Chapter 8: Patrick Ryan
Ryan stood by the water cooler oblivious that he was smoking in the non-smoking police station. It was a new rule: first it was restaurants… then bars… and, even before the jails, the police station. He hadn’t read Max his rights for two reasons. One: because he Knew Max wasn’t guilty, and Two: because he hoped Max would talk more freely and give him something useful... something other than what he knew already about Nick.
Richards approached him waving the smoke aside and coughing… “What do you think?”
“He didn’t do it.” Ryan blew smoke in Richard’s face.
“What do you mean, he didn’t do it? Nick saw him coming up the hill on his motorcycle…”
“You mean, Mr. Baker?” Ryan didn’t like Richards… a sloppy cop that was too enthralled with the power a badge gave him. Ryan knew Richards had a bone for Max and he also knew Richards had another bone in his pants for Adrienne. “Then how did McGee drop her off at the hospital in his taxi?” He glared at Richards now, “Don’t piss me off, Dan. The receptionist at the ER witnessed that much and we already know Mr. Baker is a damned good liar.”
Ryan thought of himself as a good cop. He looked forward to starting each day with a good case to investigate. Most cases were as simple as putting together a kindergarten picture puzzle. However, he hated cases where influence, old debts, and favors, filtered into his judgment… the pieces of the puzzle get smaller and it takes on three or four dimensions. He didn’t know what to do about Nick Baker because Nick Baker was a part of that kind of a puzzle. Now we had this Max McGee getting entangled in this mess with Richards pissing on the case files.
Ryan had served in the Brown Water Navy on swift boats out of Qui Nhon in Viet Nam where he met Nick's dad, Harry Baker. Harry Baker wasn’t in the Navy. He wasn’t in the Army. He wasn’t in the Marines or the Air Force either. At first Ryan thought Harry Baker was C.I.A. or maybe O.N.I. but soon learned Harry Baker was one of many contractors hired by the services to do jobs... well, jobs that were, off the record. Harry Baker was one of those people you had to work with in the services that you respected but wouldn’t have wanted anything to do with off the job. Ryan’s crew had dropped off this mysterious man in places no one but Charlie would venture into and then pick him up a hundred klics down-river. Nothing was ever said about these missions.
A year or so later Ryan had been transferred to the O.N.I. and stationed at the Saigon Embassy. Ryan was in his room when there was a knock on his door. He hated these knocks on the door. He hadn’t slept a full night in a week and he had been looking forward to hitting the sack for so long he’d stopped counting the hours, “Go away!” He shouted from his pillow, “I’m off duty.”
However, the way it works with the intelligence services, there is no such thing as off duty. His team had been investigating a case about the China White that was being stuffed into the guts of those GI’s in aluminum coffins before being shipped from Da Nang to Travis Air Force Base. Harry Baker wasn’t instrumental in uncovering who was exporting it and to whom it was imported but he was involved in taking care of the problem. Ryan’s team had uncovered the problem and, at the head of the list under the magnifying glass was Ryan’s brother.
|Bonds that aren't easily broken...|
“Ryan, open the door or I’ll kick it in.”
Ryan had been expecting Baker... he’d looked him up and made contact through a friend of a friend so he got off his cot and opened the door.
Ryan’s work was supposed to be about investigating and accumulating evidence to be turned over to Hoover’s suits for prosecution stateside. But for independent contractors such as Harry Baker, it was about eliminating the problem altogether. There was no official need for Ryan to bloody his gloves over a personal problem like his brother. This was, after all, a very personal problem for Ryan. His brother was stationed in Da Nang…William Ryan, Spec-4, at the Mortuary Affairs Unit. The O.N.I. boys had pulled the covers on most of those involved in the smuggling racket. William Ryan’s part was that of an amateur, way over his head in it.
“So what do you want me to do?” Harry Baker’s motives were oftentimes vague to Ryan but, suffice it to say, that he always knew what strings to jerk, how hard to jerk them, and how to use what he knew to some future advantage. The then Chief Warrant Officer, Patrick Ryan, liked Harry Baker’s ability to get things done but his likes and dislikes didn’t interest, or were of little influence, on him.
Look, I’m up for promotion. My brother...” Ryan was embarrassed to admit his motive but he was up for a promotion and the fact that his own brother might be involved in smuggling heroin made him particularly vulnerable. “I don’t want you to harm him beyond fuckin’ him up enough...”
