Monday, 29th May 2023 - 17:06:58 pm

"Now we can assemble the rifles," Hao told Kincaid.

Minh and Quon had escorted them to a hut near the center of the village. It was close to the large assembly hut. They were alone inside.

"We gonna have trouble?" Kincaid asked.


They opened their Air France bags and started piecing together the assault rifles.

"This is some vacation, old buddy. I"ve had easier times on a probe."

"It's a surprise to me," Hao said. "You"d think there was a war on."

"You didn't expect any trouble, huh?"

Hao gave him an innocent look. "In my own home?"

"Then why did we bring all this hardware?"

"I told you. There's game around here. Deer. Boar. Tigers. There's even some elephants but it's best not to shoot the elephants."

"Why not?"

Hao grinned. "You ever try to carry an elephant back to camp?"

Kincaid laughed. "I suppose that's an old Rhade joke. Well it's not funny. What were you guys talking about back there?"

Hao related his talk with Minh and Quon. They completed assembling the AK-47s while he spoke. When he finished, they heard a sound outside the hut. Without a word, they took up positions on opposite sides of the doorway. They held the rifles with a clip ready to be inserted. They couldn't shove the clip in place because the sound would give away their positions.

A man spoke outside. Hao recognized Minh's voice. He went to the door holding the assault rifle out of sight. Minh was alone. Hao motioned for him to enter.

"It's okay," he told Kincaid.

Kincaid relaxed but didn't put down the weapon.

Minh entered the hut and threw his arms around Hao. "You got my message," he said to Hao in Rhade. "Thank you for coming." He indicated Kincaid. "This is the man?"

"That's him," Hao replied.

Minh came over and threw his arms around Kincaid. Kincaid took a step back. He stumbled and nearly fell. He looked at Hao in surprise.

"He's glad to see you," Hao explained.

"He wasn't before."

Hao grinned. "He knows you better now."

"Will you tell me what the hell is going on here?"

"He"ll have to tell both of us because I don't know either." Hao had decided not to tell Kincaid that Minh had summoned him to the village and had asked him to bring with him an American "who could be trusted." Hao motioned for Minh to sit. The three of them sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor. Kincaid kept his rifle across his lap.

When Minh spoke Hao interpreted for Kincaid. "Quon has gone to the rubber plantation," Minh said. "He left as soon as you came here." He indicated the hut. "He will tell the Viet Cong you are here."

"Charlie is at the plantation?" Kincaid asked.

"Sometimes they are there," Minh answered through Hao. "Other times there are ways to get messages to the VC from there. The French," Minh turned and spat on the floor at the word, "allow it to be done, or perhaps they do it themselves."

"The French still own the plantation," Hao added on his own.

"And they cooperate with the VC?" Kincaid asked.

"They cooperate with everyone," Hao said.

"Quon now thinks he is more French than Rhade," Minh said. "He does what they tell him in all things. He forgets that the Rhade were here long before the French came and will be here long after the French are gone."

"Quon is a foreman at the plantation," Hao added.

"Then Charlie might be here tonight," Kincaid said. "We gotta get out of here."

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