little now, although whether that was just his fevered imagination
or not he had no idea, but the going seemed easier and for that he was thankful.
By early afternoon, when the rain started again, Traff was
almost on his knees. His last reserves of energy were almost depleted and he managed to find a small tree under which to shelter
as he pulled Starsky’s deathly still body to him. He lay down by the side of his friend, wrapping his arms around the
‘I’m sorry Curly. Can’t go on any more. M’beat.
Maybe in a little while I can try again. Maybe I can still get us outa here. But if not... it’s been a pleasure serving
with you Corporal’.
He put his head down on the damp earth and closed his eyes.
Every muscle in his body screamed at him for release; just to shut down and not have to work any more. During the five days
he’d hauled his friend through the jungle, he’d hardly eaten and only taken sufficient water to keep himself ticking
over. Now his body shut down, ignoring his mind and started to try to repair the damage that had been done.
The two men slept, side by side as the rain pattered heavily
through the curtain of vegetation above them. It splattered in big fat drops around them and the leaves it knocked from the
trees fell to lie on their bodies as though the jungle was trying to wrap them protectively.
And that is how they were found three hours later, when Traff
awoke to the sight of a gun muzzle inches from his eye.
Traff felt hands on his body, pulling roughly at the neck of
his shirt. He had neither the strength not the ability to stop them. His body had shut down and now all he could do was lie
on the ground and await his fate. The hands had gotten to their destination now and he felt his dog tags pulled free of his
‘Aww hell, they’re our boys. Get ‘em assessed
quick huh?’ he heard a voice ordering.
Now other hands were on him and weakly he turned his head sideways
to see that two other soldiers in full battle dress were working their way slowly and carefully over Starsky’s limp
form too. He closed his eyes and submitted to the exploration, too relieved and weary to say anything or help in any way.
‘This one’s in a real mess Sir. Looks like he’s
had some pretty rough treatment. Tags say he’s a Corporal with the 8th Light. He needs hospital care right now or he’s
Traff’s own soldiers concurred. ‘Exhaustion here
and I think he may have malaria too. They both need to get out of here right now Sir’.
Traff summoned his remaining strength. ‘Together’
he managed to grunt. He opened his eyes and looked into earnest brown ones above him. The face containing the eyes smiled
back at him. ‘We’ll get ya back Sir. How long have you been out here?’
‘Dunno…..six days?’ Traff responded weakly.
His young saviour grinned. ‘The road’s thirty yards
thataway’ he pointed west. ‘Where d’ya come from?’
Traff felt the world shimmying around him, but he felt it important
to get the last little bit of information out. ‘Nah Am’.
‘Shit….sir! That’s a helluva a journey’
he heard the young soldier whistle as Traff finally succumbed to his exhaustion.
‘Well good morning Tom, or should I say Captain Trafford?’
The older doctor dressed in standard Army greens looked down
at the sleep befuddled man.
The doctor sat down. ‘I’m sorry. Let me explain.
My name’s doctor Burton. You’re at the 7053rd MASH and you and your friend have been here for 4 days. While you
were wiling your time away in the land of nod, your CO has been contacted and he tells me to tell you that you’ve both
been promoted for acts of bravery in the face of combat. I have the honour of addressing Captain Trafford. Captain Starsky
is laid over there in the corner’.
Traff closed his eyes, a thousand thoughts streaming through
his head. They’d made it. They were out of the jungle and safe. Starsky was right here with him and still alive. Sharpe
had been in touch and they’d both been promoted!...Wait a minute. Was that deserved, or was Sharpe trying to soften
the blow? Was this done out of guilt for what he’d put his men through? Did he think he could buy them off so damned
‘How’s Curly?’ he managed to rasp out. His
head felt stuffed full of wool, but the pounding had gone. He felt hot, but at the same time so much more comfortable than
he had……4? Sheesh!…..4 days ago. 4 days of his life just lost to sleep and fever. Who’d have thought?
Burton’s face turned more serious. ‘Well I won’t
lie. For the first three days we didn’t think he’d make it. The guys who brought you in said you were coming from
‘And he was held there? For how long?’
