“Damn Sylvia I always knew you were smarter than the average operator,” the colonel said.
“She is ruthless as well,” the sergeant major said without a hint of kindness.
“And thank God for it,” Andrew said. “If she were less ruthless I would still be in a Vera Cruz prison.”
“Not likely, more likely a mass grave. There are not many mercenaries, who do jail time anywhere in South America,” The sergeant major said. He still showed no approval at all.
“Ah you guys,” I said faking a humbleness I didn’t feel. “So what are you really doing here?”
“There is a church campground about twenty mile deeper into the mountains. It is for sale. The only part worth anything is the land. The cabins are crap and the meeting house is pretty much crap as well,” Andrew said.
“So ya’ll decided to pass on it?” I asked.
“We haven’t decided yet. The decision isn’t ours to make anyway.” the colonel said.
“Oh who has to decide,” I asked.
“The board of directors, of course,” the colonel said.
“Of course,” I agreed. I had no idea what kind of board of directors they could have. I thought about it for a few seconds and decided I really didn’t care. “So what do you want with a mountain retreat?”
“We might just move up here. I mean since you are here, we would at least know someone,” The colonel said.
“Hell Colonel, I can’t help you guys any,” I said.
“Who knows,” he whispered smiling. “By the way, do you have any of that green dragon drink?”
“How much you want?” I asked.
“I imaged a half gallon will do,” he said.
“Sure $200 and I’ll round some up for you. If Andrew is going to stay, I’ll send it out with him,” I suggested.
“Oh we are going to be around a couple of days. We want to walk the property as well as check out that lake.” The Sergeant Major suggested.
“Sorry I don’t have room for you all to stay,” I lied.
“That’s quite alright,” the colonel said. “We are registered at a motel closer to the camp. Actually it’s a pretty nice motel. We could put up potential customers there. We have to give tours now and then. Not to mention this is a new kind of operation we are talking about. I would tell you about it but you aren’t working for us any more.”
“That right, and you aren’t going to make me curious about your new line of work,” I said.
“You would love it,” Andrew said.
“I don’t want to know,” I suggested. “Tell me this, is the camp in Warren County.”
“Yes it is, does that make a difference about you running for Sheriff?” the colonel asked.
“I’m a bootlegger, I’m not going to run for Sheriff,” I said.
“Just curious, would it make a difference though,” Andrew asked.
“Not a bit,” I said.
“Okay, what if it was an instant adrenaline fix,” Andrew continued.
“That’s why I bootleg, I get my fix that way,” I said.
“Come on that’s out smarting the cops, but it’s not life or death,” the Sergeant Major said.
“I don’t need that shit,” I said.
“Do you really tell yourself that and believe it?” the Colonel asked.
“Let’s say yes, I tell myself that,” I replied.
“But you don’t believe it,” He suggested.
“No comment,” I replied.
“We have a female Mossad agent coming in to work with us. You would like her,” Andrew said with a lewd smile.
“Andrew you should know I’m not gay,” I said.
“Not unless you need to be,” he replied.
“We like you because you will do anything you need to do to get the job done,” the colonel said. “You know we do kind of have a history.”
“Was that a threat?” I asked.
“No it was an appeal to your better nature,” Andrew said.
“You, of all people, know I don’t have a better nature,” I said with a laugh.
“Talk to Allen when he gets back. We are going to talk to him.” Andrew suggested.
“We are pretty sure he will be interested. He is probably bored running this pub.” the colonel added.
“Well, we don’t work together just because we live in the same town,” I replied.
“Just keep an open mind,” Andrew said.
As usual the sergeant major acted as though he didn’t want me to join them. I suppose that was supposed to intrigue me, It didn’t. “Well let me think about it before you pitch it to me,” I said. First I had to make the decision that my current life wasn’t enough for me. Then I might be open to some kind of work with the guys from swamp dog. I guess if they moved to the mountain, they would adopt another name. Then again it wasn’t like anyone found them up in the yellow pages. They could call themselves anything.
Most of their customers were routed to them through government agencies, who couldn’t help them. Of course a lot of the work was for the US State Department or the CIA as well.
When they needed help Swamp Dog interviewed the personnel, assessed their skill level, and trained them in a specific job. In exchange Swamp Dog got the pay check and sent part of it on to the Operative in the field.
What they had planned for the peaceful mountain community, I had no idea. I doubted that I would like it all that much. Sure for me personally it might be a thrill, but for the community it might bring them nothing but grief.
“So tell me the truth, what kind of neighbors are you going to be?” I asked.
“They are not even going to know we are here,” The colonel said.
“There is no way that is true. Can you keep the threat level and impact down to a small amount on the communities around the camp?” I asked.
