Authors: Leonard B Scott
Forged In Honor
Leonard B. Scott
June, Rangoon, Burma.
With a groan the heavy chain tightened and slowly began winding around the wrecker's winch. Feeling sick to his stomach, Gilbert Halley, chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Canary Team. watched the recovery operation with dread He had received a call only thirty minutes before from the Rangoon chief of police., who told him that one of his agents had been involved in accident and was believed dead.
Halley's gut tightened as the light blue Toyota emerged from the muddy canal and was pulled onto the bank. He moved closer as the stinking water rushed out of the open windows. A Rangoon police officer opened the car door.
Halley looked inside, praying his agent had somehow lived.
But the body was not in the car.
Another embassy car skidded to a halt in front of the taped police barrier. The CIA chief of station, Alex Manning, got out of the vehicle along with the military defense attache colonel. Manning motioned for the colonel to check the DEA agent's car. then looked over his shoulder to see where their tail had parked. The Burmese junta's secret police, or DDSI team that had followed them from the embassy had pulled their white Mazda to the curb a block away. Manning patted his driver's shoulder. "Keep your eyes on them." As Manning approached the DEA chief. Gilbert Halley said, "It's Drisco's car, but his body isn't in it. I think we should talk to witnesses who saw his car go into-"
Manning raised his hand to cut Halley off and nodded toward the nearby local police. "Don't talk here."
The colonel strode back from the car and pinned Manning with a worried stare. "There's no body and no manifests ... nothing. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Manning visibly tightened as he surveyed the police and crowd behind the barrier for warning signs. "Yeah, it could be a setup. Everybody get in my car now."
Halley didn't move. "But what about the witnesses? Aren't we-"
The colonel took hold of the DEA chief's arm. "Move it, goddamn it! Have your driver follow us, and tell him to stay right on our ass."
Only a few blocks from the American compound, the two embassy cars came to a stop in traffic. In the lead vehicle, the CIA driver impatiently drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he kept his eyes in constant motion, checking the people on the busy sidewalks and the occupants of the cars stopped beside him.
In the backseat, Gilbert Halley glared at the CIA chief of station, seated beside him. "What the hell is going on?"
Manning took a cassette tape from his shirt pocket and handed it to the colonel in the front seat.
Manning sat back and looked at the DEA chief. "Gil, as you know, all incoming calls into the embassy are taped. This one came in at zero-nine-forty-three hours to my office."
The colonel put the cassette into the car's tape player and pushed the Play button. Immediately the excited words of the missing DEA agent filled the car.
"Mr. Manning, this is Pete Drisco. I'm at the airport. I got it. Please listen and don't interrupt me. I don't have much time. I think they saw me checking the manifests. I've got the proof with me now; I've made copies of all their manifests with the names and destinations in the U. S. where they went.
They've been using phony visas and infiltrating into . . . oh shit, 1 see them coming. I'm leaving now."
Halley closed his eyes and lowered his head. "Jesus, the bastards got to him first."
Manning nodded dejectedly. "The secret police probably took him to the prison and tortured him to see what else he knew. They'll get rid of the body. It would be too incriminating."
Halley gazed out the car window and clenched his fists.
"A year's work gone. Damn those DDSI bastards!"
The colonel shifted his body around and looked over the seat toward the two men. "General Swei must be real worried to order a hit on one of our men. Something has to be going down."
Manning showed agreement by wrinkling his brow.
"They've got to be making a move. As soon as we get back to the office, order a satellite photo run over the probable drug labs to see if there's an increase in activity. I'll talk to my Brit and French counterparts and see what they've turned up."
The car began moving again and passed the cause of the traffic jam. Two wrecked cars were being pushed to the curb.
The driver sighed in relief and sped down Merchant Street toward the small American Embassy compound.
Feeling his stomach twisting into knots, Halley asked, "What are we going to tell Drisco's wife?"
The driver stopped in front of the iron gate of the American Embassy. The Marine guard inside the small guardhouse recognized the driver and vehicle and pushed a large button on the control panel. As the gate began sliding back on heavy rollers, the guard stepped out of the shack and leaned over to speak to the passengers. "Gentlemen, the ambassador wants to see you as soon as-" He heard the sound first, then caught movement out of his right eye. He pivoted to look at a large truck speeding down Merchant Street. "What the hell is that fool-"
The young Marine suddenly jerked backward and sank from view as bullets tore into the left side of the car. Showered with shards of glass, Gilbert Halley fell forward in his seat and felt as if he had been hit in the side with a red-hot sledgehammer. The colonel screamed, "GET OUT OF-" He never finished the sentence, for he was splattered with hot blood and brain tissue when a. Bullet blew through the driver's head. Unhurt, Alex Manning reached for a door handle, but it was too late. The fast-moving truck suddenly turned, jumped the curb, and plowed into the right side of the car.
The heavy extended bumper smashed through the car's window and frame, severing both Manning's and the colonel's upper torsos.
Halley was thrown out of the vehicle by the impact and landed beside the dead Marine guard, who lay in a pool of blood. Writhing in excruciating pain, he heard the roaring engine and the screech of bending metal as the truck shoved the wreckage through the open gate toward the chancery entrance. Screaming, the DEA chief rolled over onto his stomach and faced the embassy just as the truck crashed into the glassed-in entrance and disappeared in a blinding explosion.
The searing blast cloud, traveling at twenty-two thousand feet per second, abruptly ended Halley's screams and his pain.
5 June, Washington, D. C.
An accident at the Chain Bridge exit had ground the four thirty westbound traffic on the George Washington Parkway to a halt. Trapped in the metal logjam, a computer programmer who had left his office in Foggy Bottom thirty-five minutes before sat in his old Ford station wagon telling himself to remain calm. The traffic had to start moving again soon.
