The Grey Girl

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Chapter 19: 1967

“Do you really think you can do any better this time?” Richard Davis’s muttering whisper was drowned out by the heavy traffic of the city. “You see, I am not even behind bars. No one remembers seeing me at the village.” He spoke now into his glass of expensive whiskey. Smiling over the glass, he slowly placed it on the table. “What do you expect to prove by this anyway?” He sniffed. “You will be barred from pursuing this case as well.”

After a salute and a request to join his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Miller accepted his own drink with a thanks to the waitress. He hadn’t spoken a word since laying the folder on the table before Colonel Davis and ordering the drink. Miller, for his part, sipped his drink, savoring the cold of the water. Looking up from the glass that was leaving a ring of condensation on the white tablecloth of the barely air-conditioned hotel bar, he smiled. “You’re looking very well, Colonel.”

Richard was taken aback by the comment. Charlie continued, “Myself, I can’t get used to this heat.” He wiped his forehead with one of the napkins. Seeing the look on his companion’s face, he apologized, “I am sorry. I did not have the upbringing you did. Of course, you know that.” He sipped his drink. “You must be used to this heat, I would think.”

“And why would I be used to this heat?” Richard asked, his lips barely moving.

“Oh, nothing, I just assumed you’d be used to this hellish heat”—Charlie smiled—“you know, from your service in Korea and elsewhere.” He looked at the ice water, frowned, and waved the waitress over. “I think I’ll have a bourbon, please, on ice. Colonel, would you like another?”

“I don’t think you could afford this.” Richard smiled apologetically.

“You’re probably right.” Charlie took another sip of water again. “What’s it cost? An arm and a leg? Or just your soul?” He laughed and then smiled at the waitress as she placed the bourbon on the table. “Might not be just one, depending on the vintage, right?” He swirled his new drink. “Something from the thirties might cost you three souls, if you could, of course, get ahold of the devil’s liquid back then.” Charlie did not look up from his glass, a satisfied smile on his face. He could see Richard’s posture stiffen. “Then what? Once a decade one might pay a price to enjoy the, um, benefits of the drink?” Charlie was now looking straight into Richard’s eyes. He stared back. The deep brown of his reflected Charlie’s light blue.

“You know that was a very…odd…analogy.” Richard smiled, holding a look of pleasant confusion. “I’m not sure I follow your meaning, though.”

Charlie saw the smile did not reach Richard’s eyes. In those eyes he saw, anger? Hatred? Leaning in close, his voice was barely above a whisper. “Oh, I think I know the whole story now.” He finished his drink. Leaving the folder in front of Richard, he left the bar. Richard watched him go then stared at the folder as if it had offended him. Finally, curiosity got the better of him. Richard opened the folder expecting to see photos of the destroyed village. He remembered the charred corpses, the screams of the children as mothers were violated and killed before their eyes. He flipped to the first page. It contained three names along with a year, then another name, and another. “Damn it, Edgar.” He breathed.

Richard retired to his room at the hotel. The folder and its contents still smoldered in the trash can. He inspected his uniform. He was very proud of the ribbons and medals. He had been wearing a uniform since 1941. He liked it. He was in line to become a general just like his great-great-grandfather had been in the Civil War. He adjusted the cap.

Charlie had found what he needed. One way or another, he was going to get the information out of Richard. Edgar, while dead, would never be tried for the murders, but maybe they would look for other’s involvement. Even if they didn’t, the stain on the family name may keep him from the promotion.

It took a while to understand what he was seeing. The RPG fired from the shoulder of the man dressed in black. The explosion on the third floor of the four-story hotel, another man ran into the lobby firing his AK, then the explosion. Charlie lay in the street, ears ringing. Blood-covered patrons staggered out of the hotel lobby. Charlie stumbled into the debris. The waitress from the day before lay in two pieces, an ocean of blood still spreading between them. The clatter of gunfire outside the hotel caused pockmarks to appear in the already-shattered room. Through the smoke and falling plaster, Charlie ran up the three flights, turned down the hall. Where Richard’s room should have been there was daylight. A shoulder with a colonel’s eagle lay in the hall. The top of a head still stuck in the hat. Charlie would not get his answers today.

Alex closed the journal as his phone rang. “Hello, Dad.” He cringed. His host sipped her tea, watching him over her glasses. “I know, I know.” He shrugged. “What, no! You can’t sell it. No.” Alex listened for a moment. “No, Dad, I can work something out. I can get her to let us do some work.” A smile crossed his face. “Yes, I will ask her as soon as I get back to town.” He paused to listen. “No, I am trying to figure out a way to help her.” Alex smiled at Chloe across from him, feeling how odd it was to talk about her eponym in front of her. “Yeah, I know, yes…love you too, Pops.” Alex hung up. “Sorry about that. Are there any more of these journals?”

Chloe smiled. “I have not looked at this stuff in years. My father spent a lot of time trying to find out what Edgar had done that allowed Richard his youthful looks.” She left the room for a moment, returning with two large binders. “This is all his research. Please take it with you. Maybe you can find what he missed.” The heavy books were in his hands. The door was held open for him, and he was on the porch. “I hope you find a way to let her rest.” The door snapped shut.

Alex drove back home, his mind reeling with all he had read. It made no sense to him. Why did Charlie think Edgar had made a deal? A deal that benefited Richard. If Edgar had made a deal, it didn’t work out so well for him. Alex decided he needed to know more about Richard, and the first person he was going to ask was someone who was alive when he was: Chloe.

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