I was nearly ready, very close to coming. Nguyen had already come. I had felt him stiffen, knowing he was about to come, and had put my hands under him, raising his belly off the sheets with the palm of one hand and encasing his hard cock with the other and stroking him until he had spilled his seed. And then I had taken him by the waist and lowered his midsection on the mattress again and resumed my slow, deep stroking inside him. I covered his brown little body with mine, my arms laced up under his arm pits, my legs covering his with his feet hooked on my lower calves, my lips buried in the hollow of his neck when he wasn't turning his lips to mine.
Mosquitoes buzzed angrily against the protective netting that covered my bed, centered in the room to catch whatever cross breeze could be captured in the hot, humid Vietnamese night. The rain was coming down in sheets outside the bungalow, sounding like the low roar of a train passing by in the distance. Candles flickered in the corner of the room, their light being reflected and scattered by the slowly churning ceiling fan above the foot of the bed. A gecko ran across the top of the headboard, stopping momentarily to watch the fucking and then go its merry way.
I turned my head and looked up into the roof of the canopied bed at the mirror I'd had installed when I took Nguyen on as my lover - when he had introduced me to the pleasures of man sex in Southeast Asia - so much more sensuous and guilt free than I had known before - and I became besotted with watching my larger, muscled body, working his lithe, little brown one or his succulent mouth working my cock before I took him. Appearing in the mirror to have full control, to be ravishing a small, powerless man, but knowing all along that Ngyuen was the experienced one, the one who was in full control.
I concentrated hard as I watched myself in the mirror - me holding every part of him still, with only my butt cheeks expanding and contracting, listening for the moan, watching for the moment that Nguyen's hips began to rotate, when his butt cheeks slowly moved in rhythm with mine, nothing else on our bodies moving, knowing that my cock was buried deep inside him. Watching for the moment of my release and the effect it had on his body, the expression on his face, half turned to where I could see it, his cheek rubbing the fine, moist cotton of the pillow casing.
Nguyen gave a little cry as my flow started, and I thought I heard another sound simultaneously - a rustling or a scraping outside the bedroom window of my Saigon bungalow. Maybe both. There shouldn't be anything stirring out there in the downpour. All of the usual night creatures out there knew to just wait a quarter hour and the rain would stop and they could come out onto the fetid earth of their playground once more.
'Shh, little one,' I whispered, and I placed my hand over his mouth to stifle further noise. 'I think I heard something.'
Nguyen's body stiffened, as aware of the possibilities as I was, and he rolled out from underneath me and over the side of the bed to the floor as I reached under my pillow for my pistol, and he reached, at the same time, as he landed gracefully and noiseless on the teak flooring, for the M-16 I kept there under the bed.
I rolled to the floor on the other side of the bed, staying inside the netting, to the great disappointment of the night insects. We lay there, on opposite sides of the bed, breathing heavily for several minutes. But the moment passed; there were no other unexpected night sounds competing with the chirping of the night crickets that started up the instant the rain stopped, abruptly, like the closing of a spigot, and I muttered an all clear - at least I thought it was clear - to Nguyen, and we came back up on the bed and embraced. But that moment was lost now too. Reality had struck, even if it was a false reality - for now - and we had been avoiding the inevitable discussion.
The recent weeks in Saigon had been nerve-racking. We knew now it was just a matter of time. Four weeks if the intelligence Nguyen had passed to me was accurate. The sleuthing he'd done in connection with his news reporting job had concluded that there would be an offensive against the Cam Ranh Bay installations and, if that was successful, soldiers would be streaming down to Saigon for the final coup d'état here. This information had become key to our plans for the defense of the South. Forces had been retained at Cam Ranh Bay that we initially planned to move down to Saigon. Increasingly the embassy staff had been pulled into the compound, not to return to their apartments or bungalows before the danger was past - although few even pretended this was anything other than the prelude to the end - in fear of the night and of what lurked there. I was one of the last still sleeping outside of the compound. And it was now obvious even to me, in my blinders-on optimism, that this would be my last night in this bed too.
I had been putting on an act that fooled only me - not wanting it to be over, so pretending that it wouldn't be, against all indications to the contrary.
