The X-Code and the Genie (Chapter 2)

A World War II Novelette of Espionage

Part 1 of the OSS Trilogy



 12 Miles West of Setaat, Morocco, 1942

The sound of the lumbering transport planes engines faded into the distance as the three agents landed without incident under deployed white canopies in the soft, brown desert sand of French Morocco at a quarter past 4am local time. It was a moonless night, but clear, and the millions of stars appeared as pin pricks in the thick black curtain of night. After a compass heading and a few miles of hiking, they arrived at the road to meet their contact. At 0627 as dawn was just beginning to break, Chandler saw the faint glow of headlights in the distance. All three men drew their pistols and held them behind them. The van gave the pre-arranged signal and flashed it’s headlights three times on approach. Chandler kept his pistol behind his back as the van slowly rolled up. The driver rolled down his window. Chandler asked the driver the code question to verify his identity. “Excuse me what is the name of a good French restaurant in Casablanca?”.  The driver smiled. “That would be Le Cyne Blanc monsieur. The Absolute best in French Cuisine!” Both men smiled at each other and gave a nervous laugh. “Captain Logan Chandler.” Logan reached through the window and shook hands with the driver. “Henry Toulere at your service, Captain.” The man replied. “Let’s get going shall we, I want to get back before anybody sees you.” Chandler nodded and all three men jumped into the back of the van.  Toulere was a 30-year-old Parisian that had joined the Resistance the day after the Germans invaded France. He had jet black hair and dark eyes that showed the maturity of a man twice his age. He was dressed as a construction worker and the van was full of tools and materials to contribute to the charade. Looking at Toulere’s hands, Chandler could tell right away he was a seasoned operative. He had taken the time to rough up his hands with sandpaper and smear paint on them. “The devil is always in the details.” Toulere said smiling, noticing Chandler looking at his hands. “I have all the equipment and weapons you requested at the safe house. We also have another van that you can use to commute to Casablanca.” Toulere said, looking at Chandler as he drove. “All your papers are in order, yes?” Toulere asked. “Yes, everything has been triple checked for accuracy. Our forgers are top-notch” Chandler replied. “Yes, they are top-notch because of our intel. The Germans just started using a new kind of ink on identity cards last month. Between the Gestapo and The Gendarmerie, I am not sure which one is a bigger royal pain in the ass!” Toulere responded with a laugh. “I will introduce you to the rest of the team this evening. In the meantime, best to stay out of sight in the house. Get some rest.” Toulere replied. Chandler nodded in agreement even though the adrenaline was pushing him to get cracking right away. They drove through the small farming town of Setaat, which like most of the older town’s and villages in North Africa, consisted of a town square with a public water well in the center. The outlines of the old buildings in the diffused morning light reminded Chandler of an oil painting he had seen a few years back in London. The safe house sat a few miles out-of-town on a hill which overlooked the entire area. Being there was only one road in and out, a person could stand on the front porch and see who was coming from either direction for miles. “La douceur du foyer.” Toulere said smiling as he turned off the engine. “Very nice.” Chandler replied.

The house was a bone white, two-story late 19th century french colonial affair. In the front of the house they had planted several small olive trees, shrubs and flowers. Walking up to the porch, Chandler noticed a pair of mixed breed hound dogs laying in the soft, black dirt. “Our early warning system.” Toulere said, grinning as he petted both dogs. “I have prepared two rooms upstairs for you and your men Captain, follow me, I will give you the nickel tour.” Chandler and his men followed Toulere inside the house. Walking in, Chandler noticed the front door had been reinforced and two deadbolts installed. “This place was donated to us by a prominent French businessman’s family. He was killed by the Nazi’s early on in the occupation for aiding the enemy. OK, to the left is the dining room and study and to the right is the kitchen.” Toulere said, guiding the three men through the large house.”We typically have our meetings here in the kitchen or study. Our resident chef, Ethan, typically cooks dinner for us every night depending on what is going on. Come on upstairs and I will show you where you will be staying.” The four men walked up the stairs, the old wood creaking under their weight. “So, this is my room here, next room is Ethan and across the hall there is Celia, and next to her the last two rooms there are yours. Unfortunately, there is only one bathroom upstairs, it’s  at end of the hall, down there.” Toulere pointed down the hall and then opened the door to The first room and turned on the light. “Lieutenant Squires and Blakeley, this is your billet.” Chandler said matter of factly. Both men quickly moved into the room and began unpacking on the two beds.  Toulere and Chandler walked into the next room. “Did I hear you say there was a woman staying here?” Chandler asked as he unpacked his gear. “Wee, Celia Devereaux. She has been with us since the beginning in Paris. You can meet her tonight. Until then, I will leave you to get settled and get some rest. Dinner at Eight?” Toulere asked smiling. “Sounds good.” Chandler replied. “I am really glad to be helping you Captain, maybe we can make a difference, aye?” Toulere asked, extending his hand. “I sure hope so Henry, I sure hope so.” Chandler shook his hand and smiled. When Toulere left, Chandler took his boots off, set his 1911 on the side table and collapsed on the bed. The last thing he thought of before drifting off was the name of that woman Toulere had mentioned; Celia Devereaux.


12 Rou Karachi, Apartment 365 , Casablanca

 The young woman lay in bed frustrated. She had been awoken by the bright morning light piercing its way through the window like an unwanted guest. Her lover had forgotten to close the blinds again on his way out to work this morning. “So typical of that self-centered asshole.” She thought. Huffing like a child, she threw back the covers and stomped over to the window naked and shut the blind. An opaque, comfortable dimness fell over the room. She reached into her purse and moving aside the small Walther .32 Pistol, found her gold cigarette case and lighter. Both had been a gift from her lover. Just one of many in the past few months. She reached to her neck and fondled the heart-shaped  diamond pendant he had given her two weeks ago when they drove up the coast for a weekend holiday. Lighting the slim french cigarette, she smiled as read the inscription on the cigarette case out loud: “To Anna From Hans, Always”. She really had this one wrapped around her finger she thought to herself. As she got up to go to the bathroom, she paused as she passed the dresser mirror. She admired her dark, raven hair and unusually tall frame, tossing her hair to one side, she looked at her profile and examined the curves of her thighs, the suppleness of her skin. For a brief moment she got lost in a daydream. She went back to her grandmother’s farm near Orleans where she spent her childhood after her parents both died of typhus. It was a place of refuge, a soft, green, lovely place, away from all this war, all this hate. She remembers her Grandmother waking her up in the middle of the night in 1940. She had just turned 18. The Germans had invaded France and would be here soon her Grandmother told her. She was to go to Paris to live with her cousins “until all this passed”.  “No! I want to stay with you granny!” She had cried. Suddenly, she was shook back to reality when she saw her lover’s spare uniform cap on the corner of the dresser. The Silver death’s-head Skull below the nazi eagle stared back at her mockingly. It’s black eyes as dead and lifeless as her lover’s had been the previous night.


Setaat Safe House

Chandler suddenly awoke to several people’s laughter coming from downstairs. For a moment he was confused. He quickly grabbed his pistol and listened. His room was pitch dark, save the light coming from the hallway underneath his door. Gradually he realized where he was and what he was hearing. Getting up, he slid on his shoes, stuck the gun in his small of his back under his shirt and made his way to the bathroom where he washed his face and got himself presentable. Making his way downstairs, Chandler could tell there was quite a few people in the kitchen talking, almost all of them French. Making his way into the kitchen he saw Squires and Blakeley sitting at a table eating with Toulere. Another man and a woman were over by the stove cooking. “Ah, Captain, you are finally awake! We were wondering if you were dead up there!” Toulere said smiling. “Please have a seat and join us, are you hungry? We are having Ethan’s famous lamb stew.” Toulere asked. “Yes, starved, thank you.” Chandler replied, still a bit groggy. The woman who was over by the stove came over and brought a huge bowl of steaming stew and sat it down in front of Chandler. “Bon Appetit” The woman said smiling. “Captain Chandler, may I introduce Celia Devereaux.” Toulere said as he helped himself to more stew. Chandler stood up to shake the woman’s hand. “A Pleasure Miss Devereaux.” The woman smiled. “I just love American courtesy! You French brutes should take a lesson!” The woman gushed as she shook Chandler’s hand. Chandler was immediately taken with the woman’s beauty. She was rather tall for a French woman, at least five foot seven or eight. She had raven black hair that was drawn back into a tight pony tail and dark hazel eyes. She was wearing a powder blue dress that accentuated her athletic frame and gentle curves.  “And lest I forget, this is our resident chef and explosives expert, Ethan.” Toulere said, still eating. Chandler shook hands and greeted him, his thoughts still on this beautiful woman in front of him. “Now everybody, let’s eat, so afterwards we can drink!” Toulere exclaimed, smiling. “Spoken like a true Frenchman!” Ethan replied laughing. The rest of the room howled with laughter at the remark also. For the next ten minutes, not much was said as the group literally inhaled the pot of stew. Toulere was one of the first to finish. “Ethan, as always, that was delicious my friend. Now, on to my favorite part of the evening; Let us all retire to the study for some whiskeys and brandy!” Toulere exclaimed as got up from the table, letting out a small belch. Everybody finished up their bowls and slowly one by one, made their way into the study. Chandler was taken a back by how large the room was. In one corner sat a polished Steinway grand piano and on every wall was an eight foot tall book-case filled with hundreds of leather-bound volumes. Chandler  found a seat in a leather easy chair as Toulere handed him a whiskey and soda and then poured one for himself. Squires and Blakeley sat on the sofa, both looking full and content as ticks. Toulere soon brought them over their drinks. After a few moments, Ethan and Celia made their way in, Toulere pouring them both a brandy. With the room full, Both of them sat at the piano bench.

“So Captain, I think this would be a great time to hear your plan so we can all coordinate our efforts.” Toulere said taking a drink, “Certainly. The first order of business as you all most likely know is identifying and eliminating this Mole in the Casablanca cell. This person sold out one of our best agents, Lt. Stokes, which resulted, we believe, in the Gestapo executing him.” Chandler paused and took a drink. He noticed Celia watching him intently from across the room. “What can you tell us about this mole Captain? Henry told me you had some type of description?” Celia asked. “Yes. From a source that has been cultivated inside the Vichy Interior Ministry we know the mole is a woman, age 25 to 30, with dark hair and dark eyes. Is around five foot seven in height and goes by the code name of ‘GENIE’. We were also told she studied music in Paris, so that may be something else we can use to find her.”  Chandler replied. “That is certainly some good information Captain. I think with these details we should be able to find your mole. After all, Casablanca is not that big of a city to hide in.” Toulere replied, that infectious smile still on his face. “And what about the second part of your mission? Something about finding a Gestapo Major who had Lt. Stokes executed?” Ethan asked from behind the piano, smoking a cigarette. “Yes. Our source has told us he is most likely still in Morocco, so again, if you could use your contacts on the street to help locate him, that would be a huge help.” Chandler replied. “Of course! We will use any and all resources to help you locate this bastard mole and this German piece of shit!” Toulere exclaimed, draining his second glass of whiskey. “Celia, how about some music to lift our spirits?” Toulere exclaimed, giving her a wink from across the room. “Wee.” Celia replied. Ethan got up from the piano bench and came around the piano to refill his glass, also giving Celia a wink. Celia began playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat.

