[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.After a few miles more our wheels sputtered to a stop.She told me we had thirty miles left to cover.Well, the track made for easy hiking, and the hills enjoyed a slightly cooler climate than the flatlands (meaning that we sweated glassfuls, rather than buckets).I’d been afraid we’d have to move at night, which would slow us down.But we’d seen so few people that I figured daytime travel, with a little care, was probably safe enough.I junked my Albanian coolie hat and put on my Chinese cap and checkered silk scarf—back to regulation uniform.We debated toting the AK-47s.We’d have to cover a lot of miles quickly and visibly: no time for stealth.So anybody who wanted to, could ambush us.If we got into a firefight, we were dead anyhow—they’d track us down and kill us with ease.The rifles were extra weight to slow us down, but who’d believe Khmer Rouge officers that traveled without them? We decided to carry one along for respect.I pulled the clip from the other, stuffed it in my pack and hurled the weapon down the road bank into the brush.The cadres had brought no extra ammo—two clips were plenty enough to discourage an escape attempt—and although the last thing I wanted was a shootout, if it came to that, I wanted to be prepared.Adhering to rank and local custom, Soh Soon humped my pack.I wore a ballpoint pen, putting me several rungs above a mere junior officer / translator; and Cambodian women did the heavy work, in any case.I slung the rifle over my shoulder and we started off.By that time I’d let it out that I’d seen a little action in Nam, as a paint-face guy.The news reassured her about our chances of getting through this escapade alive, and also she was delighted with herself that she’d figured out my secret back in the torture chamber.We swapped stories about the LRRPs and the Khmer Rouge jungle fighters as we ambled along.Would have been interesting to see those two outfits go head-to-head.From what she told me, all else being equal we could have taken them man-to-man, no sweat.But fighting in their jungle, all else wasn’t equal, and they’ve have stood up to us in any encounter.I was just as glad the face-off hadn’t happened during my tour.We made a couple miles on foot, then I thought we ought to dig in before darkness caught us.I asked Soh Soon if she knew any place where we could hunker down for the night.“Just a little further, follow me,” she said.After another half-mile she led me off the track and up a jungle trail.We threaded our way through several hundred yards of trees along a stream bank, then stopped by the upended base of a huge fallen tree.“This was Viet Cong hideout last time,” she told me.“See?” Sure enough, the tangle of tree roots and dirt concealed a tunnel entrance.“You’re sure we won’t be caught if we stop here?” I asked.“No way,” she assured me.“Viet Cong guys all go to Saigon.Why they be sitting around out here?”I dug out my flashlight and shined it into the tunnel.Cramped for somebody my size, it looked neatly dug, if a bit dusty.“How far does this go?” I asked.“Several tunnels in network,” she said.“This one go under ridge, to secret trail other side of hill.Further down tunnel connect to Ho Chi Minh Trail.On other side cross Vietnam border, connect to network go all way to Saigon.Right around here maybe twenty kilometers of tunnel.Best way to father’s place, we go under ridge by tunnel, then follow secret trail.”“How did you know about this?” I asked her.“When twelve years old, help dig it.Everybody in area have to help or get big trouble.”We sat on a nearby fallen tree trunk and broke out lurp meals.After two weeks on short rations of plain rice and dried barf bits, even humble ready-to-eats were a feast indeed.We tapped the stream for clear, cool drinking water.A little ways further along the trail a ten-meter waterfall flounced up a damp mist, refreshing the air in a steep-banked, lush hollow.We plunged into the pool at its base for a most welcome soak and scrubdown.Afterward we sat on a ledge under the overhang, gazing out through a translucent veil of water at orange glitters of forest-filtered sunset, listening to the hiss, swish and splash of the falls, and drinking in the delicious comfort of our spot.“It’s time to stop the Albanian act,” I told her.“That worked in Phnom Penh for fooling Angka, but now we need to pass through here without attracting attention.It would be better if I looked like a Khmer.”“Good idea,” she agreed, “How you do that?”I pointed out my straight black hair, squinted my eyes, and gave her a toothy smile, along with a prayer and a bow.“Let’s get rid of my beard and cut my hair, then we’ll see what else we have to do.Can you help me?” I tested my combat knife.It hadn’t shed a bit of its edge since the night Sarge gave it to me.I patted my beard as full of water as it would absorb, and Soh Soon carefully scraped it off.She had a delicate touch, making the operation close to painless.Then she gave my hair a going over, carving off a chunk here and lock there, until I sported the short-cropped style favored by the Khmer Rouge.“Now what?” I asked.She looked me over carefully and applied a few light smears of mud to give a better shape to the face.“Pretty good,” she judged.“You real rice farmer now, Jake.Put on coolie hat and fool anybody.” Then she gasped: “White men all hairy like monkeys!” and she broke into giggles.“Any Cambodian see you spot that right away.”“How about if we just shave it all off?” I said.“That do the trick,” she agreed.She made short work of my arms.I slipped out of my shirt and she started shaving the hairs off my chest.Her breathing seemed to change.“I ever tell you interesting thing they teach me in torture class?” she remarked.“No, what’s that?”“Difference between pleasure and pain.Very small difference.”“What do you mean?” I asked.“Here, I show you.” She indicated a spot with the knife point.“If I stick you hard here, you scream, it hurt so bad.But,” she continued, teasing the spot ever so gently with the blade, “teacher say light touch here feel good.”How right her teacher was.“Did your teacher show you any other examples?” Yes, several in fact.She proceeded to demonstrate, elevating my energy level by a couple quanta.“Let me see if I’m understanding this correctly,” I said, taking the knife from her willing hand.“So, if I poke you lightly here?.and here?.and here? (the last one got her squirming).is that the same thing as you’re telling me about?”Her eyes had suddenly brightened up considerably.“Same thing, exactly.Torture tutor taught us about first and last one.Number two new to me.Where you learn about that one?”“Ranger Training,” I told her.“It’s how we interrogate female prisoners.” Actually, it was one of several delightful discoveries I made during a prolonged biology experiment with Dana Wehrli while watching the tide come in one balmy evening at Zuma Beach.But why unnecessarily distract Soh Soon with the truth of the matter? She’d passed the novice level with flying colors.Advanced studies were about to commence.“What would Angka say about this?” I asked her.“Screw Angka,” she murmured, punctuating the sentiment with a little nip on my earlobe.7I’ve never been much of a city person.After two months cooped up in hotel rooms, my cramped little office in the Saigon Embassy, abandoned shophouse flats, dungeons, torture chambers and Khmer Rouge villas, did it feel great to be back outdoors again! Soh Soon and I basked under the overhang of that waterfall for nearly an hour after the sun disappeared [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]