Or how my mid-life crisis got its ass kicked


By Nick Dangier

(PART 6)

ON THE X “When the leader points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”

— Old Arab saying

With Ratso knocked out cold by the fall and with hostiles close, I immediately dragged him to cover behind a gigantic cedar trunk which was conveniently protruding out of the muddy creek bank. Following trauma care procedure I check his airway first. Thank God he’s breathing! So I knew his heart was beating. From there I checked for bleeding. He had only one serious contusion that I could find without using my flashlight. The wound was an ugly egg shaped knot located at the center of his forehead. The point of impact when his head struck the boulder. The external bleeding looked worse than it really was. He needed a couple of stitches no doubt, but I could close it with a butterfly bandage and a little super glue (no kidding, never leave home without a tube). He’d have a new scar for his collection, but he wasn’t going to die. Not from that anyway, and not today. Meanwhile he remained unresponsive, in spite of shaking and slapping the shit out of him until, even with my gloves on, my palms stung like they’d been burned on a stove top. The voices I’d heard were still out there. I couldn’t break sound discipline. Not wanting to waste time fumbling with buttons in the dark, I drew my K-bar and cut open the left side cargo pocket of Ratso’s fatigue pants, then yanked out the bandage, alcohol, super glue and smelling salts. This is how fast things can go wrong when you’re down range. And keep in mind that no one had even started shooting at us. Yet.

I held the smelling salts directly under his nose and cracked the nasty sucker open. Even from my distance away, hovering over him as I was, the stuff smelled horrendous- which of course is the point. I hoped whoever those voices were connected to out there couldn’t smell it. Ratso immediately jerked his head and threw his hands up to swat the disgusting smelling stuff away. Unconsciously he wiped his face with the back of his hands, mixing his black and green camo’ paint with bright red oxygen rich blood, creating a rainbow-like smear. He looked like a Hunt’s Point hooker on the last day of Fleet Week. Boy, does that bring back memories…

“How long was I out?” He mumbled, though keeping his voice low- the consummate professional. I couldn’t resist messing with him. An opportunity like this only comes around once in a lifetime. If you’re lucky.

“Seven years…” I answered with a totally straight face. “Yeah,” I continued, “Nancy Pelosi just started her second term as President of the United States and Colin Kaepernick is Commissioner For Life of the NFL by a unanimous United Nations proclamation…” The poor bastard just stared up at me blankly, his eyes blinking erratically as he tried to focus. “I do have good news for you.” I added. “They finally came up with a cure for your Tiny Penis Syndrome.” That did the trick. He shoved me off of him and struggled to his feet, under his own power, grimacing all the while with the pain of his throbbing forehead. I’d finish dressing his wound once our hide was built. In the meantime I stopped the bleeding with the butterfly and popped four adult dosage Bayer Extra Forte aspirins into him. Then I gave him the hand signal for ‘hostiles close’ and silently we got moving again. Our little creek crossing was made without further incident and without hearing any more Spanish voices.

We ended up settling on Observation Post 2. It simply offered the best concealment along with the best view of where we reckoned the Big Event would take place if it took place here at all. So far there was no sign anything was going to happen here other than us getting eaten alive by chiggers and mosquitos. The voices I’d heard earlier that morning turned out to be from the two man crew of a beat-up old dredging barge. From atop its rickety pilot house flew a tiny, sun bleached blue and white flag- the seal of the Republic of Nicaragua at its center.

As if by a miracle we had our hide completed by 0600. Lucky for us the dredging crew, which turned out being less than 100 yards away at our ten-o’clock position, had its muffler-less diesel powered equipment fired up at 0400, providing us with abundant sound cover while we hacked away with our machetes and entrenching tools. Our hide is tight: maybe 7 feet by 7 feet and less than 36 inches deep. It was impossible to detect from the jungle side, and due to its elevation- a good 10 feet above the river (San Juan)- it was all but impossible to be seen by boat either. Above us was thick jungle canopy: bejuco and matapalo vines wrap their way around the trees surrounding us like swarms of snakes, creating a web-like mesh overhead. It was so dense, in fact, that sunlight could barely penetrate it. Keeping us relatively cool. Relatively.

We were careful to preserve the surface growth intact, as we broke ground. Once our roof system was complete, we returned the surface growth to its original place. The effect was that the ground appeared undisturbed; we were virtually invisible.