The rich sound of the piano’s chords filled the study. Chandler was amazed at the acoustics of the old house, it was as if each note reverberated into the wood and came back in tune. Blakeley and Squires sat on the couch mesmerized. The potent combination of whiskey and music casting a familiar spell. Chandler even caught himself being pulled under by it all. The sheer beauty of Celia Devereaux combined with the skill in which she played was amazing. Wait. Chandler’s mind suddenly began racing. The mole has skill in music? Could that mean skill in playing the piano? Chandler’s heart began racing in time with his mind. He could feel the blood hot under his skin. Dark Hair, Five foot seven? Chandler sat up in his chair. He could feel the pistol against his back. He was tempted to slide his hand behind him and grip it, but he didn’t. Chandler made the effort to keep his face calm. He could see Toulere looking at him out of the corner of his eye. Act natural. Remember your breathing. His thoughts raced as to his next move. Should he try to warn Blakeley and Squires? He could see both of them were now half-drunk and oblivious to what was going on. The song was nearing it’s end. Chandler could feel sweat popping out of his pores on his back. He casually wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. The music stopped. Suddenly, he was jolted out of his thinking by applause in the room. Celia was standing at the piano, giving a bow and smiling. Wait, where were Toulere and Ethan? They had moved. Chandler glanced to his right and noticed Ethan behind the couch where Blakeley and Squires were sitting, both of them unaware he was behind them. Chandler could feel somebody was behind him also. He casually set down his drink to get up and turn around while at the same time moving his right hand behind him to grip his pistol. That is when he felt the cold steel barrel of a gun to his head.

“Now, Now Captain Chandler, there is no need for that.” Toulere said, reaching down and taking Chandler’s pistol. “Just sit back down and relax.” Toulere came around in front of Chandler, a P-38 Pistol levelled at him. To his right Chandler saw Ethan, armed with a Sten sub-machine gun, disarming Blakeley and Squires as well.”Well I’ll be damned!” Blakeley spoke up. “You piece of shit French turn coats!” “Lieutenant, that will be quite enough.” Chandler replied, his stony gaze levelled at Toulere standing in front of him. “OK Gentleman, that is quite enough with all the gun play, put them down.” Celia spoke as she walked over to the bar and refilled her glass of brandy. Toulere and Ethan both dropped the muzzles of their weapons. Celia came over and sat across from Chandler. She sat her drink on the side table beside her and retrieved a cigarette from her engraved gold cigarette case and lit it with her lighter. “Cigarette Captain?” Celia asked, holding the Cigarette case toward Chandler. “No thanks.” Chandler growled. “So I imagine right about now you are a tad angry and confused.” Celia said, dragging on the cigarette and exhaling the smoke. Chandler said nothing, his face growing redder by the minute. “So what should I call you, Celia or GENIE?” Chandler snapped, his eyes hot with hate. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all let out a loud laugh. “Oh my Captain, you are confused, aren’t you!?” Celia exclaimed, her face animated with concern. “You killed one of our agents you traitor bitch!” Chandler yelled, coming up out of his chair in rage. “Easy there Captain!” Toulere exclaimed, again levelling the pistol at his head. “Please Captain! Let me help clear some things up.” With that, Celia reached up with her hand and gently pushed Toulere’s pistol barrel to the floor. “Put the gun away Henry.” she said in a hoarse whisper, her voice sad and tired. “I want to show you something Captain.”

She reached over and handed Chandler her gold Cigarette case. “Captain, would you please read the inscription on that case aloud?” Chandler snapped the case away from Celia, still giving her a hard look. As Chandler’s eyes began reading the inscription, suddenly his whole countenance changed. “What does it say Captain?” Squires asked from across the room, a look of concern and confusion on his face. Chandler shook his head in disbelief. “It says To Anna from Hans, Always.” “Who the Fuck is Anna and Hans?” Blakeley exclaimed, his face red with anger. “I am Anna, Lieutenant.” Celia said as she stood up and ground out her cigarette in the ashtray on the side table. Chandler was still shaking his head in disbelief as the puzzle pieces fell together in his mind. Chandler looked up at Celia. “And Hans would he Major Hans Gruedell of the German Gestapo here in Casablanca, yes?” Chandler asked. Celia smiled as she took a drink of her brandy. “You would be correct Captain.” “Wait a fucking minute! You mean Gruedell, the same hun we are here to kill?” Blakeley exclaimed. “The very one Lieutenant.” Celia replied, still staring at Chandler. “That still does not explain how Stokes was betrayed.” Chandler asked, returning Celia’s stare. “Well Captain, before I get into that, I think you and me are gonna need another stiff drink, do you mind?” Celia offered Chandler her glass. Chandler got up from his seat and took her glass. He walked over to the bar and refilled his glass with whiskey and Celia’s with brandy, all the time Toulere watching him like a hawk. Handing the drink back to Celia Chandler sat back down. “Ok, so tell me the story Anna or Celia or whoever the fuck you are.” “First things first Captain. Your Lieutenant Stokes is alive. Gruedell did not have him killed after he transmitted that fake message. He figured he might need him for something later. He is being held in a Gestapo jail outside Casablanca.” Celia spoke matter of factly now. Her voice was Flat, with no emotion. “Bullshit.” Chandler raised his hand like he was brushing away a fly. “Our source in the Vichy Interior Ministry confirmed his death.” Chandler spat. Again, Celia, Toulere and Ethan laughed loudly in unison. “Your so-called source in the Vichy Interior Ministry is a German double-agent Captain. She is the one who betrayed Stokes and has been feeding the OSS and SOE command a bullshit supper for months.” Celia lit another cigarette. Chandler wanted to speak, to give some kind of rebuttal, but he couldn’t, he was dumbfounded.

“How do you know all this?” Squires spoke up from across the room. “I am Major Hans Gruedell’s lover, one of the most senior members of the Gestapo and Abwehr in Casablanca and have access to his mind, his conversations and paperwork, that is how I know.” Celia said flatly. “The source in the Interior Ministry was developed by one of Donovan’s top agents in Bern.” Chandler replied, still trying to shoot holes in this crazy story being presented to him. “Yes. a Mr. Dulles, correct?” Ethan spoke up this time, walking from behind the couch with the Sten gun. “Correct.” Chandler replied. “Yeah, Dulles was the target of a Disinformation program by the Abwehr. They exploited a relationship between a French diplomat Dulles was friendly with and the Diplomat’s niece working in the Interior Ministry. It took them six months, but they were successful.” Ethan laid down the Sten and got a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and lit it. “How come you did not notify HQ of this? Why are you just telling us this now!” Chandler asked angrily, his face beginning to get red again. “Think about it Captain. Your entire North African network was compromised. We were not about to transmit this information to HQ only to have it fed back to the Germans and then get hunted down like dogs and killed! No, the only way we were going to do this was face to face, with the team they sent, like we are right now, and even then, we were taking a chance that your team were part of the deception too, sent here to kill us, so you can see why we were being cautious” Celia took a final drag of her cigarette and crushed the butt. Chandler shook his head and looked at the floor. “I’ll be damned.” he said softly to himself. “It’s a classic disinformation program guys.” Chandler said looking at Squires and Blakeley. “The Germans fed us all these details about Celia down to her being a music student to further convince us she was the mole so we would kill her, no questions asked, once she was exposed!” Chandler got up and walked over to the window, still trying to absorb it all. “You started out by telling us that Lt. Stokes is alive. Do you know where he is?” Squires asked. “Not only do we know where he is, we have developed a plan to break him out.” Toulere replied smiling, walking over to the couch and sitting down, slapping Squires on the back. “And as you say in America ‘To put the cherry on top’ of all this, Celia has developed a plan to not only kill Gruedell, but also the traitor vichy bitch at the Interior Ministry. It is a two for one deal, no!” Toulere laughed hysterically at his own joke, slapping his leg.

Blakeley got up and walked over to the window with Chandler. “What do you think of all this Captain?” Chandler stared out the window blankly, as if trying to divine an answer from the darkness. “It a crazy business we are in Blakeley. It’s not black and white like they tell you in training. It’s much more complicated than that.” Chandler replied. Squires walked over and joined them, feeling as if he had to close ranks. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all sat down on the couch together, holding hands. “So, Captain Chandler. there it all is. We are offering to help break your man out of jail and in addition kill a high-ranking Gestapo officer and a German double agent who has been feeding your OSS and SOE high command a steady diet of bullshit for the past few months, what do you say?” Celia asked smiling. Chandler continued looking out the window for a moment. He then turned around and faced them, a look of concentration on his face.”First things first. Give us our fuckin’ guns back. ” Celia smiled at that and nodded for Toulere to give them their guns. “Next. Celia, you Show me you plan from start to finish. Toulere and Ethan, take Blakeley and Squires here and show them all your hardware and explosives.” Chandler walked over and extended his hand to Celia. “Do we have a deal?” Celia stood up and shook his hand with a firm grip. Chandler was again impressed at her self-confidence. “I have one question before we begin Captain.” Celia said. “What’s that?” Chandler replied. “How did your HQ in London know that the message Lt. Stokes sent was dis-information fabricated by the Germans?” Celia eyes were wide waiting for the response. “Oh that was easy, he sent the X-Code before the transmission.” Chandler replied. Celia laughed and looked at Toulere and Ethan in disbelief. “You have no ideal how much that drove the German’s crazy! Gruedell talked about it for days!” Celia exclaimed. Chandler smiled at that and fished a cigarette out of a pack in his front shirt pocket. Celia promptly lit it with her gold pencil lighter. “Well, let’s see if we can’t manage to aggravate these German sons-of-bitches a little bit more, whatta you say?” Chandler asked, looking at the whole group, his eyes gleaming with excitement. Toulere let out a wild French yell and soon the tension and anxiety were replaced by excitement and joy. Lt. Stokes was alive and Major Hans Gruedell and the lying vichy bitch were soon going to die. It was a good day for the OSS and the French Resistance.

To be Continued….