“...enough to have him shit his pants out of this racket.” Harry paused a minute. He liked Ryan and had seen him in action. Whatever corruption he might be involved in was covered by the fact that he was good under fire. “You know you’ll owe me for this one.”
|The China Beach Surf Club|
Harry met with Willy Ryan at the China Beach Surf Club. It was a casual meeting in front of the beer stand. Surf boards leaned against the beer shack, GI’s in knee length cut-off baggies hung around with bottles in hand, waiting for a set: it could have been from an Instamatic picture of any scene in Baja California or anywhere else every surfer dreams of. The surrealism of a war going on just a few klics away didn’t escape anyone’s consciousness. That is what the beer, the rum, the vodka, the gin or the pot, heroin, and for some… some are even said to chew on a taste of C-4 to get a kick assed mother-fuckin’ trippin’ high… that’s what all of that was for… to blot out the faces of smiling gooks from out of the dark of a hootch or the thump of mortars and the AK’s staccato clack of caps busted... decapitations… punji sticks, legs and limbs… bloody shit and guts spilled out… all of it that was surely awaiting the next patrol. The chances that the award for service, beyond getting fucked up in one of the above aforementioned ways, was very likely to be in one of those aluminum boxes Army Specialist William Ryan had been packing up to be shipped back to Travis for the past six months.
Reaching out a hand to greet Harry, Willy offered, “Ya fuckin’ wanna Tiger Piss?”
Harry put a hand forth, wrapping his huge paw around the un-calloused hand of a man who’d not done a lick of work in several years. “No thanks, I’ll stick with a Schlitz.”
“Pat told me you’re some kind a skivvy honcho… got some fuckin’ Mo-Jo of some sort, eh?”
The word, fuck, Harry never did like it…, no matter where there were GI’s in Vietnam everything was fuckin’ fuckin’… mother fucker…, fucked-up, fucked-over and fuckin’ this or fuckin’ that. No offense was meant by the term and no offense was taken but Harry just wanted to get on with his business and get it fuckin’ over with.
“I want you to listen real close to me,” Harry paused long enough to make sure the kid was listening.
“I’m all fuckin’ ears,” Willy’s brain was in high gear wondering, who the fuck did my brother send over here behind these pilot’s sunglasses?
“You have a choice… You need a change of scenery,” Harry pulled out a manila envelope. “Read ‘em.”
Willy held the papers away from the sunlight for longer than it would have taken him to read them twice… … a lateral transfer to the Marines… report to Camp Schwab… rank and all. He knew the training camp in Okinawa… he’d stuffed enough of the Corps’ corpses to know what the line at the bottom of the form meant… Marine Recon units were trained there.
“Okinawa? What the fuck? A Marine recon unit? Who the fuck are you?” The papers trembled in his grip. “Shit, I ain’t being trained for fuckin’ recon… I ain’t never even been through grunt fuckin’ boot camp! How can I…?”
“Your question ought to be, what is my choice?”
“I don’t fuckin’ get it.” Like a rat in a maze… Willy’s mind had no idea where it was being led. It hit on the idea that this had to do with an O.N.I. investigation, or something like that… maybe his brother was tipping him off by sending this guy. “You got fuckin’ nothing on me. Even if you fuckin’ did, I’d take the Stockade at Presidio over humpin’ the paddies like a pig-fuckin’ grunt.
“No one said anything about Fort Mason.” Harry took off his shades so that there was no doubt left at all about his steel grey eyes.
“Hey, does the lieutenant know about this?”
“No, you’re in the clear… just another body-bagger that can’t take it anymore.”
Willy tried to stay composed but he was damned near shittin’ his pants, “Let me get this straight, you ain’t talkin’ stockade?”
“No, I’m not talkin’ prison.”
Peculiar things happen in life that turn a guy like Willy around. His first tour in Recon gave him a taste of blood… he loved it… loved it so much that he re-upped… loved it so much that, after he recovered from shrapnel wounds in Okinawa, a couple Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, he went civilian contractor for the P.R.U. He took his bullet in Cambodia or Laos… no one says… no one cares… he was a civilian and the body counts are for G.I.’s. He never got to go home in one of the silver caskets either… his newfound honor bought him a hole in the red clay. In spite of that, CWO Patrick Ryan was beholden to Harry Baker because, in a way, he’d saved his brother and, well, these are the bonds that aren’t broken very easily.