Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Forty
2nd March 1968
Los Angeles, California
Asking someone to go on a date because both your respective mothers are pressuring you to was hardly Ritchie’s idea of a good time. With his leave winding down, he understood that if he went back to New York without putting in a small amount of effort he would never hear the end of it. Calling up Lucia, he had said that they could go do something enjoyable for a few hours. There were plenty of things to do on a Saturday night in Los Angeles, right? The trouble was that once Ritchie picked up Lucia, they had been unable to agree on exactly what. So, they ended up sitting in a diner eating French fries and killing time by talking about inane things.
“You live in New York?” Lucia asked, “As in skyscrapers and subways.”
“Not that part of New York” Ritchie replied, “Fort Drum is upstate, so it is surrounded by a forest and it was snowing when I left.”
“Probably surrounded by rednecks as well” Lucia said.
“Yeah, but New York is a bit different than here though” Ritchie said, “People think you are Puerto Rican instead of Mexican. In Germany, I was stuck in rural Württemberg. People there thought I was Spanish and wanted to talk about Fútbol, even the Farmer John types I ran into.”
Lucia gave Ritchie a look of disbelief. “I’ve never been outside of California” She said.
“It seems like things are the same everywhere you go” Ritchie said, “Some places are better or worse than others. China is a mess and the parts of Italy I saw looked and felt like Old Mexico.”
Even as he said it, Ritchie realized that to Lucia, Old Mexico was nothing more than an abstraction. The place where her grandfather had come from. Italy might as well be on the moon. The furthest she had ever been from Los Angeles was working with her family in the Central Valley fields over the summer.
“So that is what the Army is all about? Like traveling around the world when you aren’t marching in lines?” Lucia asked.
“There are operations involved…” Ritchie started to say, knowing he had to be careful as to just how much he told Lucia. He was saved by the door of the diner opening and two men, plainclothes Detectives from LAPD Central Casting walked in. One of them made a show of ordering coffee while his partner made a V-line straight for the table that Ritchie and Lucia were seated at.
“We had heard that the Prodigal scum had come home for a visit” The Detective said, “Not planning on sticking around again, are you?”
Ritchie wondered exactly who it was in the neighborhood who was feeding the police this information. Every time he came home, they made an eventual appearance, if for no other reason than to make sure that he knew they were still looking for an excuse to mop the floor with him. To them, he was a punk from the neighborhood who had escaped what they saw as righteous justice at the street level, and they had extremely long memories. The fact that he was in the Green Beret made carrying that out politically fraught for them because a phone call from Special Forces Command to their Boss’ Boss would bring an avalanche of shit down on them.
“I’m going back to New York on Monday” Ritchie said.
“Are you here to provide an escort for a brave hero like Ritchie to the airport?” Lucia asked sweetly, suddenly the very picture of Barrio naivety.
“No, Miss…” The Detective said shuffling his feet before rushing after his partner who had two paper cups.
“Gabacho motherfuckers” Lucia said under her breath once the two detectives were out the door.
Ritchie heard that and started laughing.
3rd March 1968
The Krauts had set him up in this gray Hell that happened to be the last place on earth that anyone would actually expect him to have landed. George Bush had the rules explained to him by John Elis, the American expat who had been in a similar situation to his own for the last several decades. He was in a prison without bars because there were a whole lot of people out there who would pay an eye-watering sum of money to see him butchered alive. So long as he ran his business, didn’t draw attention to himself, and answered whatever questions the BND and BII had for him, they would allow him to continue to exist. In this case, it was managing a petrol station/year-round market in a resort town on Rügen Island. There had been two things that no one had told him before he had gotten sent here the prior summer. The first was that there was a reason why this place was known as the Jewish Riviera, the massive resort complex just up the road had catered to that particular population for the last several years and it was the reason why the market’s selection of Kosher foods was extensive. The second was that when Kat von Mischner had paid off his ex-wife, Barb had demanded only one thing in return for enough money not to bother tracking him down again…
“The shelves are faced and dusted Daddy” Robin said with a smile as she headed back to the front of the store to work the register while he tried to get the previous day’s paperwork straight. He had been forced to have his daughter live with him in the apartment behind the store and be one of his employees. They were in hiding and living a working-class existence, going to school in Bergen had been a massive adjustment but Robin didn’t care. In her mind, she got to be free of her mother and she even got to live near the beach.