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Old 02-13-2015, 10:31 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is online now
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Location: Auberry, CA
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And an epilogue: it takes place after an uprising in Cuba that ends the Communist Regime....and sharp-eyed readers may recognize a board member as a character at NAS Key West. Anyone recognize him?

Epilogue: 1400 Hours Eastern Daylight Time, NAS Boca Chica, Key West, Florida, 23 July 2009:

Major Kelly Ann Ray taxied her F-15E Strike Eagle onto the transit ramp at NAS Boca Chica. She was the operations officer for the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing in the USAF Reserve, and had a nice civilian job as a Deputy Sheriff in Pocatello, Idaho. Now, after the intervention in Cuba (though many called it the long-overdue invasion), she had been asked, along with a number of other former POWs who'd been held in Cuba during the war, to identify high-value Cuban detainees for war-crimes prosecutors.

Normally, she wouldn't have been allowed to take her fighter-and her WSO, Capt. Jody Tucker, but the war-crimes people wanted her in Key West as fast as possible, and so the order went to the 419th: “Fastest Available Transportation” to NAS Boca Chica. And if that meant taking her fighter, so be it. Her CO, Colonel Matt Wiser, a triple ace in F-4s during the war, had simply shrugged, told the duty officer to sign her and Tucker out, and be done with it.

After she shut down the engines, she popped the F-15E's canopy. Then she noticed a small welcoming committee. She and Jody finished the post-flight checklist, then got out of the plane. One of the investigators, a bespectacled Army intelligence NCO, came up to her and saluted. “Major Ray?”

She returned the salute. “That's right.”

“Ma'am, I'm Sergeant First Class Weiser, the NCOIC for the investigations. We're glad you're here, because there's some folks here who've come up in POW debriefings-including yours-and we're planning to put these guys on trial,” said the NCO.

“I'll do whatever I can, Sergeant. When do we get started?” Major Ray asked.

“We're planning on starting tonight, and going all day tomorrow,” the NCO said. “Before we get started, we've got rooms for both you and your WSO in the Navy Lodge here: it's what they use in place of a VOQ.”

She looked at Jody, who shrugged his shoulders. Normally, he helped run his dad's air charter company, but now...if it meant a free trip to Florida, and give his pilot whatever help she needed, well and good.

“All right, Sergeant. Our stuff's in the travel pods.” Ray said, pointing to the travel pods hung under two of the F-15E's conformal weapons pylons.

The NCO pointed to the Navy ground crew, who brought their bags. Not knowing how long this would last, both Ray and Tucker had packed for a few days. “Thanks. How many former POWs are here?” she asked.

“About a couple dozen,” the NCO replied. “Some are here already, others won't be here until tomorrow,” he said as a Hummer pulled up. The party got in, and the enlisted driver pulled away.

“Sergeant, there's two specific individuals I'm looking for,” Major Ray said. “The bastard known as 'Fidel' to the guys in Hanoi, and one of the leftie collaborators, Michelle Bateman. Then there's some guards from Mariel, Isle of Pines, and Holguin. But those two first of all.”

“We've got him, Major,” Sergeant Weiser said as the Hummer left the ramp. “He was living in Varadero Beach, and the Marines found him-phony ID, bags packed, and several false passports-and not Cuban, mind you. He had an exit planned. Trouble was, he didn't count on the Cuban Military Intelligence Directorate's files being captured intact, and the highest priority were those who'd been in charge of POWs.”

“Let me guess: you got him first?” Tucker asked. He'd heard his pilot's story several times.

“Almost: a couple others got picked up earlier, but we got his ass in a sling before he knew what hit him.” replied the NCO.

Major Ray nodded at that. So Fidel was trying to sneak out, disguised as a third-country national? He knew that the U.S. had a price on his head, and he wanted to keep his head right where it was. Lot of good that did him. “And Bateman?”

“That was an alias. Real name was Jeannie Chrisman. Wanted not only for several Weathermen-related bombings, but murder of a New Jersey state trooper in 1972. The FBI did have her on the Ten Most-Wanted list for years,” Sergeant Weiser noted. “And it wasn't just your debriefing: Haley Clark's mentioned her, as did Blanchard Ryan's, and several others as well.”

“ this bitch here?” Major Ray asked.

