The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear on my blog, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.
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It’s a term that means, “Play a card of the suit led,” as in bridge and other card games.
It also means to “conform to another’s actions.”
Captain Charles Pickard started something in the late 1960’s in Vegas, and when he shipped to Vietnam, he took over a more “boots on the ground” operation there. The product still needed to be received and distributed in the United States, so when he left, someone else had to step into his position and “follow suit”.
That was me. Specialist Peabody. My name of course, led to all kinds of jokes about the time traveling dog and his adopted son, Sherman from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. People were a real pain in the ass about it, but it did give me a great code name for the C-130 network we used: the WABAC machine.
Due to the fondness of the military for acronyms, no one ever questioned the letters. In my mind they stood for Wartime Available Bold Answer to Cocaine. Heroin was a product in demand, the poppy fields of Vietnam were a perfect place for it to start, and struggling soldiers were perfect targets to create a shipping lane. Already, we were trained to love the thrill that came with risk—thus our willingness to go into battle, but we never got paid much.
An organization called Solitaire offered us a solution. They had pull in high places, too.
I went from being a supply specialist to an E-7 in record time. That gave me more authority, and I worked with a couple of officers, apparently also well paid and fast tracked to position of power that meant we had pretty autonomous operations authority.
When the war seemed to be drawing to a close, shipments understandably slowed, although equipment being sent back stateside did offer us some opportunity.
By then, I was married. I had two kids, both daughters, and as much as I wanted a son, my wife wasn’t game for trying a third time. We lived comfortably, but not too comfortably. She didn’t know exactly what I did, but she knew we had more money than any Sergeant First Class in the Army should.
My oldest daughter was six when I got the call.
* * *
April 15, 1975
“Ten-huh! Officer on deck!” My driver, a young Private First Class, yelled the words and then snapped to the position of attention. We stood in a windowless room, one with radios on one side of the room, a long table surrounded by cheap chairs on the other. A slide projector sat on the table, the carousel empty, and a tattered screen decorated the wall it pointed at.
A glance out of the corner of my eye told me it was perfect: heels together, feet at a 45 degree angle, thumbs along the seams of his battle dress uniform pants. His boots held a mirror shine, his uniform starched to uncomfortable stiffness. His pinned rank was a little crooked on the left side, but nothing that wouldn’t pass a casual glance.
Which was all he would get.
I snapped to rigid attention too, but a less rigid one than I would have ten years before when I joined the Army. I knew the newly arrived officer well.
You could say we did business together.
“At ease,” the Colonel said. Then he grinned and grabbed me by the shoulders. “How are you, you old beast?”
“Great,” I said. “It is good to see you. So, is it true?”
“Things are about over,” he said. “All but the final dance. Not that we actually won anything at all.”
“Well, the country didn’t. But we seem to have done okay.”
“You’re dismissed, Private,” the Colonel said, and the young man scurried from the room like a cockroach when the lights came on.
“So, what’s up?” I asked once we were alone.
“I’ll get right to the point. Have you been introduced to our employer?”
“Okay. I’m not sure how much I can fill you in, but I’ll just say that there are some of us who are being offered more permanent positions in the organization. You’re one of them.”
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I hope you are enjoying reading this series as much as I am. You can the rest of this series on Amazon here! Stay tuned for another FREE story right here next week. I hope to see you then!