‘I think about two months’ Traff answered, felling
the life returning to him a little.
‘Then that explains a lot. He’s not in good shape.
The torture he endured has left him with a life threatening infection throughout his body. He may still lose some of his fingers
and toes. He had other infected wounds; burns, cuts, some abscesses. He’s severely underweight. I would estimate he
usually weighs around 150 - 160 pounds? He weighed in at just 102 pounds when he came in here. His shoulder was dislocated
and he has severe pneumonia. He hasn’t been conscious yet, but I think we will have to deal with his mental state as
Traff hitched a breath. ‘Is he gonna make it?’
he asked in a small voice. He was almost angry that after hauling himself and his buddy through God knows what infested jungle,
Curly might still have the temerity to die! What was that all about? He was supposed to live happily ever after. He was supposed
to be sitting up in bed, laughing and joking, just like the old days. Breaking him out of the camp was supposed to be the
end of the whole saga. Now, it seemed, the escape was just the beginning. A single tear broke loose and trickled down his
cheek and he snuffed angrily and wiped it away, unsure whether he was crying for himself or for his friend. God he was so
fuckin’ screwed in his head!
Burton knew his patient was still weak and tired.’ Aren’t
you going to ask about yourself?’ he asked gently.
‘What? Oh…right. So tell me Doc….’
‘You have exhaustion, you’re malnourished, dehydrated
and you have a hefty dose of malaria. We have you on chloroquin drips and you need to drink plenty. I think you’ll find
you have recurrent fevers for quite some time, but at the moment we have them fairly well under control’.
‘Can I see him?’
‘Captain, are you listening to me? You are sick. You’re
a sick man and you need to rest. Do I need to make that an order?’
‘Can’t rest till I’ve seen him. I went through
hell and high water to get him outa there. We’ve been mates since basic training. Please Doc, can I?’ Traff pleaded.
He had an unaccountable urge to be by Starsky’s side, as though somehow being close would make the brunet pull through
all the quicker.
Burton smiled. ‘What am I gonna do with you, huh? Wait
there Captain and I’ll have a corpsman move your bed next to your friend. But try not to disturb him. He needs to heal…..and
so do you’.
True to his word, Burton had Traff’s bed moved next to
Starsky’s, but seeing his friend lying there so helplessly made him feel worse and more frustrated rather than better.
He waited until the small tented ward was devoid of nursing staff, the eased his legs out of bed and fighting the dizziness
and weakness, perched on the edge of the small bunk bed next to him.
Starsky’s eyes were closed, his face ashen. Bruises showed
up darkly against the pale skin which looked clammy and damp. There were drips feeding into each arm and the hands from wrist
to finger tips were bandaged with white gauze. White dressings also decorated the torso, covering large areas where Traff
knew there had been infected burns and cuts. Other bandages surrounded his arms in places where rope contusions had suppurated
and Starsky’s left arm was bandaged across his chest to rest and support the reduced dislocation of his shoulder. The
soldier knew there would be more bandages beneath the sheet and blanket that covered his friend. He had an impulse to pick
up the shattered body and hold it, willing life back into it. This felt so much like an anticlimax after the week in the jungle.
They were supposed to sit up in bed and joke and everything would be ok again. But instead Traff felt lonely and angry. He
‘Come back to me Curly. I know ya can hear me. I need
you Chief. I just want to hear your voice again huh? I just….just help me? Otherwise what’s it all been about
huh?’ He sank to his knees by the bedside, his hands till holding Starsky’s arm. And that was where the nurses
found him half an hour later, moaning as another fever took him and made him sweat and shake. Tenderly they placed him back
in his bed and administered more chloroquin and sedative and soothed away the hurts.
Over the course of the next week, Traff started to improve
enough that he was able to get out of bed for periods and wander round the MASH compound. It was a simple, tidy camp with
a mess tent, various sleeping tents, latrines and a shower complex which dispensed hot water for half an hour every day. The
days and nights were interrupted by the loud sounds of copters coming and going, delivering and collecting the wounded and
Traff was amazed at the fortitude of the doctors and nurses who worked incredibly long hours round the clock. He was still
weak and there were days, or parts of days which were given over to shivering and sweating and fighting the cramps in his
guts until the massive doses of anti malarial drugs took effect, but he was going to pull through and he was back in the land
of the living, doing normal things….or as normal as anything could be in the pointless conflict.
