Buddha's Money (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series #3)

Buddha's Money (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series #3)

by Martin Limón
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Buddha's Money (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series #3) by Martin Limón

This grisly, terrifying thriller follows CID Agents George Sueño and Ernie Bascom across the Korean Peninsula in their search for a lost artifact

South Korea, 1970s: Retired Army officer Herman Burkowicz has quite a lucrative setup smuggling rare Korean artifacts. But then his nine-year-old foster daughter, Mi-ja, is abducted, and her kidnappers demand a ransom Burkowicz doesn’t have: a priceless jade skull from the age of Genghis Khan. Sueño and Bascom—more accustomed to chasing felons and black marketeers in the back alleys of Itaewon than ancient treasures—go in over their heads as they agree to search for the skull, a journey that will lead them to a crime that threatens the fragile peace between South Korea and the US Army units living on its Korean soil.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781569477977
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/01/2005
Series: Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series , #3
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 536,194
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Martin Limón retired from military service after twenty years in the US Army, including ten years in Korea. He is the author of numerous books in the Sueño and Bascom series, including the New York Times Notable Jade Lady Burning, Slicky Boys, The Iron Sickle, Nightmare Range, and The Ville Rat. He lives near Seattle.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Three miniskirted business girls flitted around Ernie like butterflies bothering a bear. He pulled out a packet of ginseng gum, grinned, and passed out a few sticks.

Another business girl, her face as brightly painted as the flickering neon of Itaewon, trotted across the road. I recognized her. Her name was Sooki. She grabbed Ernie's arm and peered up at him.

"You MP, right?"

"CID," Emie told her. "Criminal Investigation Division. Not MP."

"Same same," Sooki said.

"Not same same," Ernie told Sooki. "And anyway, I'm working tonight. So don't bother me."

We were working, all right. The black market detail. Undercover. Wearing our running-the-villa outfits: blue jeans, sports shirts, sneakers, and black nylon jackets with golden dragons embroidered on the back. Trying to catch off-duty GIs trading PX liquor and cigarettes for the charms that only a beautiful young woman can provide.

Red lips mounded into a pout. Sooki slapped polished nails on her out-thrust hip and purred in the voice of a vixen. "MP, CID, all same same. Any GI slicky my ping-pong heart. No bullshit."

The other girls exploded into laughter and chomped on their gum, seeming more like children in a playground than women ready to sell their bodies to the highest bidder.

Through round-lensed glasses, Ernie's green eyes studied the painted businesswoman. His grin never faltered, just gradually widened at the upturned corners. He's like that. If you're half nuts, he's interested in you. But if you're a sober professional, he'd just as soon see you take a flying leap off the edge of the world.

We were in Itaewon, the red-light district that servicesAmerican soldiers stationed at the headquarters of the Eighth United States Army in Korea. More than twenty years ago a cease-fire had been signed ending the Korean War but GIs have been here ever since. Thirty thousand of us. Protecting the wire. Staring across the Demilitarized Zone at the 700,000 stone-cold eyes of the North Korean People's Army.

My name is George Sueo. Me and my partner, Ernie Bascom, are agents for the Criminal Investigation Division in Seoul.

Prostitution is legal in Korea as long as you are eighteen years old and you register with the county health officials and you keep the stamps on your VD card up to date. Most of these girls looked as if they'd turned eighteen yesterday. Some of them still wore their hair straight, in short-cropped bangs, the cut required of every uniformed schoolgirl in the country.

Ernie and I were sent out to Itaewon to enforce rules that both of us thought were stupid. But being in the army kept Ernie off of heroin--a habit he'd picked up in Vietnam--and kept me off the streets of East L.A. Not incidentally, being in the army also kept money in my pocket and a clean shirt on my back. From where I'd come--an orphan at the mercy of the Supervisors of Los Angeles County--it was a big step up.

Sooki grabbed Ernie's arm. He jerked it away.

"I told you, Sooki. Don't bother me. I'm taaksan busy."

"No way, GI. You come. You help. Something bad happen."

Ernie's brow crinkled. "What the hell are you talking about, Sooki?"

In the center of the cobbled road, a few splats of rain pattered onto dirty slabs of stone. Dust and the odor of rust exploded into the air.

The humidity felt like a warm hand fondling me under my shirt.

Cockroaches the size of a hitchhiker's thumb scurried out of stone gutters. In the fading twilight, I could still see dark clouds hovering in the distance.

It always strikes during July and August. A warm current boils up out of the South Pacific, slamming into the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea, and fat clouds bubble across the low-lying valleys of the Korean Peninsula.

