A Culpable Innocence

Chapter 13: Honor and Dishonor (pg. 190)


“Then tell me why the hell you think we should close this case!”

“It’s politics, sir. Specialist Fallen has been put up for promotion and a Silver Star.”

“Stratcom has to have their collective heads up their asses. He’s not even a combat soldier. They don’t give out Silver Stars to rear echelon mother fuckers, not in this war and not ever.”

“RCG is all up in arms about that policy, sir. They’ve gone to Westmoreland himself. They think they have a genuine war hero on their hands. He allegedly fought off an entire battalion single-handed until relieved by an air assault. He even killed four sappers in close combat all by himself according to the report that was submitted.”

“The way I read what happened is that three sappers were blown up when incidental fire detonated their claymores and one was shot in the back. The one shot in the back was Tam’s brother. Doesn’t it seem convenient to you that the only witness besides Thanh herself that can speak against Fallen was eliminated by our hero?”

“Yes, sir, but MACV is listening to RCG’s case. They even have a Signal Corps Major General at the Pentagon touting their cause. Unless we have some solid evidence against Fallen, we really have nothing to counter with. If we had the book and could actually identify it with this ‘death list’ you speak of, then we could state our case.”

“What about this Janus idiot? Does he have any other information we can use?”

“No, sir, he has been shut down. Out last communication was on an open line. The Lieutenant Commander of the Pleiku Detachment reported what he heard to the Battalion CO who was irate. He ordered PFC Diggs to cease his contacts with me.”

“For chrissakes, Karnow, this was supposed to be an undercover operation. Why did you use an open line?”

“Apparently, Fallen got the Operations Officer to issue an order restricting all use of the SCCN to authorized personnel only. The ONLY enlisted man he authorized was Fallen.”

“That mother fucker! You were right about him from the beginning. We have to get him, Karnow. We have to!”

Billings’ outburst provided Karnow his first glint of hope. This session with his commanding officer was not going well, but he might be able to turn it in the right direction. “Sir, the only reason I suggested closing the case is that I didn’t want to see you get bloodied at MACV. It’s all about politics.”

“Damn the politics! I’m about doing what is right. If we have a traitor in our midst, it’s our sworn duty to bring him in. I’m a man of action, Karnow. I don’t sit around debating politics when I know what has to be done. We’ve got to find a way to get this kid in the brig where he belongs. Silver Star my ass!”

“Sir, there might be another way.” Billings glared at Karnow, not so much because he wanted to hear what he had to say, but because Karnow had thought of something before he had. “Maybe we should go to the source, to Nguyen Thi Thanh herself . . .”

“Yes! Let’s bring spider woman in for questioning.”

“We could turn her over to the Koreans. The Vietnamese fear them even more than their own ARVN interrogators.”

“Yes! That’s what we need to do. How soon can you get on this?”

“I’m on it. But there are a couple of problems. Lieutenant Colonel Franklin is likely to speak against us at MACV. And Missy Thanh has gone underground since Tet.”

“I can handle MACV. Officially, I’ll declare the case against Fallen closed. That doesn’t stop us from going after spider woman. She’s a suspected enemy combatant and has been under surveillance for some time. This Tet offensive is the perfect cover to bring her in for questioning. You find her, Karnow. Hear me . . . find her!”

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