Quick as a cat, Sampson spins and grabs McDuff by the throat with a ham-size hand, and by the crotch with the other. McDuff grunts, his arms flailing, legs kicking, as Sampson picks him up high over his head, then screams as Sampson takes a half dozen strides and heaves him a half dozen more strides out into the stream. Then Sampson stands with hands on his hips as McDuff flops and screams as the current takes him.
“I can’t swim, I can’t …” and he goes under, comes up spittin’, then goes under again. Shep runs along the bank, barking. I swear he’s smiling, and he sure doesn’t dive in to the rescue.
Pa has been coming our way and is witness to most of this but now runs and plunges into the stream and, in seconds, is dragging McDuff to the bank.
Sampson merely climbs back into position on the cart and whips up George and Mark and moves ahead of the big wagon.
McDuff is on his back in the mud, coughing and hacking, spitting river water, when Captain Cox comes galloping up. “What the hell happened here?” he snaps at Pa and leaps off his mount.
Pa shrugs. “McDuff lost his footing I guess. He doesn’t seem to swim too well.”
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A Taste of THE K FACTOR.
“See you at 1500,” Garino says and heads for the door.
“What then?” I call after him.
“A leisurely stroll around the obstacle course.”
“Whatever,” I say.
He laughs. “This is your last easy day, cowboy.”
“What-the-fuck, over,” I say and find a seat at the head of the class, next to Pax.
Bo holds a laser pointer and turns it to one of five bulletin boards and two blackboards, all filled with maps and pictures.
“Gentlemen,” he says, “you’re about to get the first cram course in all things ‘NK.’”
And he begins.
“North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which we’ll call ‘NK’[FWK1]to speed things up, is a country of forty-six thousand five hundred square miles...for comparison, that’s one fourth the size of California. Pyongyang is the nation’s capital and largest city. NK is bordered on the north by China and by Russia along the Amnok and Tumen rivers, and to the south by the Republic of Korea, separated by the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone. On her west is the Yellow Sea and on her east the Sea of Japan.
“She has a standing army of one point two million and an armed reserve of nine and a half million. The small country of twenty-eight million or so has the fourth-largest army in the world—“
Pax can’t help himself and interrupts: “So, we send in five guys, and, not counting the reserve, they’re out numbered two hundred thousand to one.”
Bo gives him a tight smile. “This, as you well know, is a surgical operation to extract three women. With luck, and if you’ll pay attention, there won’t be a shot fired. Now, may I continue?”
“Be my guest,” Pax says, returning the tight smile. Then he adds, “I’ll interrupt only if I know my buddy here doesn’t understand.”
“Very amusing,” I say, but Bo ignores us and continues.
“At the beginning of the twentieth century, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan. After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel by the United States and the Soviet Union...”
As he talks, he’s using a laser pointer on a map.
“...with the north occupied by the Soviets and the south by the Americans. Reunification was attempted but failed, and in 1948, separate governments were formed. The north became the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the south, the capitalist Republic of Korea. North Korea, wanting reunification, invaded the south, which led to the Korean War. The Korean Armistice Agreement brought about a ceasefire, but no peace treaty was signed. Technically, they’re still at war.
“North Korea calls itself a self-reliant socialist state and formally holds elections. They, of course, are a joke. Critics regard the north as a totalitarian dictatorship. Various media outlets have called it Stalinist, noting the elaborate cult around Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. He is the country’s ‘eternal president.’ Kim Jong-il, known as ‘eternal General Secretary,’ father of the current jerk, died in 2011. You know, like in China, the family name is first—‘Kim,’ in this instance. And ‘Kim’ is as common in NK as ‘Smith’ and ‘Jones’ in the USA.
“The fact is the country is a totalitarian nightmare. The worst human rights record in the world. Too many violations in North Korea to count. The Workers Party of Korea, led, of course, by a member of the ruling family, yields almost absolute power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, of which all political officers are required to be members.
“It’s a caste system worse than India, where justice is a joke. If you are suspected of crimes against the state, not only you, but three generations of your family become guests of slave-labor camps. It’s post-revolution Russia...even worse.
