Fortunes of War


The AIR WAS HUMID. The warmth of the morning sun was begin- ning to draw vapor from the ground and with it the familiar stench of the rice paddies.

Korea, early September, 1953

An orating chinaman paced back and forth in front of some fifty prisoners—fifty Americans seated on the hard-packed ground waiting, as they had done countless times before, while a long- winded communist gave them a propaganda lecture. But this time they waited less glumly—bored and impatient, instead of sullen. For this was the last one.

Even the chinaman doing the talking didn’t seem as enthused as usual. Perhaps during the first days of the repatriation process he had been all fired up with the importance of the "message" he was relaying through the returning Americans to the "down- trodden masses" in the United States. Now his political superiors would have been displeased at his lack of exuberance. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely his fault; things were not the same as before. With "loyal" subjects one could expect the desired response at precisely the proper moment; but now, under the eyes of their more stolid fellow prisoners, even the most pliable of the "progressives" and "pinkies" failed to react properly.

That was understandable, too. True, even this morning some had slyly talked with the communists off to the side about "working for peace." Perhaps they did so from habit—more likely from fear. But now they whispered, and they sneaked glances to see if any other prisoner noticed. Certainly, they were in a tough spot. To displease the chinamen at this moment might, for all they knew, result in their being withheld from repatriation, that day or forever. On the other hand, in a couple of hours, after a ride to Panmunjom, someone might very well point a finger and say: "There’s one of the lousy rats!"

At the beginning of the spiel, most of the Americans lapsed into stony silence. In their many months as prisoners, they had found this their best protection against the constant harangue of com- munist propaganda. You had to learn to ignore it, or you found yourself repeating it. Repetition, even in jest or derision, could de- velop into habit. Argue against it? Could you drain the ocean and walk across the bottom?

Sergeant Wolfe sat crosslegged, elbows out against his knees and chin resting on his hands. He shut out the chinaman’s words by reviewing the past few hours. There still were some things to figure about last night. They’d left the tent camp about sundown and traveled mostly west for half an hour to reach Kaesong. Then they’d doubled back to come eastward for almost as long a time before they reached this place. It was impossible to mistake the directions because it had been a clear night. They must be no more than a couple of miles from the tent camp now. Perhaps in taking such a roundabout way the captors hoped to confuse the prisoners so that they couldn’t report the location of the camp to the American forces after repatriation. Yes, the Sergeant told himself, that must be the reason.

"—Despite the efforts of the war-mongering UN to prolong the useless killing—!"

Hearing the chinaman again, the Sergeant wished the problem about last night’s journey hadn’t been so simple. Now be had to find something else to think about. Shifting his head slightly, he looked around at the rest of the prisoners. Lieutenant Shiler was only a few feet off, but thinking about him would be almost as bad as listening to the chinaman. A little farther away, Sergeant Peters and "Doc" Bowmar were engaged in a clandestine game of tic-tac-toe, with Guston the sailor acting as spectator and sentry. Sergeant Wolfe lifted his eyes to see if any of the chinamen had noticed the game, and even this small attention was enough to open his ears to more of the "lecture."

"—Even while the UN forces were torturing, killing, and maiming our comrades in the Hell Prison at Koje, you have been treated fairly, even kindly, in keeping with the lenient policy of the Chinese People’s Volunteers and the humanitarian principles of commu—!"

The Sergeant looked back at Pete, Bowmar, and Guston, shutting out the chinaman’s words again, remembering how he had come to know these three men. Friendship sometimes grew from peculiar things. With Pete, Bowmar, and Gus, it had started with pine boughs, blood on the snow, a Korean "honcho," and a bar of soap. They were the first Americans Wolfe met after he was captured—quite some time after, because of his first interrogation and solitary confinement.

It had been great to hear American voices and grasp friendly hands again. Peters was an Army master sergeant of considerable experience. Guston—Gus the sailor—had been crewman on a Navy plane. "Doc" Bowmar was a young medic, a lanky, freckle-faced youngster, just twenty-one. Both Gus and Bowmar were wounded. The sailor had received two nasty flesh wounds from rifle fire as he floated down in his parachute; and Bowmar, true to his profession, had also taken a couple because he stayed too long in a hotly contested area to help others out. Gus’s wounds were badly infected, and Bowmar had a finger that looked ready to fall off.

