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Children of the Nuclear Gods by Paddy Kelly

No. words: 149700

Style: Historical Fiction, Action/Adventure - General

Published: 9 / 2020

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Children of the Nuclear Gods

by Paddy Kelly

STORY DESCRIPTION

After the shooting down of a Korean civilian airliner by a Soviet MiG over Sakalin Island, President Ronald Reagan, who believes his hand is guided by God, seizes the moment and embarks on a non-stop, no holds barred worldwide anti-Soviet campaign.

In Moscow the paranoid Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, dieing of liver cancer, already has plans in place for a full scale nuclear retaliation if he suspects the Americans of preparing for a first strike. But why was a civilian airliner with a veteran crew aboard who had flown this route many times, so far off course and coincidentally over flying the most secret Soviet missile base in the east? Neither the Soviet mole buried deep within NATO or the CIA secret operative inside the KGB can shed any light on the worsening situation.

At the same time, U.S. Naval Intelligence has been stymied by a recurring code word hidden in Soviet communications traffic, code word: RYAN. Lieutenant David Harden is given the task to find out what it means. Unfortunately, Harden has zero field experience and the only clue lies behind the wall in East Berlin.

Based on true incidents which occurred in the Fall of 1983, Children of the Nuclear Gods is based on actual events experienced by the author from September to November of 1983 during Operation Able Archer and which have been labelled as the “Nuclear War Scare”. http://www.wired.com/2013/05/able-archer-scare/

 

EXTRACT FOR
Children of the Nuclear Gods

(Paddy Kelly)


Children of the Nuclear Gods

INTRODUCTION

 

A

ll men are defined by the times in which they live. Growing up with daily nuclear attack drills, air raid sirens at every major intersection and going to class past the stacks of olive drab, green emergency rations and cans of water lined up in the hallways of the school was a part of life that is incomprehensible now in the 21st Century. But in the Fifties, Sixties and, in some places, well into the Seventies, students in both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. spent at least ten to thirty minutes of each school day cowering under their desks, inside makeshift bomb shelters and being falsely led by deluded politicians that if they achieved exactly the right position under their meager, little wooden desks, they could all survive a nuclear attack.

One of my earliest memories as a kid was directly responsible for me spending 16 years of my life in the military. And it was in one of these schools-come-bomb-shelter, at the age of about ten, that it happened.

As John Glen's capsule hurled towards the earth we were all herded into a classroom, the one with the only T.V. in the school, ordered by the Sisters of Perpetual Punishment to sit down be quiet, and watch the telly. What we eventually saw, after about an hour of torturous commentary, none of which any of us had a hope of understanding, we watched as a small shiny metal capsule under three white and orange parachutes floated from the heavens down into the blue expansive of the Pacific. 

"Sister Mary, who are they?" I asked as I watched men in black jump from a helicopter and swim to the capsule.

"Those are men to help save the astronaut. They are called, Frogmen."

"Frogmen!" The very name rang with heroism, excitement and endless adventure. There were actually guys who jump out of helicopters into the middle of the ocean and swim like fish!

That's when I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!

The government jingle later mocked as a Pop song in "Duck And Cover!" and the cult film The Atomic Café made from actual government propaganda are also vivid memories but seeing the UDT combat swimmers on T.V. . .

Given this back ground and given what I did in later life, twelve years in Special Operations, the question occurred to me, as it did to tens of millions of others, how could the leaders of the supposed civilized world reach a point that all civilization as we know it could come within the push of a button of being annihilated?

After several years of research the answer turned out to be quite simple.

They were fucking idiots! Plain and simple.

Although I had to read twenty or so books along with a two meter high stack of articles, treatises and opinions to arrive at this novel it is, as is all my writing based on actual facts. This book is a work of Roman a Clef not a history book. Although the exact dates of some of the incidents have been altered to fit the story line the incidents themselves are as accurately portrayed as available records allow. Dave Harden and Doc are based on actual characters.

Enjoy the read.

 

*******


PROLOGUE

 

T

his story is a compilation of true political and military events both historical and personal during my time assigned to U.S. Marine Special Forces and with U.S. Army Intel.

Because they are largely composed of opinion, politics, like religion is by its very nature controversial. Even the most steadfast researchers and factologists disagree on what certain, 'well documented' events mean. Toss in a healthy measure of skepticism followed by a heaping tablespoon of home grown paranoia flavored with a sprinkle of political bias and the end result is at best arguable.

Following the Carter years, which were unquestioningly marked by weak even flaccid foreign policy, the overtly aggressive nature which had won Reagan the election, seemed to amplify with each successive speech and each new proposed foreign policy shift, particularly in the military arena, Reagan’s distain for the Soviet leadership.

Operation Ryan, the largest counter-Intel operation ever launched in the history of the Soviet Union, was undoubtedly a panic response on the part of the Politburo to Reagan's aggressive approach towards foreign policy. Inclusive in that was his approval of the overt PSYOPS intrusions into Russian territory and the so called ‘Star Wars’ system which was later exposed as a scam, as the period technology to achieve what was advertised was non-existent.