“Jucheis an ideology of national self-reliance, a creative application of Marxism–Leninism.
“You all know of the Korean War, when Jong-un’s granddaddy tried to re-unify the country. We interfered, and it cost us fifty-five thousand killed, and there are still eight thousand unaccounted for. There was no peace treaty and technically we and the South are still at war with the North.[FWK2] That’s how many welost…more than three million Koreans and Chinese were killed.”
It’s my turn to interrupt. “Bo, do we really need a history lesson? Can’t we get to the day-to-day so we’ll know a little about what’s going on the country? I mean today—not a couple of hundred years or even a few decades ago.”
He’s looking a little frustrated, and then his tone lowers to a growl. “Reardon, I’m going in-country with you. I’d like to come back out. I could give you a semester on the bastards to the north, and you still wouldn’t know enough. This is just the icing on a ten-layer cake, and I’m going to make damn sure you know it. If your buddy here has to sit on his ass and try to figure out what we’re doing in-country, then he needs to have a basic understanding as well. We can dick around here until midnight, and you’ll still have to hit the obstacle course the instant we’re done. If I were you, I wouldn’t piss Garino and his crew off. They can be a real pain in the ass...and anywhere else you have a nerve located.”
I shrug but keep my mouth shut.
“So, you’re fully aware, NK is the most secretive and isolated country in the world. It’s known as the ‘hermit kingdom.’ They have their health problems, mostly caused by undernourishment. Blindness as a for-instance: ten times the rate of cataracts than other countries. A seven-year-old in the north averages eight inches shorter and twenty-two pounds lighter than one in the south.
“And General, or Marshal, Kim Jong-un, is a fine fellow. Since he took office, he’s killed one hundred and forty of his senior leaders, his uncle, and his half-brother.
“You all know of the demilitarized zone between the north and south. Two point five miles wide, only one million land mines.”
For five hours, he bangs away, without looking at a note.
We walk out with a smattering of every aspect of NK culture: art, music, literature, cuisine—if you can call it cuisine, as since the war. the average height of a North Korean adult is two inches shorter than a South Korean adult, thanks to a meager diet. They starved to death damn near a half million in the famine of the mid 1990s, and their policy of “military first,” or Songunas they call it, didn’t help with money and resources literally going to arms before food.
As usual with my knowledge of a foreign language before I visit a country, I can now request a bathroom or a restaurant but not cover or extra ammo. I’m not sure what I’ve learned is helpful, however....
By the time we finish, I am deeply impressed with Bo’s knowledge and am very happy he’s on our team—not to mention he’s a former SEAL, is as big as I am, is younger by at least five years, and looks like a bad ass. He’s one of those cut assholes whose muscles have muscles. Even so, I’m a little surprised when he suits up in tee shirt and shorts and heads to the obstacle course with us. But when he strips his shirt off, I can see he’s really not a guy to mess with. He’s past the point where blue veins bulge.
Rumor is, though, all SEALs—current or former—are tight lipped, Bo was on the most secretive of the teams, SEAL Team 6, and by the scars I note on his back as he changes, he tangled with lots of tangos in lots of places he won’t, can’t, talk about.
I’m surprised to see Rutgar Paddington, who I met in that hangar at Hughes Helicopter. I had no idea he was coming along. However, he’s in sport coat and slacks and is obviously not coming to do anything but watch, probably hoping to get a laugh.
The same dozen assholes who water-boarded us—we’re now cousins, and I’m wondering what it takes for two old farts, relatively, to become brothers—are awaiting our appearance, and I don’t like the grins they’re wearing.
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Mr. Martin is a master storyteller. In ‘Shadows of Nemesis,’ he weaves a story of vengeance in the old West. Tag McBain is on the hunt for the killers and kidnappers of his family. He soon becomes the hunted. With the genius that comes from Mr. Martin’s digital pen, we have an action-packed, rip-roaring tale of a twisted showdown that will leave you gasping in awe.
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