The X-Code and the Genie (Chapter 1)

A World War II Novelette of Espionage

Part 1 of the OSS Trilogy



Casablanca, 1942, German Abwehr HQ

 Lt. Bernard E. Stokes of the Special Operations Executive or SOE, was dying of massive internal bleeding from a brutal interrogation session when his captors sat him down at a table in front of his MK III radio set. After a few minutes  Stumbannfuhrer (Major) Hans Gruedell of the Gestapo came into the room smoking a french cigarette. Gruedell was your proto-typical German officer. Slim and tall, around six feet two with sharp, angular features and sandy blonde hair.  After taking a seat across from Stokes, being careful to avoid the blood and vomit, he handed over two pieces of paper to Stokes. The first was his one time pad and signal plan copied from a silk handkerchief the Germans had found sewn into Stokes pants. It contained the times, frequencies and three-letter call signs Stokes used to communicate with his handlers at Baker Street. The second piece of paper was a message the Abwehr wanted Stokes to transmit. The Major offered Stokes a cigarette before lighting up another. Stokes declined. “Lt. Stokes let me be clear on some things before you begin to transmit that message.” The major spoke pristine English with just a hint of Bavarian. “We know your specific teams fist or style in addition to knowing your specific duress signals, so please do not insult us by trying any so-called shenanigans in trying to alert your superiors in London to our presence or I promise you the beating you just received will seem like gentle love-taps. Are we clear?” Stokes looked up at the Major through his one eye that was not swollen shut and nodded in the affirmative. “Wunderbar” the Major replied smiling while looking at his watch.”The next transmission time is at 6:32 precisely, I believe, that gives us right at five minutes, so prepare yourself Lieutenant.” Looking at the message he was about to transmit with his one good eye, several things ran through Stokes’ mind. The first was that his long-held suspicions were now confirmed. The Moroccan SOE circuit definitely had a mole in their ranks. His capture 12 hours ago was not because of bad tradecraft or even bad luck, he had been set up by somebody in their cell. This suspicion was further confirmed by what the Major had just said “We know your specific teams fist and duress signals?” How the hell could they have known that information unless it had been reported to them? The second thing was this message. It was a piece of pure disinformation from start to finish. It stated a high-ranking Abwehr agent would be in Casablanca for a highly secretive meeting three days from now and that this would present a perfect opportunity for a “snatch and grab.” This was nothing but an attempt to lure more SOE agents in for the express purpose of interrogation and torture. Stokes coughed up more blood, this time with small pieces of lung mixed in. He could feel his body wanting to shut down, but he also knew he had to warn London somehow before he died. As he prepared to transmit the message, the Major hovered over him, watching him like a hawk. Stokes suddenly became dizzy and his head flopped down on the table with a loud “Whop!” in a performance that would have made Hollywood proud. The Major panicked and quickly walked out of the room to fetch a Doctor, leaving Stokes alone. Stokes seized this moment. He quickly changed the dial to the emergency frequency and the three-letter call designator and transmitted the following one letter: ” X”. He then changed the frequency and call sign back to the original just as the Major came back in with a beady eyed and bald Nazi Doctor. The Doctor opened a small black bag and removed a syringe and promptly gave Stokes an injection and a curt slap in the face. “That should keep him alert for the next 30 minutes or so, after that he is beyond medical help. If you wanted more use out of him, you should have not let your goons beat the goose shit out of him. Heil Hitler!” The Doctor raised his hand in a quick salute and walked out. Stokes gave a faint smile hearing that, because although he knew he would be dead in the next hour, he also knew he had done his duty despite the enemies best efforts. “For King and Country…” Stokes muttered as he felt the amphetamine injection kick in and he began clicking off the message.


London, Noresby House, 83 Baker Street (SOE HQ)

 Major Peter Reynolds, The on-duty watch officer, had just poured his second cup of tea when one of the young portly girls who monitor the North African frequencies burst into his office waving two pieces of paper frantically. Upon reading both, Reynolds immediately got up and walked to the watch safe. Slowly Turning the tumbler with the combination, he opened the thick safe door, moved the Loaded Webley Revolver to the side (a safeguard in all SOE safes) and broke out the Duty Officer Emergency Procedures (DOEP) Binder and started going down the Standard Operating Procedure list. “Get on the Phone and Wake Everybody Up.” he snapped to the girl as he walked back to his office looking at the binder.”Everybody sir?” The girl asked with a quizzical look. “If they have a pulse, wake them up” Reynolds replied curtly. Sitting down at his desk he turned to the red divider labelled “X”.

Upon receiving the pre-designated one one letter code “X” on the designated NAC (North African Circuit) trouble frequency (7133.766) and verifying the three letter call sign (XPD). Complete Circuit Penetration and Compromise of Network and Agents must be assumed. The following steps are to be taken with much haste:

  1. Contact NAC’s on following frequency: 7145.894 and three-letter designator:  VBW.
  2. Transmit ONLY the Following Code: X9
  3. Repeat this Transmission in (4 ) minute intervals for precisely One Hour (15 Transmissions Total)
  4. Receipt Code is: H9. Under Duress Receipt Code is: P9.
  5. All Agents Must Be Accounted For within 12 Hours from First Transmission.

Reynolds quickly got up from his chair and yelled for the Chief Radio Operator. A fair-haired and freckled Lt. not barely 21, came running from behind a bank of radio’s. “Follow these instructions verbatim Lieutenant, if you have any problems, come directly to me, understood?” The Major handed the boy the instructions. He could see fear in the Young Boy’s face as he scanned over the papers. “Yes Sir!” the boy replied, trying to look competent. The Major smiled at the boy’s effort. “It will be alright son, just keep focused on the task at hand and Work the Problem” The Boy nodded and ran off to his station. By that afternoon, Reynolds staff had done everything possible to warn all SOE agents in the North African Circuit of the compromise. Reynolds yawned and checked his watch. It was a quarter past 8 in the evening. Reynolds had been up for close to 30 hours straight. He could barely keep his eyes open. He seriously considered collapsing on his small office couch instead of making the 15 minute drive to his home in Epsom when his phone rang. A woman’s voice on the other end politely told him that his presence was requested at #10 Downing Street immediately. A Car had been dispatched and would be picking him up in fifteen minutes. Reynold’s drowsiness instantly disappeared. Arriving at #10 his credentials were verified by the two Armed guards outside. Upon walking in, he was greeted by an attractive young woman who led him down a hall to a heavy-set of mahogany doors. Knocking once, a gruff voice on the other side boomed “Enter!” As Reynolds was led into the room, he was immediately greeted with the smell of  thick cigar smoke and French cognac in the air. Reynold’s noticed there were three men in the room. His boss, The Minister of Economic Warfare and Head of the SOE,  Roundell Palmer, was sitting by a large window in a plush leather chair, a glass of cognac in his hand. Another man, an American, whom Reynolds did not recognize, sat beside Palmer. And in the middle of the room, Sitting on the corner of his desk, a cigar in one hand and a large sifter in the other, was the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. “Come in Major.” Churchill’s said as he got up off his desk. He met Reynolds half-way across the room and shook his hand. “So good to finally meet you.” Churchill said. His handshake was firm but Reynolds noticed his eyes were tired and full or worry. “Thank You Prime Minister.” Reynolds replied. “Can I get you a drink?” Churchill asked, making his way over to a rather large bar set up on the opposite wall. Not wanting to be the odd man out in this crowd of professional drinkers, Reynolds replied “Yes Sir, please, Whiskey and Plain Water will be fine.”  Churchill poured Reynolds drink and freshened up his own. Reynolds walked over to accept it, trying not to make it too obvious he was suspiciously eyeing the man sitting beside his boss. Churchill smiled at Reynolds. “Before we continue, Major Reynolds, I  suppose I should introduce you to our American cousin. This is Colonel William Donovan of the OSS.”

At his introduction, Donovan got up from his chair and shook the Major’s hand. He was a large man with massive hands and an infectious, irish smile. “Major, it’s a pleasure.” Donovan said. Reynolds smiled back. “Thank You Colonel. Alright, now that we have the introductions and pleasantries out-of-the-way, let’s get down to brass tacks.” Churchill said as he motioned for both men to sit down. “Minister Palmer has just briefed me on the recent unfortunate events in Casablanca.”  Churchill said as he took a seat behind his desk. Reynolds immediately went into briefing mode as was his usual custom. “Yes Prime Minister, we have taken all appropriate measures to warn not just Casablanca, but all of our North African Networks of the compromise. And what of the agent who sent the warning, Stokes, was it?” Churchill asked, his eyes dead focused on Reynolds. “We have had no further communications from Lt. Stokes Prime Minister. Unfortunately we fear he has been killed by the Gestapo.” Reynolds replied. “And the message that proceeded the warning? What do you make of it?” Churchill replied. “Well Sir, we obviously have to view it as pure fiction. It is my belief, as I have shared with Minister Palmer in my initial report, that Stokes somehow was able to transmit the warning code “X” before transmitting this message under duress, which would of course render the entire message moot.” Reynolds replied. Minister Palmer leaned forward in his chair. “The Message also confirms our long-held suspicion that we have a mole in the Casablanca cell. The Germans knew of our cell’s specific “fist”, or way of transmitting morse, in addition to knowing the specific duress signals. Those signals are routinely changed, so the only way they could have known is somebody in the network told them.” Churchill sat back in his chair, digesting the information. He drew on his cigar and the tip became a cherry red ember, then he exhaled the blue-gray smoke to form a large cloud that hovered over the four men.. He then nodded his head toward Donovan for him to take the floor. “The Prime Minister has filled me in on all the details of your problems gentleman and I think I may have a solution. The way me and my fellow associates at the OSS see the situation is that you need to do two things here to get things rolling again in Morocco, because shutting down Operations is just not an option with things set to kick off in November with Torch. The first is to flush out this mole in your network. The Second is to strike back at the Gestapo and the German intelligence apparatus for this heinous act. Would you two gents agree with that summary?” Donovan’s eyes twinkled with excitement. Both Palmer and Reynolds nodded in the affirmative. “Great. What I have in mind is an insertion of a three-man team into Casablanca via airdrop. One of mine and two of yours. I have a man specifically geared for this type of work. He trained with the newly formed Army Rangers in Northern Ireland and has been working with the Polish Resistance ever since. His name is Captain Logan Chandler.”

“Colonel, I have no problem with a mission of this type but if I may ask, what do you have in mind for striking back at the Abwehr?” Palmer asked. Donovan shot a glance over at Churchill and smiled. “Me and your Prime Minister have had a very fortunate event fall right into our laps to help you do that very thing. A French Diplomat who is now in exile here in London has a niece who works for the Vichy French Interior Ministry in Casablanca. She is a former lover of my deputy in Bern, Allen Dulles. Through some very hard work on the part of Mr. Dulles, this young woman has turned into a very valuable asset and has been feeding us treasure regarding all German activities in North Africa for two solid months now via coded letters she sends to her uncle here in London once or twice a month.” Donovan took a breath and took a long drink of his whiskey, letting the information sink in with Palmer and Reynolds. “That is some amazing stuff Colonel.” Reynolds remarked, a thin smile on his lips. “Oh, hang on to your hat, because I have not even got to the good stuff yet…” Donovan replied, looking at Churchill again with a cheshire-cat grin. Churchill smiled back and toked on his cigar. “Our French Asset can give us a profile of the Gestapo Major who had Lt. Stokes executed and has provided us with the code name and description of the mole inside the Casablanca network.”  You could have heard a pin drop inside the room at that moment. Palmer and Reynolds looked at each other dumbfounded. “So you see Gentleman, we will be sending this team in with everything, and I do mean everything, they are going to need to get your Casablanca networks up and running again and also put some serious hurt on the huns!” Churchill stood and raised his glass. “I do believe this calls for a toast gentleman.” All three men stood and raised their glasses. “Down with Hitler.” Churchill exclaimed in a loud voice, the tone somber and deep, like one of his great speeches of 1940. The sound of the three men’s voices repeating the phrase echoed loudly in unison and could be heard by everybody at #10 Downing Street that late evening in 1942.