Chol param, the Koreans call it. The seasonal winds. The monsoon.

"GI punch somebody," Sooki insisted. "Chogi." There.

She pointed up the dark hill behind the glittering nightclubs. Tin and cement and red tile roofs covered hovels clustered together as tightly as chips on a poker table.

"Go tell the Military Police," I told her.

Her painted face swiveled. "No MP jeep in village now! They still on compound. GI beat somebody up. No have time wait MP!" She turned back to Ernie. "You come. You help. Bali bali." Hurry. "Somebody apo!"

Ernie tossed the foil wrapper of his ginseng gum into the gutter. "Who's hurt?"

"How you say?" Her face crinkled in concentration, searching for the English.

"Hanbuk mallo," I told her. Say it in Korean.

"Deing deingi chung."

Clouds like bad dreams drifted across the silver face of the rising monsoon moon. Ernie pushed away from the damp stone wall he'd been leaning against.

"What'd she say?" he asked me. "Who's hurt?"

"A monk ringing a bell."

"A what?"

"A Buddhist monk."

The monks sometimes come to Itaewon to collect money for their temples. Usually during the day, when the GI's are still on compound. Although most of the denizens of Itaewon are pimps or whores or worse, many of them are still devout, and sacrificing some of their ill-gotten gain to the representative of the Maitreya Buddha will buy them credit in paradise. At least they hope so.

"Bali bali," Sooki insisted. Quickly. "You come."

Ernie zipped up his jacket. "We're good guys, Sueo. Can't let anybody kick the crap out of a Buddhist."

I didn't like it. We were on black market detail. Not village patrol. Still, Sooki was right. There were no other law enforcement officers in the area.

Like a quivering rainbow, a jumble of neon signs sparkled to life along Itaewon's main drag. Above us, in a symphony of black and purple, the monsoon night lowered.

"Okay," I said. "I guess we have no choice."

Sooki didn't hesitate but trotted off, her high-heels clicking on the slick stone road. We followed her up the main drag of Itaewon, past the open-doored nightclubs blaring out versions of Stateside rock and roll.

When the girls on Hooker Hill swarmed around us, we straight-armed them and kept our sights on the gyrating butt of the little business girl devotee ahead. Sooki disappeared into a crack in the brick-and-stone walls.

As we ran, pellets of rain slammed onto my head and back. A dim glow emanated from behind oil-papered windows. The edges of tiled roofs leaned above us, sometimes blocking the light of the three-quarter moon.

Water reeking of urine leaked down the jagged stones that paved the walkway. Charcoal gas from the ondol, subterranean heating flues, elbowed out most of the breathable air.

Ernie's footsteps pounded ahead of me. Molars rhythmically ground on gum.

The faint remnants of a high-pitched scream drifted through the alley.

"What was that?" I called to Ernie.

"What was what?"

"Listen. "

The narrow lane was lined with high walls topped with rusty barbed wire and shards of jagged glass. Then we heard it again. Another sound. This one a harsh bark. Male. A shout of rage.

Ernie chomped faster on his gum. "Sounds like somebody's getting their ass kicked."

Sooki didn't slow down.

The female scream again. Ernie heard this one clearly. He turned to me, his eyes blazing with glee.

"We're going to catch some asshole in the act," he said.

Ernie is always in search of something that will make his heart race and his blood bubble. I'm a little less crazy about the wild life. I face trouble when it comes, but I sure as shit don't look for it.

I reached into the pocket of my nylon jacket and gripped the roll of dimes I always carry with me. It felt firm in my hand, adding heft to my knuckles.

Despite the rain and the mud and the darkening alleys, I felt almost cozy. Right at home. Back on the mean streets where I was born.

We rounded a corner. Up ahead, at a crossing alley, we heard it. Cursing, heavy breathing, the thud of flesh on flesh.

Ernie's sneakers splashed rainwater out of invisible puddles. I pulled the roll of dimes out of my pocket. Sooki found a corner and knelt down, doing her best to make herself small.

