Integrating actual historical events into a story of drug and murder investigations that take place in the Philippines, THE SAGE OF SAIGON 2: THE PHILIPPINE CONNECTION, provides never-ending action, travel and adventures in different areas of the islands and the South China Sea.
Operating in a country in political turmoil and governed by martial law, Tom Ross' life is affected by the arrival of American prisoners of war from Hanoi, South Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon, murdering, drug-dealing gangsters out to kill him, a devastating killer earthquake and a new woman in his life. What could possibly go wrong?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)|
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The Sage of Saigon 2: The Philippine Connection
By Steve Crews
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2016 Steve Crews
All rights reserved.
"NOOOOOO!" he screamed, loud enough to wake the dead.
The small bus carrying thirty-six civilian passengers lifted high into the air as a huge explosion occurred directly under it, ripping it to pieces, flinging burning chunks of metal and body parts in all directions. After the flames and smoke diminished, the largest piece visible was a charred and mangled steel frame. It was turned on its side, with lots of black smoke billowing upwards towards the blue sky from six burning tires.
First Lieutenant Tom Ross' heart was virtually pounding in his chest as if he'd just completed the annual mile-and-a-half aerobics run that was required of everyone in the Air Force. He was sweating profusely as he sat up in his hospital bed. He felt helpless, unable to do anything as he watched the bus carrying his half-French, half-Vietnamese wife, her French uncle and dozens of innocent Vietnamese civilians, explode in a giant fireball.
Ross was experiencing another terrifying nightmare, brought on by the newspaper article he'd read that had been written about the gruesome atrosity. A large black and white photograph accompanied the story, having been taken at the scene shortly after the terrible explosion. The haunting image of that horrific sight was forever etched in his memory.
"What the hell was that?" the young male physician assistant asked his co-worker.
He'd been sitting behind the nurse's station desk, reading a paperback novel to pass the time. They were in between the scheduled rounds and he had a few minutes to kill. It had been a quiet and somewhat boring shift so far. The loud scream had made him jump, almost tipping his chair over backwards. He put the book down while looking over at the ward nurse.
"Oh shit, it's him again! Let's go!" the older female registered nurse yelled as she tossed the nail file down onto the desk top. She jumped out of her chair that was near another desk a few feet away from his. The terrifying scream had made her jump too, almost causing her to lose her grip on the nail file she'd been using. So much for a quiet, uneventful night, she thought.
The two of them quickly ran down the hall with the RN leading the way. This had happened before during their overnight shift and she knew exactly which room to head for. The janitorial services people had already waxed and buffed the light green linoleum floor to a high gloss which shone brightly under the long sets of fluorescent lights that lit up the hallway twenty-four hours a day.
The nurse pushed the patient's door open, flicked on the bright fluorescent lights and rushed over to the side of Ross' bed. She and the PA knew immediately what had caused the bloodcurdiling scream and hoped it would be the last time she ever heard it. It was upsetting to her nerves and even more so to some of the other patients in the ward.
Their patient looked terrible. Beads of perspiration covered his face, which was all scrunched up as if he was wincing in a lot of pain. His sheets and pillowcase were thoroughly soaked with his sweat. He was sitting up, staring across the room at the wall next to the door. His eyes were wide open with a look of terror in them, as if he had just seen a ghost.
He kept mumbling, "Genevieve, Genevieve," over and over again as giant sobs shook his entire body and tears slid down his cheeks. The twenty-seven year old patient was five-nine, one hundred sixty-five pounds, with curly brown hair and hazel eyes. Now he looked much older and more haggard than they had ever seen him before. To the RN and PA both, his overall appearance was the epitome of misery. It was clear that he was in a state of great emotional distress.
The last thing that Ross heard before Genevieve's life-like image faded away, was her soft voice speaking Vietnamese, her beautiful French-accented words that meant, "I love you very much forever."
The nurse woke Ross up by shaking him several times and calling out his name, bringing him back to the world of the living. After he was totally awake and calmed down, the PA assisted him in changing into dry pajamas and then helped the RN change the bedding. After they were sure that Ross was all right, they got him back into bed. He quickly fell back asleep after he apologized for disturbing everyone again. The incident had embarrassed him quite a bit, even more than it had the last time it happened.
An entry was made on the form at the end of the bed so his doctor would know that he had the same terrible nightmare again. They figured it was the same one since he called out to Genevieve as he'd done before. Then the nurse and physician assistant went around the ward assuring the other patients who'd been awakened by the sudden noisy outburst that everything was OK now.
"Another night of mental hell for the poor guy," the nurse commented to her co-worker after returning to their desks.
"Yeah, I kind of feel sorry for him," came the reply.
Neither one of them had paid any attention to the folded-up newspaper on the nightstand next to Ross' bed. It was the one he'd been given in Saigon when he was informed about what had happened to his wife and her uncle.