RAF Tempsford Airfield (SOE/OSS Staging Area) 

Captain Logan Chandler walked into Briefing Hut #2 to find the other two members of his team waiting on him. Chandler was  just over six-foot with a stout frame, nearing two hundred pounds. His Scots-Irish roots gave him his dark hair, eyes and complexion which had him mistaken often for a Frenchman. He wore “sterilized” common green GI fatigues with no name-tape or rank. On his web belt he wore a Government issue 1911 Pistol in a cut-away flap holster and Fairbairn/Sykes OSS Dagger. Both men stood as Chandler approached. The first man was a small and skinny with round wire rim glasses and resembled a book-keeper in fatigues. His locks of reddish hair added to his boyish looks. “Lt. Archie Squires, Communications and Linguist.” Squires saluted as Chandler approached. Chandler returned the salute and shook hands. “How is your German Squires?” Chandler asked. “Mein Deutsch ist sehr gut Sir, es hat einen Hauch von München Akzent Ich habe gesagt worden.” Squires responded with a huge smile. Chandler smiled back. “Very Good Squires! A Munich accent will come in very handy!” The second man was bigger, with blonde hair and light blue eyes full of mischief. “Lt. Peter Blakely, Explosives and Aviation. I can blow anything up and fly anything with wings should the need arise.” Chandler smiled at the remark. “That may come in very handy Lieutenant.” Chandler shook hands with Blakely and asked both men to be seated. Behind Chandler was an enlarged map of French Morocco plus several aerial reconnaissance photos. “This Operation has been named BLACKJACK and is being pressed forward at the very highest levels of Government, so I will not waste your time with bullshit. This is a find and kill mission, pure and simple. You have both been briefed as to the particulars, but I will go over the plan in some broad strokes. Our cover identities and documents have us listed as French laborers from Lyon. I know you both speak French but it would also be prudent to work on your Lyonese accent and also be knowledgeable of the history of Lyon in general. I would not put it past some asshole Vichy Gendarmerie or SS stooge to ask you questions if he feels suspicious.” Chandler picked up a long wooden pointer near the board. “We will be dropped in 20 miles outside Casablanca, where we will then rendezvous with a member of the French Resistance in Morocco. He will then transport us to a safe-house near the town of Settat, here.” Chandler pointed to a small red dot on the map. “Our plan as it stands right now is to stay clear of all SOE network safe-houses. As you all know, the warning signal for total compromise of the network, the X-Code, was transmitted after Lt. Stokes was captured and subsequently executed. HQ received receipt of the code by all agents in country and as of this morning we were notified they had all made it out of Morocco without incident and are en route to England as we speak” Chandler flipped the board over where several black and white head shot pictures were displayed. “OK, so on to identifying this fucking mole. Counter-Intelligence has cleared all five SOE agents working in Morocco and Algeria. The only agent that has not been cleared, is a French asset that was recruited six months ago that goes by the code-name of GENIE.”

“As you can see we have no picture and we obviously cannot wait for the agents to return to England to give us a description. Luckily, we have an ace in the hole. A source that was developed within the Vichy Interior Ministry in Casablanca has told us the mole is indeed a woman, a french national around the age of 25 to 30. Dark Hair, Dark eyes about five foot seven in height. The source also added this woman has had musical training at the Conservatoire International de Musique in Paris, so keep that in mind, it might help in identifying her. As Chandler took a break and got a drink of water, Lt. Blakeley raised his hand. “Captain what of the other target, the Gestapo Major, can the source help us find him too?” Chandler shook his head yes and picked up the pointer. “Yes. Our source has verified that this man, Major Hans Gruedell.” Chandler pointed to a photo on the board. “Was indeed the officer who had Lt. Stokes executed. Apart from that we know he has been attached to the Abwehr operations in North Africa for some time. Hitler as you all know, has severe distrust of his own Intelligence agency, so he keeps his SS and Gestapo goons close by. Concerning Gruedell’s location, we are fairly certain with some help from the local French network that we should be able to locate him. It has also been suggested by Command that if we do get the chance to kill more  than one Gestapo, SS or Abwehr oficer other than just Gruedell, we should be prepared to do so, which is where your explosives come in, Mr, Blakeley.”  Blakeley responded with a loud “Yes Sir!” “As far as our exfil plan, per SOE procedure we have worked up a primary and contingency. Our primary exfil will be a French Freighter named The Tourterelle or The Turtle Dove, she will depart Rabat one week from tomorrow at midnight. Our contingency exfil will be to steal a plane at one of the local airports. I have the name of several contacts in the French network that can help us in finding one. Being there are three of us, I hope you can fly a transport or something with three seats Blakeley. So Gentleman that is the plan in a nutshell. Any more questions?” Both men shook their heads no. “Well then I suggest we all get some rest. We are set to be wheels up in just under 12 hours if the weather holds.” Squires and Blakeley both got up and  shook hands with Chandler and left  for the barracks. Chandler lingered behind. So many thoughts raced through his mind before a mission. Had he thought of everything? Had he prepared adequately? He let out a long sigh and before walking out the door said a quick prayer. “Dear God, please don’t let me screw this one up.”


To Be Continued…..

A Border Reckoning

(Authors Note: There are no quotation marks in this story, so be warned!)


Northern Mexico, 1901


This land is Desperation and Hardship.

Everywhere the cracked dry red earth springs forth thorny reflections of violent resilience, as if creation itself is nodding its weary head to the inevitable conclusion of the despair that surrounds it. In a canyon named resortes rojo, a large black seep in a red rock wall drained slowly down into a watery pool creating an oasis in multiple stands of juniper, cottonwood and pinyon trees. Shaded from the tortuous sun, this place is a momentary reprieve for both the sparse resident and weary traveler alike, including four Texas cowboys and forty-three head of stolen mexican mustangs. As the horses watered behind a well-made picket line and the men set up a small overnight camp, a pair of young dark eyes hidden in a small cave far above them watched their movements intently. The eyes belonged to a 14-year-old lipan apache boy, wiry and tall for his age, his muscles stretched over his long frame like taut steel cables while his clay colored skin was already rough-hewn, with his pores blasted by relentless sand and wind, the moisture of his youth crucified long ago. His coal-black hair was shoulder length and unkempt, his bangs long enough to partially cover the raised crimson-purplish scar on the left side of his face that began dangerously close to his eye and ended at his chin. As the boy traced the long scar with his finger, in his mind flashed the image of the man who had put the scar there two years ago. The man had whispered into the boy’s ear like some deranged drunk lover that this was going to be a“forget me not” scar, a warning never to steal from him again. The boy remembered the bastards holding him down as the red-hot blade seared deep into his face, the smell of his own burnt flesh still fresh in his nostrils and nauseating him to this day.

 The boy waited until well after sundown until the men were fast asleep and snoring like a pack of hogs, save a sentry armed with a repeater perched on a high shale ledge overlooking the camp who unlike his compatriots was not fast asleep, but well on his way soon enough. With a three-quarter moon overhead, a broad carpet of soft white light enveloped the red canyon walls and created luminous shadows that danced in the firelight like mischievous children. The boy moved quiet and deliberate until he was out of the canyon and atop his bay mare, Cricket. He then raced back to the band of lunatics he had taken up with who were camped several miles away on the western side of Montana del lobo. Upon entering camp the boy reported what he had witnessed at the canyon to the leader of the group, a mexican army deserter named Diaz. It was Diaz who had found the boy wandering the western tablelands weeks after the Texans had murdered his family. Often the boy considered how the smallest choices can make the biggest difference in ones life. If his father would not have insisted he go hunting that morning, the boy would have joined his ancestors that day as well. When he returned from the hunt late that evening with a doe and sow pig hung over the back of his horse, he found the entire camp had been rode through and burned.  His father and uncle has both been shot through the head and strung up upside down on a tall cottonwood, their arms hacked off and their eyes gouged out. Their manhood and balls had been cut off and stuffed in their mouths. His poor grandmother had been stretched over a wagon wheel and then set on fire with coal oil, her blackened shriveled body a grotesque statue of suffering. It took the boy a while to find his mother, the bastards had drug her a ways  from camp with a rope around her neck; then gutted her like a pig, the four-month old  fetus that had been the boy’s sister growing inside of her had been ripped from her womb and impaled on a sharpened paloverde pole made into a roasting spit. The charred remains of the fetus and the bloody black umbilicus hanging from it were a grim reminder that human life was cheap here, and regardless of age or innocence, held no sentimental place of reservation.

Diaz quickly called a haphazard council and an ambush was planned for just before dawn, only a few hours away. The groups number currently stood at ten fighting men, with one man injured. The boy was not counted and considered a half-ass scout at best. Their real scout, another apache named Parsons, had taken the boy under his wing and occasionally when out on the trail, showed him how to cut and read sign. Tick, a black french creole mongrel from the swamps of Louisiana had been wounded in the leg during a mail-coach robbery a few days prior and was laid up and useless for fighting. The rest of the men were banditos, save two white men. Grissom, a former US Army cavalry Sergeant and Spoon, a cow puncher from New Mexico. After the meeting had broken up, the boy walked over to Diaz’ shanty where he found him sitting outside cleaning a mauser by the light of a lantern. You reckon these cowboys are the ones that killed my family like they killed Parsons? Diaz disassembled the rifles bolt while pondering the boy’s question. Hard to know Diaz replied. They have been killing small groups of indians all around these parts lately. The boy studied Diaz by the light of the lantern. He had a large flat face with a squashed nose and large black eyes. His hair was long and greasy like his. He was missing three teeth in the front from where a mule had kicked him. If you want to shoot one of the bastards, I will let you mijo, makes no difference to me. I am letting Parsons get his revenge and I get 40 horses out of the deal! Diaz smiled widely, proud of the good fortune that had seemingly fell into his lap. The boy tried smiling back, but just looked down at his feet awkwardly, unsure of how to feel, but feeling anger and loneliness all the same.