“In a body bag, Major.” Sergeant Weiser said. “Marines went to her villa. There, she pulled out an AK-47 and opened fire. They returned it, and two Marines wound up shooting her full of holes. They just saved the JAGs-of all three services- a ton of work,” quipped the NCO.

Major Ray thought about that. Not what she wanted all these years, but if that bitch paid at the hands of a couple of Marines, instead of sitting down in the Electric Chair or with a noose around her neck....oh, well. “Tell them, 'good shooting,'” Major Ray said.

“I'll pass that along, Major,” the NCO said as the Hummer pulled up to the Navy Lodge. “Here you go, Major, Captain. Just mention who you are at the front desk, and they've got rooms for you. I'll pick you up at 1900 and we'll get started.”

The two AF officers nodded, got out and went inside. After checking in, they found their rooms. In her room, Kelly simply put her bag down, kicked off her flight boots, and just lay on the bed. It had been a long flight, and she was simply beat. She looked at the clock next to the bed, and simply closed her eyes and went to sleep, still wearing her flight suit.

The room phone rang. Kelly woke up with a start, then remembered where she was. The clock said 6:50 PM. The phone rang again, and she picked it up. “Major Ray.”

“Major, this is Sergeant Weiser. I'm down in the lobby, and we'd like to get started.”

“Be right there.” Kelly put on her flight boots and headed down. Jody was already down there, waiting along with the Sergeant. And there were two surprises-one in an AF flight suit and another in a Marine one. .

“Nice to see you, Kelly,” Lt. Col. Haley Clark-Flynn said. She was now the Executive Officer of the 142nd Tactical Fighter Group in the Oregon ANG at Portland, Oregon. There, she flew F-15Cs. “Too bad you're a Beagle driver, but I won't hold that against you.”

Kelly shook her head. “And you fly Albino Eagles, and I won't hold that against you.” The two longtime friends hugged.

“Got room for someone else?”

Kelly turned and saw another familiar face. Marine Lt. Col. Blanchard Ryan came over. “Not bad for a blue-suiter, writing a best-seller, and getting a movie deal,” she said. Ryan was now CO of VMA(AW)-332 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Kelly embraced her former cellmate at Holguin. They had suffered together, laughed together, and come home together. “Glad to see you, too.”

“How come you're not a light colonel yet?” Ryan asked.

“You guys stayed in after coming home. I got out for a while,” Ray said. “I'm up for it, and when the next list of light and full colonels comes out, I should be on it.”

“That's good,” Ryan said. “So, they activated both of you for this?”

“That's right,” Ray said. “They let me fly my Beagle down here, even.”

“Same here,” Clark-Flynn said, looking at Kelly. “And my Albino Eagle is next to hers.”

The NCO came in. “Colonels, Major. There's going to be plenty of time to get caught up. The investigators-NCIS, OSI, etc., want to get started as soon as possible.”

They nodded, and the party went and got into the Hummer parked outside. The NCO drove, and they soon got to a high-security area of the base, with armed Marines guarding the perimeter. After showing their IDs, they were allowed in, and drove to a building that had portable fencing outside, and more armed Marines on guard. No surprise here about the security: it was as tight as possible without interfering with the base's operations. As it turned out, this was the NCIS office on the base.

The Hummer pulled up to the entrance. “So what's the deal here?” Ryan asked.

“The FBI's in charge of collecting and processing evidence-including witness statements. Now, you won't have to give a statement other than saying 'That's him,' but the Bureau handles all war-crimes evidence. The services don't like it at all, but Congress did that when the War Crimes Act was passed.” Sergeant Weiser said as they got out.

“Let me guess,” Captain Tucker said. “They don't want the military to be judge, jury, and executioner. Especially when military personnel are the victims.”

“That's right, sir. Nothing to give the appearance of a kangaroo court.” the NCO said as the party went in. “Now, Captain Tucker, since you're not involved, they'll want you to wait in the foyer, but the rest of you, please follow me.”

Tucker found a seat and grabbed an old issue of Sports Illustrated, while the rest of the group went in. The group noticed several older gentlemen waiting as well. “Who are they?” Haley Clark asked.

“They were all POWs in Hanoi: the camp known as the Zoo to be precise,” the NCO said. “They're here to ID 'Fidel.' Once they're finished, it's your turn. He'll be in a room, with a two-way mirror.”

