rebel officers were under arrest. The soldiers, most of them, had been

disarmed and allowed to return to their barracks. There was talk of a

general amnesty for all save those who had directly threatened civilian

lives. The ambassador was talking now of heroes.

Heroes? Yes, there had been plenty of those. Bayerly … killed

defending Pamela. Taggart and Ziegler, shot down in the dogfight over U


And there was that sailor, young David Howard, just promoted to Seaman

and awarded the Silver Star for his part in the hostage rescue at the

That International.

An unlikelier hero Tombstone could not imagine, a five-foot-six

eighteen-year-old who had beaten a rebel colonel unconscious. Kriangsak

was still in the hospital and under guard. His conversations with That

and American interrogators had already filled in most of the missing

pieces, and the Burmese general captured at U Feng had told them the


Evidently, the whole operation called Sheng li had been put together and

run by Hsiao Kuoping, the former Chinese intelligence officer, a man

with underworld and revolutionary contacts throughout Southeast Asia. It

was incredible that the entire plot had been assembled without sanction,

without help from Beijing … but stranger things had happened. As the

halls of power crumbled in communist capitals around the world, it

seemed, more and more of the occupants of those halls were trying to

carve new and secure niches for themselves elsewhere.

Hsiao had been one such … his ally General Kol of Burma another. Their

plan had been to topple the That government and install their own,

probably with Kriangsak as the new leader and with themselves as the

powers behind the throne. Hsiao and his organization would then have

been in a position to control much of the opium and heroin trade coming

down from the Golden Triangle … a control which would have been worth

tens of billions of dollars and made Kriangsak, Kol, and Hsiao three of

the wealthiest and most powerful men on Earth.

The ambassador concluded his remarks and stepped away from the podium,

to general applause from the audience. An expectant hush fell over the

crowd as the King rose from his throne and took several steps forward.

General Duong stood behind the podium, adjusting the microphone.

“Lieutenant Commander Matthew Magruder,” he said. “Front and center!”

Tombstone gripped the hilt of his dress sword with his gloved left hand

and strode forward. He’d rehearsed this maneuver time and time again

always with the secret dread that he would trip over the unaccustomed

obstacle of his scabbard and fall facedown in the grass.

Bhumibol made a short speech in That, then turned and held out his hand.

General Duong opened a wooden box, revealing the medal.

The Ramathepbodi, the King’s Coin of Courage–That equivalent of the

Medal of Honor. The King removed it from its red velvet resting place,

unfolded the ribbon, and draped it over Tombstone’s neck.

“Thank you, my friend,” the King said in English, his clipped and

slightly Bostonian accent reminding Tombstone of Commander Neil. He

remembered reading someplace that Bhumibol had actually been born in

Cambridge, Massachusetts, while his father was studying medicine at


“Your leadership in the battle over U Feng saved a number of our

fighters …

as well as the helicopters of the airmobile forces. We owe you … and

your men … a debt which can never be repaid.”

Tombstone snapped a rigidly correct salute. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

The King returned the salute. Mindful again of his sword, Tombstone

wheeled an about-face and marched back to the ranks. His uncle stood in

the front row, beaming, and Tombstone knew that this award had nothing

to do with Admiral Thomas J. Magruder. Another Magruder–Sam Magruder

of the Doumer Bridge in Hanoi–would have been proud.

So was Tombstone. He saw Pamela standing in the front rank of

civilians, caught her eye, and grinned. She smiled back, radiant. He

knew now that he loved her. And that was more important than any medal.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142

Categories: Keith Douglass