After a small supper of beans, the boy laid down by the fire, curled up with a blanket and drifted off. He dreamed he was at a river, him on one side and his family on the other. His father was motioning for him to cross but he was scared. The current was swift. His father kept calling out to him but he could not hear his words for the roar of the water. A hawk called above him and when he looked up the sun blinded him. He tried to see his father once more and then suddenly, he was awakened with a swift kick to his side. The boy rose suddenly from his blanket, his fist raised in contempt. Easy there youngster. It was Spoon. He was a tall thin white man with a shaved bald head and a black handlebar mustache flecked with grey. He said he had hired on to work for a rancher near Roswell  but got in a fight in a saloon and in the scuffle, shot and killed a whore and a local banker named Peterson. I Did not mean to kill that whore he said in a mournful tone, but the banker?  well hell, who gives two shits about a banker anyways? He often bragged there was a $500 bounty on his head in New Mexico and Texas, but nobody much believed him. Diaz says you can come along to help us drive them horses back, we leave in an hour, so be ready. Spoon handed the boy a New Service Colt revolver and gun belt. The boy took the rig gingerly as if he was handling a basket of eggs. Took that off one of those teamsters on that mail run. Damn fine Weapon. Spoon smiled at the boy and spat in the dirt and clamored off toward Diaz’ tent with a gourd of tizwin in his hand.

The group rode out well before dawn. It had gotten much colder, so the boy imitated Grissom, who had tied a handkerchief around his face to block the cutting wind. As they neared the mouth of the canyon they found a shallow wash with waist high banks where some sparse cholla and whitethorn were growing to park the horses out of the wind. As Diaz quietly hobbled the stock, Grissom unholstered a Winchester carbine from his saddle rig and handed it to the boy. It’s loaded up but here are some spare shells anyways. The boy tucked the shells away and slung the carbine across his back. Grissom held a finger up to his lips for the boy to be quiet from here on out and then nodded his head toward the top of the cliff for the boy to lead the way. The pair crawled on all fours almost the entire way until they found the entrance to the small cave, both of them praying aloud that no rattlesnakes or mountain lions had moved in during the night. The boy carefully peered down into the dark abyss of the canyon. The warm orange light from the campfire had died down some, but still reflected off the red rock walls and revealed the three sleeping cowboys. The sentry, now fast asleep like his friends, sat on top of a large rock promontory that overlooked the horse corral, his hat tipped down over his eyes and  a carbine laid across his lap. Grissom pointed where he wanted the boy to take up a rifle rest to cover the cowboys while he moved to a place where he could cover the sentry. The boy copied Grissom as he removed one of his boots to use as a rifle rest. As the boy sighted down the carbine he noticed movement down below. It was Parsons. He wore no shoes or hat and had his face and body completely smeared black with axle grease. His bow was slung low across his back with a quiver full of arrows, and a large bowie-knife strapped to his leg. Both men watched Parsons slip through the mouth of the canyon, using the shadows of the tall rocks along the flanks.  Parsons closed the distance between him and the lookout and stopped, kneeling behind a set of large rocks with pinon scrub. He took the bow from his back and notched an arrow. As the boy’s eyes were trying to focus in the low light, the small cane arrow had already flown, its flight short and straight with the only sound being a sickly wet slap as the arrow found its mark right above the sentry’s adam’s apple. The man suddenly dropped the carbine and put both his hands to his throat as if he were choking at supper, his eyes were wide and scared, frantically searching for a reprieve from the pain. Blood sprayed from the wound like a fountain, covering the brown earth and rock like some ancient mayan sacrifice.

The indian quickly closed with from behind on the man’s position, taking control of his convulsing body and bringing him down to the ground behind the large rock. A few moments later, the black-faced indian appeared like a ghoulish specter, slowly lurking toward the campsite like some strange night creature of mexican fairy tales. His knife, covered in blood, looked black against the backdrop of the eggshell moonlight. Cock your rifle boy. Grissom whispered as the pair both drew a bead on the three men below. Parsons stopped behind a boulder and whistled, stirring one of the cowboys awake. Before the poor soul could get the sleep out of his eyes an arrow pierced his right eyeball with a swoosh. The boy jumped as Grissom shot the second cowboy through the chest as he was bringing his pistol from underneath the blanket. With that Parsons let out a war yelp and charged the remaining cowboy with knife in hand. The young cowboy panicked as he tried to get the gun out of the holster laying beside him, but it was too late. Parsons was already on top of him, the cowboy managed to let out one blood curdling scream, before Parsons delivered the death-blow, sinking the knife deep into the boy’s heart. Parsons then stood and raised his bloody knife to the night sky, his profile illuminated by the campfire, he let out a guttural yelp that originated from a place deep within his soul, a place of pain and loneliness. This was revenge. A deep seeded hate that boiled out like a wildfire consuming the countryside. It was a familiar sound the boy had heard many times from war parties of neighboring clans when they visited upon the white eye the same pain they had caused. The boy had to restrain himself from joining in, but this was not his hunt. this was not his kill. That day still awaited him.

Parsons went around and collected scalps from each of his victims, the four bloody pieces of matted hair and skin the only reminder of these cowboys short and meager existence in this brutal place. Grissom and the boy made their way back down to the arroyo where Spoon sat asleep in his saddle, half drunk, and Diaz sat smoking a cigar, watching the Dawn begin to break and the purplish light spread over the canyon like a familiar blanket. We heard Parsons hoop and holler so I guess he got his scalps? Diaz asked the boy. The boy nodded and Diaz grinned. Alright then, let’s go get them horses! Diaz remarked with his toothless grin. When they arrived Parsons had already looted all the bodies, and took one of the dead cowboys mounts, a fine, tall black stud for his own. Spoon noticed the new carbine Parsons was now cradling like a newborn babe in his arms. Whats that you got there Parsons? A New repeater? Whats that writin’ on the side of it there? Parsons held up the gun with bloody hands, not really sure what Spoon was talking about. Looks like an inscription of some sort. ‘J.T.’, huh, must have been the poor bastards initials. Parsons nodded indifferently and slid the carbine back in the saddle scabbard. By the time they drove the herd to the far side of montana del lobo the boy and his mount were exhausted. Tick had made some much-needed repairs to the horse corral and was waiting for them when they arrived, waving his hat and yelling them though the gate. That night everybody got drunk and celebrated. Parsons had riden over to Valle Azul and traded a horse for food and a case of mescal. Diaz hooped and hollered, firing off his revolver wildly. Grissom broke out a fiddle and started sawing a lively tune. Tick, with a half bottle or better of mescal in him, hopped on one leg like some carnival act, flailing around to the music in a wild display of grievous tomfoolery, finally falling down face first in a drunken heap. Spoon and the boy sat by the fire, watching Parsons clean and examine the new carbine he had taken off the murdered cowboy. Well Parsons you feel better now you killed them boys that killed your family? Spoon asked, Parsons stopped polishing the rifle and looked at Spoon through the crackling floating embers of the fire. There was complete silence between them. After a while Parsons went back to polishing the rifle. Damn indians, you can never figure em’ Spoon commented as he spit into the fire. After a moment he got up and stumbled to his tent where almost immediately the lantern went dark and snoring could be heard.


The next morning the boy awoke to a gunmetal grey dawn and the smell of frying bacon and coffee. Grissom’s coarse voice soon broke the morning peace. Come on and get yourself some of this boy, we got a long day ahead of us. As the boy slowly made his way to the fire Spoon appeared out of his tent, looking as if he had been bushwhacked by road bandits and squinting at the new day as if the morning light were a pack of unwelcome solicitors banging on the front door of his brain. He stumbled out to the jakes and disappeared there for a considerable amount of time. Soon Diaz appeared, looking disheveled but somewhat jolly. Change of plans. Me, Spoon and Tick will take 30 head to the trader. I want the boy, Parsons and Grissom to take the remaining head up to that bastard Colonel Parker to trade for guns and ammunition. Grissom cussed under his breath and headed for the corral saying something about being a wet-nurse to savages. By the time the boy was saddled up and ready to ride, Parsons and Grissom were already leading the string of ponies out of camp. The boy trailed two mules to haul their return load of guns, both of them stubborn and ill-tempered animals. The triplet of riders and beast rode east with the sketch of pale blue mountains floating ahead of them with a set of small scribbled valleys in between twisting like a constrictor with no pattern or design. They camped in a small stand of cottonwoods near a trickling creek at sundown and early the next morning started off on the final leg of the trip where narrow winding valleys and red stone cliffs gave way to a never-ending stretches of white soda flats where the boy thought they might never see water again but Parsons managed to find a small spring where they all drank like fishes and the horses drank so much they laid down in a small stand of pinon and cottonwoods and slept for a while. They rode the rest of the day across the flats until sunset when they finally pulled into a silver mining camp that set at the base of some low pockmarked foothills covered with cholla and palovede called El lugar de las aguilas (The Place of the Eagles).

Grissom led the horses down a crowded street of miners and drovers to a corral that sat at the back of a two-story clapboard building marked ‘oficina and cantina’ Parsons dismounted and nodded for the boy to do the same. The boy felt eyes from all directions studying them. They tied their horses and waited for Grissom to join them. As they entered through the saloon doors, the sweet stench of whiskey and sweat was overwhelming and the din of drunken men’s voices drowned out all reason. Grissom made his way to the bar, navigating around crowded tables of miners playing poker with consumptive whores loitering like buzzards. Above the bar a stuffed mountain lion sat watching the pitiful proceedings, indifferent to the carnival scene below him. Whatta you have? The bartender asked. He was a large white man, at least six feet tall with an ox blood-colored boulder hat and arms like pine knots. Three rye, Grissom responded. The bartender wiped his brow with a rag and poured out one drink. You can stay but the two savages have to go, Colonels orders. Grissom paused, taking stock of what he had just heard. Grissom looked at the bartender with slight contempt and then drained his drink in one go. He turned to Parsons and nodded for the door. Parsons grabbed the boy by the arm and led him to the door. Grissom then nodded for another drink. Need to see the Boss, got horses to trade. The bartender again wiped his face and brow as he poured the drink. Upstairs, last door on right. Grissom downed his drink and laid a crisp five dollar bill on the bar and set the glass on top of it. As Grissom topped the stairs, a thin sickly mexican whore, scantily clad was leaning on the railing. Ola cowboy. Grissom ignored the woman and kept walking. The small corridor reeked of cigar smoke, kerosene and sex. At the end of the hall sat a bald squat man with a long black handlebar mustache cradling a double barrel 10 gauge. Grissom nodded to the man. See the Colonel? the man asked plainly. Yeah, got horses to trade, Grissom replied. Surrender your weapons the man said bluntly, holding out his hand. Grissom walked over and handed him his Colt. The man stuck the revolver in his waistband and rapped on the door. Enter! a deep voice called out from the other side.