The fact that the most massive and audacious PSYOPS operations were launched in the first quarter of his first presidency is indicative of the mentality Reagan entered into public office with. From all contemporaneous indications Yuri Andropov, the Soviet Premier at the time, had no illusions about which way the foreign policy winds would shift once Reagan got in and so initiated his own covert Intel measures.

Some Americans have argued Andropov was ‘backed into’ his moves by Regean’s aggression. The historical record doesn’t support this. Yuri Andropov’s predecessors had long sought conquest by overt force for example their activities in the Pacific basin, Africa and invading Afghanistan less than two years before Reagan was elected.

It was no coincidence that almost immediately after Ronald Reagan took office the American hostages, after 444 days as political prisoners of the far left Iranians, were  released.

By way of example the year-long pointless negotiations with the Iranian terrorists pretending to be students showed no actual signs of resolution during Carter's tenure but when, the day after Reagan got the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Tehran magically offered a solution.

There is no shortage of proof that Moscow was advising the hostage takers, (atheist communists advising radical Muslims? That would have been interesting!), but it was just one more step inching us closer to the inevitable confrontation of September 1983, the story you are about to read.

The war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had been being fought by proxy since 1947. Ergo there was little doubt that shortly after the 1980 American election an army commanded by someone who wrote Cyrillic, liked vodka and was used to cold weather would be advised that they, like the Persians who sought to conquer the world, would no longer be allowed passage through The Hot Gates.

Sparta had a new king.

On the other hand, the shoot down of the passenger liner KAL flight 007 on August 31st, 1983 which may or not have actually been a passive probe to agitate Soviet defenses over one of their most sensitive installations, Petropavlovsk Naval Air Base near Vladstok, and was certainly one of their most vulnerable, was the bitter icing on the cake for Andropov and the Politburo.

I was stationed at the Special Operations base in Coronado California as a Marine Force Recon instructor the day the news of the KAL 007 shoot down was made public.

It was Thursday or early Friday morning just before the Labor Day weekend and Dave Harden, a Navy Seal candidate at the time had just finished a beach run along the Strand and I was coming down off the obstacle course aside the BUDS quarter deck building.

He’d asked me if I’d heard the news. I hadn’t and he filled me in. We both agreed we would be issued orders within the next 24-48 hours.

At that point we improvised a mock scenario where-by an aide enters the White House and reports to Reagan that we have an incident and that KAL 007 was actually a probe.

We were wrong, it probably wasn’t but it wasn’t until a decade later that the world learned there had been an American spy plane in the area.

All those years later when I read about the RC-135 surveillance aircraft that had been in the area I suddenly empathized with my father when I told him they found out FDR pretty much knew about Pearl Harbor would be attacked at some point and also that a retired military investigator finally discovered what had happened to Glen Miller’s plane back 1944 when it vanished over the English Channel. Two incidents which had remained mysteries for years and which had profoundly affected my father and his generation.

This is a work of historical fiction however the names, dates and places are factual. With the exception of the events of the last few chapters which are loosely based on what happened, the events leading up to my involvement are true.

The U.S./U.S.S.R. military and political events which transpired through the month of September of 1983 transpired pretty much as written.

As with all my novels I write books dealing with events which have never been novelized before and I decided to write this book because I’ve had endless discussions with people who submit to the popular, incorrect belief, that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest we’d come to a nuclear exchange. This is incorrect, there have been several others.

However, I was not able to find anywhere in the archives when or where the order to launch nukes was actually given by either side save for the one written about here.

I believe the September-November 1983 incident to be the only, and hopefully the last, time that such an insane order will be issued.

 

*******

 

“Nobody intends to put up a wall!”

-Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the GDR, June 15, 1961.

Weeks before the Berlin Wall was erected.

 

 

 

“A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”

 

- John F. Kennedy, August 1961

Weeks later as the Berlin Wall was being erected.

 


CHAPTER ONE

 

Greenleaf Point, Potomac River,

Washington D. C.

July 4th, 1983

14:45 EDT

 

D

ating to the Colonial Era Fort Lesley J. McNair, a joint forces base and home to Naval Sea Systems Command, or FTMCNNAVSYSCMD in Nav speak, sits right on a northern bend of the Potomac River.

Established in 1791 it was the site of the first federal penitentiary, served as the execution grounds of the Lincoln conspirators as well as the base of operations for Walter Reed and his research which led to the cures for yellow fever and malaria.

Ironically its name sake, Lesley J. McNair, was killed in a friendly fire incident when 77 Army Air Corps planes bombed friendly positions during Operation Cobra in the battle for Normandy.

Technically a U.S. Army fort, it holds pride-of-place for a naval detachment of the U.S. fleet as well.

This day however, as the thermometer reached 87 degrees and the humidity climbed, was one of the few times on the station that the entire fort's compliment were allowed to wear civilian clothes, lounge around, drink beer and, except for an unlucky few, were not required to report for duty.

It was America's 207th birthday.

Americans are proud of their bar-b-que tradition. Bigger, better hamburgers, fatter, juicer hot dogs and enough chicken to keep Ethiopia fed for a year. But a Navy bar-b-que is a sight to behold.