From our loop holes we could observe the expanse of ground that we dubbed: “No Man’s Land”. At the southwest corner of No Man’s Land was located the Costa Rican Border Patrol Post, roughly 200 yards away from us at our 2 o’clock position. We could not make out the Nicaraguan camp on the beach, but we knew where it was by the flag pole. You could just make out the large, pristine Nicaraguan colors waving a foot above the sand dune which blocked our view of the camp. It was the very same wood flag pole that had once flown the Costa Rican tri-color.

Basically between the Ticos to the southwest and the Nica’s to our southeast, we all three formed a triangle roughly 200 yards between each point of the triangle; No Man’s Land resting at the center. There was no water barrier between the Ticos and their Nicaraguan counterparts, but there was the San Juan River between us and the both of them. We would have to cross the 100 yards or so of strong currents and nasty critters on our exfil’; while remaining undetected by the Nicas and the Ticos too.

Our planned extraction point was exactly one-and-one-half miles south of No Man’s Land or roughly two miles from our hide. Both of the two encampments stand in our way.

No Man’s Land itself is over 12 acres square. It is pancake flat and the ground looks pretty firm. It is strewn with centuries of debris caused by centuries of storms from the sea and floods from up river. Piles of palm trunks and various other assorted drift wood cover the ground along with stands of thick swamp grass and light brush. If el Evento Grande was coming to Isla Calero it had to be here. No where else on the island is there a clearing this large and easily accessed by river boat or helo’. Not to mention it faces the ocean.

I feared Ratso had suffered a concussion on our patrol in. I couldn’t let him fall asleep until I knew there was no danger of swelling inside his brain pan. He had a chicken egg sized purple knot on his forehead, so I had to stay awake to make sure he stayed awake. For at least another six hours. My little internal voice told me Ratso was fine. The guy’s skull is made of cement. The dude once held the championship title, for three years straight, in the annual head butting tournament held at “Madame Wong’s Boom-Boom Room” – Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines back when he was attached to WESTPAC. No shit, I’ve seen the trophies.

Still I had to err on the side of caution. So there’d be no sleep for us until at least mid-day. Then I would let Rat’ get four hours rest and I’d stand first watch. With any luck I’d be re-united with Lady Gaga in the back seat of my Caddy by 1600.


We had yet to receive any comm’s from The Kahuna, although Rat’ could confirm he’d received our texts. I wasn’t worried. After all, the horny bastard was at the Del Rey and no doubt focused on other things at the moment. He knew we were in place and good to go. We didn’t mention Ratso’s noggin in the texts or the damage his head did to the boulder.

We had a neighbor. In the form of the biggest and fattest crocodile I have ever seen. He was lying there on the narrow, muddy riverbank- sun bathing- just below our hide, when the sun broke the horizon that morning. We dub our new mascot: “Fat Albert”.

The Costa Rican Border Guard outpost was nothing more than four narrow wood posts, crudely hacked out of the surrounding forest with a palm frond roof and dirt floor. There were no walls. Not even nylon screening. The Tico camp consisted of a three man team. They had what looked like a Ham comm’ unit in a little radio shack set off to one side of their communal hooch. There was an eight-foot whip antenna sticking out of its little thatched roof. They also had a loud-ass, smoky, gasoline powered generator out back and a small, wood burning mud oven/grill combo located in the middle of the hut. It was no doubt placed there purposely. Why? Smoke kills mosquitos.

For transport the Ticos had a trio of four-wheeler ATV’s in addition to an aluminum john boat, about the size of Captain Colochos’ frigate, but with way more oomff in the way of a modern Yamaha 50hp outboard mounted on the back. No doubt for patrolling the delta, keeping an eye on their Sandinista pals across No Man’s Land and for re-supply runs between their outpost and the nearest Costa Rican Border Patrol Base, which is located back in Barra del Colorado- over 50 klicks south.

The Tico border guardsmen carried the type of small arms typical of a light infantry unit: M-16’s with 9mm semi-auto side arms. If a fight were to break out with the twenty or more, much better armed, Sandinista Marines across No Man’s Land it would be curtains for the three Costa Ricans without question. Those three Tico troopers were young and probably wondered who they’d pissed off so early in their careers to deserve being sent to this sweaty hell hole.