The guard opened the door and nodded to Grissom to enter. Colonel William Frances Parker, United States Army retired, sat behind a large custom rosewood desk with his left leg feet propped up smoking a large mexican torpedo cigar. Parker was in his late-forties, with reddish blonde hair cut short and combed over and a neatly trimmed mustache. His steel blue-grey eyes seemed to look beyond the measure of men, seeking their unspoken agendas. It was said he had fought with Crook in the Apache Wars and actually shook Geronimo’s hand at his surrender. The room was freshly painted and smelled of cedar and sandalwood. A large bookcase containing several thick volumes on the History of the Roman Empire and Roman Military Tactics sat in a corner with several framed military commendations and awards populating the wall around it. Grissom’s eyes were drawn to a custom-made cedar gun cabinet with an etched glass door that took up one wall entire. It contained a Krag ’92, a ’95 Winchester and a ’97 Winchester Pump 12-Gauge.  A large painting of a four masted Man of War engaged in close quarter cannon battle with a brass plate stating “The Great Nile Victory, 1798” hung behind his desk.  Grissom also noticed the Colt 1900 Pistol which lay underneath a 3 week old newspaper from St. Louis. Sgt. Grissom! Well I’ll be damned! Parker’s feet quickly came down on the floor with a thud as he stood, limping on his left leg as he came around the desk. I heard you were killed in a skirmish near Juarez last year! Parker extended his hand and Grissom shook it with a soldier’s firmness. Grissom laughed. Yes sir, I heard that one too, but here I am, alive and well. The Colonel let out a hearty laugh and slapped Grissom on the back. So you are Sergeant! So you are! Remind me again, when did you get out of the Army? The Colonel asked, limping his way back around to his chair behind the desk. Around two years ago sir. Was at Fort Duncan the majority of my tour. Parker struck two matches and re-stoked his cigar while studying Grissom closely through the blue smoke. Fort Duncan, nothing short of the devils asshole! Parker shook his head and closed his eyes, as if trying to dissuade the memories from lodging in his brain.

Have a seat Grissom. Parker motioned his hand toward a chair. He then opened a desk  drawer and removed two glasses and a bottle of single malt scotch whiskey. He poured a finger in each glass. To your health sir! Parker said as he downed the drink. Grissom did the same and smiled. That’s fine whiskey Colonel. The Colonel poured each man another. So Colonel is it true what I heard about you? That you killed ten Comanche in a skirmish in ’96 up at Fort Stockton before being wounded in the leg? The Colonels face grew dim. Yes Grissom it’s true. But the part of the tale they leave out is how we lost 8 good soldiers that day. Those damn Comanches were like flies. The Colonels voice drifted off, his grey eyes staring off into a place beyond the horizon. The room went silent for an entire minute. Yeah and after getting a Comanche lance in the leg, the Army medically discharged me and here I am!  So Grissom, what brings you to my fine camp? Horses, Colonel. I have ten good ponies I would like to trade for rifles and ammunition. The Colonel paused. Horses? How many head? The colonels eyes studied Grissom now as he took a long drink. Ten Head, all good stock and in return I would like rifles and ammunition. I see. Well I won’t ask where the stock came from because as you know I run a fairly loose operation here. The Colonel gave a sly smile and Grissom nodded to the implied notion.

He knew the Colonel had set up shop here three years ago, at first trying to buy out some very lucrative mining claims and then when that failed, burning out the miners and their families and hijacking their claims with his hired army of ex-saddle tramps and mercenaries. He had also used his shady connections in the Army Ordnance Supply chain to find out railway delivery schedules so he could conveniently rob Federal weapon supply and payroll trains and blame it on Mexican bandits or Apache war parties.. Who you running with now Grissom? You still with Diaz and his band of cut-throats? Why you have not took my offer to hire on with me is beyond everything! I will be running all the rackets in this province soon Grissom, and before long, all of Northern Mexico if I am lucky, all the small-timers will have to kick-up 50% or get planted, it’s that simple. Why don’t you join me while you still can? The Colonel looked at Grissom solemnly, waiting for a response. Grissom just smiled. I kinda like my freedom Colonel, after a decade of Army life, not having to answer to somebody is nice for a change. The Colonel laughed heartily. Answer!? Hell boy, we all gotta answer one way or another! Now Let’s go take a look at that stock and see what we can work out. The Colonel finished his drink, stuck the Colt in the army issue flap holster and made his way to the door. The guard stood when the Colonel walked out and went before him downstairs clearing out the drunks and dregs.The saloon quieted as he made his way downstairs, each man eyeing him with a sense of both fear and reverence.

Parsons and the Boy were sitting outside the saloon on a bench sharing a piece of venison jerky when the group came out. As they passed, the boy’s eyes met the Colonels and his blood ran cold. Those same eyes belonged to the man who had cut his face two years ago! The boy felt heat from the top of his head down into his feet. It was like liquid fire, burning, torturing, cauterizing his insides. The boy feared he would burst from the hate growing inside of him! So many thoughts race through his mind. He could kill the sumbitch right here. He had his revolver. No, there were to many guards around. Too many witnesses. But hell, maybe he wanted a lot of witnesses, so these folks would know what he did. Best to stay calm. The boy steadied himself and took a breath. As the Colonel passed the two indians, he eyed Parsons warningly. These two indians are with me Colonel, Grissom motioned for Parsons and the boy to stand up. The Colonel stopped and inspected the two indians with a face of disdain and scorn. How old is this kid? The Colonel asked Grissom. Somewhere’s around 12 I think Colonel. We found him wandering in the desert a year or so back. Said his family got killed by Texas bandits. The Colonel turned his head to the street and spat and then turned and stared at the boys face. Murdered huh? How awful! Lot’s of bandits and cut-throats here about’s doing all kinds of evil. As he was about to walk off, the gleam of the Winchester Parsons cradled in the crook of his arm caught the Colonels eye. Nice Winchester you got there indian, may I? Parsons looked at Grissom who quickly nodded his head for him to comply with the Colonels request. As the Colonel turned the rifle over in his hands, the inscription shown in the bright sunlight “J.T.”, is that your initials indian? the Colonel asked, those grey eyes staring a hole through Parsons now. Parsons looked away and shook his head no. None the less, it’s a very nice rifle, can I buy it from you? Say fifty dollars American? Grissom’s mouth dropped open about the same time as Parsons. Before he could think about it, Parsons accepted the offer. Excellent! the Colonel replied, grinning from ear to ear, his eyes quickly shooting Timmons a weary. secretive glance. Timmons, Pay the man! Timmons promptly reached into his pocket and counted out five ten-dollar bills to Parsons and took the rifle. OK Gentleman, show me these horses! the Colonel’s voice boomed as he started toward the corral.

Parsons and Grissom started toward the corral with Parsons examining his new fistful of greenbacks and the Colonel following close behind. Timmons then without missing a beat, promptly rapped the boy upside the head with the butt of the Winchester, sending him to the ground with a thud. In the same moment as Grissom was turning to see about the commotion, the Colonel presented his Colt Automatic from his holster, and calmly shot Parsons in the back of the head, the explosion of the gunshot piercing the evening stillness and at the same time deafening all around with a stinging whine. The bullet exited right above Parson’s right eye, sending a mottled combination of white and grey matter mingled with blood spewing out into a wide luminous cone, most of it ending up in Grissom’s face and eyes. Parsons went limp and dropped like his backbone had been snatched out by some mysterious apparition. Grissom blindly grabbed for his revolver like a man groping in the dark for a life line but remembered in a hurried flash that he had been disarmed earlier by the guard. God-dammit Colonel! What have you done! Grissom yelled. As Grissom wiped the last of the splintered bone fragments and brain muck from his eyes, he realized at least five rifles were drawn down on him. The boy lay knocked out cold on the ground, the back of his head bleeding with Timmons standing over him gloating. Colonel! What the hell is this about! Grissoms face was red now, spittle flying with every word. What this is about Sergeant. Grissom is a cold-blooded bushwhack. This here carbine belonged to one of my best men, James Tobin or “J.T.” as it is inscribed right here on his gun. The Colonel grabbed the rifle from Timmons and held it up like evidence in a court room. With that the Colonel walked over to Parsons body as it lay crumpled on the ground, reached down and removed the fifty dollars from his pocket. That black stud right there that the indian rode in on was also J.T.’s. Now I don’t have anything against stealing horses, hell I steal horses everyday, but this was more than stealing horses Grissom. You and your band of cut throats murdered and scalped four of my men for 43 head of worthless stolen mexican mustangs! I should just shoot you like I did this damn indian, but you served your country Grissom and deserve to be hung like a white man I suppose. Go fetch that lazy drunk-ass sheriff and tell him to come put these two in the jail for the night. The Colonel spit in the road and stuck the Colt back into his waistband. What about the boy? Grissom asked. He did not take part in it, let him go! The Colonel looked down at the boy on the ground and spat on him. No I can’t do that Grissom. This boy belongs to a clan we tried to kill off a while back. You see that scar on that little bastards face! The Colonel pointed to the boy’s face, spittle flying in the air as he did.. I gave that little sumabitch that scar and warned him and his family not to stick around this country! But did they listen? Hell no! The Bastards were sitting on some of the best prime mining dirt in this territory and would not move! We tried everything but the savages refused. The next morning we went back and killed everybody there but I guess this little bastard got lucky that day. No, the boy hangs with you tomorrow at Noon. I will send a priest over in the morning if you want to get square with the Almighty, although with the scum you been runnin’ with, I doubt it will help. The Colonel shook his head in disgust and then walked off toward the saloon.

Directly a drunk mexican wearing a floppy brimmed hat and a thin hammered piece of tin fashioned to resemble a sheriffs badge came and collected Grissom and the boy. The boy was still groggy from being knocked over the head and had a deep gash in his scalp which was still bleeding. Grissom took his handkerchief and applied pressure to the wound. He then helped him to his feet.The mexican prodded the pair with a double barrel 10 gauge across the street to a makeshift jail in an old run down clapboard  building that had once been a freight warehouse. The “cell”  was nothing more than an oversized freight cage that smelled of stale piss. Grissom laid the boy down on the small bed and covered him with a threadbare blanket. That bastard Colonel killed my family. The boy’s words were groggy but still filled with anger. Yeah kid I know, he has killed a lot of families around here. Grissom took off the boy’s boots, then removed his own and jumped up to the top bunk and laid down. We gonna hang tomorrow? The boys question hung like heavy grey smoke in the room. Yeah kid, we are. Grissom answered, trying to choose better words that might comfort the kid but giving up. I will try to talk to the Colonel again tomorrow, see if he will see reason and let you walk away. Grissom closed his eyes and the last thing he heard before drifting off was the boy quietly chanting an apache death song.


