Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:22:32 pm

"We want no more of this war," Trinh Won said. "Both sides take our young men and they never return. You must tell the South Vietnamese and the Americans to leave us alone."

He was looking straight at Kincaid but Hao had to interpret his words.

Trinh Won was built wide. Wide shoulders. A broad body. A flat, wide nose in a wide face. He was about forty years old. His hair was still jet black but was becoming sparse on top. He had come into the village with a guard of twenty Rhade all armed with automatic weapons of diverse origins.

Trinh Won had the demeanor of a serious man. A man accustomed to giving orders once and having them obeyed. From the way he positioned his men in the village, Hao was sure that there were many more outside the village.

Two families were in mourning that day because of the loss of sons and husbands. One had been killed by the Viet Cong in the ambush on the trail. Hao noticed that tragedy had also struck the family of Quon, the red-haired foreman of the rubber plantation. He had been murdered in his sleep the night before. It was supposed that one of the Viet Cong had slipped into the village and killed him. It was a great tragedy.

Minh had looked at Hao curiously that morning. There was a mystery of a dead Viet Cong along the trail last night. But some mysteries are never solved. Hao hoped that Minh would make good use of the five assault rifles.

Hao had a problem getting Kincaid away from Phouc that morning. He had to make them both some very serious and quite different promises to achieve it. He had very little idea how he would ever be able to keep those promises.

Minh, Trinh Won, Kincaid and Hao were in the central hut. They had been served tea and, after a few preliminaries, were into the conference. Hao had decided to interpret what was said word for word and to hold nothing back. He hoped Kincaid would see that Trinh Won was a man deserving of respect and not laugh at him.

Trinh Won had studied Kincaid very carefully at their first meeting. He did not say so but Hao sensed he approved on this American who was willing to live as a Rhade.

Kincaid thought a while before replying to Trinh Won. That was proper when discussing such a serious matter. "I can tell my superiors what you have said," he finally replied, "but I don't think they will attach great importance to my words."

Trinh Won appeared to be somewhat surprised when Hao interpreted that. He turned to Hao. "Did you not say this was a man of substance""

Hao could not think of a way to explain how a man of great character could be nothing more than a sergeant in the American Army. "He does not know you yet, Trinh Won," Hao said. "He does not realize the seriousness of your words." After what had happened last night plus having seen Trinh Won's armed guard this morning, Hao was taking him very seriously.

"Have you told him who I am?" Trinh Won asked.

Not really, Hao thought. "I will tell him now," he said. To himself he added, 'in words he can understand.' He turned to Kincaid and said, "Trinh Won is equal to a big general in your army," he gestured to his shoulder where stars would be worn. "Trinh Won can put into the field an army of fifty thousand men." This was perhaps and exaggeration but even Trinh Won could not know how many men would follow him.

Kincaid's eyes got big. "Fifty thousand men? Are you kidding me?"

"No," Hao assured him. "He could do that. He is an important chief."

Hao could see Kincaid trying to digest that. Finally he shook his head. "What has that got to do with stopping the war? The Chinese couldn't stop the war and they've got millions of men."

Hao turned to Trinh Won. "What are you prepared to do to stop the fighting?"

Trinh Won didn't hesitate. Looking at Kincaid he said, "I will guarantee my area to be free of Viet Cong."

When he interpreted those words, Hao saw the light go on behind Kincaid's eyes. They talked, with only a few breaks, all that day and into the night.

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