“You have been to the Dismal Swamp site did the people outside the compound seem to be upset by our presence.” The Sergeant Major said.
“I don’t know really do you want me to do some research. I could ask the local cops what they think of your guys, when they get drunk?” I asked.
“Yeah, well we keep that down to a minimum. These days we don’t let them out of the compound until we are pretty sure they have come down,” Andrew said.
“Okay, I’ll keep an open mind. You haven’t decided to buy the site yet have you?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Andrew said after looking at the Colonel for direction. To me that said they had decided to buy the camp.
“So when do you think you will make a decision?” I asked.
“I don’t think we will do anything till spring,” the colonel said.
“Then just enjoy the remainder of your trip. Hell go sight seeing be tourist for a while,” I suggested.
“That’s what we had planned. Can we trust you to get Andrew back to us by Sunday noon?” the Colonel asked.
“Colonel, he is a grown man. I think he can make it back to a pickup point without my help. If he can’t, you might want to rethink his position in the outfit.” I said.
“We are constantly rethinking our personnel,” the sergeant major replied with a smile.
“Well Sergeant Major, I believe there is a reservation for three at a strip club in some nearby college town.” The Colonel said standing to leave. He did leave $20 which I put in the register for The Brit.
Andrew waited until 1AM nursing a beer. Then I drove us to my box house. I decided I would clean the pub Saturday at noon. I didn’t want to put it off, but I was more interested in getting Andrew in bed, than I was in washing beer glasses. We were out of the bar and into the alley behind the bar when I noticed a women standing by my cruiser.
“You know her?” Andrew asked.
“I don’t think so, I was about to ask you the same thing,” I said.
“Well let’s go see what she wants,” He suggested.
“Shit, I don’t want to get in any more shit right now,” I said. Even so I closed the ten yard gap between us. “Hi there can I help you?” I asked.
“I hope so I’m Melody. I just got to town and I need a place to stay.” she said.
“What do you think I can do for you?” I asked. “Even more important, why should I care.”
“Well I was hoping you would let me stay with you,” she said.
“Why would you stand outside till 1AM waiting for a total stranger to ask her to take you in?” I asked. I had to admit that I was confused and curious.
“I used to live with Mary Ellen. We made some films together for her.” she said.
“God Melody, I thought you looked familiar, but I couldn’t place you. Where have you been?” I asked.
“I have family in Little Rock. I have been there for the last year. I was in a couple of rehab programs.” She said.
“How long you been clean,” I asked.
“Almost a year,” she said. She had the look of a recovering drug addict. Like she was one more disappointment from being back on the drugs.
“You know Mary Ellen is dead?” I asked.
“I didn’t till I got back. I thought everything would be like it was before. She told me to go get straight and I could come back,” Melody said.
“I’m sorry hon, but I don’t have any room for you at my place and I don’t know anyone who does. Tell you what though I will pay for a room in the downtown motel for tonight and give you a few bucks to get a bus ticket home,” I said.
“I don’t like being alone. Couldn’t I sleep on your floor Sylvia?” she asked.
“No I’m sorry I can’t do that. Like I said, I can pay for a room for you, and give you bus fare home, but that all I can do,” I said. I had way too many things at my place to allow a stranger to poke around.
“Can you cook?” Andrew asked.
“Some but I’m not likely to ever be on top chef,” she said with a smile.
“Tell you what, I’ll go to the motel with you. Maybe we can work out a job as house keeper for a place I know,” he said.
Melody looked at me with a question in her eyes. “He is a pervert, but he isn’t dangerous, I don’t think. If anything happens, I’ll kick his ass,” I said. I sounded really cool but I was fuming. Andrew was going to stay with a total stranger, rather than come home with me.
Melody said, “Thank you, what is your name?”
Yeah you really should get his name first, I thought.
“My name is Andrew, and I live down on the coast. Would that be a problem? Moving out of town I mean.” he said.
“No, I really have nowhere to go,” she said.
“Andrew I need to talk to you a second,” I said as I pulled him aside. When I had him out of earshot I asked, “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’m trying to help. She seems like a kid in need of a break. Since you know her, I think she would be alright as a kind of den mother at the swamp,” he said.
“You sound more like a serial killer interviewing a victim,” I said.
“Come on Sylvia you know better than that,” he said. “The Colonel and the Sergeant Major will have to meet her, but I think she will do.”
“You know I don’t believe a word of this. You are beginning to worry me,” I said.
“I’m going to call the colonel to come back for us. We can skip this little motel and carry her to where we are staying. Sylvia nothing is going to happen to her.” he promised.
“The only change in plans is I’m going to go back in and wash glasses,” I said. “You can come inside to wait.” I felt better when Andrew came inside until the Colonel and Sergeant Major showed up. They took the girl and her suitcase with them when they left over an hour later.