A week earlier, by order of the Station Commander, twenty, 55 gallon, diesel oil drums had been cleaned out, trucked over to the repair ship U.S.S. Ajax, cut in half down their long axis's and had iron cross legs welded to their under sides. After the addition of iron grates on top, the resulting 40, man-sized bar-b-que's were then brought back to the parade ground early on the morning of the Fourth, lined up end to end, 20 on the port side of the parade ground, 20 on the starboard and stacked with high grade charcoal.

By ten hundred the home fires were burning and by high noon 10,000 beef burgers, 11,000 hot dogs and 14,500 chicken legs were sizzling away as nearly the entire station's compliment of 11,000 officers, petty officers, NCO's and enlisted men, half with family members in tow, formed four orderly lines which snaked back across both baseball diamonds, out past the Officer's Club and nearly to the front gate.

It was the mother of all bar-b-ques.

On the North side of the base just inside the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, a young seaman dressed in cut off jean shorts and a dark red Boston Red Socks tee shirt scrambled in through the rear entrance, ran up the passageway and ducked into the office adjacent to the front entrance on the quarter deck.

Under considerable duress he rummaged around for a pink pad of pre-printed dockets, tore the top one off and took a seat at one of the half dozen typewriters, removed the cover and inserted the docket into the carriage.

As was usually the case in the office someone had left the radio on and he tuned out the pleasant voice of the female commentator as he typed.

 

“. . . It was announced today that the installation of the Pershing II missile systems along the East-West German border has been completed.

The Pershing II's are nuclear capable and are designed to be launched from road mobile vehicles in order to make them more difficult to find. Estimated flight time to Russia's capital, Moscow, is between six and eight minutes thus giving the Soviets little or no . . .”

 

Just as he finished banging away the Officer Of the Deck came around the corner and through the half opened door detected the staccato of the keys slapping paper. The tall, lanky O.O.D. eased the office door full open and stuck his head in.

“Kearney! What the hell you doin' on the Quarterdeck in your civvies?”

“Sorry Lieutenant! I gotta finish these reports mosh skoosh!” The kid didn't look up as he continued to hammer away on another.

“You do know what day it is? I mean they do celebrate the Fourth in New Yawk, don't they?”

“Can’t say sir, I'm from Bas-ton sir and shit yah we celebrate it! We're the ones picked the fight, remember?!”

“Then shove the hell off!”

“But sir, I told the Master Chief I'd have these laundry reports done by noon!”

“We'll you missed that ship by a coupl'a hours!”

“Aye aye sir. I know.”

“What was her name?” The lieutenant slyly asked.

Ohh . . . it wasn't like that Lieutenant! I mean . . .”

“I'm sure the Master Chief will still retire on time next week without a few laundry reports.”

“I know sir, but the Master Chief -”

“He'll understand. And if he doesn't, you tell him the Company C.O. wants to have a chat about that half empty bottle of 12 year old scotch he has stashed in his lower desk drawer.” Kearney smiled up at the Lieutenant.

“Now get the hell outta here, that’s an order! Un-ass the A.O. and go get some of that fine chow the U.S. taxpayer bought us for fighting back the Red tide and keepin' the world safe for democracy!”

“Message received loud and clear sir!” The kid pulled the docket from the typewriter, stowed it in a drawer, scrambled past the lieutenant and out the office door, saluting smartly as he passed. “Seaman Kearney request permission to leave the ship, sir!”

“Get the hell outta here, numbnuts!” The officer smiled and was using his pass key to lock the office door when Kearney yelled back into the barracks.

“Janean Sir!” The Lt. walked to the front entrance in time to see Kearney jogging across the parking lot.

“What?”

“Janean, sir. Her name was Janean. Janean from Jersey! And she was a goddess! I think I'm in love! Happy Fourth L.T.!”

With a smirk still hanging on his face the O.O D. adjusted the bill of his cap and raised a hand to block out the sun as he stared out across the Potomac and watched a white, 38 foot Chris Craft  slowly meander upstream.

“Someday.” He mumbled to himself as he turned and walked away. “The day after retirement!” He ambled back into the barracks to continue his rounds. “The very day after retirement!”

 

*******

 

Only one of the two used-to-be sailors with a perspiring bottle of Budweiser in his hand and sheltering in the wheel house of that 38 foot Chris Craft Cruiser, gazed out the port side and across at the massive, tax payer financed bar-b-que. The slightly older, bald, bearded one continued to stare straight ahead as he manned the helm.

Ya miss it, Chief?” His tall, gangly friend asked.

“Miss what?” He adjusted his glasses as he grumbled a reply

“Miss what?! What the hell do you think?! The Navy!”

“Fuck the Navy! Months at sea, shit chow and no matter how high you go in rank there's always some asshole tellin' ya how to do your job a better way. Fuck that shit!” His normally pale complexion reddened slightly.

“So Chief, how do really feel?”

“Fuck you!” He drained his bottle and tossed it overboard onto the river. “You see I'm in civvies, don't ya?”

“Yeah. So what's yer point?”

“Quit callin' me Chief, god damn it!”

“Jesus John, you're bitchier than normal!”

“Pass me another beer.”

“Maybe you need something stronger than beer!” He rummaged through the Styrofoam cooler and passed John another bottle.

“I always need something stronger than beer.”

“How's about I take you out and get you laid tonight?”