The three female ex-POWs nodded. Nothing that they'd seen before in too many police shows. They watched as one-by-one, the Vietnam POWs went in, then came out. Several of them gave the thumbs-up sign: they were certain that someone in custody was the Cuban who'd tortured them in Hanoi. Then it was their turn.

“Colonel Ryan, since you're senior of the trio, you can go in first.” Sergeant Weiser said.

Ryan nodded and went into the room. The other two waited outside for several minutes, then she came back out. She went and sat down, obviously shaken. “Colonel Clark-Flynn, you're next,”

Haley went into the room, while Kelly waited outside. She came back out, and sat down next to Ryan. Clearly, some old memories had come to the surface, and she was shaken up. “Major?”

Kelly took a deep breath and went into the room. Two FBI agents were there, and there was a window covered with blinds. “Major,” the senior agent said, “Take all the time you want. There's no rush.”

She nodded, and the blinds were pulled. And there he was. His hair had a touch of gray in it, and he was obviously an older man than when she last saw him, in that interrogation room in Havana, but there was no doubt. The same man sitting at the table in the interrogation room was the one who'd been her torturer back in '86. How's it feel, now, to be the one in the room? If she could, that was what she'd ask him. Kelly nodded again. “That's him.”

The senior FBI agent asked, “You're sure, Major?”

“He may be twenty years older, but there's no doubt. It's him.” Major Ray said. Old memories began to resurface, and she began to shake. “It's him. I'm done.”

The agents closed the blinds and opened the door. When she walked out, her two friends were there, waiting. “Well?” Haley asked.

“We got him.” Kelly replied. She turned to Sergeant Weiser. “Just tell me where and when I have to go for the Military Tribunal, and I'll be there.” The NCO nodded, but she wasn't finished yet. “And when they execute him, I want to be there as well: I promised that my face would be the last thing he saw when they put the hood over his head..”

“No promises on that, Major,” the NCO said. “But they'll notify you through channels, as to where and when for the trial.” He turned to the other two. “The same goes for you two as well.”

Both Clark-Flynn and Ryan nodded. “Who else do you have?”

“That's the other reason you're all here-and the two Open Water escapees are due in later, among others: there's guards and interrogators from a dozen camps. Speaking of which, there's people from Mariel, Holguin, and the Isle of Pines.”

“Who?” Both Kelly and Ryan asked almost simultaneously.

“That's what the investigators want to know. You'll be here most of the evening,” Sergeant Weiser said. “There's one other thing, Major. After the invasion, Marines found a warehouse on the outskirts of Havana. Inside were several hundred coffins. All containing remains of POWs who had died in captivity.”

“Pat?” That was the one thing most of all that haunted Kelly about coming home: she hadn't brought Pat home with her.

The NCO nodded. “They found a list. He's on it. Now, all the bodies have to go to Dover for formal identification, so it'll be a month or so before...” His voice trailed off.

“Understood, Sergeant,” Kelly said. “Let's get this over with. Who else do we need to see?”

2215 Hours: NCIS Offices, NAS Boca Chica/Key West:

Captain Tucker had never been so bored. But given the security around the place, if he'd wanted to head to the Officer's Club for dinner, they likely wouldn't have let him back in. So he'd spent several dollars in the vending machines on snacks and drinks, and spent some time on his cell phone, talking with his dad. No, he couldn't say how long he'd be gone. Yeah, Dad, it's that important. Then he'd called the CO, and let Colonel Wiser know how things were going. Then the door opened, and the Major came out, with her two fellow ex-POWs and the Army Sergeant. He could tell that all three were visibly shaken up, as if old memories that were very painful had resurfaced. Then the Sergeant tossed him the keys to the Hummer. “What's up, Sergeant?”

“Captain, all three of 'em are pretty shaken up. Old memories came back, and there's some pretty nasty people in there that they all want dead. These three, and several others, have to blow off some steam. A block from the beach, near the Mel Fisher Museum, is a watering hole that's pretty popular around here-especially among the spring break crowd. My advice, Captain? Take them there and just let them run with it. Just bring 'em back in early morning and leave the Hummer keys at the Navy Lodge: I'll get the vehicle in the morning.”