The dredging crew working to deepen and expand the river mouth spent more time repairing their crappy equipment than they did actually dredging. There was no doubt that at their current pace more river silt was replacing anything they were able to dig up and then some. A couple of homeless drunks from Leon 13 could have put together a more serious effort than Abbot and Costello here. The whole cockamamie enterprise was pathetic on a comical scale.

The hours creep by. Man, it is hot. You could bake bread in our hide. The Sandinista Marines over on the beach managed to pick up a baseball game, out of Managua, on their radio later that afternoon. It was the most animated we’d seen them act since moving into the neighborhood. They made so much noise whistling and cheering, they woke up the Tico troopers peacefully snoozing in their hammocks 200 yards away. One of the Ticos sat up in his hammock and flipped the bird in the direction of the Nica camp. Then he laid back down and pulled his pillow tightly over his ears. They’d get their revenge the next time San Jose and Alajuela’s soccer teams played an early morning classico.


WED 13 FEB, 2019

OP 2

Sunrise exposed that while Fat Albert had not moved an inch from his position since yesterday at this time, he had however managed to sink himself deeper into the cool, soothing mud. I’d of liked to have joined him. I felt like I’d lost twenty-four pounds of sweat in as many hours.

Ratso reported that during the previous 0200 to 0600 watch he witnessed a massive boa constrictor devour a small deer that had gotten stuck in the mud on the opposing riverbank. The huge serpent was still lying where he’d enjoyed his snack. It resembled a fire hose with a basketball stuck inside. Yes, he got it on video.

I can report that during the same period a nasty ten-inch black, orange and yellow centipede crawled up my pants leg while I was fast asleep. I managed to evict the hairy little intruder without mishap. No, I didn’t get it on video.

Rat’s wound was driving him nuts; along with the infernal heat and damn bugs. He had already begun openly speculating that we were duped. “Just a gut feeling, Cat…” he’d say. I could hardly blame him. This had been a long-shot to begin with. Ratso had accidentally broken his flask of moonshine when he executed his near flawless Triple Lindy off the embankment during our hike in yesterday morning. No doubt that had a part to play for his current sullen mood.

“Just think, Rat… if you hadn’t shot-up that dentist’s yacht you could be back in your air conditioned castle by the sea, stretched-out on your gigantic pimp bed, right now, being hand fed chocolate bon-bons by your harem of local guanacasteca nymphs, while passing the hours watching Net Flix.” I said, a little annoyed at my compa for whining. It was my passive-aggressive way of telling Ratso to shut the f#ck up. After all, I never put a gun to his head. I did eventually take mercy on him though and gave him one of my pop-top canned fruit cocktails I’d brought along. Then, still feeling sorry for the son-of-a-bitch, I gave him half of my Skittles too. The latter did succeed in bringing a smile back to his dirty, bloody, camo’ed face. You really can’t help but love the lunatic.

Earlier that morning, shortly after breakfast, one of the Costa Rican troopers jumped into their john boat and headed south on the canal. Rat’, who had the afternoon watch, tapped me with the toe of his boot until I came awake grumbling. I’d fallen into one of those deep sleeps only the truly exhausted know. My left cheek was stuck to my right forearm in a puddle of foul smelling drool.

“Git up, Cat – you gotta see this.” Ratso said excitedly, but keeping his voice low. I crawled over to Rat’. He handed me my binocular and pointed in the direction of the inland canal which runs parallel to the coast most of the way to Barra del Colorado. It was the Tico border guard who’d departed after breakfast that morning. He had departed solo, but now, an hour before sundown as I focused on the boat with my binoc’ I could see he wasn’t returning alone.

Accompanying the young Costa Rican trooper were three lovely ladies of indiscriminate age, though they were clearly adults. Their complexion was fair and they appeared tall sitting next to the slight trooper. They had their hair tucked-up under broad rimmed Panama style hats and wore big, black, bug-eyed sunglasses reminiscent of what Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used to wear in those old Life Magazine pictorials. They had on safari wear straight out of a Banana Republic Super Store: Khaki cargo shorts with matching vests. The kind that has ten-zillion tiny, useless pockets with ten-zillion tiny useless zippers. The sort of apparel produced by starving preschoolers in Southeast Asia for 75 cents a set, only to be sold at your local shopping mall for $150 a pop. The whole scene reminded me of an old Duran Duran music video: Her name is Reee-o and she dances on the sand… oh Reo, Reo…

As they got closer the young border guard’s grin got bigger. He couldn’t wait to show his buddies what he’d brought back. No doubt they’d write folk songs in his honor. It was written all over his face. Hell, I was twenty-one years old once and far from home and female companionship too. Bueno… more than once.