Retired Chief Warrant Officer John Walker didn't answer nor did he encourage any more conversation with his friend for the remaining twenty minutes until the pair had reached his rented slip at The Yards Park, on the Southwest Waterfront. 

After stowing their fishing gear in the trunks of their cars, and a half-hearted commitment to, ‘Do it again soon’, the pair parted company in the parking lot.

It was approaching half four when Walker hopped on the 395N heading home to the Oceanview district of suburban D.C. just outside Norfolk, about ten miles north of the marina.

In an effort to quell his anger at his current domestic situation he switched on the radio.

 

And in other news, the Reagan Administration appears

to have taken another body blow as Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt has been found guilty of 25 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice and sentenced to five years’ probation, a $5,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.

 

“Fuckin' bastards!” Walker mumbled to himself.

 

PROBATION, for 25 counts Jim?! The female co-anchor declared.

Probation, Lucy!” The male anchor shot back.

That were you or me Jim, they'd toss us in a hole and

throw away the key!

No question Lucy! And the best part is . . . HE STILL

GETS TO KEEP HIS JOB!!

Is this a great country or what, Jim? She added with

mock pride.

Land of the Free. Unless you're not a politician, then you have to pay, don't ya? The female co-anchor picked up the commentary.

This latest White House Headache comes hot on the heels of the conviction of Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Phillip D. Winn's conviction for multiple counts of bribery just months ago!

You're tuned to DC Radio FM106.4 on your FM dial. All news, all the -

 

“Fuckin' bastards!” Walker declared out loud as he flicked off the radio and lit a cigarette.

Twenty-five minutes later he was pulling up the driveway of his four bed, split level, red brick house and parking next to his white 4X4. A tall, young man, thirty-ish, stepped through the front door out onto the porch.

“Hey Mike. Glad you made it in. Anyone else here?” Walker called up to the porch as he retrieved his fishing tackle and headed up.

“Laura's in back manning the bar-b-que. Cynthia called, she can’t make it but Margret and her guy are due over in bit. How're they biting?”

“Not a fucking nibble.” Walker entered the well-furnished house . “Any sign of Wentworth?”

“Jerry rang, he can't make it. Said he'll try and make it over tomorrow.”

Out in the kitchen Laura was lifting marinated chicken breasts out of a Tupperware bowl as Walker snuck up from behind and covered his daughter’s eyes with his hands.

“Hi dad. Welcome back. I smell your clean hands so I guess there were no fish?” They gave each other a peck on the cheek. “Be right back in. I've gotta get back out there or the coals will die.” She said.

“Malarkey! You stay here, sit yourself down, and talk to your old man. PETTY OFFICER WALKER!”

“PETTY OFFICER AYE SIR!” Mike yelled back from out in the living room.

“Give your sister a hand! Get the hell out on the galley deck and man the bar-b-que! ON THE DOUBLE! POGUE!”  

Laura giggled to herself.

“Moving on the double sir!” Mike grabbed the bowl of chicken breasts and his beer and headed outside to the back deck. Laura finished washing her hands and was drying them as she pulled up a chair to the oversized kitchen table.

“Sure is hot in here.” Walker made an exaggerated gesture of wiping his brow. “Man could work up a hell'uv'a thirst in this weather.”

Laura rose again and retrieved a bottle of beer from the double door fridge just as the doorbell rang.

“I'll get it.” She opened the beer for her father then left the room to answer the front door.

John sat, casually sipping on his beer and mulling over how well his life had turned out. His house, his car, a 4X4 in the driveway and a boat in the marina. His own detective agency and a couple of good kids.

Not bad for a kid from D.C. who was one step ahead of lengthy jail sentence for petty theft.

He glanced at the kitchen clock over the doorway. 18:45. He checked his Rolex which read 18:47. Rising from his seat he pulled a chair over to the doorway and climbed up to correct the clock. After setting the time pieces within seconds of each other he returned the chair, retrieved his beer and started to wander out to the back porch where he could see Mike was filling a large china plate with half a dozen hot dogs and a few assorted burgers.

By now Laura had opened the front door but apparently had not yet let the caller in and on his way across the kitchen Walker thought he heard whispering coming from the front door. He changed direction to investigate and arrived in the front room in time to see his ex, Barbara, stumble through the front door holding a can of beer. She was halfway to a good drunk and the years of neglect and border line abuse were festering to the surface.

She went straight for Walker.

“I been calling you all day! Where you been?!” She demanded. Laura had sense enough to head back out to the kitchen with the excuse of helping her brother at the grill.

“Out!” John casually snapped back.

“Out where?”

“Barb, look. Look real close!” Walker held up his left hand, displaying the ring finger. Even the tan line was gone. “Notice anything missing?”

“Yeah. As usual your give-a-shit meter is empty!”

What’a ya want Barb?!”

“I want money!”

“Barb, you're not getting any money.”

“I want money!!”

“For what? All the years of lessons you gave me?” He queried.

“What lessons?!” She challenged.

“Lessons in how to be one miserable son-of-a-bitch.”

“You're just one smug bastard, ain't ya?!” She snarled.

“DINNER'S READY!” Laura called from the kitchen.