They were still at the North Korean interrogation center then, confined in a seven-by-ten-foot room with seven others—six Americans and a South Korean. The interrogators tried hard to make the prisoners feel dependent and helpless. Even a drink of water was provided only on request and not always then.

They were fed—well fed, according to the ‘honcho," the chief interrogator. Mostly they ate rice, which was all right, if there had been enough of it. Sometimes there was seaweed soup, which helped a bit with the winter cold. If they complained about the food, the honcho would say, "I eat same food as you."

And he did. Of course, he had more of it and other things, too. But if you put yourself in his place, you found no particular reason why he should cut his own rations short for sake of the prisoners. The honcho wasn’t living very high off the hog either.

Nor did the prisoners particularly mind the work details, since it wasn’t unduly hard work. They got tired and weak from poor diet and dysentery, but it was better to gather pine boughs for firewood than to stay cooped up in the little windowless room. The worst thing was that the work often reopened Gus’s wounds and made him lose blood which under the circumstances he didn’t have to spare. The others tried to keep him from carrying a big load or doing other things that might start the bleeding.

They tried. But one day Gus slipped with a load of wood, and when he got up, he left a great blot of red on the snow. They used the snow to stop the bleeding and decided Gus shouldn’t carry the wood the rest of the way; but when the other three picked up their bundles and started down the hill, the guard motioned for Gus to pick up his load, too. Though the North Korean didn’t understand English, he knew well enough why Gus wasn’t carrying his bundle. Still, gesticulating with his rifie, he let them know that if Gus didn’t pick up the wood, he would be shot.

The other three dropped their bundles and faced the guard. Pointing to Gus and to themselves and pulling their trigger fingers, they signified he’d have to shoot them all. They figured he was bluffing, but Pete called the play in case he wasn’t.

"If the bastard fires, rush ‘im. He damn sure can’t get us all before one of us gets to ‘im."

The Korean hesitated, then motioned them on their way down to headquarters. The honcho came out as they arrived.

"Why does he not carry wood?" The honcho nodded toward Gus, trailing in behind.

"His wound is bleeding again," Pete said. "A wounded man shouldn’t be working."

"Bah! You Americans do not care that Korean people bleed. You start this war against the peaceful people of North Korea, and then cry when one of your own loses a little blood. What is the loss of a little blood?"

"You don’t give us enough to eat for him to get well." Pete ignored the propaganda lies. They had long since learned the futility of arguing against them.

"Give us something so we can dress his wounds," Bowmar pleaded.

"North Korea is very poor," the honcho said. "We do not have medicines like America. We have none for our own people. Why should we give to you?"

"You have water," Bowmar said. "Just give us some warm water to wash the wounds, and some rags for bandages."

"It takes wood to warm water," the honcho replied. "He does not carry wood, he does not get water for washing."

"How about some water to drink?" Gus asked. "Can you spare that?"

It was impossible to tell whether the honcho caught the sarcasm. "Oh, yes," he said. "You may have water after working—boiled water. Anjimonee!" He called to the woman in the kitchen, and when her head appeared in the doorway, he told her to bring water. "But it is only for those who work," he said to the prisoners.

"We all worked," Pete said.

"He did not work."

"He cut wood upon the hill and carried it halfway down until he fell and began bleeding. He worked!" Pete almost shouted.

A show of temper was, perhaps, what the honcho wanted. He relented. Anjimonee appeared at the door again with two steaming bowls of water, and Bowmar took them. He set them down quickly. The metal bowls were too hot for him to hold, and he moved them onto some snow.

While they waited for the water to cool, Pete, Bowmar, and Sergeant Wolfe broke the wood into lengths for use in the kitchen. By the time the water was cool enough to drink they were almost done. The honcho seated himself on a stool in a sunny spot against the wall and watched them. They didn’t bother to ask for more water to take to the room with them. They had asked many times before, with always the same answer. "We do not have extra bowl."

Seeing them finished, the honcho said, "You may go back to your room now." He looked at Gus. "Except you. I want to talk with you."

It was a half-hour before Gus rejoined the others.

"What was it, Gus?" the Sergeant asked.

"He asked me if I wanted to go to a hospital."

"Really?" Bowmar was enthused. "How soon you goin’? Did he say when?"

"I ain’t goin’."

"You crazy?" Bowmar asked. "Why not?"

"Rates are too high," Gus replied simply.

"Oh." Bowmar’s face fell.

