In HONOR DUE, the Major is an ex-Special Forces 'Nam Vet who worked covertly until by the 90's, diabetic and bone-tired of the life, knowing his handlers weren't taking terrorism seriously, he walked away into the Pacific Northwest and lost himself.
As a young SpecOps shark puts him in the crosshairs, the Major is forced to resume hunting in the old way. Then he finds his old Montagnard War Brother, tortured and killed, and his friend's daughter hiding in his forest. The Major's new mission is to unearth what happened 35 years ago, as South Vietnam was falling, that has triggered the current pursuit, and take the vengeance owed his fallen brother and family. Along the way, healing comes, romance blooms and the old warrior finds life is still worth living.
HONOR DUE speaks for the soul of our citizen warriors, appealing to readers of both genders interested in the way soldiers view the world. Without glamorizing violence, HONOR DUE offers insights into the warrior's code, and the necessity of keeping fang and claw sharp.
2230 hours — Saturday
It was a typical Saturday night at the Spring Tavern. Lots of locals playing pool, dancing to the jukebox, smoking and drinking beer. Jimmy poured a lot of it on weekends, and little during the week. Men who use axes and chainsaws don't do much drinking on work nights. Most of them start in the woods before 0400, so early to bed is the norm.
Except for a knot of local Indians at one of the pool tables, it was a pretty white crowd. There were four fresh Coasties from the Coast Guard station up at Neah Bay, and other than that, I knew or had seen everyone else before. That's why the little wannabe shark slipping into my small pool stood out. When the door swung open and the kid sidled through, I knew I was going to have to kill him. How did I know? Why? Instinct and almost forty years experience. The why? He might look like a minnow now, but little fish grow up fast and are harder to swallow when they're full grown and think they're Great Whites.
This was my isolated pond he'd swum into and I didn't intend to become the main course at anyone's table. Since I'm a carnivore, I tend to eat first and ask questions later. I may not have a high school diploma, but I've earned several doctorates in the killing arts. I prefer to be the predator than the prey.
The kid was around twenty-five, six feet plus a bit, and maybe a slim 180, in a worked-out kind of way. His dark hair hadn't grown out enough to hide what had been a military buzz. He wore a supple, thigh-length black leather coat, unbuttoned, and by the way it was cut, I figured he was packing. Probably a large auto-loader of some type with a suppressor in a custom rig in the left armpit. He didn't look exactly comfortable wearing civvies.
The way he moved told me this was someone who didn't feel threatened, and thought he could eat anyone in this puddle. I've been around somewhat longer and knew there were several in this crowd I wouldn't want to tangle with, on my best day. Guys who work with axes and chainsaws in the deep woods are very tough nuts, and will break your teeth if you bite on 'em wrong.
I watched the kid's eyes travel slowly around the room and pass me by without a flicker of recognition. There was no reason he should know me on sight, although for him to be here, I knew an advance team had swept the area and put together a package on the lay of the land. That's the way it worked, so now I had to figure out if he was solo, or had backup out in the dark.
He was giving off a nervous kind of energy. Not fear. Just a twitchiness. The way he put money on the bar and kept kind of shrugging his shoulders. Frustrated would be one way of putting it. Maybe a bit worried. I wondered what might cause a reaction like that from someone who probably wouldn't duck when the lead was flying. Interesting.
I watched Jimmy behind the bar, wiping glasses. He wasn't acting any different. He was, however, two feet closer to the register than where the glasses were racked. That meant he was standing directly in front of the Government model .45 Auto he kept cocked and locked under the bar. Jimmy, I'd learned, knew when trouble walked into his place of business.
I also knew I'd be taking my dinner out, as I never eat where I'm known. And know me, everyone there did. Not by name maybe, but by the way the herd recognizes a predator. They keep their distance.
Back to the big question: How did I know someone was hunting me, you ask? Part of my protective cover here is the smallness of the community. I know, at least by sight, most all of the local color. Even the tourists have certain vibes they give off. Dress and mannerisms. In like manner all predators do the same, and in humans those in tune with those vibes know when something wants you for lunch. All that and those little tingles of fear spiking along my nerves, bringing me to an alertness I hadn't felt in a long time.