“Sounds like good advice, Sergeant.” Tucker said as the trio of ex-POWs climbed into the Hummer. He took the keys, started the Hummer up, and headed off base into Key West. They located said watering hole, and after some..hesitation, and when a number of other ex-POWs and some of the investigators arrived, turned it into a party. But nobody knew who had the camcorder.....It was 0230 when they finally arrived back at the Navy Lodge, found their rooms, then they all staggered into bed.

1100 Hours: Navy Lodge, NAS Boca Chica/Key West, Florida

The phone buzzed by her bed. And Kelly was slow to open her eyes. What a night...whoever had the idea to blow off steam, she had no idea, but despite reliving some of the horrors she'd endured earlier, that person had had a good idea. She had some memory of a wet T-Shirt contest, helping some of her fellow ex-POWs have a good time-something they all deserved, and then the vague memory of Jody helping her to her room. She'd just peeled off her clothes and plain gotten into bed. Finally approaching some state of consciousness, she picked up the phone. “Ray.”

“Major, this is Sergeant Weiser. Thanks for your help, Ma'am, and they tell me they've gotten all they need from you. You can fly back to Utah whenever you're ready.” the NCO said.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” Major Ray said, some strength coming back to her after the previous night's events. “Not just for that, but for last night. Jody Tucker said it was some investigator's idea.”

The NCO laughed. “You're welcome, Major. I know, things got crazy during that Wet T-Shirt contest, but you all needed to blow off steam. Just hope nobody had a camcorder.”

Kelly sat up. “There is that, Sergeant. How do we check out? The FBI guys have some form or something?”

“They left something at the front desk. Just sign it, and they'll send it over. Again, Major, thanks for your help, and rest assured, we'll nail these bastards when the trials start.” Sergeant Weiser said.

“You're welcome, Sergeant. Thanks again,” and she hung up. Kelly got up and went straight to the shower. A nice hot shower, and clean clothes was just what the doctor ordered. And since they were in Key West, why not take two or three hours and play tourist? So she and her friends did just that, visiting the Mel Fisher Museum, the Hemingway house, and just walking along the beach.

When they got back to the base to fly out, all three shook hands. The next time they'd see each other, the next ex-POWs' association reunion notwithstanding, was going to be at the trial of “Fidel.” And all three wanted to see him go to the gallows. They said goodbye for now, then all mounted their aircraft and flew out.

Major Ray and Captain Tucker said very little about the previous night on their trip back to Utah. Clearly, Jody thought, there were some things bothering his pilot. He'd read her book, and knew that her captivity had been very rough, even by WW III standards, and she hinted in talking to him that there was something that happened to her that she didn't put in the book. They'd stopped at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth for fuel, and she became more animated as they got closer to home. But at least, after the legal stuff was out of the way, they'd had a good time the rest of the evening. He'd driven them all back to the base, and he'd been surprised at the Wet T-Shirt Contest. Then again, he was a fighter crewman, and things had a habit of getting wild whenever fighter pilots were involved.

When they got back to Hill, they went to Wing HQ to check in. Colonel Wiser was there, getting ready to go out on a night low-level, but he did ask her how things went. “Tomorrow, Colonel, if you don't mind?” He nodded, collected his WSO and headed on out. Kelly found a room at the VOQ, while Jody, his two day stint done, went on home.

The next morning, she woke up-despite having a mostly sleepless night, and decided to have a talk with Colonel Wiser, the CO. He had gone out again, just after dawn-she had found out from calling the duty officer, but would be back in a couple of hours. Kelly decided that she had to have a one-on-one with the Colonel, and get things out of her system. So she had a shower, put on her flight suit, went off to breakfast, and then went to Wing HQ. As she drove past the 419th's ramp area, she noticed the Wing King bird now parked. Yes, he was back, and she did want to see him. She pulled into Wing HQ, and saw the CO's '69 Mercury Cougar convertible parked in the CO's space. She found her spot, got out of her Olds 442, and went in. Capt. Troy McCord, the active-duty AF officer who was usually in charge while the reservists were at their civilian jobs, saw her. “Major?”

“Troy,” she replied. “The boss in?”

“Yeah. He just came back. You want to see him?”

“I do.” Kelly said as she headed to the CO's office. She knocked on the door. “Come on in and show yourself,” a familiar voice said. And she opened the door to have her long talk with the CO.......
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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