The next morning the sunlight spilled through the small narrow window in the cell and Grissom was awoke by the clanging of  keys as the hungover sheriff struggled to open the cell door. The boy swung his feet down to the floor and started putting on his boots. Colonel wants to talk to the boy. The mexican swung the 10 gauge around on Grissom as he waited on the boy to get to his feet. You stay put pendejo. The sheriff led the boy out of the cell and then locked the door behind him. He placed a pair of handcuffs  on him and led him outside, prodding him all the while with the 10 gauge. The street was already crowded with miners and drovers, dogs and livestock. The boy noticed a wagon load of lumber and several men building a gallows in an empty lot across from the jail. The sound of hammers and hand saws contributed to the usual morning din of a mining camp waking up. As The boy shuffled across the street toward the saloon, several miners loitered outside, waiting on the mine wagon. Some were still drunk from the night before, having never gone to bed, their eyes looking like bloodshot piss holes. The group quieted as the boy approached, some of them quickly looking down while others stared intently as the mexican prodded the boy forward through the doors and up the stairs to the Colonel. Timmons stood as the boy came to the top of the stairs. I got him from here Jose. The sheriff grunted and handed Timmons the handcuff keys and retreated back downstairs to the bar and his waiting bottle. Timmons grabbed the boy by the shirt, knocked on the Colonels door and opened it. The Colonel was busy shaving in a gleaming white porcelain basin. As Timmons seated the boy, the Colonel watched in the mirror. Leave the key with me Timmons. Timmons walked over and placed the key on the desk. The boy watched the Colonel intently. As Timmons left the room, the boy’s gaze shifted to the gun cabinet. Rifles with ammunition. No lock with a glass front door. How Silly the boy thought. The boy then noticed the Colt pistol laying on the desk, The same pistol that had killed Parsons and most likely the same pistol that had been used to kill his father and uncle too. You are thinking If I could only get to those guns, I could kill that son of a bitch, aren’t you boy? I don’t blame you. Hell, I would be thinking the same thing. The Colonel paused talking as he carefully trimmed below his lip with the straight razor, the sound of the metal scraping against the coarse whiskers the only sound in the room while outside the large window on the street several teamsters could be heard loading a freight wagon.

The boys gaze stayed on the Colonel, the hatred pouring out of him in fluid waves of heat. He imagined breaking free of the chains and taking the straight razor from him and in a flash opening up his throat. The painting of the Nile receiving a fresh splash of crimson as the Colonel frantically died on the floor like the diseased pig that he was. The sound of splashing water brought the boy back to reality and present company. The Colonel washed his face and as he dried off with a towel walked over to the window to gaze at the already bustling town below. This place was a wide spot in the road when I got here. Nothing but a couple of run-down shacks and some whores. Now look at it! Because of me hundreds of men have jobs. Their families have food, clothing, housing; a future. The Colonel shifted his hard  gaze to the boy. I warned you and your family to stop stealing from me and move on, but they didn’t listen. So I cleared them out and made room for progress! The boys face grew red. His heartbeat racing like a rabbit. You gave us no choice! For years my family hunted these lands and then you come along and in a day say it is all yours! You murdered my pregnant mother and put my unborn sister on a roasting spit you sorry sumbitch! The Colonels face changed expression as the boy’s comment seemed to truly shock him. Anger was replaced with melancholy. I had no ideal they did such a barbarous, heartless thing! Those bastards! The boy sensed the Colonel was sincere in his sentiment, the boy’s anger started to simmer down, his muscles relaxed, his heartbeat slowed. The Colonel came closer as if to shake hands with the boy and offer an apology, and then suddenly in a blur, the Colonel delivered a powerful right hook into the boys jaw, knocking him backwards out of his chair and sending two of his teeth flying out of his mouth in a bloody mixture of spittle. You goddamn savage! I am gonna put you all on roasting spits before it is all over with! The boy lay dazed on the floor, the taste of blood and copper in his mouth, the Colonel’s words a distant echo as if he was underwater. Damn your soul to hell you worthless son of a whore!! The Colonel kicked the boy in the ribs, knocking the air out of him in a whoosh. The boy groaned and tried to roll away like a wounded animal, searching for a reprieve from the pain. Before the Colonel could kick him again suddenly Timmons bust through the door,  an expression of fear and excitement all across his face at once. Colonel we got visitors! Timmons was so excited he stumbled over his words like a retarded child. A half-dozen armed men led by a Mexican bandit! The Colonel regained his composure and walked over to the window to inspect the street. Well, the Lord is certainly being gracious to me today! Instead of hanging two pieces of thieving shit, I get to hang the whole damn gang! That’s Diaz and six of his cut-throats from Wolf Mountain. Looks like they came looking for this boy and Grissom. Probably thought you two assholes stole the weapons and ammunition he thinks I gave you. The Colonel laughed heartily, his face turning red as he slapped his desk in exclamation. No honor among thieves aye their boy? Timmons round-up the boys, I will try to get all these bastards in the saloon so we can take them all in one go! Timmons nodded his head and spun around and headed out the door. You just lay there and bleed you little bastard, I will be back to finish you off right and proper directly. The Colonel eyed the boy on the ground as he stuck the Colt in his waistband and retrieved a Winchester shotgun from the gun cabinet, loading up the tube and sticking extra double aught shells in his pockets.

 The saloon and the streets were already cleared by the time the Colonel walked outside with Timmons and four other men. Diaz and Spoon were waiting patiently still on their horses. Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise! The Colonels grinned as he came out of the saloon doors, the Colt stuck down the front of his trousers and the Winchester Scattergun in his right hand.. Timmons stayed at the Colonels side as the four other men fanned out evenly to the left and right, each of them armed with a rifle. Diaz seemed to ignore the Colonel and the men. His gaze focused on an upright pine coffin sitting on the saloon’s porch. In it Parsons decomposing body stared back, half of his head missing, one eye staring lazily upwards at the sky as his black matted hair lay plastered against his pallid skin caked with blood. Around his neck they had hung a wooden sign with the words “Murderer and Horse Thief” in big white letters. Seeing Diaz state of fury, Spoon spoke up. We hear you got two of our people Colonel, we came to get em’ back. The Colonel laughed as he brought the Scattergun around to bare on the two riders before him. Reacting, Spoon drew the Schofield revolver that lay in his saddle holster and before he could cock the hammer the Colonel fired, the big shotgun roaring to life like a sleeping dragon, the buckshot tearing horse and rider apart like paper being ripped asunder by a strong breeze. Spoon was knocked clean out of his saddle, landing three feet behind where his horse had formerly stood, his chest opened like a bloody cavern, pieces of rib bone and marrow littered the dusty street. Spoon’s poor horse lay terribly wounded after the affair. It was crying in pain and trying to get his front feet under him to no effect when the Colonel pulled his pistol and mercifully shot the gelding through the head. Diaz’s horse had of course bucked wildly when this occurred, throwing him clean off and landing the mexican in the street on his ass. As Diaz got his feet, at least a dozen guns pulled down on him, including the Colonel, who had ejected his spent shell in the Pump Winchester and racked a fresh one. Don’t twitch a fuckin’ finger you worthless piece of shit or you will end up exactly like your friend over there. The Colonel’s voice was angry, but dead calm and focused. Timmons, go on over there and get his gun belt and make sure the sumabitch ain’t got no hideout guns or knives, you know how fuckin’ mexicans are. Timmons casually walked over, holstering his gun and patting Diaz down. After finding a small knife in his boot, Timmons unbuckled his gun belt and threw it all on the saloon porch. Diaz stood there smiling. You want my boots too Colonel? They are nice ones, belonged to one of your cowboys I believe. The Colonel’s brow furrowed at that jibe. I am gonna hang you Diaz. You and your buddy Grissom down there in my jail are gonna hang together and twist in the wind momentarily. Diaz laughed heartily. Go ahead and laugh you toothless sumabitch. In about 10 minutes you are gonna be laughing with the devil in hell. The Colonel motioned for the surrounding men to take him and tie his hands and feet. As the men were taking the rope to tie him suddenly one of the men’s head exploded like a ripe cantaloupe hitting rock, the rifle shot ringing out from above them. The boy had managed to free himself from his handcuffs and had now took up a firing position in the Colonel office with a Krag Rifle. At this Diaz ran and dove into a small alleyway beside the saloon. Suddenly it sounded as if the whole town exploded in gunfire at once. Some men fired wildly at Diaz while others fired at the office windows above. About this time, more shots rang out from down the street at the jail. The Colonel and his men had not accounted for all of Diaz’s men before the shooting started. Half a dozen of them had taken up positions near the jail and had bushwhacked the drunk sheriff and freed Grissom, now Grissom along with six mexican bandits including the black creole Tick, all armed with Repeaters and bolt-action rifles, were moving on the saloon. The Colonel seeing this yelled for Timmons and retreated back into the saloon. You go kill Diaz, he’s out back there somewhere unarmed! The Colonel yelled at Timmons. I’ll go kill this damn Apache kid and then we can take care of Grissom and the rest of those damn cut throats! Timmons nodded and headed for the back door of the saloon, as he was about to the back door, suddenly it busted open and Diaz came through blasting with a revolver. The first shot caught Timmons in the neck, and the second caught him above the right eye, sending his brain pan all over the brand new pianola the Colonel had just had delivered from St. Louis. Fucking Bastard! The Colonel screamed in fear as much as anger. He let loose with the shotgun on Diaz from about 10 feet away, the top half of Diaz virtually disappeared in a spray of pink mist and gore, with the bottom half of his body intact and neatly folded up on the floor.

Winded, the Colonel took a deep breath, reloaded and began to climb the stairs to finish the kid. Suddenly two of his men busted through the saloon doors, one of them gut shot and the other shot in the arm. Where the hell are the rest of the men! The Colonel yelled. Dead! One of the men blurted out as he made his way to the window with his revolver and began firing. God damn all you! The Colonel yelled as he charged upstairs. As he was about to kick down the door suddenly several shots rang out through the cedar door, splinters flying wildly into his face. The first shot hit the Colonel low in the gut and the second hit him in the right arm, spinning him to the floor. Sumabitch! The Colonel cried out. He had dropped the shotgun so he tried to pull his Colt in his waistband, but his arm would not work. Downstairs shots rang out as the Mexicans closed in on the two defenders in the saloon. The Colonel watched as Grissom and a black man busted through the saloon doors and cut his men down at close range with revolvers. About that time the Colonel’s office door swung open and the Indian boy walked out, holding a Krag Rifle. The boys eyes burned like two pieces of hot ember. The Colonel lay there, blood pooling on the floor from his wounds. Grissom, Tick and three of the Mexicans had found the good whiskey and poured themselves a drink as they watched the show unfold upstairs. Go Ahead Boy, Here I am! Get your Revenge! The Colonel yelled wildly, spit and blood flying from his mouth. The Boy calmly walked up to the Colonel, dropped the rifle and reached down and picked up the Colonel’s Colt. A look of disgust filled the Colonel’s face as he watched him. You worthless Savage! The Colonel yelled. I Fuckin’ Despi— before he could finish his sentence the boy fired three shots into the Colonel’s head, the shots in rapid succession, sending brain and gore flying all over, The boy looked at the body a while before finally spitting on him. The boy then calmly stuck the Colt in his waistband and made his way downstairs and out the saloon doors. Directly Grissom came out. The boys cleaned out the freight office Grissom said looking at the boy. The boy never blinked, just kept looking ahead like into a dream only he could see, We got around $1,000 far as I can tell in cash money plus rifles, ammunition and fresh horses and mules. Grissom continued looking at the boy, hoping for a response. Directly, the boy reached into his shirt and pulled out a two small sacks. You can add this to the booty too, found it under the floorboards in his office. Grissom took the sack from the boy and looked inside. Grissom’s eyes widened as he poured out Chunks of pure silver, some of the rocks as large as a baby’s fist. We are heading to Texas if you want to come along, Grissom asked, his eyes still wide from the silver. The boy  walked out into the street and looked up into the blue sky, squinting at the bright sun. There in the sky, the boy saw a huge river, a river as large and swift as the Colorado. Immediately the boy felt a familiarity about this place and then he realized it was the same river from his dream the other night. As he watched the water roar past he quickly realized he was not alone, his entire family was there, including a small girl he had never met before. Who is this? the boy asked his father, pointing to the small girl by his mother’s side. His father smiled and placed his hand on the child’s head. This is your sister, Princesa Margarete. The boy’s heart swelled and a happiness he had not felt in such a long time washed over him like a summer rainstorm. Before the boy could say anymore, his family turned and walked away into a sweet, glowing light that climbed upwards into the sky. As the boy dried the tears from his face, he realized something that made his heart glow even more; This time him and his family were not separated by the river, they were all together! The boy laughed to himself and shook his head, he had never felt so happy, alive and content as he did this day.