“That why you used to close your eyes during sex? Couldn't stand to see me enjoying myself?” He took the can of beer from her hand as she fell back onto the couch.

“Fuck you!”

“Snappy come back but, not any more sister! Them days is gone.” He drained her beer, set the can on the coffee table and chased it down with a swig of his Budweiser.

“I sath FUCK YOU! BASTHARD!”

“DINNER IS SERVED!” Laura again yelled into the front room.

“I need ten grand!” Barbara demanded.

“For what? Another face lift? Don't you wanna wait and see if the first one takes?” Out in the kitchen Laura had set the table.

“Dinner's ready?” She meekly said still standing in the middle of the kitchen. Mike began fixing himself a plate. “Or not.” Laura mumbled, depression quickly setting in as she plopped down at the kitchen table. “Maybe we'd better put these back on the grill.” She suggested. Mike shrugged, did a shot of tequila and began reloading the rest of the burgers and dogs back onto the serving plate and headed back out to the deck. He unceremoniously dumped the whole plate back onto the oversized gas grill, closed the lid then stood facing out to the small, manmade lake out behind the house, chicken leg in one hand, bottle of tequila in the other, tuning out the intense negativity emanating from the parlor.

“YOU OWE ME GOD DAMN IT! YOU KNOW GOD DAMNED WELL YOU OWE ME!” Barbra scowled. Walker remained nonchalant in his retort.

“The kids are grown, out of the house and supporting themselves! Read the divorce papers! You signed em' same as me! No more alimony!” With unexpected energy and coordination Barb sprang from the couch and backed John into a corner by the window.

“I know what you're doin'!” She leaned in close and poked his chest with her index finger. “Don't think I don't know what you're doin'!”

“What's that Barb?”

“You know! And don'th think for one New York Thity seconth that I won't tell them!”

Ya know Sweetheart, I think the love's gone out of our relationship. Go back to rehab, will ya?” He patted her on the cheek, ducked out from under her arm and headed in the direction of the kitchen.

“MIKE! COME IN HERE AND DRIVE YOUR MOTHER HOME!” John yelled as he finished his beer, set the bottle on the mantle and grabbed his denim jacket from the hall coat rack and made for the front door. Barbara trailed him halfway across the living room then fell back onto the couch as Walker darted out the front door.

Outside the house the muffled sound of the 4X4 being fired up in the driveway was briefly heard then quickly faded into the distance.

Barbra reached across the coffee table to retrieve her empty can of beer and tilted it to her lips.

“SHIT!” She flung it across the room just missing the family portrait on the mantle and slumped further down on the couch.

“Rehab! Rehab is for quitters!” She mumbled to herself. 

 

*******

 

Night Moves Lounge

Polish Hill District

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

 

“Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!” He spoke with the resignation of a condemned man mounting the gallows. “I left New York City for fucking Pittsburgh Pennsylvania!”

The thirty year old sailor in dress whites at the end of the bar threw back another drink as the juke box changed records. The bar clock read a quarter to midnight. Early yet.

“You left New York for a girl, dumb shit.” Down in the center behind the bar, leaning on one arm as he flipped through the latest issue of Shaved, the stocky, black bartender Jake, drawled out the retort, before leisurely perusing the sparsely occupied bar room. He shook his head as he returned to his literary endeavors as the sailor continued his quiet rant.

“What the hell was I thinking?” Sitting alone at the end of the bar, Petty Officer Second Class McKeowen held up two empty shot glasses to signal the barman for a couple of refills.

The fake grass thatching over the bar was held together by dust and grime, the plywood cutouts of crossed palm trees above the door to the toilets in the back hung peeling and sagging and the furniture throughout had suffered multiple assaults.

There was a reason every night was two-for-one night at the Night Moves.

Founded on the misery of thousands of Viet Nam vets. The Lounge had been a local watering hole since the early days of the Viet Nam War but thanks to Richard Nixon’s economic policies had quickly transitioned into somebody's dream gone bad and was now on the verge of being condemned. Again.

The late 30-something woman with the shoulder bag big enough to smuggle a dead body in continued to lean on the juke box as she pretended to give a shit about which record selection she wanted to hear. It was apparent that her struggle to maintain her once stunning good looks was weakening.

There was a dangerous brush with excitement when she briefly glanced over her bare shoulder at Petty Officer McKeowen, smiled a lop-sided smile and turned back to punch a couple of more buttons before taking her seat next to a guy half her age who obviously had mistaken the place for some kind of gay leather club.

“Obviously you weren't thinking, dumb shit.” Came the follow-up answer to McKeowen's last query by way of the burley bartender.

Sea Of Love wafted out of the Wurlitzer and permeated the room.

“Thanks for the support Jake! And you're supposed to be a friend!” McKeowen snapped back.

“Let's don't be presumptuous!” The bartender said pouring the drinks. He glanced down the bar and heard the sailor mumbling out loud to himself.

Could’a had that job in the Village if I stayed in New York. Or grad school, FREE! If I signed that teaching contract! But noooo! You dopey bastard!”

The barman came down with the drinks, set them next to McKeowen then leaned in to the not-yet-drunk-but-feeling-no-pain sailor.