And on the morning of the eleventh day since he’d been
there, he woke in his bed and started at the ceiling, then rolled over onto his side to check on his friend. For the past
ten days, Starsky had remained lifeless almost, unmoving and unresponsive. The doctor had told him that every ounce of the
brunet’s energy was going into the healing process and that only time would tell whether he’d pull through or
not, although he had youth and vigour on his side.
Now, Traff sat up and made his way over to the simple bunk,
as was his habit, sitting down and stroking the chocolate curls that had grown back riotously over the three months since
his friend had been taken.
‘Time for a barber’s visit, I think’ he chuckled
as his hands carded the curls affectionately. ‘It aint exactly regulation Curly’. He was just about to get up
to go get a wash when he felt, rather than saw a tiny response. Looking closely, he saw the brunet’s eye twitch, then
slowly, a sliver of indigo appeared. The sick man’s head rolled weakly on the pillow and he licked dry, cracked lips.
‘Fuck….reg’lations’ he whispered softly.
‘Curly? You’re back! Oh my God, you’re back!
Nurse!...Doc, he’s back, he’s….oh shit he spoke….he’s back’ Traff yelled to no-one in
particular and everyone in general. Burton and Candy, one of the nurses came running and elbowed Traff out of the way gently
so that they could get to their patient. Over the next 15 minutes, they poked, prodded, listened and generally examined the
young man and at the end of it, Starsky was once again asleep, but Burton had a grin on his face.
‘That guy is one helluva fighter! I think he’s
gonna make it. I really do. He needs rest still, and his healing has a long way to go, but I think he’s gonna pull through’.
Traff sat on his bed and grinned. He thought he should feel
elated. He thought he should be laughing and dancing up and down the ward, kissing the nurses and making a fool of himself.
But all he wanted to do was to sit quietly, cherishing the moment and hugging it to him. Curly was going to make it! He could
breathe easy for the first time in so many months. His friendship was strengthened, his friend was going to make it and he
was happy. A quiet, happy euphoria held him as he lay back and smiled.
From then on, things started to look up. Over the next 48 hours,
the brunet started to wake up for longer periods of time, although he was still looped on pain killers and when he slept,
his dreams were all painful and terrifying. But he was back; he was going to make it and he was glad to have Traff with him.
Starsky didn’t have words to express his gratitude to
his friend. What other man would have fought through the leech infested jungle for almost a week to bring him back to safety?
He was sure he would never be able to repay that act of heroism, although he’d make damned sure that he tried.
But for now, Starsky was happy to be safe, looked after and
with friends. He had nightmares where General Mai came to him and dragged him away to start the maltreatment over and again,
but Traff was always there, waking him and giving him a drink until he’d calmed enough to roll over and drift back to
And slowly and surely, he started to heal.
Over the weeks that followed, Starsky and Traff were moved
from the 7053rd to the 19th Evac. That hospital was away from the front line and was more of a permanent affair with regular
brick made wards and more substantial equipment. Traff continued to be treated for his Malaria and responded well, although
he’d been informed that he would be shipped Stateside as soon as he was fit to recuperate. He’d managed a long
talk with the doctor about his, and more importantly, Starsky’s health and although Traff was ready to be moved now,
the medics and the young soldier both agreed that it would be detrimental to the brunet’s health if he was separated
from his friend right now.
Although Starsky’s physical injuries were healing well,
it was the mental scars which most concerned the medical staff. Finger and toe nails were growing back nicely and the antibiotics
he continued to take were doing well at fighting the infection still inhabiting his young body. The burns were healing well
and his shoulder no longer required strapping. But he still had nightmares each and every night and during the day, while
outgoing enough for a lot of the time, was given to periods of introspection. During those times, he seemed lost to the world
and not even Traff could get through to him.
