Finally. I was finally
back in Santa Barbara and I had a chance to shave off my beard. Not that I don’t like beards. I tend to go ‘au
naturel’ on leave. In fact, Lola, among others, also like me with a beard; and face fuzz also comes in handy when one
is undercover, hiding a multitude of sins, so to speak, regarding one’s identity. But this time it itched. From the
climate or fleas I have no idea.
It had all begun after Seaview’s last mission, when I got a
GYADH. (‘Get Your Ass Down Here’ ) call from ONI. Apparently I was the ideal candidate to ‘monitor’
King Ang’s 14 th birthday celebrations. His government believed a new threat
was imminent and requested a little help from the US to protect him.
I yawned. Nelson would hit the roof if I played ‘James Bond’ again without so much as a ‘by your leave’
that I’d agreed to after he and Morton had pestered me to death about my ‘alter ego’.
you’re available, you know him and he knows you. Satisfied?”
Why did the Director of
ONI have to be so, well, logical? Still…
I replied, “why can’t his own people protect him? Besides, he’s a royal pain in the butt!”
the point, Crane. Besides, it was his inner circle that tried to kill him before wasn’t it?”
Well, there was no getting
out of that one. King Ang had been the proverbial hot potato back a few years
before when we’d had to help out, the boy orphaned (his father had been assassinated) and we’d had to get the
kid home to take the throne. It hadn’t helped matters that the bad guys were part of his own internal circle and attempted
to kill him aboard, not to mention attack Seaview. Suffice it to say, Seaview
had got him back home in one piece, and he began his reign with an adoring public.
So now it was, that I was to spend the next few days enroute to his
far off land and getting myself into ‘character’ while Seaview was
enjoying a new paint job.
Colonel Merger , the King’s
chief military aide, was especially worried that another plot to kill the King was brewing. Ang was growing up and a more
mature King was more trouble for the few remaining rebel contingents to put down. This birthday party was in all the news.
The perfect setting for trouble. And as Morton says ‘trouble’ is my middle name.
As for King Ang, Merger
briefed me that the boy was well aware of being a possible target, but had agreed ‘the show must go on’.
the birthday party was. A glittering affair, with the kind of noise only sycophants and more than a few teenagers can make.
While Ang’s bodyguards kept eyeing every little detail, from a potential
weapon hidden in a lady’s handkerchief, to the official presents threatening to collapse the table they were displayed
on, I was well in the background. Nobody gave a thought to the unshaved, unkempt peasant who had apparently been invited with a few others of my ‘class’ to accept a few freebies like gold coins
in a special ceremony during the party. (It was politically staged to show the King was a ‘King of the people’.)
Ang was a bit startled
when I came forward with the others, bowed and winked at him. But he regained his composure quickly enough and welcomed us
on behalf of his government, and was about to hand me a gold coin when I saw one of the royal party pull out a ‘special’
from under his jacket and aim.
Yes, his own inner circle
was at it again. Yelling a warning, (there was no time to return fire) I managed to push Ang down in time but felt the bullet’s
burning graze before it hit and shattered what had to be a priceless vase, (the jumbo kind you can only see in palaces or
homes of the super rich).
After the initial fracas,
and the room cleared, the would be assassin in tow with the guards, a heated
argument was going on between Ang and his advisors. Apparently he was more than a little upset that he hadn’t been informed
about US involvement, and that I’d been placed in danger on his behalf.
I had to smile and wonder
how Old John would have been proud of his own bravery and consideration for others.
“Yes, he’s a good boy, really, ” I heard a familiar voice near the wall where I was leaning.
“A bit out of your
element aren’t you, Captain?”
“Have you been here
all along?” I asked, concerned. Surely I would have, should have, noticed
“Yes and no,” he grinned.
Ang approached me, “Are you all right? You’re bleeding.”
“John. Old John.
He was just here…”
“John?” Ang looked excited, hopeful.
“Are you sure you’re
all right, Captain?” Merger looked around nervously and aggrieved. “There’s no one here. And I can prove
it to you.”
Yes, there had been no
John on the surveillance tapes I watched in the communications center after the King insisted
on having my shoulder tended to. But there on tape was the proof I’d simply
been imaginging things, talking to myself.
“Thank you Coloner
Merger,” Ang said, “would you give us a moment?”
After he’d gone,
Ang said simply, “You’re not crazy Captain. Oh, I didn’t see him this
time. If I were you, I’d let the Colonel go on thinking you were imagining things. I gave up telling anyone about his
appearances long ago.”
“So this has happened
before? Nobody can see him but us?”
simply shrugged his shoulders with a grin.
“Who is he, Ang,
what is he?” I mused, not really noticing I’d used the King’s
“A…friend. Like you Captain.”
The sound of my front
door slamming shut and Harry (he has a key for security reasons) calling my name brought me out of my reverie. I’d better
hurry and finish shaving before he could put two and two together…uh oh…too late.
“Where the devil
have you been? Don’t answer that. I saw you on TV, well, some of it. The
attack was all hushed up on the news, til now, ”he waved the newspaper
in front of my nose. The headlines screamed ‘peasant takes bullet, saves
King’s life’. Then Harry furrowed his brows. “You okay?”
We spent the rest of the
day theorizing about John.
“If he were some sort of angel sent to watch over Ang why did he let me
do the dirty work?” I finally asked.
Harry guffawed, “your middle name is 'Trouble'. He might as well let you
live up to it.”