The haunting nightmares inexplicably stopped after two months. Ross couldn't figure out why, nor could his psychiatrist, Doctor Melvin Edwards. That was a big relief to them both. Ross was eager to return to work again and knew that the nightmares had been part of the problem that kept him from doing so. As for his doctor, that was a positive sign of progress, of a return to normalcy.
In order to remain in the Air Force and not receive a medical discharge, Ross had to be cleared by his doctor. To stay in the same career field, he also had to meet one other condition. The local Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment commander would only allow him to work as a member of his organization if he agreed to undergo psychoanalysis. If everything went well, then Ross could return to being an AFOSI agent again, allowed to carry a weapon and work off base if a case required it.
Doctor Edwards was a full-bird colonel. His medical specialty was psychiatry, the branch of medicine that deals with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. He was a very busy man. In addition to being a department head, he also treated patients and mentored a couple of interns.
The office of the fifty-two year old doctor was on the fifth floor of the 13th Air Force Regional Medical Center at Clark Air Base. It was a large white building with a few clinics located in some nearby single-story buildings. The main hospital had a long circular driveway in front with spaces reserved for handicap parking, taxis and a bus stop for the civilian-operated base shuttle bus. There were two large parking lots on either side of the long main entrance drive, between the hospital and the well-traveled road that ran in front of it.
The emergency room entrance was on the right side of the facility, looking at it from the front, with ample parking nearby for patients and staff. Both the front main entrance and ER entrance had awnings over them to help keep everyone dry as they entered or exited the building. The rainy season here produced heavy tropical downpours, especially when a typhoon was anywhere in the area. The rainy season lasted for six months as did the dry season.
At one hundred eighty pounds, the six-foot two, silver-haired doctor looked lean and trim in his uniform. Most of the time he wore a white smock over it, what some people called a lab coat. He found that by covering up the silver eagles on his broad shoulders, patients seemed less intimidated and opened up to him more, especially the enlisted military patients, who were more prone to be rank-conscious.
Doctor Edwards stood at the window of his office, peering through the dusty Venetian blinds. His focus was on the old NCO Club that was across the street and off to his right, a little ways down the road. It was scheduled to be torn down soon. He'd heard that the base was going to get a new NCO Club, a new commissary and a new Airmen's Club too. He knew it wasn't just another rumor going around, of which there always seemed to be a few. Recently, a fellow doctor had told him that the base newspaper, The Philippine Flyer, had published an article about all the new construction work that would be starting in the next few weeks. There was even talk of a second runway to be built sometime in the future.
He wondered when the old Officer's Club would be torn down and replaced. It had been built many years ago where Fort Stotsenburg once stood, near the parade grounds next to the base housing area commonly referred to as Colonel's Row. There had been no mention of that. Oh well, that was someone else's problem, he thought. His problem was much more pressing than that. Much more so.
He'd recently been informed, while attending an important meeting hosted by the commanding general of 13th Air Force, that American prisoners of war held captive in North Vietnam, would soon be released. They would be flown from Hanoi to Clark Air Base in Air Force C-141 Starlifter cargo planes. The aircraft would be outfitted with comfort pallets that contained a restroom, coffee maker, refrigerator and the type of food preparation ovens similar to the ones found in major airline galleys. The planes would also be fitted with comfortable airline-type seats for the special passengers. Some of the aircraft would be configured to carry rows of stretchers, with medical personnel aboard, to care for the seriously injured, according to the general. The former prisoners of war would be staying at Clark for at least a few days, their length of stay being dependant upon their physical and mental condition.
They would all get to go on a shopping spree and get new uniforms in the Clothing Sales store and whatever they wanted in the Base Exchange. The BX would be closed for one day to everyone else so they could have the place all to themselves and buy anything their hearts desired.
The general also mentioned that it would be up to the medical staff of the base hospital to give the newly-freed men thorough and complete physical exams and to perform any medical procedures, including surgery, if necessary. That also included dental exams and oral surgery as well. They knew that many of the former POWs had been tortured by the North Vietnamese and some had been injured when ejecting from their aircraft. They were expecting to see some men in pretty rough condition, those at the general's briefing were told.
Doctor Edwards and his staff were responsible for giving each former POW a thorough mental evaluation. Some of them might want to continue with their military service and would need to be evaluated both mentally and physically to determine if that choice was still feasible.
They would be given top priority over regular patients so they could return to the U.S. as soon as possible. That meant Doctor Edwards would have to delegate some of his responsibilities to others on his staff and maybe even to the two interns working under his supervision as well.
With so much to plan for, he decided to hold a staff meeting shortly after returning from the 13th Air Force Headquarters The office across the hall from his was used for staff meetings.