Right now was one of those times. Traff and Starsky had been
involved in one of the more popular card games – how many could be flicked into an empty bedpan, when their new doctor,
a Major Cox walked into their ward. He nodded to Traff and sat down by Starsky’s side. The brunet didn’t look
up, or acknowledge the presence in any way. The doctor reached out gently and shook the young man’s arm
He mumbled before seeming to shake himself. His eyes cleared and he looked around himself as if seeing the doctor for the
first time. He blushed and looked down at his hands. ‘Sorry’ he muttered.
‘That’s ok son’ the older doctor smiled.
‘It’s to be expected and it’s something I’ve come to talk to you about. ‘A lot of men who’ve
suffered the same sort of treatment you did have a similar response and I was wondering if you’d talk to the unit psychiatrist?’
‘A shrink? Ya think I’m crazy?’ Starsky asked,
a little too loudly.
‘Far from it’ Cox replied. ‘But sometimes
talking about things helps’.
‘Uh huh? What if I said I didn’t want to talk about
it? I’ve never been the touchy feely sort. I don’t want the whole “tell me about your Mother” routine.
Don’t make me, Doc, please’. Indigo eyes leaded with the older man who sighed.
‘Ok. I can’t force you. And even if I could, it
wouldn’t do much good if you don’t want to talk. But you need some way to get these thoughts out of your head,
or at least in some kind of order so that you can start to process them. What about….have you though about writing them
The brunet snorted. ‘Don’t think it’d make
a bestseller, d’you?’
‘It doesn’t need to be a book. Just write down
the stuff that occurs to you’.
‘Like I said, I don’t do “touchy feely”.
I like instructions. I like to have facts’.
‘Well write down the facts. Write down what they did
to you and maybe then you can start to make sense of it’.
Starsky looked troubled. ‘I dunno…..never done
nuthin like that b’fore. It don’t feel right’.
‘How do you know unless ya give it a go?’ Traff
‘I’ll think about it’ Starsky agreed begrudgingly
and went back to his cards.
Cox smiled and stood up. ‘Good enough. Oh, Captain Trafford.
There’s a visitor for you. Major Sharpe, your CO. He’s waiting for you in my office. He said he has to speak with
Traff stood up, glancing at his friend. Starsky had stiffened
at Sharpe’s name but hadn’t looked up. He rested a hand on his friend’s shoulder. ‘S’ok Chief.
I’ll deal with it’ he said softly and followed the doctor out.
He gathered himself as he walked into the room seeing the stiff
upright back ahead of him. Sharpe turned as he entered and Traff snapped him a salute which held as much disdain as he could
muster. Sharpe returned it and indicated for Traff to sit down.
‘I’d prefer to stand Sir’ he said stiffly.
‘Very well, soldier’ Sharpe sat himself behind
the doctor’s desk and clasped his hands in front of him.
‘How’s Captain Starsky?’
‘Alive’ Traff grunted through clenched teeth. Being
in the same tent as Sharpe made his skin crawl, but he fought to remain civil. He didn’t want the Major having any cause
or excuse to reprimand him.
‘And you? How’re you doing?’ he asked.
‘As well as can be expected, sir’.
‘I see. Stock answer huh? Ok well. I’ll get to
the point. HQ are asking that you and Captain Starsky file reports on his incarceration and your escape and the circumstances
surrounding it. I’m here to guide you through the process’.
‘The forms are difficult and we wouldn’t want erm…..wouldn’t
want the wrong information to get into the wrong hands, shall we say’. Sharpe’s beady eyes drilled into Traff’s
emerald ones. ‘The incident was unfortunate but you both showed a lot of bravery and I have rewarded you for that. There
aren’t many who would have made Captain so young or so quickly. You have a lot to thank me for’.
Traff’s mind was running circles. How could this rat
stand in front of him and more or less tell him what to put in his report? And to bluster his way out of the situation telling
him he’d promoted them……to shut them up! Traff made his decision.
‘Permission to speak freely sir?’
