Monday, 29th May 2023 - 16:27:35 pm

Minh nodded, grunted, and said, "Maybe so."

"Okay. We go out here," he indicated a route on the map that would put them between the three man party and the main force of VC, "single file, six meter interval, until we find their trail. The file stops in place there. You, me and three men, we find these men. Maybe if they're still alive when we take them, they can tell a good story.

"When Charlie over here," he poked the end of his cigar toward the main force, "hears the shooting, he'll be very careful. He will not come straight at us. He will try to flank us from this side to stop us from getting home. But our file with a six meter interval puts our flank very far. Too far for Charlie, I think. What do you think?"

Minh studied the map. "Too far for a while."

"Right. We cannot stay long. Twenty minutes after the first shot, the file turns and starts out. They keep the same order to screen us behind them. We will reassemble here." He pointed to some high ground two kilometers behind them. "What do you think?"

"The line is thin," Minh said.

"Charlie won't know that. We will be gone before he can find out."

"And if he tries to flank us on the other side?"

"He will be chasing us home. We were going that way anyway."

Minh nodded. "It is a good plan, Chin Way," he said.

"Good," Kincaid said. He would not have tried it without Minh's approval. "Like the net of a fisherman is it not? We shall see what we can catch."

Minh put his best tracker in the lead. In less than fifteen minutes he came across the tracks of the three men. The file stopped and took cover where they were. Kincaid took one man and went out to the left of the tracks. Minh and one man stayed to the right. The tracker waited until they were in position, fanned out to the sides and ahead, before he started.

It was up to the men on the sides to make sure the way was clear of the man in the middle before he moved forward. They probed the flanks ahead to protect him. The foliage here was thicker than in the highlands but not as dense as in the coastal jungles. They could sometimes see for thirty meters. But in this type of fighting, hearing was much more important than seeing. They could hear for hundreds of meters in every direction.

Kincaid was the least skilled of the five in the art of silent stalking. But he had improved to a point that was not far behind the others. All of them stopped often to listen.

The advantage was on their side and they knew it. A group of men in the jungle always talked, unless they had been trained since childhood to remain silent as the Rhade had been. Some men would talk even if they knew they were being hunted. These men did not know they were being hunted and they were not Rhade. It was not long before they heard the sound of a voice.

They all heard it nearly at the same time. The man was speaking very quietly so they were close. The Rhade in the center froze in his tracks. The sound was dead ahead of him. He went slowly to the ground, his weapon ready to fire.

Kincaid and the man farther out on his left continued straight ahead, very carefully. They were in a good flanking position. The soft voice stopped talking but they had the location fixed. When they passed beyond the position, they circled and came up behind.

Minh and his man joined them just as the quiet voice began speaking again. The four men fanned out and went in toward the voice. Kincaid soon saw the speaker. He was sitting alone, his back leaning against a tree, talking on a hand radio. An AK-47, the clip in place, was resting across his legs. The khaki uniform he was wearing set him apart from the usual Viet Cong. Maybe he was a North Vietnamese regular, Kincaid thought, but there was no insignia on the uniform. The man was looking right at Kincaid's position without seeing him.

At first Kincaid could not see the other two. Then he spotted them. They were beyond the talker, lying on the ground, in position to defend in the other direction.

The man stopped talking and held the radio to his ear. The volume was set very low but Kincaid could make out some sound coming from it.

Kincaid couldn't see the others of his group but he was sure they were in place and had seen as much as he had. He stepped from behind his cover and walked carefully toward the man with the radio. The M-16 on his hip was aimed at the man's chest.

The man saw him at the instant he broke cover but his expression did not change. His eyes flicked toward the assault rifle across his legs but he made no move. The man is brave, Kincaid thought. He hoped that when he was faced with the certainty of his own death, he would behave as well.

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