That was a sad thought. I had found paradise here in this bed - with Nguyen Van Trinh, South Vietnamese journalist by day and my willing sex slave by night. Although that even was a lie; it was I who was Ngyuen's sex slave. I never wanted this to end. But the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong insurgents of the South obviously had very different views on that. And increasingly their views were the only ones that counted.
'You've been a major source of information for me, Nguyen,' I whispered. 'I've had you on the evacuation list for some time now. Come to the embassy with me in the morning. I think this is it. And when I'm taken out, I want you to go with me. I've arranged for you to be on the list. Come away with me; I will take care of you.'
'I must be in Thon Lac Nghiep tomorrow,' Nguyen said. 'My parents. They call and I must be there.'
'We've discussed this before, Nguyen,' I said. 'I don't think you'll be safe when the Americans are gone. You've cooperated. You perhaps don't fully appreciate all you have told me - or who I work for. You must come out with me. I'll keep you with me. I promise.'
'Perhaps, Jim,' Nguyen answered, although I got the impression he was only humoring me. 'You aren't safe here anymore. On that I agree. It is impossible to hide an American anywhere in Saigon now. You must move to the embassy compound, like the rest. I will come when I can - if I can.'
'Promise? I love you. I don't want to lose you. You love me, don't you?'
Nguyen showed his feelings for me by pressing me on my back on the mattress and straddling my hips with his thighs and slowly riding my cock to another, mutual ejaculation, as I watched the languid movements of my lithe, brown lover in the mirror overhead.
In the morning, when I awoke, Nguyen was gone, as was the M-16. I didn't begrudge him that, though. If that got him to the sea and the village of Thon Lac Nghiep to the north of Saigon and then safely back to me again, I wanted him to have it.
I moved into the embassy compound that morning, and the next day we began the destruction of files. This went slowly, because all of us in the Station were called away for periodic Country Team meetings on the military situation. The military attaches kept saying that all indications were that North Vietnamese troops were moving toward Saigon, and, only the Station was holding out that they would divert to the coast, toward Cam Ranh Bay, before coming further south. They did that on the strength of my good source for the information - Nguyen.
Saigon, however, was in a panic. Helicopters were already shuttling back and forth from the embassy roof out to the battleships anchored off the coast with the embassy personnel deemed nonessential - their dependents having evacuated weeks earlier - and a large number of South Vietnamese officials and their families, people who had partnered with the U.S. forces in the futile effort to maintain a South Vietnamese Republic and who now were being evacuated because their loyalty was a death sentence for them, if - no, not if, when - the North Vietnamese took over in the South.
Back at the Station and working the shredders as fast as I could, I took a break when the shredder I was feeding overheated. I went out to the outer corridor to have a cigarette and to wait for the shredder to cool down. I had worked like a zombie all day, worried to death over Nguyen, and for that reason trying to turn my mind off and just sit there and feed sheet after sheet of top secret paperwork into the shredder. Not for the first time I wondered why we'd created such a mountain of paper out of a losing cause. My hands trembled as I lit my cigarette, and my worries flooded my brain - wondering where he was and whether I should go back to my bungalow in case he was there. I was frantic to see him safely with the other Vietnamese we'd brought into the compound for evacuation.
He was so inscrutable; Ngyuen had soldiered along as if the rending apart of his country had little to do with him. I worried that he just did not understand the danger he was in - particularly if the North Vietnamese ever learned how valuable he had been to us.
The windows in the corridor overlooked the front gates of the compound. A mass of humanity pressed at the gates, begging entrance, trying to claim a spot on the helicopters that were landing on the roof, loading, and then lifting up to bank sharply out toward the sea. Each approach and takeoff was different; there was no pattern - all because of the occasional sound of a rifle shot of a sniper taking a march on the arrival of the North Vietnamese and vying for a medal for shooting down a U.S. helicopter. And at each approach of a helicopter, the arms of those pressing the gate went up in the air, as if they could lift straight up into the copter. And each time an overloaded helicopter rose off the roof of the main embassy building, there was a massive sigh and sob that spread through the whole compound - knowing that one more opportunity for life had passed all still on the ground by.
We had lost a few helicopters, but the pilots by now had become geniuses at avoiding more ambitious fire than this, and the snipers - probably the vanguard of the Viet Cong, composed mostly of young boys - were lousy shots - or were just firing for effect, not begrudging our departure but wanting us to soil our pants in the process.
