Chapter One Thousand Nine Hundred Eighty-Five
19th May 1970
Los Angeles, California
“They call Platoons a Zug, other than that they typically they have what they call a Gruppe, like a Squad but typically organized around a machinegun” Ritchie said, “Usually there are nine or ten men led by a Noncom, three of them are there to shoot and feed the machine gun though all of them are packing ammo for it. The rest are riflemen with at least one of them having an AG44.”
“Around a machine gun?” Wilkinson asked, somewhat in disbelief.
“Their idea of a machinegun at a squad level is not like our 1919’s” Ritchie replied, even as he said it, he knew that the U.S. Army had been trying to get rid of the old Browning machine guns for years. They had yet to find a satisfactory replacement and there were more than a few fossils in the Pentagon how saw no reason for a replacement at all who were thought to be the key drivers in that sort of thinking. “They look like are made out of sheet metal and spit out bullets at twelve hundred per minute. The slang terms they throw around translate to bonesaw or the Kaiser’s zipper.”
“You saw this in action?” Wilkinson asked.
“Cooperative training missions” Ritchie replied, “What amounted to them helping us clean up our mess, the details are still secret.”
“If that ain’t a load of horseshit” Wilkinson said.
It was early Tuesday morning in the hours when even the hairiest of the local wildlife had to go home and sleep, so the streets were empty. Ritchie and Wilkinson were presently engaged in what was called orbiting. Mostly that amounted to driving around through side streets a few blocks away from Central Station, killing time until the end of the shift which was only a matter of minutes away. This avoided the problem of being spotted having parked somewhere and having the Captain land on them like a ton of bricks. Out of boredom they had ended up talking about Ritchie’s Guard Duty, his time in the Green Beret, and eventually what he had seen of the German Army while he had been over in Europe.
“That is just how it goes” Ritchie replied, “There were a lot of things that I saw in places that most people couldn’t find on a map that you wouldn’t believe, but Uncle Sam says to keep a lid on it or else.”
“Sounds like the Department Brass” Wilkinson said, “Doing things just to let those on the street know who is boss, because they can.”
Ritchie knew that it wasn’t quite that simple. Many of the things he had done in other countries could result in a nasty diplomatic incident if they were lucky and a war if they weren’t if word ever got out as to who the responsible party had been.
“You never said why most of the old-timers call you Billy the Kid” Ritchie said knowing that he was treading on dangerous ground. In the months since they had ridden together, Ritchie had heard Wilkinson called that several times. But had never asked why he was called that.
“The name Micky Cohen mean anything to you?” Wilkinson asked.
“He was a gangster back in the day” Ritchie said, “I remember him from the Crime doesn’t pay presentations back in school, they had a photograph of him on a mortician’s slab with bullet holes in his chest.”
“Three shots from a thirty-eight” Wilkinson said, “Care to guess who put them there?”
“Oh” Ritchie replied, “I had no idea.”
“Uncle Sam isn’t the only one who likes to keep things under wraps” Wilkinson said as he turned the car down a different block. “I was protecting some scumbags from New York from the scumbag they had been sent to kill and the Roosevelt Hotel had a new claim to fame by the time I was through. I never was particularly proud of that one though it was considered righteous. Justice would have been if I could have shot the whole lot of them.”
“Wait, that one?” Ritchie asked, “Are you saying that happened more than once?”
“Having a reputation as a gunfighter is one of those things that tends to snowball with time” Wilkinson replied, “Going mano-a-mano with a stone-cold killer like Cohen and coming out on top was just the start. Just remember that if you ever have to do it yourself that you are just putting down a dangerous animal. What have we here?”
A man was staggering down the middle of the street. The unsteadiness of his footsteps suggesting that he had had a few, as if the half-full bottle of cheap liquor in his hand wasn’t already enough of a clue. Cursing under his breath, Wilkinson stopped the car. They were so close to the end of the shift, encountering a drunk like this was the worst sort of bad luck.
The man turned around and looked at then through bloodshot eyes. He had skin the color and texture of an old pair of brown boots, his hair and beard were grey and unkempt, much like his clothes.
“Good morning Sir” Wilkinson said firmly, “You know you cannot have an open container on the street.”
Ritchie knew what was coming before the man opened his mouth.
“No Inglés” The man said, in a tone suggesting that he was hoping that he would be more trouble than he was worth to them.
“You are in luck then” Ritchie said in Spanish, earning himself a scowl from the drunk as he repeated Wilkinson’s question.
The slight smirk he saw cross Wilkinson’s normally expressionless face suggested that Ritchie had just crossed some sort of unknown bridge with the Sergeant.