The honcho had made two offers to Gus, on two conditions: If he were more cooperative in answering questions, and if he wished to write a letter and record it for broadcasting—then, not only would he be able to get a message to his family, but the people who made the recording might be able to make arrangement for medical treatment. The other three glumly agreed that the rates were too high, and all of the prisoners lapsed into silence.

"I saw something in the honcho’s room," Gus said meditatively. "The sun-uva-bitch has a bar of soap."

"The hell he has!" Pete said. "Wonder how we can get it?"

"Maybe if we ask him he’d let us use just enough to wash our wounds, just once," Bowmar suggested, hopefully. It was hard for the medic to realize that the honcho didn’t do anything for the prisoners, unless in some way he was also doing something for himself.

"Not much chance of that—the way he acted when you asked for water and rags," Sergeant Wolfe reminded him. "But if we can steal it, he shouldn’t miss it right away. Doesn’t seem to use it very often."

"We’ll figure some way," Pete said.

A few days later the chance came. Bowmar, Pete, and the Sergeant were breaking pine boughs in front of the honcho’s room. The door was open slightly to let in a little of the sunlight. It was the usual sliding door, a wooden frame covered with paper. The honcho was seated inside, busy.

"I’m gonna try to get into his room," Bowmar said. "If I make it, gimme five?"

"Okay," the Sergeant replied.

"Colonel!" Bowmar called. The honcho did not wish them to know his name. That was the way he told them to address him.

The honcho looked out the door. "Yes?"

"I would like to talk to you," the lanky youngster said with feigned meekness.

"What is it about?"

"My finger." He held it up—a filthy, pus-stained rag, above his palm. "It’s getting worse."

"Come in," the honcho invited. He had fished for Gus, and perhaps the bait was bringing a different sucker to the hook.

Bowmar stepped up to the door, slipping his feet out of the tattered canvas shoes as he entered. With the closing of the door, Wolfe began to count seconds to himself. He broke sticks as he counted and at the end of each minute tossed one to hit Pete. The guard stood drowsily in the sun near the honcho’s door and watched, unconcerned. When the fifth stick hit him, Pete threw one of his own—hard, narrowly missing the Sergeant and striking the side of the house with a thud. "Damn you, Wolfe! That’s the fifth time you hit me! What the hell’s the idea?"

"Goddamit, simmer down! I didn’t mean to hit you!"

"The hell you didn’t!" Pete stomped aggressively toward the Sergeant. "You’ been pickin’ on me for a week now!"

The guard lurched away from the wall, jabbering in Korean and motioning Pete to stay away from the Sergeant. The two prisoners stood with clenched fists. The door slid open, and the honcho peered out. "What is it?" he inquired. "What is wrong?"

The prisoners ignored him and continued to glare at each other. The honcho spoke with the guard in Korean. Then he turned again to the prisoners: "What is the trouble? One of you must answer!"

The prisoners lowered their eyes. Finally, scuffling his foot in the snow, the Sergeant spoke. "Aw, it was my fault," he said. "I was careless and hit him on his sore foot with a stick and he got mad. He thought I did it on purpose."

The honcho studied them. He was pleased that they were quar- reling. If the prisoners had trouble among themselves, one of them might cooperate with him. "You must not quarrel," he admonished, hoping his words would have the reverse effect. "You may have to live together for a long time. You must get along with each other. Now back to work, and no more fighting."

When the honcho turned back toward the room, Bowmar was standing beside the door. "Will it be all right if I think about it a while before I decide, Colonel?" the young prisoner asked. "By tomorrow I can decide."

The honcho was disappointed. He wanted Bowmar to accept his offer now, before he had a chance to talk it over with his com- panions, but the chinaman tried to conceal his anxiety. He wished the prisoner to think his offer was a favor done from kindness—not a proposition the honcho urgently wanted the American to accept.

"All right," the interrogator said. "Tomorrow you can tell your decision."

The young medic stepped from the door and walked toward the woodpile. "Bowmar," the honcho called. Bowmar stopped and looked back, his left side with hand in pocket turned away from the Korean. "You do not have to break the wood—because your hand is hurting."

"Oh, that’s all right," Bowmar said. He shuffled his left foot meaningfully alongside Pete’s pile of broken boughs. "It doesn’t hurt so much I can’t work." He slipped his hand out of his pocket, and the soap slid down his trouser leg to the ground.

"No," said the honcho, "you should not work any more today. Besides," he smiled, "it will be punishment to the others for quarreling."

