In the interests of circling back once again to Nick Temple File #4, a book in a state of never-ending progress, I thought I'd post an early chapter which is vintage Nick Temple. I hope you agree.
CHAPTER 2: THE BAD NEWS FIRST
Nick Temple surveys the beach at Waikiki from the balcony of his room on the 26th floor of the recently-opened Illikai Hotel. He cinches the belt of his terrycloth robe, sticks his hands in the robe’s pockets, and takes a deep breath, inhaling the fresh morning air off the Pacific. To the east, beyond the pink façade of the Royal Hawaiian and the vast banyan tree of the Moana, is a nearly unobstructed view of Diamond Head, richly green from seasonal rain.
“Beats the hell out of Saigon,” Nick thinks to himself.
A month of working the backstreets and alleys of South Vietnam’s capital convinced him of what he already knew. The Soviets are content to let the locals do the heavy lifting knowing full well the Americans haven’t got a chance of making anything good come out of what has been a botched operation from the get go. That conclusion, and Nick’s frank assessment that Washington’s fear of a Russian bogeyman sneaking around the jungles of Southeast Asia is driven more by ideology than fact, are at the heart of the report he delivered to the brass at Schofield Barracks two days ago. He’s been waiting for the inevitable ass-chewing ever since.
Nick Temple’s a lifer: born in 1917; enlisted on December 8, 1941; a charter member of the CIA since its creation by the National Security Act of 1947; the CIA’s first, and to date its longest-tenured Berlin Station Chief, and now a special assistant to the Director. In his current capacity he has more control over his career than he’s ever had. The Director has more special assignments on his desk than one man can possibly undertake, and Nick, by virtue of his seniority and battle scars, gets first choice. His decision to take on the Vietnam assignment surprised many. A veteran of the European theater seemed an odd pick to send, but the fact that he had no agenda, no preconceived notions, no dog in the hunt actually made him the perfect pick for some quick intel on the strength of the foundation for what looks like a looming policy shift. Add in the fact that he had never been to Southeast Asia, and the reasons for going far outweighed any reasons for taking a pass.
The room’s phone rings and wakes the disheveled blonde partially covered by the king size bed’s silk sheets. Nick glances over his shoulder. It rings again. She reaches for the phone and lifts the receiver.
“Hello? . . . No, you have the right room. Just a second.”
Nick turns and enters the room from the balcony. She sees him approach the bed.
“It’s for you. Some guy named Bill Johnson.”
She hands him the receiver as he sits on the edge of the bed.
“Bill? That you?”
“Yeah, Nick. Was that your secretary?”
“How’s her typing?”
“No idea. What’s going on, my friend?”
“You want the good news or the bad news?”
“The Cliff Thompson exchange blew up on us.”
“Sovs wouldn’t give him up?”
“Worse. Shot and killed during the exchange. Smertov too. It’s a fucking mess. Lots of finger pointing, no hard clues, some comms in the clear that don’t make any sense, just a mess.”
“I’m surprised he lived as long as he did.”
“Yeah, but he didn’t deserve to go this way. He was about ten feet away from making it when he took a round to the squash.”
“You want me on it?”
“So what’s the good news, Bill?”
“I got your report by wire this morning, and the good news is I agree with you. I don’t see Ivan’s footprints except maybe as a supplier. And this Ho Chi Minh guy doesn’t want anything to do with anyone from the West. Never has, at least since the last World War. Bottom line, they just want the foreigners out.”
“That’s the way I see it, but good luck peddling that view on the Hill or to the Joint Chiefs.”
“I’ll see what I can do. When are you due at Langley?”
“I’ve got another week, but I can make it sooner.”
“I’ll bury Cliff. See you next week.”
“Okay, Bill. Thanks.”
Nick hands the receiver back to the blonde. She hangs up the phone.
“Back to D.C.?”
“Not for a week. Let’s get dressed and get a cup of java.”
She reaches for the belt of Nick’s terrycloth robe.
“I have a better idea.”