I'd faced no real threats to my safety in twelve years. You see, fear is what keeps your soul in the body you're born in. No fear, no caution. No caution, no survival. I'm all about survival. That's why I'm still alive after nearly twenty-five years in the killing fields. I didn't intend to cut that short by being over confident. No, this hunter was young and full of all kinds of piss and vinegar. Old bulls get to be old by never underestimating young bulls. I would be taking no chances when it came time to put him down.
When the youngster had settled himself at the bar with a long-neck brew and was checking out the other side of the room, I stubbed out my smoke and slipped out of my corner booth behind the pool table. The back door, down the hall from the little boys' room, was always propped open on late autumn nights like this for the folks who like to sneak out back and smoke a little homegrown weed. It's also a shortcut to the parking lot on the west side of the building. I figured it would take him a while to work the room, matching faces and maybe a description, to the crowd. That would let me take a look-see at the cars in the lot. If he wasn't wound too tight, then any partner he might have, would probably feel the same.
The Spring Tavern sits right on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a little out from Clallam Bay, west along state Highway 112. At 2330 there wasn't much traffic in either direction. The parking lot was quiet as most people by now were either home or settled into where they would drink. Parking was a single line of cars, mostly nose in, along the front of the building, except to the west where latecomers have to find a place to double-up without blocking anyone. That's where he'd have had to park. Bessy, my old rusted beater of a '73 GMC pickup was backed in very close to the rear door.
Once clear of the indirect light spilling from the doorway, I stopped to get a feel for the night. After a few moments of hearing nothing except the soft swish of the distant surf against the shore to my right, I moved on. Keeping to the edge of the brush and trees growing above the shoreline, I slowly made my way around the parking lot and stopped again. Jimmy had long since quit trying to keep the back lit during business hours as he didn't want prying eyes watching the rear area too closely.
Waiting for my eyes to acquire some night vision and get used to the occasional car going by, I reconnoitered the vehicles under the trees, letting myself settle deeper into the grooves of my past life. Nothing moved. It used to be watching for the smoke of a stakeout was a sure sign. In these oh-so-correct PC days of fitness, it wasn't something I could rely on. The fall nights were getting decidedly chillier, and a heavy fog was moving in off the Strait, so a heater would be nice for someone waiting. Nothing. A slight onshore breeze brought the kiss of marine mist to my right cheek. All the twenty or so vehicles in sight were showing the glitter of moisture in the reflected light from the bar.
I slowly moved around the verge of the parking area to the first of the last three cars. I recognized Jimmy's old '72 El Dorado Caddie and Tammy's almost new VW Bug, both pulled in head first, and I knew the kid was trained enough not to make that mistake. It had to be the new-looking dark blue Ford Explorer closest to the highway, facing east, nose out, a little away from the rest. Just enough to stick out to the trained eye. I waited. From the lights of the intermittent passing cars I could see no one inside.
Moving slowly, I quietly stepped up to within a few feet of its left rear and waited again. Nothing. Keeping an eye on the front door of Jimmy's, and a watch on my back trail, I moved alongside and peered into the back then the driver's window. Empty. Good. Squatting, I duck walked forward, reached in over the left front tire and checked the inside of the fender well. Sure enough, still warm to the touch.
Now, all I had to do was separate the baby bull from the herd and see what came of it. I quickly eased back into the bar, and my booth. The kid was leaning forward, trying to engage Jimmy. I could imagine how that was going. He finally gave up and turned toward the east side of the room. Jimmy's eyes flicked in my direction, and went back to the beer he was drawing.
I'm particular about my friends, and Jimmy's one I'd helped out in the past. He was solid. An old 'Nam Vet who wasn't particularly enamored with anything government. His mouth didn't flap. No problem there.
D. H. BROWN has worked as a Logistics and Weapons Specialist in Vietnam; day laborer; Director of Security; Armored Car Driver; Police Officer; Professional Hunting Guide; Trapper; Dog Sledder; Homesteader; Truck Driver; General Contractor; Minister; Editor; Writer; Speaker; Restaurateur; Movie Producer; Antique Restoration Specialist; Personal Care Worker; PC Repair Specialist; Computer Instructor; Book Reviewer; Webmaster and Web Designer. He writes about what he knows. He lives deep in the Pacific Northwest rainforest with his wife, author and editor R. J. Brown and Buddy Dog, working on his next book.