"We're having this short-notice staff meeting in place of our regularly scheduled one," Doctor Edwards began, "because we're about to be tasked with a very important job which I just learned about from the 13th Air Force commander."
He paused and looked around the small table at the four people that made up his staff. He, along with two of them, would soon participate in an historic event, the care of former POWs from the war in Vietnam.
"As you all know, not only am I the head of this medical clinic but I also treat patients and supervise interns."
The two interns sat to his left and the two permanently-assigned Air Force psychiatrists sat to his right. Doctor Edwards sat at the head of the table on the end farthest from the room's only window. There was a large metal pitcher full of ice water at the center of the table and everyone had a tall glass of ice water in front of them, along with the note pads and pens they normally brought to these meetings.
"In the very near future, we're going to be screening some former POWs that will be flying in here from Hanoi. They will become our top priority as soon as they arrive and will remain so as long as they're here."
"How long will they be staying here?" his second-in-command, Doctor (Major) David Longstreet asked.
"That depends on their physical and mental condition," Edwards replied. "There's no set time frame that I'm aware of. What I want to tell you now is that I'm going to have to delegate my patient workload to the two interns so I can focus on the former POWs. At the present time, I have two patients under my care. Mr. Lawrence, I'm assigning Airman First Class Christopher Rodgers to you, starting tomorrow. I'll go over his case with you today so stick around after the meeting. We'll be having another meeting at a later date to go over things more thoroughly after I get more information on the POWs. Any questions, Mr. Lawrence?"
The intern sitting closest to him replied soon thereafter, "No sir."
"OK. And Miss Edwards, you stick around after the meeting too and I'll go over your new case with you as well. Any questions?"
He could see a concerned look on the female intern's face and knew from past experience that she'd ask at least one question. She was always asking him questions, which was a good thing in his opinion.
"Just one, sir. Who will my patient be?" she inquired, somewhat tentatively.
"You'll be getting a challenging case too but one in which I have complete faith in your ability to handle. First Lieutenant Tom Ross will be all yours starting first thing tomorrow morning. OK?"
"Yes, sir. I'm up for the challenge," she added confidently, her face now broadening into a smile. She welcomed the opportunity to put what she'd learned to the test and help someone who really needed it.
"Good, that's good," Doctor Edwards replied. He paused to take a. big swallow of ice water from the tall sweating glass in front of him. "Like I said earlier, as more information about our new patients comes in, we'll have another meeting and go over all the details. Well, that's all I have for now."
Looking over at Doctor Longstreet and Doctor (Captain) Carl Kingston, the other staff psychiatrist, he said, "Dave, Carl, you guys can go. I've got to go over my two patient cases with the interns before I turn 'em loose. Unless either of you have any questions, I'll see you both later."
Neither Longstreet nor Kingston asked a question and they left the meeting room together. The small staff was a tight-knit group and Doctor Edwards liked to conduct informal, almost laid-back staff meetings without the military formalities of the room being called to attention when he walked in. With just the five of them and no one else present, he could do things that way. His staff appreciated his personal touch when it came to things like that and so did the patients in the ward. He spent the next thirty minutes with the two interns, giving them the information they needed. Then they all left the meeting room.
Back in his own office, Doctor Edwards stood at the window and watched a base shuttle bus pull up to the bus stop close to the front entrance of the hospital. He noticed that many of the passengers had their faces up to their open windows, hoping to catch a breeze. The buses weren't air conditioned and every window was open all the way. It was another cloudless, hot, sunny day in the middle of the dry season. There were only two seasons here, unlike the four back in the States. It was either hot and dry or hot and wet. The rainy season was still a few months away.
He stepped away from the window and returned to his large cluttered desk, picking up the medical record of First Lieutenant Tom Ross. He'd decided, but only reluctantly so, to turn the treatment plan of grief counseling that he had begun and the psycho-analysis that was also required, over to one of his trusted interns. He set the record in his OUT basket, where she would pick it up in the morning.
His workload was about to increase to the point where he really didn't have a choice but to delegate some of it to others. The other two officers would be very busy as well so he couldn't burden either one of them with another case. The good thing about all this was, he was totally confident in the abilities of this particular intern that had been assigned to treat Lieutenant Ross. She was his daughter.
A once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that was all due to the arrival of former POWs at Clark Air Base, was about to change the life of Tom Ross in ways that he could never have imagined. His life would be likened to the phoenix, the legendary bird which, according to one account, burned itself to ashes on a pyre and rose alive from the ashes to live again. The old Ross would die with his last nightmare. A new persona would emerge from months of counseling and psychoanalysis. Freed from the guilt he felt for not being able to prevent his wife's death in Vietnam, he would learn to live again, in the Philippines.
Excerpted from The Sage of Saigon 2: The Philippine Connection by Steve Crews. Copyright © 2016 Steve Crews. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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