The unseasonably warm temperature had already caused his shirt to stick to his back, and perspiration was dripping down his forehead. He was telling himself for the third time that they would soon begin moving when he saw the temperature gauge panel light flash on. Dammit! He slapped the steering wheel, knowing he couldn't stay in the bumper-to-bumper traffic and chance burning up his engine. He saw a scenic turnout just ahead and eased the Ford onto the shoulder, praying the wagon would make it that far before seizing up.
On the exit ramp he breathed easier and took his foot off the accelerator, letting the wagon roll into a parking place.
Getting out of the car, he walked to the edge of the tree lined embankment that overlooked the Potomac River and took in a deep breath. The panoramic view before him was breathtakingly beautiful. Far below him the slow-moving, dark green river flowed eastward toward the Chesapeake.
Stately oaks, sugar gums, and maples of every shade of green covered the high banks. The finishing touch was the crystal-clear, light blue sky that held not a wisp of a cloud.
Then a man rowing a scull upriver came into view. The small craft was causing a V wake that rippled and expanded in perfect symmetry toward the banks. The sculler was wearing only shorts and a faded blue baseball cap. His body was lean and hard, glistening with sweat. He was in perfect rhythm, digging the oars in and pulling back, shooting the craft forward over the dark green water as if it were on ice.
The computer programmer stood and watched the man's efforts. He was out there all alone, doing what he wanted, while the rest of them grew fat and tried to pay the bills. The programmer watched until the scull was out of sight.
His chest feeling as if it were about to burst, Joshua Hawkins rested his oars and threw back his head for a breath.
Sweat stung his eyes. He reached down and threw water up into his face and took several more deep breaths to recover.
Not feeling dizzy anymore, he grasped the oars again and began a slow turn for the long crawl back to the boathouse. He felt the high coming on and accepted it as the reward for his efforts. Maybe, he thought, he might even have a chance in the fall race.
For the first time since beginning the workout, he looked around him to take in the beauty and serenity of the part of the river he loved the best. The land past the Francis Scott Key Bridge to the west always seemed like another world.
Unlike the wider lower river, where the park-lined banks could not conceal the city's hustle and bustle, the narrow upper river was enclosed and protected by high, tree-covered embankments.
Josh took it all in, refreshing his soul and rebuilding his strength. Then he slid forward on the rolling seat, extended the oars out, brought his legs up almost to his chest, and then scooted back, digging the oars in and pulling with his arms and shoulders while pushing back with his legs. After only two strokes he had the rhythm again, and his body and years of practice took over without the need for conscious thought.
The sweltering heat and the sound of the water rippling off the prow reminded him of another time and another river, long ago. He shook his head. It had been more than thirty years since his great adventure had begun and ended in the country that had been front page news the past two days.
When he'd first seen the television report on the embassy bombing in Burma, he had felt a chill. The memories of his childhood and young manhood there had flooded over him, and he'd been unable to think of anything else.
Burma, June 1960.
"Joshua, don't get so close to the side. You might fall in."
"Aw Mom, I'm not gonna fall in."
"Do as I say, young man!"
Blond-haired, eleven-year-old Joshua Hawkins moved his feet back a few inches but still kept his grip on the wood rail of the old paddle-wheeler. He listened to the chugging of the ancient diesel engine as he took in the strangeness of the world to which his mother had brought him. Six feet below, Burma's Irrawaddy River swirled and boiled like thick, reddish-brown mud soup, staining everything it touched. The far jungle-covered banks were impenetrable walls of vines entangled with huge trees in every shade of green, yellow, and brown. Monkeys occasionally screamed in the treetops.
Siapans glided by going downstream, piled high with colorful fruits, vegetables, and bamboo-caged animals that Joshua had never seen before. He marveled at the delicious smells of strange foods cooking in pots on the paddle wheeler's two decks. It sure ain't Kansas, he thought to himself. It already seemed like a month instead of just a week since he had left Leavenworth, where he had been born. His mother had been a grade-school teacher in the small town but had come to Burma to join her new husband. Sarah Brown was determined to save the heathen mountain people who were without benefit of God's word. If anybody could do it, Joshua knew, his mother would be the one. Joshua often likened his mother, only a little over five feet tall and no more than one hundred pounds, to the cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil, who was always leveling everything in his path. Sarah was like that-once she adopted a cause, she was relentless.
No Leavenworth store owner could refuse to give her a contribution for the Church Homeless Fund or Christian Veterans in need of a Thanksgiving dinner.
Joshua glanced back at his mother and smiled to himself, knowing she had been too confined in the small town. Henry Lamar Brown had truly given her a chance to unleash her god-given talent. Pastor Brown had come to Leavenworth four months earlier to speak at the church and show color slides of his missionary work in Burma. That night Sarah swore God had spoken to her and told her the mission was the way to his glory. Henry Brown was hopelessly smitten, and two weeks after meeting they were married. Henry returned to Burma a few weeks later, and Sarah began to prepare for her and Joshua's departure as soon as the Baptist Fellowship in New York approved their travel.
Joshua shifted his gaze back to the muddy river and wondered what it would be like to have a dad. He'd asked about his real father years ago, when he'd become old enough to understand he was different from other boys in not having a daddy. His mother had sat him down and told him Benjamin Hawkins had been a soldier and died only a day after Joshua was born. Benjamin was a good Christian man, she'd said, and the Lord had seen fit to call him to heaven since he needed soldiers in heaven. Sarah never spoke of him again until just after she and Henry were married. Then she had taken Joshua's hand and told him he would always be a Hawkins and that he should be proud of his family name.