“Hey man, do me a favor will ya?! Shut the hell up, or at least find somebody else to talk to. Ya scarin' the clientele.”

McKeowen glanced around to spot a late middle aged couple in a corner playing tonsil hockey, two teens with a half a dozen empty beer bottles in front of them struggling to remain upright and an old codger shuffling to the little boys' room about five minutes too late. Juke Box Lady and her leather buddy were also making nice-nice as they were rounding second base as she fished his hand out of her bra.

“I'll try and keep it down. Wouldn't want to disrupt the romantic ambience of the room.” McKeowen quipped.

Just as the bartender took his leave Juke Box Lady waited until her boyfriend went to the little boy's room then rose from the table and with silver, sparkly platform shoes clip clopping across the floor, wandered over towards

McKeowen.

His eyes shot immediately to the white hot pants to the place where there was supposed to be a little triangular peep hole at the top of the thighs. There wasn't one.

“Hey!” She greeted, being sure to bend over farther than required as she reached to pull out the bar stool to his right. He tried not to focus on the elongated cleavage as she flopped her big bag onto the bar.

“Hey yerself.” He greeted back as he slid one of the loaded shot glasses over to her.

“Mind if I -”

“Not at all. Grab a seat. So, what's a nice girl like you, blah, blah in a place like blah, blah blah?” She smiled and took the whiskey. He glanced down at her almost shapely thighs. “Fishnets. Very stylish.” He tried not to smirk.

“Thank you.” She threw back the whiskey like a seasoned pro. “So what's your -?”

“Her name was Tanya.”

“Tanya huh? That why you hang around classy joints like this talkin' to yerself?”

“I loved her, she loved me. Then we finished college, no work. Her mom, who takes the warm and fuzzy out of the word cunt, came in late in the second act and next thing I know instead of sharing our dream apartment in the city I was sleeping in the back seat of my 1979, steel grey, SAAB 1000.” He swallowed his shot, stared at the empty glass as he twirled it in his hand and then suddenly flung it across the room into the almost-realistic fake fire place. The old man cheered, gave an enthusiastic ovation and tried to stand but couldn't. The bartender wasn't quite as appreciative.

“HEY MAN! Where the fuck you think you is, Russia or some shit?!” McKeowen peeled a tenner from the small stack of bills on the bar in front of him, waved it at the bartender and slid it across the bar. Juke Box Lady signaled for another round. McKeowen fished out another note.

“Lemme guess. You had plans, they went to shit so you moped around for the better part of two weeks . . .” She preached as McKeowen held up three fingers. “. . . called in sick and now you're out tryin' ta get laid to wash her outt'a your hair! That about it?”

Ya say it like that, sounds like a forgotten chapter in some old book.”

“Chapter might be stretchin' it. Maybe a couple'a pages, three at most.” She countered.

“Are you tryin' to minimalize my most recent emotional trauma?”

“Not really.” She defended as they had another drink.

“I just wanna put people back together.” He confessed.

Whose broke?”

“Trauma. I got a knack for emergency medicine. If they're breathin' when I get there, they'll still be breathin' when the chopper takes 'em out. And that ain't braggin'! Seven years I've never put a dead patient on an ambulance or a Medi-vac.”

“So all you really wanna do is save people's lives?! That's admirable!”

“Save people's lives. And blow shit up.”

“What?”

“Special Operations. We all double up on jobs. It's sort of a unique skill set.”

The bartender set two more shots on the bar and Juke Box Lady wasted no time peeling another tenner off McKeowen's pile.

“Done like a true pro!” McKeowen jibed as he watched her pass his money to the bartender.

“What's dat supposed ta mean?!”

“Just sayin', done like a real professional.”

“Hey chuck you Farley! I ain't no hooker!”

“Hey easy sister. Just alludin' to sex. I mean, that's what it's all about isn't it?”

“What are you talkin' about?! Who said anything about having sex?!”

“Just tryin' ta get ta know ya. It's like in Bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you better have a good hand. Know-what-I-mean?” She turned away from him. “Hey, honest mistake, Sweetheart. Let me make it up to ya.” She smiled, settled down and swung around on her seat back in to face the bar. “Just let me know how much ya need per hour and . . .”

She slapped the bar and turned red.

“You're a real asshole! Ya know that?” She blurted out.

“So I've been told.” She pushed back from the bar, hopped off her stool, grabbed her shoulder bag and headed for the door.

“Don't forget to write.” He threw back his shot, reached across and took hers and signaled for two more. The bartender signaled back ‘no’ by way of his middle finger.

“Apparently we've been cut off.” McKeowen informed the two empty glasses.

“HEY, ASSHOLE!” McKeowen looked around for the source of the yelling. “YEAH YOU! POPEYE THE FUCKIN' SAILOR MAN!”

It was the leather clad Village People reject who apparently had no sense of humor about his 'date' sitting at the bar with McKeowen.

McKeowen glanced over at the irate idiot in time to notice he was brandishing a stiletto switch blade and heading straight for his end of the bar.

“WHAT THE FUCK . . .?!” Jake the bartender yelled as he dropped his girlie magazine and vaulted the bar in one leap to land just behind the leather festooned baboon but had to reach forward to grab him by his left arm and swing him around 180 degrees.

