Seven Little Girls

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Chapter Six

Kat, who had ferried food in all day had a dinner ready for us at the family loft. Both Kat and Dee had a room in the loft and Ken actually opted for Kat’s day bed over the couch, although Kat didn’t have a day bed in her room.

“Joe and Aaron?” Kat asked.

“Went home to wait by the phone,” I said as Tori walked in with Ali and Jen.

“There are times when the free press is a pain in the ass,” she said. “We can’t hide, so Jen and I both put the story out on the wire out of Capitol, I gave Ali Jerry’s file, she did the obit. I wish we could do this anonymously.”

“You know that we can’t let this pass, Tori,” said Ken.

“I’m married to one of you,” she answered. “I’d call a doctor if you did. Jo wants a piece. She’ll be here with Larry soon.”

Ken smiled slightly. “Yeh, Jo Jo would want in.”

“Now,” continued Tori, ” you eat, you sleep and then we start. John Shao called the office. Nicky, we meet him for lunch tomorrow. Seems he feels he owes us an apology that it happened here. He asked if we wanted Jerry Chin, his treat. I naturally accepted. He’ll be in tomorrow morning.”

We were all working against sleep deprivation and our own memories. Jerry had saved all our lives at one point or another. I guess we just spent a night and day remembering when. We were as close as it is possible for men to be. We were a rifle squad, with Don Early, the squad leader and me, a correspondent; we were eleven. We lost four, including Don in country. Richie Deaver and Don in a helicopter crash, Steve Compton to a VC bullet, and Freddy Allingham to a booby-trapped five-year-old on a Saigon street corner. Now Jerry Considine in a San Francisco alley. I agreed, we were helpless in Vietnam, here at home, it shouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t just pass.

Joey Harmon, West Coast editor of Confidential was Don’s widow. To the squad she was Don’s Jo Jo. She’d grown close to us, and we to her. I’d grown up with her and for a while it was difficult to accept but in the end, she was one of us.

Tori was right, we were shot. Ken didn’t want to accept it though.

“Sleep? We’ve got to move. Find out where we can hit them and do it now,” he said.

Kat went to him and hugged his arm.

“Tori’s right Ken,” I said. “Get the intel straight. I’ve still got a Triad coin. We’ve got an army if we need one. We need to sleep on it, and then figure out how to hit them. Right now, I’m leaning toward dismantling them here then taking out Gonzales at home.

“This isn’t the mafia. No omerta, no tradition, only profit holds it together. We take the profit and then we chop off the head.

“Of course, that may be just the mad, the sad and not sleeping for a night. Let’s be sure, and safe. Sleep Ken, roll over and hold Kat if you need to. The nightmares are on the tip of our brains now. Let’s not make another one. We’ve all got enough for one lifetime.

“Get straight first. Isn’t that what Don taught us? Go in at one ten, or don’t go at all?”

“You’re right Nicky,” he said.

It’s funny, you don’t think you can sleep, but then a big meal and a couple glasses of wine and you’re out like you were on the receiving end of George Foreman’s left. I was dead to the world until five, my usual coffee time.

I found some ground coffee one of the girls left at some point. Even before it kicked in it was foul, but Jack was sawing logs on the couch and I didn’t want to use the grinder.

Kat and Ken wandered in together about six. Kat, grabbed a cup sipped and gave me a look as she dumped it and blended some French Roast with Kona in the grinder. Jack didn’t miss a beat.

“Next time you share my bed and my Daddy says hold me, do it,” said Kat to Ken.

“Your father wasn’t exactly Casanova,” said Tori walking in. “Slept like he died. I expected a nightmare. What’s up guys?”

“We’re empty,” said Ken. “Last night I’d kept going until I collapsed. Now I’m sorry I’m awake. Fair Nicky?”

“Close. We need to get sharp. We’re not now.”

" Then we suck it up,” said Jack from the couch. “Let’s not dwell on it. Tori, fill us in. It may not stick. But we need the tires to bite again, we’re spinning.”

“French toast?” said Kat, “got a loaf that’s dying a slow death in the bread box. Go Mommy.”

“Okay,” said Tori picking it up. “Second string cocaine cowboys, with a backstop in Acapulco gold. The South Americans, mostly Columbian, use the gulf coast and Florida. The coke bolsters the marijuana against the domestic market. Semi control of the Mexican border smuggling gives them a foothold. Called Tommy in Hong Kong, they are minor in heroin. They have a network and handle it but a couple steps below anything controlled from Asia.

“We can choke them two ways, on the street here or at the border. I called Harold, which reminds me, you have to call him at nine. He’s looking into the DEA. If they’re not too fragmented here, we can choke that, if not it’s tougher.

“Gave Jack Black a call in Calexico. He knows them. We can stuff a couple shipments on his information, but not much. Dee and Larry know other people in the border community, but it’s the hard way. If he has only a couple kingpins here, take them out.