As I stood at the window, seeing those pressing, five or six deep, on the main gates to the compound, their arms raised in supplication and their voices moaning pleas that I heard at this distance only as a whining cacophony of sound, I forced myself to look at individual faces. I would not see these people as just a mass; I needed to see them as individual people. I felt I owed that to them. They had believed in us, and we had failed them. And when I did this, I saw him. Nguyen. My Nguyen. He was at the outer fringe, too proud to beg and plead, but his eyes were raised to the building, searching, looking worried.
I ran through the building, my eyes already blurry from tears, and down to the beaten-earth outer courtyard inside the main gates. I called out to two of the Marine guards who were guarding the gates, ready, with M-16s raised before them, in case the gates collapsed and rioters had to be prevented from entering the main building. The Marines recognized me - and they knew I worked in the Station.
'One of ours is out there,' I cried. 'He's on the list. There, there, the young man at the back of the crowd, wearing the tan shorts and plaid shirt. Help me. We must let him in. He's on the list. We've got to let him in.'
One of the Marines looked at me, helplessly. 'We can't open the gates, Mr. Baxter. That would be disaster.'
But the other Marine was whistling, trying to get Nguyen's attention. And he did. And when Nguyen saw the Marine, he also saw me and his eyes lit up and he started pushing his way into the crowd.
He'd gotten close to the gates, with both Marines now yelling for the others to let him through. And the crowd, indeed, was parting as well as it could to let Nguyen near the gate. And they were all pressing in on Nguyen, no doubt thinking that when the gates were opened for him, they'd all rush forward. None of them was thinking any further into the future than just getting through the gates. Once there, surely the Americans would give them sanctuary, would let them on the helicopters.
As Nguyen got to the gates, the Marine who had whistled cupped his hands, lowered them, and pushed them between the bars, yelling for Nguyen to step up into them, that they would somehow hoist him over the iron fencing, that they couldn't open the gates. But they would help boost him over.
Nguyen's eyes were on me, only on me, and he was calling to me. He was ignoring the frantic instructions the Marine was trying to give him. I moved to him at the gates. My face was just inches from him. I too was yelling at him to step up in the Marines cupped hands.
I must still have been crying, because Nguyen put a hand through the bars and gently brushed away my tears, and he said, 'This is important Jim. Leave now. You all must leave now. One more day. That's all you have. It's not Cam Ranh Bay. It's here.'
And then he was gone, swallowed up by the crowd. I didn't know whether he was on the ground, being trampled, or how he had just disappeared in an instance. Totally.
The Marine stood back from the fence and raised his hands and turned to me. He gave me a sad look and a shrug and, with a heavy heart, I thanked him for trying and trudged back to the main embassy building. I went straight to the COS, though, and told him that the same source who had informed us the assault would first be on the Cam Ranh Bay installations was now saying that the North Vietnamese plans had changed, that the main assault would be launched here, in Saigon. And most of our forces had been kept at Cam Ranh Bay.
The COS was unsure, and it was now impossible to reposition troops, but he could see that, regardless, it would be best to step up the embassy evacuation. We went straight to the ambassador, who pulled together the Country Team for the second time that day, and, after much wrangling, the call went out to the battleships.
Hours later, as we came out of the meeting, various advisers were still arguing over the need to double the helicopter flights, which would quadruple the danger of the flights, putting the helicopters in greater danger of sniper fire and, more significant, of crashing into each other.
But the COS drew our attention to the windows overlooking the front of the compound. Now there wasn't a single person at the front gates. The people of Saigon already knew. They knew it was too late to seek relief through the embassy. They were deserting the city - at least until it had been taken and it was safer to return.
I left on one of the last helicopters. Everyone we'd gathered in the compound had gotten out, but the shredding machines hadn't kept up with the time needed, and my helicopter lifted off in dense smoke and flying ash from the bonfires we'd set in the courtyards to - we hoped and pretended - destroy as much of our mounds of secret paper as was necessary.
I was evacuated to Bangkok and set to work in the Station there, watching and reporting on the dying agony of Saigon from afar - and mourning my lost lover.