This was perhaps not the wisest maneuver from the big black fella who was accustomed to intimidation by size. It never occurred to people like him that the Principle of Bigness did not apply when dealing with real life crazed, Sicilian, pimp types.

As Guido the Killer Pimp swung around, the bartender didn't feel a thing. At first. However, the bartender's size counted for something and the force of the spin he put on the pimp was enough to make him stumble to the right buying the bartender time to gain the upper hand. As the pimp was slammed back against the bar he was momentarily defenseless and that was all she wrote.

The first punch glanced off Guido's right cheek but the second broke his nose, the third his jaw and the fourth ensured his rhinoplasty bill would run into the tens of thousands, not counting rehab.

An unconscious, profusely bleeding Guido crumpled to the floor like a wet rag doll.

As the big man began to breath heavier from the exertion he winced in pain then immediately found it rough going to try and take in a deep breath. His hand shot to his abdomen, he backed away from the slumped, lump of pimp, fell to his knees and collapsed backwards onto the bar room floor.

The blood trail looked like somebody had emptied a couple of bottles of ketchup on the deck and a third all over the black man's exposed belly.

“SHIT!” McKeowen had already been on his feet since the Killer Pimp initiated his antics and so was at the wounded man's side in seconds assessing his injury. He carefully lifted away the flaps of the sliced open Tee shirt and slid Jake's hand away. The blood was flowing too steady to see anything but the anomaly which caught his attention was a small rise in the otherwise smooth and steady blood flow off to the left side.

Gastric bleeder! McKeowen thought to himself. He immediately guesstimated the location of the bleeder and with his left hand pinched a flap of flesh with his thumb and forefinger. The flow slowed noticeably but didn't abate.

Simultaneously with his right hand he monitored the carotid pulse.

“JAKE! JAKE, CAN YOU HEAR ME MAN?!” The barman was slipping in and out of consciousness but was able to squeeze out a smile, then attempted to speak. McKeowen leaned in closer.

“Guess . . . somebody else . . . gonna have ta lock up tonight.” Jake struggled to whisper.

“You're gonna lock up tonight Bro, same as always, now stay with me man! You're gonna be alright!” He quickly surveyed the bar room. The two teens were now awake and on their feet a couple of yards from their table between McKeowen and his patient. “HEY! YOU TWO, HERE NOW! I NEED YOUR HELP!” They traded dumfounded looks then scurried over. He addressed the girl first. “Go around behind the bar. Call the operator tell her you have a stabbing at the Night Moves Lounge, next door to the Big O! Tell her we need an ambulance now!” The girl took off to make the call. “And bring me back one of those bar knives and shit load'a bar towels!”

“What are you, like some kind'a doctor or something man?” The young guy asked.

Somethin' like that. Find me something to raise his feet up onto then get his shoe laces off and tie 'em around his upper thighs, tight.” The half sober teen stared down at the 12 inch wound. “Anytime this week, Champ!” McKeowen snapped.

“Shit! Sorry man!” The kid got right to it and did a good job. The girl returned with a stack of bar towels.

“JAKE? JAKE, YOU WITH ME MAN? TALK TO ME BROTHER.” He leaned in to listen for breaths. They were there but becoming weaker and a bit erratic.

“What else man?” The teen asked.

“I need a bottle of vodka and a bottle of whiskey.” The kid took off.

“How long for the ambulance?”

“She said ten to fifteen minutes.” The girl shot back.

“Shit! Alright, here's what we need to do. I'm holding his artery closed right now but it's still leaking. We have to stop it.” The girl was now turning a bit pale. “You up for this? I need you, I can't do this by myself.” He explained. She pulled herself together. “You okay?!”

“Yeah. Yeah. I can do it.”

“Good girl! Now, I need you to fold one of those over long ways and gently pack it into the wound. She quickly obeyed but hesitated when it came to packing it in.

“Good job. Now, I need you to fold two more towels, lay one across his chest and, when I tell ya, exchange the one in his wound for a clean one. You got any hairpins in your hair?” She responded instantly and pulled three from her French braid which immediately fell down around her shoulders. McKeowen let go of Jake's neck and took the bobby pins. The boy returned.

“Here's the vodka and here's the Irish. All they had was Jameson's. That okay?”

“It'll have to do.” Mac answered. The kid fell to his knees and set to opening the bottles.

“What do I do with the bloody one?” The trembling girl asked.

What’a ya want with the booze Doc?!” The boy interjected.

“Don't call me Doc, god damn it! Take the vodka in your right hand, pull the pour spout out and put your thumb over the mouth of the bottle halfway. On my signal douse the hell outta the area I'm pinching, you got that?”

“Like a fancy French chef with cookin' wine!”

“Yeah, French chef.” In the distance a siren could be heard. “And here comes the cavalry!” McKeowen mumbled as he daubed the area searching for the bleeder.

“What about the whiskey?”

“Remove the pour spout, take the bottle in your left hand and raise the whiskey to my mouth and give me a swig.” Smirking, the kid complied. By now the drunk old man had slid his chair over to the scene and was leaning forward arms on knees watching the show.

“What do I do with the bloody towel?!” The girl reiterated.