For the rest of my watch I pretty much focused my attention on the frolicking going on at the Costa Rican camp. What else was there to do? They were dancing and listening to music (if you consider regaeton music). One of the Ticos mixed-up some “jungle juice” and poured the cocktails into cups fashioned out of coconuts. I could not have been more proud of the lads. They had adapted and they had overcome: The motto of all Recon Scouts.

A group of the Sandinistas gathered up atop the sand dune behind their camp. They sat cross legged, elbows on knees, head in hands and watched with forlorn faces as their Tico counterparts partied down with the three exotic extranjeras. The poor Nicaraguans looked like cast extras in a Latino production of the play Oliver, whose funding had been yanked. Could my Costa Rican cousins be deploying a little psychological warfare against the invaders? At this rate our three Tico privates were going to make colonel in no time. They were most definitely “cake eater” material or my name isn’t Nicholas F. Dangier.

Sometime around 2120 hours the three Costa Rican border guards, dragging along a large red ice chest – accompanied by their three shapely guests – made their way in the dark to the john boat. They fumbled around; the beams of their flashlights shooting outward in every direction as they traversed the broken ground laughing hysterically. They all appeared to be plastered. With the 50hp Yamaha wound all the way up they skimmed across the surface of the dark canal, headed south, as if they were trying to set a world speed record. Once they’d faded out of earshot the surface of the water went back to being a mirror, the Sandinistas headed back to their camp with heads held low and then all returned to the natural orchestra of jungle sounds.


THUR 14 FEB, 2019

0425 HRS

OP 2


Mid way through my watch the normal vibe of the jungle was suddenly shattered. It began with the unmistakable far off sound of a helicopter. As the wop-wop-wop of rotor blades grew louder it became clear there were at least four helo’s coming toward our position, from the four compass points: North, south, east and west. Looking out of our OP it was impossible to make out much in the darkness. We still had the better part of an hour before sunrise. I didn’t have to wake Ratso. The racket was so loud it woke him for me. From our hide it was impossible to see above us and this was no time to crawl outside and risk breaking cover. So we stay put. For now.

We spotted the two choppers coming from the west and south first, respectively. They had their strobe lights flashing and were moving slow, scanning the ground below them with their multiple search lights. Were they looking for us? It really didn’t seem feasible. The western helicopter was the closest to us. It was a monstrous Russian built Mi-26. She was a quarter mile out and closing on our position. It seemed to be following the Rio San Juan along its western bank. She was moving dead slow – a giant mechanical insect hunting its prey. The massive single main rotor helicopter is bigger than one of our Sea Stallions or Chinooks. Until then I had never seen one of those flying beasts up close and personal like.

The other two helo’s eventually showed themselves as they took up a low orbit over No Man’s Land. BINGO,BABY! There is no greater feeling than the feeling of vindication. Ratso gave me a well deserved attaboy along with a rock solid fist bump.

We couldn’t discern the make of the other three choppers at first, but by their actions they appeared to be gunships – possibly carrying troops as well. They circled above us at about 300 feet painting No Man’s Land with their search lights.

Over on the beach the Sandinista Marines were a hive of activity. The young lieutenant in command led his grunts up and over the sand dune at a dead run. There they quickly, though somewhat clumsily, formed up into two ranks as if waiting for inspection: rigidly at attention, rifles at their side.

“Somethin’ is definitely up, Cat.” Ratso whispered as he peered at the scene unfolding before us through his $2,000 NOB3X Explorer “Night Owl” infrared binocular. He passed it over to me. The Nicaraguan Marines looked sleepy, but sharp in their crisp camo’ battle dress uniforms, their pants neatly bloused into their spit polished boots. Until now they’d looked like a rowdy bunch of heavily armed beach boys, running around shirtless in board shorts and flip-flops, their AK-47’s slung over their shoulders. These warriors mostly passed their days fishing or playing baseball on the beach. If I didn’t know better I’d say The Brass had dropped in for a little surprise visit. But why?