Bowmar felt something brush his leg as Pete tossed another broken pine bough. "Don’t worry about us," the Sergeant said, ‘It won’t take us long to finish." Pete’s toss had covered the soap.

"Okay," Bowmar said, answering the Sergeant but looking at the honcho. "Thank you, Colonel."

The honcho looked pleased as he slid his door shut. He thought be knew what the prisoner was thanking him for.

Back in the room they barely had time to tell Gus about the soap before an interrogator appeared with the instruction that all prisoners were to assemble in front of headquarters. An announcement was to be made.

That meant a shakedown. Discovery that the soap was missing had come quickly. While they were gone from the room, the enemy would search the prisoners’ meager belongings. For a half-hour the prisoners shuffled in the cold of the late afternoon, while the honcho spouted at great length what was supposed to be news of the peace talks. After a time, another of the interrogators appeared, off to the side. The honcho barely glanced at him, but he ended the spiel shortly, though none of the prisoners caught the signal that had been given.

Out of the corner of his mouth, Pete queried the Sergeant, "How do you say, ‘no soap’ in Korean sign language?"

"I’m wonderin’ what excuse he’ll use for searching us now," the Sergeant whispered back.

Apparently it was uncommunistic to speak the simple truth about anything. Every time there was a personal shakedown, the honcho seemed to feel he had to give some phony reason for it.

"Now there is one more thing I must tell you," the honcho said. "Two of you had argument today and nearly fought. Because there are so many in one room, perhaps there will be more argument. You must not quarrel. But some of you have bad manners and tempers."

The Sergeant said, aside to Pete, "That’s you he’s talkin' about, you uncouth bastard."

"I got as much ‘couth’ as you got," Pete retorted.

"The honcho doesn’t think so."

"He is a ‘wrong thinker," Pete said. Both chuckled to them- selves. "Wrong thinker" was what the honcho called anyone who brought up a good point against his propaganda.

"Because there are some among you," the honcho continued, "who cannot control their tempers, we must make certain none of you be hurt. So now you all move farther apart, and our guards will search each one to make certain none have anything he might use to hurt others in fight."

"See all the trouble you cause by gettin’ mad? You ol' sorehead!" the Sergeant said to Pete.

There was special care in Bowmar’s shakedown, and with an- other fellow who had been in the honcho’s room that day. The guards were quite thorough with Pete and the Sergeant as well. Pete wiggled, pretending to be ticklish. His searcher became excited, perhaps thinking Pete had the soap. The other five Americans were puzzled, since they knew nothing of the plot, but they realized the search was for a different reason than the one the honcho had given. The search ended, the prisoners returned to their room.

"Did they find it?" Bowmar asked, worried. Since he had come back to the room ahead of Pete and the Sergeant, the medic didn’t know where they had put the soap.

"Naw," Pete assured him. "We figured to leave it outside ‘til the heat was off. By now the honcho probably suspects one of his trusted comrades stole his soap."

The next problem was water and something to put it in. Luck provided a container. Pete found a piece of broken earthen pot, which would hold about a cup and a half, and carried it back to the room under his ragged coat. No effort was made to hide it, once it was inside. Rather, the prisoners made certain the guards would see it, and acted as though it had been in the room all along. Getting water itself was harder. After a fresh snowfall, they en- listed the help of the other prisoners. As each one came back from the latrine he brought a snowball. Melting the snow was a slow process; they did it with their hands.

It took a day to wash and rinse the few rags they had. The other prisoners were surprised at the appearance of the soap, but none knew where it came from. Bowmar broke off a small piece and hid the rest. He worked the cake hard at first, to give a well-used look.

The following morning the rags were reasonably dry. They weren’t clean, by any means, but better than before. It was good that the soap was strong and medicated.

The guard stuck his head in the door and said, "Pop"—which meant the morning rice was ready. One of the men got up to go after it.

"See if Anjimonee’ll let you have a couple bowls of water," Pete said. "Tell her we need some to drink."


Hearing the returning steps outside, the Sergeant opened the door. The returning prisoner brought a pan full of rice and a stack of ten bowls. The top bowl was steaming—full of water. The Sergeant took the bowls, handing them carefully to Pete. Pete placed the full one beside him and set the others in the center of the room by the rice pan.

"Hey! That water’s for all of us!" one of the other prisoners called. It was Ruck, a young lieutenant.