The Mexicans soon came out of the saloon, carrying with them whatever was not nailed down: crates of whiskey bottles, blankets, pictures, lamps and rifles. By now, some of the miners and teamsters were making their way back into town from their hiding places in the mines and hills, all of them treading carefully, surveying the dead in the street. You coming along kid? Grissom asked as he began walking toward the horses with the Mexicans. The boy gave Grissom a long look, tears still filling his eyes from the vision. Wiping the tears away, the boy smiled and said aloud Let’s Go to Texas.

The End

War Documentaries Worth A Damn: The Battle Of The Chosin Resovoir

New Film Offers Gunt’s Eye View Of Unrelenting Combat During Korean War

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This is the first NEW Documentary I have seen in quite some time on the Korean War.

Just like with WW2, the veterans of this terrible conflict are dying off quickly and we need to get their stories recorded for posterity and future generations.

Be sure and set your DVR Tonight, the Documentary appears on PBS (Channel 65 on Direct TV) on the program “American Experience” at 8pm CST.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Prepping 101: ‘Doomsday’ Marketing


Doomsday Prepper Supply Companies Are the Real Winners of the 2016 Election!

(click on above link to be re-directed)

Ultimately it is always going to be up to the end-user (YOU the CO) to make good, common sense decisions on what to buy and when to buy it and not be influenced by scare tactics or “Doomsday” Marketing.

Never operate out of fear folks, nothing good ever comes of it.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Morning Laugh: Buy A Ring, Get A Gun!


Texas Jeweler Offers “Buy A Ring, Get A Gun” Engagement Promotion

(click on link above to be re-directed)

Only in my great home state of Texas will you find something like this!!

Absolutely Brilliant!

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Combative Knife Simplicity: A 3 Year Review

(Authors Note: I wrote this article 3 years ago, when I was in the middle of re-vamping and re-energizing my Combative training routine. I thought it would be beneficial to all my readers to review some of the principles contained and in the process take a hard look at the current state of your KNIFE training.)



The Tactical Hermit

In the quest for the CO to become a “Complete Warrior” where the skill sets they learn dovetail seamlessly into any weapon system they pick up, being comfortable killing with the knife has to be a priority. I want you to notice the wording I used there: “Killing with the Knife”, now for some of you “PC” (Politically Correct) disciples out there, this terminology may offend your delicate moral sensibilities and seem a bit extreme, so let me explain.

In a majority of fighting schools out there, regardless of the weapon system taught, you hear the term “fighting” as a suffix to most of them; ie,  gunfighting, knife-fighting, stick-fighting, etc. I myself as a trainer have a problem with that choice of wording for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it carries with it a “sporting implication”. A CO should never intend to “fight” anybody, if it has come to the point of defending yourself, your only goal is to END the problem. Secondly, it takes away from the seriousness of mortal combat. I don’t train my students to approach fighting for their lives as a sport or a game… if we have to use a weapon to defend ourselves we don’t need to “fart around” with that..we need to eliminate the threat before he or she kills us or our loved ones, not “wound” them, “spar” with them or make them “feel bad” for a while with mobility injuries. In terms of using a knife for self-defense, our goal should not be to seek to inflict a series of injuries that would hamper them from holding or wielding a weapon, but to simply stick that knife into them as quickly as possible, and as many times as possible, to cause as much damage as possible, thus ending their life and the threat they pose to us. Simple and direct.

Understand that we are talking about KILLING in the context of self-defense and for the singular reason of DEFENDING ourselves and/or our loved ones. This should never be taken out of context. The founding CORE BELIEF of HCS and what drives all of my teachings centers on the MORAL RESPONSIBILITY of the CO. Killing another human being is NEVER something to be taken lightly, but when a civilian is training to defend themselves in a lethal encounter, KILLING the enemy has to be the goal, because the enemy has given you no other choice. Your goal has to be to STOP the attacker from continuing to harm you or your loved ones. Very often, this very important psychological “nomenclature” (the word: Killing) is left out of most self-defense combat training, and I feel that is an integral flaw. If you want to train realistically, KILLING has to become part of your vocabulary. Not only does it prepare the CO mentally, spiritually and morally for what he has to do, it drives his training to be efficient and lethal, regardless of the weapon system.

Consequently, the CO needs to understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that the introduction of a knife into a physical altercation constitutes Lethal Force in every state in the union. This means if a perpetrator pulls a knife on you, you have the right to defend yourself with equal (lethal) force. On the flip side of this, if the CO (YOU) pulls a knife on another person, you must have the same justifiable reasoning that lethal force is quantified and/or warranted. There are a myriad of reasons for this legally and it is beyond the scope of this article to cover them all. A great resource to study for Texans is the Texas Penal Code and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

I like to compare the Combative Knife Concept to the AK-47 Rifle. The design is simple. It has very few moving parts, which like anything mechanically reliable, such as a standard transmission in a vehicle, means it is easy to learn, easy to remember, easy to operate and easy to repair. It’s simplicity is sometimes mistaken for crudeness, and although it does not have the aesthetics of some of the more “technique laden” Eastern knife styles, what matters most is it gets the job done. What it lacks in technique, it makes up for in pure rugged reliability. To be successful with it, all you need is gross motor skills and Pure Aggression.

At it’s core, Combative Knife is about the Thrust (Gross Motor Skill). Getting the knife out of its sheath and into and out of your enemy as quickly as possible. The Essence of Combative Simplicity. Most all other types of knife training out there are based/rooted in the Eastern Filipino Combat Arts of Kali and Pekiti-Tersia, which mainly emphasize slashing versus thrusting attacks. This is not to say that slashing has no place in Combative Knife, it certainly does, but it is much LESS technique laden than the slashing “katas” associated with Filipino styles; most of them seeking to cut tendons and muscles that help wield and manipulate a weapon.

In Bob Kasper’s Outstanding Book “Sting of the Scorpion” (pp. 35), William Fairbairn is quoted as saying it this way:

“When withdrawing, (presentation) get right into the THRUST. Don’t waste motion. Cover the shortest distance from the sheath to your target. Practice in front of a mirror, Get it down to a fraction of a second.”

In this short, simple statement, Fairbairn just laid out the essence of the Combative Continuum. You see, the Combative Continuum rest in the logic that regardless of the weapon used, in order to be efficient with it (or that it is to say, in order to be able to KILL Efficiently with it), you have to be fast, and in order to be fast, you have to eliminate un-needed movements during the presentation of the weapon. The shortest distance between two points? The straightest LINEAR line possible; whether we are talking about an empty hand strike or a knife strike. Striking along LINEAR Lines means there is no ARC to the movement…it is straight and ALWAYS follows the same path TO and FROM the target. Linear strikes are also harder to see and guard against than a “hooking” attack, which tends to telegraph your intentions to the enemy.

An empty hand and knife drill I teach my students, aptly named the “Snapper” Drill, focuses on mastering this skill.   When your enemy allows you to breach their “reactionary gap” by their mis-step or by your stealth, the student as quickly as possible, SNAPS any one of the following  empty hand strikes: Axe-Hand to the Windpipe, Ranger Jab (web of hand between thumb and pointer-finger, into the windpipe), Face-Smash or Eye-Gouge OR (If Lethal Force is Warranted) A Knife Thrust or (SNAP), whatever the situation calls for. The student also has to be aware that the situation might call for both an empty hand strike as a distractionary measure AND the Knife Snap-Thrust combined, depending on the situation and the adversary; be ready to do either or both with equal efficiency.

The Student also needs to learn that this SNAP Strike, either empty-hand or with a knife, needs to become a CONDITIONED REFLEX. Consider this quote by one of the forefathers of Combatives, Dr. Gordon E. Perrigard: “The action is simple, but it must be fast, automatic and a conditioned reflex. When fighting fiercely for your life, you have not got much time to think, and the more AUTOMATIC MOVEMENTS you have prepared for your defense, the safer the result will be.” The bottom line here is don’t wait to formulate a plan when that thug is standing right on top of you; prepare and drill NOW for what you are going to do.

With the Knife, we drill on this with both a folder and a fixed blade, the fastest being a short and stout fixed blade (Blackhawk Crucible for example) or a Push Blade/Dagger, such as the Benchmade CBK or Cold Steel Safe-Keeper II both drawn out of a Horizontal Sheath at the 11 o’ clock. The goal is simple: Get the knife out of the sheath and in and out of the enemy’s body with a “snap thrust” (stab) in under 2 seconds. With speed as your ally, you avoid any counter-technique or block in addition to being able to deliver MULTIPLE strikes to the same area if needed.


The first thing I teach my students in this drill is Visualization of the Target; not a foreign concept to most pistol/rifle/shotgun shooters, but definitely one to most people who consider themselves “knife” people. Visualizing exactly where you want to strike on the body is something that is not what you would call an “Exact Science”; every situation is going to be different and the student will have to decide which is the best “high percentage” target at that time. Now I don’t want to get quagmired down in an anatomical debate on the “deadliest” place to strike with a knife on the human body (The Book Contemporary Knife Targeting by Chris Grosz and Mike Janich and Arwrology by Dr. Gordon E. Perrigard are excellent resources for this subject) Suffice to say our aim is to either sever, puncture or destroy all together any arteries or organs causing our enemy either enough blood loss or shock to “Drop them and Stop them”.

Here is  a quick run down if we are facing our target dead on at 12 o’ clock:


  • One or both of the carotid arteries running on either side of the neck
  • Either Lung
  • Heart
  • The Aorta Artery and/or all surrounding Pulmonary Arteries
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Either Kidney
  • Common Iliac Artery
  • Femoral Artery

The CO also needs to consider that for every combative knife technique he learns, he also needs to learn the COUNTER to that move to be completely prepared. Keep an eye out for articles covering this very important skill set!

Until then

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!