A three-quarter drove out from the main gate and came down to where we landed as the rotor slowly whined to a stop.
Behind that was a two and a half with the rest of the bodies. The three-quarter stopped on the green grass by the chopper and Harlow stepped out. Then the two and a half stopped and a detail got out to sling the last of the bodies.
“Hello, Harlow,” I said. “How’s it going?”
He gave me a sardonic grin. “It’s been better.”
Harlow is about my height, maybe six two, and weighs around two-twenty. He played college football somewhere on the west coast and the weight suits him. He’s got a wild comic sense that finds some fun in almost anything. He was on the solemn side today, though.
We stood in a little knot beside the aircraft, he and I and the pilot and co-pilot of the chopper. The crew chief and door gunner looked into little holes on the other side of the aircraft.
Harlow’s team sergeant, Billy Waugh, came over, smiling a happy smile. It always materialized during disaster. He seemed always to lean forward like a starter on the block. “Sir,” he said to Harlow, “the second company’s going out tomorrow, with or without orders. Their objective is to bring back thirty-four heads.”
Harlow nodded. “That’s inhuman and barbaric and brutal,” he said. “But I can’t do anything about it. I’m only an advisor. You did advise them not to do it, didn’t you?”
Waugh smiled some more and said, “Oh, yes, sir. I advised them most strongly against it. You mind if I go along?”
“Better not,” Harlow said. “You guys want to come with me? I’ll show you the trucks we got off the ambush.”
We got in the three-quarter. Harlow drove through the main gate. The pilot and I squeezed in the front seat beside him. Sergeant Waugh and the co-pilot were in the back. “You knew Wally got it on this ambush, didn’t you Jim?”
“No!” I said. “I figured about his kids, but I didn’t know about Wally.”
“Yeah,” he said, “he was wounded in four places from grenade fragments, and he was down but still firing. The Cong swarmed the truck and shot him to death with his own forty-five. His wife had her head blown off by a grenade and the two were killed by small arms fire.”
“I don’t get it,” I said, shaking my head. “The Cong use terror, sure. But usually they have sense to use it selectively. They haven’t accomplished anything with this but to get the Strike Force mad at them. Like that thirty-four heads deal Sergeant Waugh was talking about.”