‘My friend, one of your soldiers, nearly died in that
stinking prison camp for no reason. Two other men did die. There was never a Private Thorpe was there? You wanted us out of
the way. You wanted to make sure that no-one knew your little perversions and in your sick mind….Sir….you thought
the only way to do that would be to get rid of the evidence – Starsky. He was being punished for not wanting to provide,
shall we say, a service for you that was above and beyond. The other two were just incidental weren’t they? And at the
end of it all, when you knew he hadn’t a snowball in hells chance of coming back, you knew I’d came back and I’d
‘That’s enough soldier!’ Sharpe’s face
had assumed the colour of beetroot and he’d launched himself to his feet.
‘…..I’d be so upset for the loss of my friends
that you’d be able to do what you wanted and I’d comply’ Traff finished, breathing heavily.
Sharpe came around the front of the desk, standing toe to toe
with the young Captain and looking down at him. Traff refused to be intimidated and glared back at his CO.
‘You have no idea what I could do to you’ Sharpe
sneered. ’You have no idea what I could do to your career, son’.
‘I think you have that the wrong way around, Sir. It’s
my and Starsky’s report. We’ll put in it the truth. You have no idea what damage we can do to your career. But
unlike you, we’ll use official channels. We’ll be telling the truth as we see it. And we won’t be trying
to buy you, or blackmail you. That’s the difference between us…..Sir’.
‘You stupid little runt! You and your moral high ground.
You think it’s easy? You think command is easy? I don’t have the luxury of a cosy little friendship like you an’
him got. I don’t’ have the luxury of goin’ back to my tent at the end of the day and laughing and joking
with my friends. Because, soldier, in command there are no friends. No cosy chats, just cold hard decisions. And yes, sometimes
I have to watch my back……any way I can’.
Traff grinned up into the red face, coldly. ‘And the
sympathy vote won’t work either, Major. I’m gonna say this one and once only. Stay away from me. Stay away from
Starsky and maybe….maybe…..we can salvage something from this sorry mess. But there again, I can’t promise’.
With that, the curly haired soldier turned on his heel and
started to walk from the tent.
‘I didn’t dismiss you soldier’ Sharpe’s
voice sounded behind him.
‘And I didn’t ask to be dismissed. But this is
me, an' this is my back...walking out’ he said, stifling a grin as he pushed the tent flap to one side and left.
2 months later
Starsky looked up as Traff walked into the room.
‘Hey Chief, what’s happening?’ Traff said,
appraising his friend. In the four months since he’d affected the rescue from Nah Am, Starsky had healed well, put most
of his weight and muscle tone back on, and had managed to overcome some of the more debilitating nightmares. Bad dreams still
plagued him, however and there were nights when he still awoke, drenched in sweat, moaning and pleading for the invisible
hands to leave him alone.
During the ensuing months, both soldiers had been sent back
to the U.S. and were now back at the base outside Bay City. Whilst Traff had been declared fit to return to duty but not to
‘Nam, Starsky was still an albeit reluctant “prisoner” of the base hospital. They had both filed their reports
on the events in ‘Nam. And both had decided that they would tell the truth, but not all of it. Whilst their report was
damning in its honesty of how Sharpe had handled the deployment of his men to Nah Am, they both agreed to leave out any reference
to the fact that Sharpe had come on to the brunet. As Starsky wryly observed, it was bad enough that the Major “fancied”
him without others thinking that Starsky might have been even remotely interested. And so Sharpe had been recalled from the
camp, had been formally reprimanded, sentenced to twelve months in jail for gross misconduct and was told he was lucky to
have avoided a court martial. Any prospect of a meteoric rise up the ranks for the Major was also now out of the question
and whilst the two young soldiers felt vindicated, they also felt that they wanted to put the whole sorry incident behind
‘I’m just waitin’ Starsky grunted as he perched
nervously on his bed. Today was the day the MO and the base commander were coming to see him to tell him what assignment he’d
been given next. Like Traff he had signed on for three years and although he’d been terribly sick, he wasn’t bad
enough to be pensioned off.
Traff had been offered, and had taken, a posting to the 8th
Battalion as a bomb disposal technician. He enjoyed the challenge of learning the new skills and also enjoyed the excitement
and adrenaline rush that came with each new job. But he worried still for his friend.
