Monkey on a Chain

Monkey on a Chain by Harlen Campbell Read Free Book Online

Book: Monkey on a Chain by Harlen Campbell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Harlen Campbell
Tags: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / General
civilized world,” I said. She had a point, but I let it pass for the moment. “The thing is, the Claymore is a military weapon. And this booby trap goes back to ’Nam, too. Maybe your father was killed by the war, by something that came out of it. I just don’t see how.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “There were two wars. There was the field, where Charlie and our guys snuck around shooting at each other, and there were the cities. Except for Tet and some bombings and random killings, the cities were fairly safe. And the men stationed there, like Toker, didn’t set booby traps. They were support personnel.”
    “But you said there were bombings. And now a bomb killed my father.”
    Well, yes. Some things are hard to explain. I wasn’t sure, myself, that a direct connection didn’t exist. I just didn’t understand it if one did exist. Toker had been a supply officer. He moved equipment and goods around, kept the PXs supplied with cigarettes, booze, toilet paper, toothpaste, condoms, and
Playboys
. Neither he nor any of the men he worked with regularly had spent time in the jungle. Except me.
    April broke the silence with a question that astounded me. She asked, very seriously, “What was Tet? Isn’t it a holiday?”
    I just stared at her. Nothing that could have emphasized the gulf between us more than that simple question. She was half Vietnamese, but she’d gone through puberty in Los Angeles, worrying about proms and a car. She was half my age and had never heard of the Tet Offensive.
    I sighed, vaguely depressed. “The Tet I mean was before you were born. The Viet Cong attacked. Some people were killed.”
    “But it didn’t have anything to do with my father?”
    “He wasn’t even in-country at the time.”
    “Then why mention it?”
    “It was an example. Forget it.”
    She fingered her diary for a few minutes. I just watched her. She cleared her throat. “Do you think what happened back then has something to do with why Dad was killed?”
    “I don’t know. It just feels like it might. We’ll know more tomorrow.” I stood and stretched. “We have to get going early. Let’s get some sleep.”
    She nodded somberly and took her suitcase into the bathroom. I turned on the television and scanned for a local newscast. It was way too late, and I wound up spending half an hour with Letterman. I turned him off when she called my name.
    She had the bathroom door cracked and was hiding behind it. I was reminded of last night, at my house, and my glimpse of her in the mirror. “What do you want?”
    “It’s just that I don’t have anything to wear,” she said.
    I found a T-shirt and tossed it to her. When she came out a minute later, I realized it was kind of thin. Her body was still damp, and the white shirt clung to her, outlining her shape. Her nipples were faintly visible, but that might have been my imagination.
    When I finished with the shower, I realized I hadn’t planned my wardrobe any better than she. I wound up wearing shorts and a towel. She was in her bed when I came out, with the light off and her back turned toward me. I dropped the towel and slipped into my own bed. We lay there in the dark for maybe half an hour. Then she said my name.
    “Yeah?”
    “Thank you.”
    “What for?”
    “For coming. For helping me.”
    There hadn’t been any choice, but I wasn’t honest enough to admit it. “You’re welcome.”
    “Rainbow?”
    “Yes?”
    “At dinner…you said you were old enough to be my father. But you’re not so old.”
    “Go to sleep.” I had trouble following my own advice. I was feeling younger than I wanted to. But what the hell could you do with a kid who didn’t know what Tet was?
    The tension I’d felt toward the girl was gone in the morning. She was one of those women who look good first thing, and I liked looking at her, but that was all.
    Pearson’s law offices were on the third floor of a glass building on one of the main drags, about half a mile from Bow’s

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