"This isn’t for drinking," Bowmar said. The young medic was helping Gus get his wounds uncovered.

"What’s it for, if it’s not for drinking?" Ruck wanted to know. "You told ‘em we needed water to drink."

"For washing these—" Bowmar began patiently.

"Let’s skip it, shall we?" the man who’d brought the water inter- rupted. "I knew what Pete wanted it for when he asked me to bring it. It’ll do a helluva lot more good that way than what little each of us would get to drink. Let’s get the rice dished up. I’m hungry!"

"We need that other bowl so we can divide it, then," Ruck said, still eying the water bowl.

"Just split it nine ways," said Bowmar disgustedly. "If it creates such a problem, I’ll do without this morning."

"That won’t be necessary," the Sergeant interjected. "We’ll take care of it. Lieutenant, if you weren’t so burdened by your college education and higher mathematics, maybe you could use a little plain arithmetic and find out we don’t need the other bowl to divide the rice. If that’s too much strain, you might use your toes, and count—providing you don’t have six on each foot."

The young officer counted the bowls. "Maybe you should use your own toes, Sergeant," he said haughtily. "There are only nine bowls here."

"That’s right, Lieutenant. Nice counting! But I’ve only got nine toes—lost one in a lawn-mover accident when I was a little boy about your age. But it doesn’t matter, I think the pan will still hold one ration when we take nine others out."

"Well, sure we could do it that way," Ruck hedged, "but we can’t get it divided even. We measure it in the bowls to get it even."

"This time let’s count grains," the Sergeant taunted.

There was laughter. Ruck made no answer. A twenty-three-year-old lieutenant, a jet pilot, and a college man, doesn’t like to be laughed at.

Part of the water was poured into the earthen piece and satu- rated with soap. Usually the prisoners weren’t bothered for about forty minutes during mealtime. They must try to finish in that time. Bowmar busied himself sponging Gus’s worst wound. First things first; if the enemy discovered and stopped what was happening, at least they couldn’t very well undo what had already been accomplished.

After swabbing with the soapy water, Bowmar took another rag and dipped it into the bowl of clean water to rinse the wound. Buck watched. "Hey!" he called to Bowmar. "You should know better than to use one of our food bowls for a wash basin! What kind of a medic are your?"

"I’m sorry," Bowmar said, "I know I shouldn’t but—"

"Don’t mind him," Pete said. "The selfish bastard wouldn’t understand, anyhow."

"What did you say?" Ruck demanded angrily.

"I said you wouldn’t understand, anyhow," Pete replied.

"You called me a name; what was it?"

"I called you a selfish bastard because that’s what you are!" Getting sore, Pete was raising his voice.

"You’d best remember you’re talking to an officer," Ruck advised. "You’re being insubordinate."

"Then suppose you put me on report, Lieutenant," Pete sug- gested hotly. "If you are an officer. All we got is your word for it; there isn’t anything in the way you act that indicates it."

The Sergeant was gulping his rice, wanting to finish quickly so he could relieve Pete at Bowmar’s side.

"Hold this pad for me, will you, Pete?" Bowmar asked. Peters hesitated, but took the folded rag the medic thrust toward him.

"By god," Ruck grumbled, "if it wasn’t for our circumstances here I’d—" His voice trailed away.

The Sergeant set his empty bowl down. "You’d what?" he asked Ruck quietly.

"I’m going to tell them to give us different quarters," Ruck said petulantly. "They’re supposed to provide separate quarters for officers and enlisted men. It’s crowded here anyway."

"You do that," the Sergeant said. He wasn’t perturbed by any inferences in Ruck’s remarks. He had become accustomed to that type of young officer in the service. Usually they didn’t stay around very long. There were not so many of them, actually; only sometimes it seemed that way. "If they don’t cooperate, just let ‘em know who you are, like you do us. I’m sure they’ll be more obliging then."

"There’s no call for you to get smart about it," Ruck said. "I’m just trying to make things better for everybody. Seems like some- body has to remember a few fundamentals, such as being as clean as we can with our eating utensils."

"Yeah, I suppose so," the Sergeant replied. "The rest of us are just a bunch of ignorant bums—haven’t had any bringin’ up. But, you know, I haven’t heard you come out with any good suggestion on anything else we could use to keep that water in. Since you’re so concerned, it might interest you to know that the Koreans eat out of these bowls before we do, and I’ll wager Anjimonee doesn’t scrub them very much before they come over here. For all you know she may have spit in the one you’re eating out of. I’ve seen her do that, too."