‘Looks like the waiting is over’ Traff said snapping
to attention as the two senior officers walked into the room. Starsky too stood and saluted, then sat again at the nod from
‘Captain Starsky, how are you feeling today?’ the
MO asked, checking his chart at the foot of the bed.
‘Fine Sir. I just wanna get outa here. Any chance?’
The MO smiled. ‘I think that can be arranged, although
I don’t think you’ll be fit for anything too strenuous for a while yet’ He saw the brunet’s face fall.
’Now before you get yourself all bent over, hear out Colonel Kominski’ he nodded at the man next to him.
‘Son, I have an offer for you’. He held a sheaf
of pages under his arm and Starsky recognised them as the journal he’d started back in ‘Nam at the request of
Dr Cox. ‘I, and quite a few of my colleagues have been reading through your writings. They’re erudite, dispassionate
and well written’ he said as Starsky blushed.
‘With our consent, we would like to take this one stage
further. What you went through would have broken a lot of men. But you survived and now you’ve written down your experiences.
But it’s not just about you. The Army feels that what you’ve started here would be valuable on two levels. First
as a sort of manual on which to base courses on how to withstand torture. Second, as a manual on interrogation techniques.
What do you say?’
Starsky rubbed his hands through his hair. ‘I don’t
now what to say Sir. I mean, I wrote that stuff down coz the Doc back there said it’d do me good, an’ to an extent,
I guess it has. But write something for others to read? I dunno’.
‘You wouldn’t just be writing Captain. We’d
want you to lecture on your experiences too. If you feel comfortable with that’.
Traff snickered. ‘Oh my God! Curly, the professor! I
can’t stand it!’
‘Shuddup’ Starsky growled. He came to his decision.
‘What’s the alternative?’
Kominski shrugged. ‘More time here. More time in therapy.
Then maybe a pension’.
There was no choice. ‘Well don’t say I didn’t
warn you sir. I may suck at this’.
Kominski smiled. ‘Somehow, I don’t think so’.
Epilogue. 18 months later
‘Are you sure about this Curly? I mean, you got it pretty
good here. What d’ya wanna leave for?’
Starsky finished stuffing his kit into his bag. ‘There’s
only so much of my own voice I can hear Traff. You got what you wanted. You have your dream job…….and I can’t
abide havin’ to salute ya, Major!’
Traff snickered. ‘Never took ya for a sore loser. What’re
ya gonna do?’
‘I got it all planned. I’m gonna join the police
if they’ll have me’.
‘Police! Hell Curly, what d’ya wanna be a flatfoot
‘Well for one think, I suit black more ‘n’
khaki. An’ second I’m not gonna be a flatfoot for long. I wanna be a detective’.
‘You’ve been watchin’ too many cop shows.
Who d’ya think you are, Jack Lord?
‘No. I got it all figured. I’m gonna get myself
a pretty little blond partner. It’ll be Starsky an’ Smith, not Hawaii 50
‘Whatever you say Chief. Colonel Kominski wants you in
his office before ya go. Are ya ready?’
‘Yes Sir’ Starsky said with mock seriousness and
with a final look around the small room that had been his home for 18 months, he picked his bag up and left.
Moments later, he was stood at attention in front of Kominski’s
desk as he waited for his Co. He’d thought it was just a final goodbye and good luck talk, but he was surprised to find
that not only was Kominski there, but also a couple of his men, Traff and another of the Majors from the unit.
Kominski stood up. ‘I know you’re leaving us today
Captain. But I wanted to mark this occasion in two ways. First. For all the assistance you have given to the Vets who have
come through these units, the intelligence you have given us on Nah Am and for the instruction you have given to countless
men over the past 18 months, you will leave the Army with the rank of Major. Congratulations’.
Starsky looked unbelieving at the badge Kominski handed him.
But his surprises weren’t over yet.
‘And as a mark of the respect of the men who have served
with you and for you, we’d like you to take away the first copy of what will become a very valuable text book for this
Traff clapped him on the back as Starsky reached out a trembling
hand to take hold of the slim tome. The cover was plain black, the only decoration the words picked out in red.
“An investigation of Interrogation and Mind Altering
Techniques” The name of the author was picked out beneath – Major DM Starsky.