Two of the orbiting choppers set down close to the Marine’s who remained lined-up in formation. Another of the helicopters stayed aloft. For a moment it hovered over the Costa Rican guard post, bathing it in light. Once it was clear there was no one there, the helo’ peeled off and returned to its orbit over No Man’s Land. Those dogs! I thought, suddenly wishing I was twenty-one again. The three Ticos appeared to be still out on their triple date. Good for them. I’d hate to think of what might have happened to them if they had decided, all liquored-up, to challenge all this firepower now assembling before our very eyes.

Among the world’s different militaries the same insignia of rank is sometimes defined differently. For example, in the U.S. military and most others around the world, three chevrons indicate the non-commissioned rank of Sergeant or Chief. In the Sandinista military that same insignia indicates the mid-commissioned rank of Captain. Viva la revolucion! Equality of the classes and all that bullshit… However there’s no mistaking what four silver stars on a starched shirt collar mean.

We watched intently as The Brass Shack honcho stepped off one of the Mi-17’s a moment after it landed beside the stiff, formed up Marines. He was followed by a gaggle of other cake eaters; junior officers, aides and one photographer who seemed to think the good General was Katy Perry, the way he hovered around him speed shooting his camera like a star-struck paparazzo. The good General was a big ole fatso. He looked awkward in his over starched and two sizes too small fatigues. His shirt tail was out and his butt crack was clearly visible. He looked like a high ranking plumber.

It had rained pretty heavily for over an hour earlier that morning and so the ground was still soggy. With every other step the General took he became bogged up to his knees in mud. Each time he did a pair of young officers sprang forward to pull their CO out; each aide taking a wrist in both hands and pulled with all their might. It was all Ratso and I could do not to burst out laughing. Rat’ was capturing everything on Pete the Yank’s camera. We very well would have burst out in hysterics if not for being distracted by the huge Mi-26 when it came up on us and then suddenly held its hover directly overhead. This was not so funny.

We kept our mouths shut and lay motionless. There was no way for us to know exactly how low the chopper was, but I can say that the rotor wash was so intense that our hide was shaking. Dirt and leaves began caving in on top of us, from our earthen roof works. Out front of our hide bathed in both of the helo’s two forward mounted spot lights, Fat Albert was having none of it. He went into his fighting stance, reminiscent of our bull Luca: Tail thrashing from side to side, mouth gaping open – teeth bared. Over the helicopter’s powerful engine we could hear Fat Albert’s defiant roar; an unforgettable sound: Half growling dog, half hissing snake. I put my hands together and prayed that Ortega had opted for the Bluetooth sound system and Rally Sport interior package over the FLIR (Forward-Looking-Infrared) when he ordered this helicopter from the factory back in sunny Russia. Even the most seasoned proctologist can’t know just how tight a person’s lower most sphincter can become until they’ve been down range with a hostile heavily armed gunship hovering directly over their head.

It appears my prayers were answered. In a few moments that passed like days, the giant mechanical insect moved off our position and set down across the river in No Man’s Land. The Mi-26 lowered its rear ramp and a platoon of combat engineers – obvious by the equipment they unloaded – came running down the ramp in pairs. Each pair of troopers carried a wood crate between them, about three feet long by roughly one-and-one-half feet wide by maybe a foot deep. In Spanish, in bright red lettering the crates read: PELIGRO/EXPLOSIVOS.

The sun was just peaking over the horizon when the parade got bigger. Coming down river three barges came into our view. They were being towed by a small shallow water tug. The barges were loaded with all sort of building materials along with large wood crates covered with camo’ netting. Two of the three barges had a bulldozer lashed to the center of its deck. In addition there were at least two dozen men riding atop the crates and building materials. Some were dressed in military garb, some were dressed like civilian rough necks. I half way expected to see a barge come trailing behind them carrying a full-fledged marching band. Though I’m sorry to say that did not happen.

Rat’s spirits were back. Obviously something was afoot. Something big, Jack. Honestly until those helo’s showed up I had pretty much resigned myself to the probability that we’d thrown snake eyes on this one.

