The Intruders
anyway.
    No way of knowing what the market did today, of course.”
    “Of course,” Jake agreed, suitably impressed. He whistled as he thought
about $122,000, then said, “Say, I got a couple grand saved up. Maybe
you could help me invest it.”
    “That’s what got me shipped out here with these jarbeadsl AD the guys in
the ready room wanted investment advice.
    Everybody was reading the Wall Street Journal and talking about interest
rates and P/E ratios and how many cars Chrysler was gonna sell. The
skipper blew a gasket.”
    McCoy shook his head sadly. “Ah well, it’s all water under the keel.
Can’t do nothing about it now, I guess.” He looked again at Jake. “Tell
me about this guy you threw through the window.”
    When they had exhausted that subject, Jake wanted to know about the
officers in the squadron.
    “Typical Marines” was the Real’s verdict, spoken with an air of resigned
authority since he had been with this crowd for three whole weeks.
“Seems like three months. This is going to be the longest tour of my
life.”
    “So how many are combat vets?”
    “Everyone in the squadron, except for the three or four nuggets, did at
least one tour in ‘Nam. Maybe half of them did two or more. And six or
eight of them did tours as platoon leaders in Vietnam before they went
to flight school.
    Your BN, Le Beau? He was in Marine Recon.”
    Grafton was stunned. Le Beau? The San Diego cocksman? “You’re pulling
my leg.”
    “I shit you not. Recon. Running around behind enemy lines eating snake
meat, doing ambushes and assassinations.
    Yeah. That’s Le Beau, all right. He’s a legend in the Corps.
    Got more chest cabbage than Audie Murphy. He ain’t playing with a full
deck.”
    Jake Grafton’s face grew dark as he recalled Flap’s rambling cockpit
monologue. And that aura of bumbling incompetence that he exuded all
morning!
    Seeing the look, McCoy continued, “God only knows why the Marines made
him a BN. He went back to Vietnam in A-6s. Punched out twice, the
first time on final to DaNang.
    Walked through the main gate carrying his parachute and seat pan. The
second time, though, was something else. His pilot got his head blown
off and Le Beau ejected somewhere near the Laotian border. Maybe in
Laos or Cambodia-I don’t know. Anyway, nobody heard anything, Just
nothing, although they looked and looked hard. Then seventeen days or
so later a patrol stumbled onto him out in the jungle in the middle of
nowhere. He was running around buck naked, covered with mud and leaves,
carrying nothing but a knife.
    Was busy ambushing the gomers and gutting them. They brought him back
with a whole collection of gomer weapons that he had stashed.”
    From the look on Grafton’s face, McCoy could see that he was not a happy
man.
    “That ain’t the amazing part, Jake,” the Real McCoy continued. “The
amazing part is that Le Beau didn’t want to get rescued. Two guys have
told me this, so I’m assuming that there’s something to it. He didn’t
want to come back because he was having too much fun. The grunts on
that patrol almost had to tie him up.”
    “His last pilot didn’t cut the mustard,” McCoy continued, “not to Le
Beau’s way of thinking. Was having his troubles getting aboard. Oh, he
wasn’t dangerous, but he was rough, couldn’t seem to get a feel for the
plane in the groove at night. He might have come around, then again he
might not have. He didn’t get the chance. Le Beau went to the skipper
and the skipper went to CAG and before you could whisper ‘Semper Fi’ the
guy was transferred.”
    “Le Beau did that?”
    “Whatever it takes to make it in the Corps, that dickhead has it. He
just got selected for promotion to major.
    Everyone treats him with deference and respect. Makes my stomach turn.
Wait till you see these tough old gunnies-they talk to him like they
were disciples talking to Jesus. If he fives he’s going to be the
commandant someday, mark MY words.”
    “Strangers in

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