I spent too much time at the bar in the JUSMAG compound, the special forces U.S. military mission to Thai forces, where Major Carl Stevens, a seasoned commando, found me and took me back to his billet and fucked me throughout a weekend until I broke down and told him why I was so morose - how my Vietnamese lover, a valuable asset to U.S. intelligence, had simply slipped through my fingers at the gates of the U.S. embassy in Saigon.
Rough and tough on the outside, Stevens was gentle and caring on the inside. We became almost inseparable, and I gladly took comfort in opening my legs to him and found peace and a numbness to the ghost of Nguyen as he made slow, languid love to me.
One morning over breakfast I turned to him and said, 'I know I've been a mess, Carl. I'm grateful for all you've done for me. And you are a great lover . . .'
'But,' he said.
'Yes, but,' I answered. 'I can't get Nguyen out of my mind. I'm not really like this. I've been a burden on you. But . . .'
'But there isn't going to be anything but good, casual fucking between us while we're both here in Bangkok,' he finished.
'Yes,' I answered in a voice full of regret. 'I don't want you to - '
'He's alive, and he's back in his village at Thon Lac Nghiep,' Carl said.
'Excuse me?' I asked, confused.
'Nguyen. Nguyen Van Trinh. We still have sources in Vietnam. I traced him for you. We can get him out if you want. I have a team going into Vietnam not far from there anyway - on another Op. Thon Lac Nghiep is right there on the coast. If you go with us and talk him into leaving, we can bring him out this time. Off the books, but my CO knows I'm making the offer. If he was a valuable U.S. asset, he shouldn't be left behind any more than we would one of our Marine buddies.'
And that was that. That was why several weeks later, wearing camouflage and smeared with black grease, I was hunched outside a window of a native hut at the edge of Thon Lac Nghiep, watching Nguyen's family closing their activities down for the night and going to their own bungalows and leaving Nguyen alone in his.
I watched him strip, lay down on his matting, turn down his lamp, arrange the mosquito net around himself, and close his eyes. And I wanted him then like I'd never wanted him before.
He started to let out a surprised cry when I came down on his body with mine, but I covered his mouth, first with my hand and then my lips, and he wrapped his arms around me, and we moved slowly into our old familiar embrace and rhythms. He reached down and unbuttoned my fly and fished out my cock. I was possessing his mouth, pushing my tongue in as he opened his legs and hooked his heels on the back of my knees and I slid deep into an old familiar sheathing. And then our pelvises were moving in synch and after many glorious moments of becoming one, precision-timed machine, we came almost simultaneously.
We were still panting our release when Nguyen whispered, 'You cannot be here. You must go. It's death for both of us.'
'I cannot leave you here, Nguyen.' I murmured. 'I came back for you. They'll learn you worked with the Americans. You'll be executed.'
'No, no, you do not understand,' Nguyen muttered insistently. 'That's not how it is. I have an honored position here.'
'Only until they find out. You must come out with me. I have friends . . . and a boat. And there's a ship - '
'I don't want to hear this,' Nguyen said, louder, with anger in his voice. 'You don't want to tell me this. You don't understand.'
I lifted my head from his and, still holding him close, looked down in his face. I had been so stupid.
'You are one of them, aren't you?' I said in a wounded voice. 'You are Viet Cong. You were playing me.'
'Yes, I am VC. And I was sent to give you misinformation. To have sex with you and make you trust me and listen to me and make as many of the troops guarding Saigon to stay in Cam Ranh Bay as possible. But that's not all.'
'What else is there?' I asked dully. My whole world had collapsed. 'What else can there be? I have a knife. I could kill you right here. You know that?'
'Yes, I know that,' he answered. But I could discern no fear in his voice. I wanted this to make him scared. I wanted to wound him, as his act of betrayal had wounded me. 'But I don't think you will,' he said
'Why? Why can you be so sure?'
'For the same reason that I came back to tell you to leave right away. I didn't come back to Saigon to go with you. I came back to send you away in time. And for the same reason that I am going to let you leave here and not report that you have been here. Because, my duty aside, I love you and always will - I'm just from another world, our two worlds now no longer touching. Perhaps someday, but not now.'
'And I cannot kill you for the same reason,' I said at length. I said it for me, though, not for Nguyen. He was a far wiser man than I was. He already knew. And being wiser than me, he knew I would have to leave him now and not look back. Our worlds were too far apart - perhaps not forever, but, as he wisely said, certainly for now.