“Just toss it outta the way. Okay, we all move when I count three, okay? All on the same page?” The teens nodded. “One, two, three!” The girl removed the blood soaked towel which had absorbed a considerable amount of blood to reveal torn mesentery and a glisten of large intestine.

As the wound again began to fill, the kid acted quickly and saturated McKeowen's hand and the area around.

“Hold the next towel in closer! Dab the area between my fingers when I let go. Ready, now!” They alternated pinching and dabbing until, he saw something. “There you are, you little bastard!” It was the partially severed small artery.

Just as he was about to apply the pin the two ambulance attendants burst through the front door with the grace of a pair of wounded bulls in a china shop.

“Jesus Christ! You guys know how to make an entrance!” McKeowen cursed.

“Where's the patient?” The dumpy one asked.

“See if you can guess!” The kid shot back.

“Okay, stop!” Mac spread the bobby pin wide and slipped it over the exposed pinch of tissue surrounding the bleeder.

Bright red blood still seeped steadily while he prepped a second pin and quickly applied it. The arterial bleeding stopped.

“YESSS!! WE DID IT!” The kid yelled.

“Easy Chef! We ain't out’a the woods yet!” He said and turned to the ambulance attendants. “You guys got any suture kits or forceps out in that rig?” There were numerous veins and smaller vessels still leaking.

The pudgy attendant fished a pair of curved Kelly's out of his shirt pocket and tossed them to McKeowen who immediately applied them to the largest of the still leaking vessels.

The girl repacked the wound with a clean towel as McKeowen rechecked Jake's pulse and respirations. Both were slow and thready but palpatable.

“Chef, what's your name?”

“Reginald. But my friends call the J Man.”

“Makes sense. J Man, you like music?”

“What loser doesn't?!”

“Exactly. I need you to keep time for me. Put your fingers here on his neck. Feel anything?”

“Yeah! I got his pulse, but it’s weak.”

“I need you to tap your hand on your thigh in sync with Jake's pulse. Think you can do that?”

“No prob man!”

“Also I need you to watch the bar clock, count the beats for me and tell me his pulse every thirty seconds. Think ya can handle that?”

“You got it Doc!” McKeowen winced.

“Alright, get outta the way. Let's get this guy transported.” The tall lanky ambulance driver ordered.

“Negative! He needs to be stabilized. You got I.V.'s on board that rig?”

“Yeah, of course. But . . .”

“BUT WHAT?!”

“We ain't allowed to use them without authorization of an M. D. first.”

“Get out there, get me two large bore needles, 16 gauge, two Ringer's Lactate and a bag of saline. And a shit load of Gelfoam.”

“What's Gelfoam?”

“Fuck! Get me the I.V.'s, needles and a pack of sterile 4X4's!”

“But . . .”

“Hey, Bush League! You wanna stand around here playin' pocket pool and watch this guy bleed out, or you wanna do your job and help save a life?” By way of an answer both ambulance attendants scrambled out the door.

“And one of you check that guy out!” Mac nodded over towards the crumpled up pimp. The tall one scurried over to the unconscious lump who had his nose on the left side of his face.

Ten minutes later with an I.V. draining into each arm, Jake the bartender was being loaded into a white, 1980 Cadillac ambulance which had been backed up to the front door as a pair of cops sat in a cruiser behind the ambulance drinking coffee.

“Is he gonna make it man?” The kid asked McKeowen who was sprawled out on the bar room floor, in his blood stained dress whites staring at the stamped metal ceiling. The bottle of Jameson's in his left hand.

“I think so kid.”

“MAN! That was some awesome shit! Like you knew exactly what you were doin' the whole time!” Mac slowly sat up. “Where'd you learn all that shit?!”

“I read a book.” He lifted himself off the floor, took a long swig from the bottle and handed it to the kid. “Here. You guys know Jake?” McKeowen asked the kids.

“Yeah. He's a cool guy. Let’s us drink in here all the time. But only beer.”

“He usually keeps the keys in the cash register. Lock up for him and drop the keys off with the cops, would ya?”

“Yeah, YEAH! Totally cool man. Will do. Absolutely!”

“And leave the cash in the register!”

“No prob man! No prob!” The kid turned toward the bar room and shouted loud enough to wake the dead.  “ALRIGHT! CLOSING TIME! YOU DON'T HAVE TA STAY HERE BUT YOU CAN'T GO HOME! EVERYBODY OUT!” The old man staggered to the door.

What'a about the mess?” The girl asked as she perused the blood splattered bar floor.

“Leave it for the cops.” McKeowen suggested as he turned to leave. As he pushed through the front door and started to turn left to head back to base he caught sight of Juke Box Lady, knap sack sized bag slung over her shoulder and leaning against a lamp post.

“What took ya so long? I was beginning to think ya didn't love me anymore.” She said. He walked up and leaned his forehead into hers. He gave her a slight peck on the lips.

“Your back or mine?” She asked as she took his arm and they meandered down the side street.

“Man, you scared me back there! When I saw that psycho comin' afta' ya' I thought you was dead for sure!”

“Nah, don't worry about me Sweetheart. When I die I'll die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather.” They turned the corner and headed down the block. “Not screaming and yelling like the people in the back of his car.”

 

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