"By god, I’m going to see about that, too," Ruck asserted.

"Do that," the Sergeant said. "Then she’ll be sure to spit in all the bowls. It isn’t fair when she just spits in the top one—one guy gets more than the others."

"By god, I’m gonna see about some of this stuff!" Ruck got up and moved toward the door.

The Sergeant stopped him. "Hold it, Lieutenant. Nobody’s goin’ out to see about anything until we’re finished with what we’re doin’ now." Their eyes met for a moment. Ruck returned to his place and sat down.

"Here, Pete, eat your rice," the Sergeant said. "I’ll give the doc a hand." He grinned at Bowmar.

"I’m finished with Gus," Bowmar said. "You can do my finger, if you will."

"How about your leg?"

"It’s okay. We won’t have to do that."

"All right." The Sergeant shoved a bowl of rice to Bowmar. "Try eating with your other hand."

Bowmar ate while the Sergeant sponged the finger. It was badly swollen and inflamed. The soaping finished, Bowmar rinsed his finger in the water remaining in the bowl. Then, with more of the soap, he scrubbed the bowl itself. Someone got up to go to the latrine.

"Bring back a snowball, will you, please?" Bowmar asked.

They rinsed out the bowl with the snowball as well as they could. After the Koreans used it for their next meal, it would be no dirtier than any of the others.

Soon after breakfast the honcho came into the room on an "inspection visit."

"Is the room large enough for all?" he asked.

"We’re crowded when we lie down to sleep."

"It is warmer when there are more of you." The honcho hadn’t come out of concern for the prisoners’ comfort, but he was right enough about that. "What is this?" He nudged the piece of crockery with his toe.

"Just a piece of an old pot," Bowmar said. "We found it in the yard."

"What do you bring it in here for?" the Korean asked.

Pete broke in. "We use it for an ash tray—when we have anything to smoke."

The honcho ignored the implied request. "You have washed your bandage?" he said to Bowmar in a manner half-question, half-statement.

"Yes," Bowmar acknowledged.

"Who gave you water?" the honcho asked.

"Nobody. We melted snow."

"In this?" The honcho indicated the earthen piece.

"Yes," Bowmar replied.

"Ahh—so! Then it is useful for something besides ashtray?" He looked at Pete, smiling craftily.

"We didn’t have any ashes to put in it, anyway," Pete smiled in return.

"You had soap to wash?" the honcho said to Bowmar. That, too, seemed partly statement.

"I had some," Gus said. He had the remaining sliver of soap in his hand, held loosely in his pocket.

"You?" The honcho seemed surprised. "Where did you get soap?"

"Had it when I came here," Gus lied. "An interrogator in Wonsan gave it to me. They let us wash there."

The honcho seemed unmoved by the jibe. "You still have?"

"A little bit," Gus replied. He made no move to produce it.

"Let me see," the honcho ordered.

Gus pulled his hand out of his pocket. He held the soap up toward the Korean. "Here, there isn’t much left, anyway." He acted as though he expected the Korean to take it.

The honcho reached for the soap, then checked himself. If he took the soap without some good reason, it made him look petty. Such a small piece would hardly seem to be his stolen one. Since there was a chance that one of his own comrades had taken his soap he didn’t want to mention the loss. He would lose face if the prisoners hadn’t been responsible. No, he couldn’t very well take that little piece of soap.

"Oh, I have no wish to take your soap," he said. "You may keep it."

"Thanks," Gus said, without expression. He put the soap back in his pocket.

"And you may keep your ash tray," the honcho said to Pete as he was leaving. "I will see if I can find some tobacco so you have ashes to put in it."

That night one of the interrogators came into the room and handed a package to Pete. "For everybody," he said. "You divide." There were fifty cigarettes in the package—five apiece.

"Do you suppose the honcho’s had a change of heart?" someone asked.

"More likely a change of tactics."

"Maybe the peace talks are settled."

Pete and the Sergeant looked at each other without speaking. Sudden benevolence could mean anything—or nothing. They could only wait and see.

The wait was not long. Two nights later, after dark, Bowmar and Gus were taken away on a truck. About a week later, Pete and the Sergeant were told to gather up their belongings. They, too, were to have a truck ride. They didn’t pretend to have it figured out where they were going.

© 2002, 2003 by Lynn Waterman; used by permission of the author, Duane Thorin.