“See what a little faith can do, my boy…?” I said it as much for my own ears as I did for Ratso’s. I kissed the top of his head through the hoody of his ghillie suit. Rat’ fired off a text to HQ. He wrote it in Spanish, in case it did get intercepted by the Nica’s and their Rooskie pals they’d think it originated from one of their own guys. English translation: Hey, Uncle Beto – looks like the mall is going to open. Not sure if the Marlins will have a bench this year. See you tomorrow for breakfast. Don’t forget to feed the dog. Meaning: Hey, Kahuna – looks like the Big Event is a go. Not sure of the ‘whos’ or ‘whys’ yet. Will be at Extraction Point Alpha 0545 sharp. Don’t forget to bring Nicky’s Egg McMuffins. I was jonesing so bad for those nasty treats, I’d of strangled a blind puppy in front of a group of kindergartners on Christmas day just for a chance to smell a McDonald’s parking lot.

We watched with no small amount of awe as this airborne/waterborne contingent of construction commandos descended upon No Man’s Land. With the troops who’d flown in by chopper- including the combat engineers- the guys who’d arrived on the barges, the Marines (those not providing security) and even Abbot and Costello from the dredging rig – who’d been pressed into service – the good General had one-hundred men sweating like a politician in church amidst a whirlwind of busy activity.

The earth movers went straight into action clearing tree trunks and all sort of storm debris, while the combat engineers – employing dynamite and det’ cord, cleared the obstacles that the peones wielding machetes – nor the bulldozers – could clear. With each detonation we could feel the shock wave as it passed over our hide. It was too much for Fat Albert. He finally slithered out of his mud bath and swam up river.

Later on as morning faded into early afternoon, there was still no sign of the Costa Rican playboys, who’d taken off in their john boat accompanied by the three mystery broads the night before.

By 1530 hours the construction crew had cleared and leveled an area approximately 150 yards long by about 100 yards wide. The longer end running parallel to the beach. While the carpenters finalized the boardwalk they’d created running from the helo’ pad, electricians worked on connecting the lights and sound system to massive diesel powered generators, around another team of carpenters assembling an expansive patio and raised stage. General Four Stars marched down the boardwalk encouraging his troopers as a team of carpenters literally laid out the top planks and nailed them down in front of the General as he goose stepped – chest out – riding crop in hand like a Latino version of the great General George S. Patton.

Directly across the river from us, at our 12 o’clock position, the combat engineers erected a dozen mortar tubes only a meter inside the opposing riverbank. These were not military mortars. They were of the type used in fireworks exhibitions. Along the same bank the engineers also set a large, heavy plastic crate about forty yards away from the mortar tubes, going in the direction of the river mouth. It was also marked PELIGRO/EXPLOSIVOS. No doubt ammo’ for the fireworks show. “Oh goody…” Ratso whispered as we watched them put it all together. “…me likey fireworks.”

By 1700 the job was done. In addition to the helo’ landing pad, boardwalk, stage and patio area, there were fifty or so round fold-up tables and chairs, complete with white table cloths and candles. Each table could seat six. Only the electricians were still at it, testing the sound system and up atop the stage scaffolding they fiddled with a contraption I’d never seen before.

“It’s called a ‘Mist Screen’.” Rat’ said without lowering his binocular. “I saw one up close in Dubai. It’s a sort of projection screen made of a fine water mist… gives you a 3-D effect. It produces such a fine mist, that you can touch it or even walk through it, and just barely feel wet.” Ratso lowered his binoc’ for just a moment and glanced to see if I was paying attention to his rambling. Then he added: “They can make ’em any size, Cat. The one I saw in Dubai was six stories tall and ran the length of an entire city block.”

We looked on, taping everything, as a group of workers carried up onto the stage a 10 x 15 foot heart made of hundreds of pink flowers. It had a red sash hanging diagonally across its front. The sash read in flowing cursive letters: Feliz Dia del San Valentino. Rat’ and I just looked at one another; our mouths hanging open. 

“Did you remember that Valentine’s is today?” I asked, suddenly dreading seeing Queenie when I got home. Oh shit. I forgot again! Ratso just shrugged his shoulders. His Valentine was down in Panama exchanging bodily fluids with a dentist; what the hell did he care?

By 1800 hours the barge crews and two of the four choppers loaded up their personnel and gear, then took off back to wherever they’d come from. Besides the platoon of Sandinista Marines from the beach camp, the two remaining helo’ crews and a detail of some twenty-five stage hands and white dinner jacket clad waiters, only the good General and his personal staff remained. Why would a Four Star hang around this steaming hell hole after the job was done and the bulk of his men had departed? What would make The Boss stay?