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Buddha's Money (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series #3) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Twenty years have passed since the cease fire, but some things never change even when the demarcation line representing the front is not far away. For instance in the Itaewon red light district of Seoul, South Korea, the brass ¿protects¿ young soldiers from their own desires; Criminal Investigation Division Agents Corporal George Sueno and Sergeant Ernie Bascom are assigned to insure GIs do not barter liquor and cigarettes for sex................... However, Sueno and Bascom ignore the inane military rules; if a grunt wants to barter for local flavor they look the other way unless they perceive danger; that includes the 'business girls'. Thus when ally peddler Sooki tells them something bad happened, the twosome ignores duty and go into hero mode. They soon perceive a connection between thugs beating up a Buddhist nun and the kidnapping of nine year old Mi-ja, adopted daughter of former NCO Herman ¿Father¿ Burkowicz. That entangles the CID agents with the kidnapper¿s quest to own a Ghengis Khan jade scull possessed by the self-anointed Queen of the Chinese Dragon Throne, who refuses all offers even violent ones............................ BUDDHA¿S MONEY feels like a madcap 1950s serial movie as the two agents dash from one incident to another in their quest to bring justice not military law to the back allies of Seoul in the 1970s. The two mavericks are at their best beating up bad guys, but their opponents are two dimensional stereotypes from B movies. Still this action packed pulp thriller provides a fine look at Korea during a period when Viet Nam is the hot spot and containment is America¿s foreign policy..................... Harriet Klausner
tomjohnson1940 More than 1 year ago
Sueno & Bascom #3: “Buddha’s Money” by Martin Limon. While working the Itaewon red light district in Seoul looking for black market activity, CID agents Sergeants Sueno & Bascom are contacted by business girl (prostitute) Sooki, who tells them a nun has been attacked. She leads them to an alley where they hear a fight in progress and stop a black American soldier from beating a Korean nun. The American escapes, and the boys take the nun to the KNP police station, but locals think they are the ones that beat the nun up. There is a big problem now with locals angry at all American soldiers. While at the police station, a retired sergeant grabs them, and reports his adopted Korean daughter has been kidnapped. This leads them to discover there is more going on than meets the eye. The attack on the nun and the kidnapping has something to do with Lady Ahn and an antique skull that once belonged to the Dragon Throne of China, and her ancestors. The skull was used by Kublai Khan as a drinking vessel, and has a map to the burial place where much of his treasure was hidden. Buddhist monks are also after the skull. The writing is smooth, the plot is good, and the characterization is topnotch. The author knows Korea. It is fun reading about places that I once knew, and hearing Korean words I once knew. My main problem with the series is the main characters. They are supposed to be Army CID agents, but are nothing like the many CID agents I knew in my twenty-year career in the military police. Sueno & Bascom act more like private detectives than military investigators, doing what they want when they want. They merely report to a 1st Sergeant, basically when they want. In reality, the CID office consists of agents under the command of a warrant officer. Jobs are assigned, and they work hand in hand with their superiors and local police, when necessary, fellow agents, and the MPs. Something that really turned me off in this story is the office Staff Sergeant. Evidently he has the combination to the safe, but gets so drunk someone gets the combination from him and breaks into the office and steals something from the safe. The next day it was like, well, gee, these things happen. No, they don’t! If that SSGT had a drinking problem he would not have been the one in charge of the safe. As it was he would have lost a stripe over such lack of responsibility, but nothing is even said to him about his dereliction of duty. This is the Army, and the CID is better trained and organized than any of these characters are in this series. I love the setting, and the idea of CID agents as the main leads. I can even accept Sueno & Bascom as Army goof-offs who get involved in mischief – but not as CID agents. Another problem is the man in charge of the armory giving them unregistered weapons and ammunition when they want them. That doesn’t happen in the MP or CID weapons armory. All weapons and ammunitions are strictly accounted for. All of this makes for a good story, and the setting is honest. If Sueno and Bascom were anything but CID agents, it would have worked for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MikeS More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has read Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels about the intrepid seaman who jumps from one crisis to another will find the Sueno/Bascom team familiar. The Army CID team takes one death defying leap after another as they pursue the trail of a jade buddha head in order to save lives, oppose religious fanatics and save the 8th Army from public insurrection in Korea. While masses of protestors seek to do damage to the white devils these two never strole through the protestors and never seem to be recognized. The love interest is provided by the cold, imperial Lady Anh who somehow melts her heart enough to at times care for Sueno, to have concern for a young captive and at other times steals her resolve to withstand the ordeals presented by her captors while pursuing with cold efficiency the trail to the prize. One might be mesmerized by her beauty but would be deathly afraid of being with her if you ever caused her to anger. The plot pace never slows, but while most fiction is just that, fiction, there needs to be some semblance to believability and the superhuman exploits of this CID team consistently distorts that connection. This work merits a 3 1/2 star rating, closer to three than to four, which is why the rating assigned. It is a fun read but not a believable one. Towards the end you want to rush through not so much to find how the book turns out but because you tire of its frenetic pace.