“The DEA will tell Harold.”

“Will they retaliate or try?” I said.

“I tend to doubt it,” said Tori. “They imported the shooter for this. According to Johnny Shao you took out their enforcers here. They buy heroin from Johnny; he knows them. Johnny’s careful; you know that. He’d know.”

“Maybe Johnny shouldn’t sell any more to them.”

“He won’t. They’re small enough that I believe him,” said Tori.

“So, they want it quiet. They took out the problem. They don’t want to extend themselves?”

“As I’ve got the set-up, yes,” answered Tori. “They can’t recover from the loss. The SEC isn’t about to help finance a drug cartel. Half the graduating class of Harvard law couldn’t get their money back. You know that with the hit. ”

“So, you and Gwen do the obvious. I want to know Javier Gonzales in minutes from his birth date. He becomes Inquirer material. Leak everything. He takes a leak with the Paparazzi snapping.”

“You’re serious?”

“Tori, this man killed Jerry. The rest of his short life will be hell on Earth.”

“We’d cut him into small pieces, slowly, Tori,” said Jack. “In a room with any one of us, in ten minutes he’d beg to die. You know us. All of us wake up screaming because we killed. Maybe, if Jerry survived, we wouldn’t care. He didn’t, and our world isn’t right. We couldn’t do this for Richie, Steve, Freddy and Don. The damn politicians wouldn’t let us. It won’t happen again, you understand?”

“Oh, I understand Jack,” answered Tori. “You’re still nursing the betrayal. Nicky tried, in his way, and fell on his ass. You wanted to win. Winning isn’t everything Jack, don’t let it blind you.

“This son of bitch killed Jerry. He dies. Clear, simple, don’t load it up with a bunch of baggage. We don’t hide, we don’t sit; we’re all like that. Jerry was, and he forgot his training. Kat emptied her gun too Jack. We’re not vindicating anything. We’re taking out the garbage. Don’t make it more than that.”

“Listen Jack,” I said. “We didn’t betray Richie, Freddy, Steve or Don. We don’t make war that involves too many innocents. Every war has good men on both sides. A surgeon takes out the cancer, not the good tissue. They helped us become surgeons.”

“So, we kill him?”

“Of course. It’s personal. It’s not halfway across the world supporting corrupt politicians against honest men. We don’t shoot at you unless you shoot at us. If everyone had that philosophy, no one would shoot at all.”

“The VC were honest men?”

“They believed Jack. We were the interlopers. I’ve talked with them. The mistake was ours, not theirs. They had the right to their country, their friends, their family. The reason we’re doing this is so do we.”

“You two,” said Ed who had walked in with Deena. “You keep doing this. Same fuckin’ argument in a Saigon bar twenty some years ago,”

" I’m in, Nicky, but you and Jack have been doing this forever. You both want to save the world. Right and wrong, up and down, why don’t you tell the truth. It’s fuckin’ simple. Don’t fuck with us. I’ll help kill this motherfucker. He killed Jerry. It’s personal, and I won’t feel fuckin’ guilty. Not to promote peace or spread democracy or make the world better. He killed my friend. That’s all it is, be fuckin’ honest, both of you. Stop the crap. There is no higher motive. We loved Jerry you killed him; you die.

“Get in and win, get out with dignity. Tell you what, when we’re done I’ll sell a tractor, and a few acres that will produce. Jack you’ll take a few drunks home. Nicky, you’ll write another story. That can happen now. We kill this bastard and nothing changes. We will, that’s right, but it’s no great feat. One kid will smoke a joint next week instead of this week. Just stop the crap and let’s get it done. And stop the shit, both of you, there is no justification, there’s only us.”

“Thank you, Ed,” said Tori. “I’m as tired of it as you are. Stop with the crap, Johnny Shao’s heroin gets to the high school kids and, you know what? That’s the way it is. We do what we can. This is simply that we can’t live the rest of our lives looking over our shoulders. Jack, Nicky, stop making it more, stop second-guessing it, none of us will feel good about it. Let’s just get it done.”

Well, I did have to admit that Jack and I did bang heads on the subject often enough. And I suppose we did get on other people’s nerves. But then we understood what we were doing, and they didn’t. Life had long ago beaten the ideas out of us. We didn’t believe either side. From time to time, however, we needed to remember and pray to the god of our youth. To say to the World, that we were right, because we knew we weren’t.

Call it a paen to an elder god. One we left in the rice paddies and jungles of Asia, an idol in broken stone by the Mekong. Call it naïveté, or rather give that name to the god, because from time to time we all need to send a prayer winging in that direction.

“When it’s over Jack,” I said.

“Two bottles, two glasses and two of those Cuban Montecristos you seem to have stashed, Nicky. But for now, little Kat, I need it big and black, one of those oversized mugs.

“I’ll get on the CHP, warn the right people it’ll be a little tight for a while. My badge will help here, how good it is in Margueritaland I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.”

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