The One-Eyed Snake by Alan Goldsamt by Alan Goldsamt - Read Online

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The One-Eyed Snake - Alan Goldsamt

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24

THE ONE-EYED SNAKE

by

ALAN B. GOLDSAMT

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

Whiskey Creek Press

PO Box 51052

Casper, WY 82605-1052

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright Ó 2014 by Alan B. Goldsamt

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-693-5

Cover Artist: Nancy Donahue

Editor: Dave Field

Printed in the United States of America

Dedication

Dedicated to my wife, Barbara, to my granddaughters, Lauren, Julia and Emily, and to my grandson, Shaun

Prologue

Detective Lieutenant Megan Donahay, NYPD, Homicide, could not ignore the invitation. A request from Professor Jason Sachs, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, might have been avoided except it came through the offices of the Police Commissioner. She was concerned that one lecture at the college could expand to more lectures. She had enough to do without adding more work but what ever she thought she could not deny the Commissioner. Apart from the chain of command she liked Harry Lincoln and their relationship had grown over the years.

She was asked to attend one of Sach’s classes on criminal psychology and give her opinions, not on psychology, but on the thoughts of the criminal in deciding what to do.

Describe the criminal’s motives, his past history, his decision to act, the degree of planning involved. Homicide cases, Lieutenant, not robberies or arson or anything else.

Motives, she would explain, were the reason, jealousy being one of the most common. Money and greed were others. Past history was easy to ascertain since many killers did so before. The ones who killed for the first time were unknowns although many had backgrounds, which lent themselves towards violence. Serial killers were the most difficult to analyze unless the case involved serial rapists.

Planning was another thing. Many killings, she thought, were impulses, spur of the moment decisions, based on a wrong word, a wrong look, suppressed anger, jealousy arising from a chance observance, wife with another man. She would explain that planning was most often of short duration. The decision to kill was made, the killer stalked or found his victim, known or otherwise, and the act committed.

Long range planning, she felt, was mostly used for major non-violent crimes, such as robberies, banks, stores, armored cars, storage facilities, hijackings, kidnappings, although violence and murder often occurred as a secondary result.

Donahay’s talk at the college was, in one way, premature. Had the invitation occurred a year later she could describe a series of killings, which involved decades of planning. She could then ask Dr. Sachs what psychological aspects were involved, what sort of agony had the killer undergone, were the killings for revenge for acts to himself or to avenge something which had occurred to another?

Once the killer was caught questions could be asked, family and friends interviewed, personal history reviewed. Donahay’s problem, she would soon find, was that she had a suspect but he had disappeared. Unfortunately for the NYPD, the suspect’s disappearance occurred several years before the first murder.

Chapter 1

He got out of bed and walked to the bathroom, took a towel and wiped his face, neck, chest and arms. The towel wasn’t as wet as usual. Looking in the mirror, he could see his face in the low light.

Why does this continue? When will this end?

He’d asked the same questions for years, every time he awoke with screams from his nightmares. He’d long since ceased to concern himself with his neighbors.

It was too late to try to sleep. He went to the kitchen and made a cup of instant coffee, returned to the living room and turned on the television. This had become a ritual, several times a week. At first his wife would sit with him, calming him. Then she stayed in bed and left him alone. He couldn’t remember what had happened before he married.

How long was it? A week ago? A month ago? He couldn’t remember. He’d returned from work and entered the apartment. There should have been music. She always had a CD in the player—something soothing, quiet classical music, sometimes Respighi, sometimes Mendelssohn, sometimes soft jazz. She knew he didn’t like noisy music or country and western. She knew the music that calmed him.

He found the note. After he read it he knew she was right. She was always right. Now it lay on the end table, under the TV remote. He picked it up, knowing that just rereading it had a calming influence.

My darling,

I love you, I love you, I love you. Don’t ever doubt that I love you. I have felt your pain, I have felt your hurt, I have shared your anger.

I have done everything I could and you have done everything I, and the doctors, asked, even more. Despite all that we have been through together, and you have shown some remarkable improvement, I know, and you know, that it is not enough. There must be more to do. No one should suffer as you have. The doctors say you are doing better. But they cannot tell us when this will stop. We thought that if you returned to where it happened you could find closure, if you could find out what happened to him. We all supported you, but decided that you might feel more pain if you went.

There is a time when you need to try to fight this on your own. I think that at times you depend on me too much. Perhaps now is the time for you to begin again on your own, maybe for a week or two, perhaps longer. Only you can decide.

I am going to leave you alone, just for a while, but longer than last time. I will not tell you where I will go; I’m not sure myself. Just know that I will be back and that I will still love you.

Marianne

He placed the letter on the end table and clicked to another channel. After a few hours he turned off the television, returned to the bathroom, shaved and showered. He got dressed, returned to the kitchen, sipped his orange juice, swallowed his two pills, made some scrambled eggs and whole-wheat toast, and another cup of instant.

Then he went to work. He walked to the subway and began the journey. He exited near the shop and walked the four blocks; every morning was the same. He wished he might drive but didn’t like the traffic congestion and innumerable delays. The visions could always return, causing problems during the daytime. As he walked he saw several children walking to school, accompanied by an older woman who he guessed was the grandmother of one of them. He’d seen the sight many, many times in the past years.

How long? Forever.

The sight of them, on that day, brought back a vision, one of many. It shocked him. He made a decision.

I will go, find my way and get the means. I will have to find the one-eyed snake. He will do my bidding.

Chapter 2

It was easier than I thought, except for hiding the money. I was afraid they would find it so I had to hide it in the lining of the suitcase. I knew that would be one of the first places they’d look but I rolled up the bills and slid them in the welt that went around the outside. I had three thousand in thirty, worn one-hundred dollar bills. I hoped it would be enough. I showed them some cash, maybe two hundred, and a credit card. They didn’t check the expiration date.

They asked me why I was going and I gave them an honest answer—to look for a buddy who was MIA. I gave them his name, Delbert North, when I last saw him, where we were, and the circumstances. I didn’t think they would spend the time going back into the archives to find my military history. It seems that many families were going to Vietnam to search for their sons or brothers, all MIA, and I’d be just another.

* * * *

When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City it was a late afternoon in May and the heat and humidity brought back instant memories. I checked into the hotel, ate in the dining room, and retired early. The next morning I went to a tour agency and explained why I was there.

I hadn’t been the only one. They told me a couple had just left. They were looking for her older brother.

The agent introduced me to a staff member who was assigned to help individuals or families in their search. It took him a little while to locate Duc Phu Tan on his map. When he looked up at me he had a frown. I wondered if the history of the village had lasted all these years. I think he wanted me to explain why that village and not some other.

I couldn’t be too honest so I told him that North was in a different squad but we were close friends. I heard about the event. I called it the event because I couldn’t say massacre. It might be insulting to him. I said that I heard he was missing when his squad returned to the base. After I returned to the U.S., I contacted his family but they hadn’t heard from him or about him. I said that when I read about all the Americans who were going to Vietnam I thought it was time for me to go.

He arranged for a car and driver to take me to the village. When I asked if it was possible for me to return there in a few days, he was curious. I explained that I would try to find someone who was old enough to remember what had happened, but I might not make the right contact right away. After some discussion he agreed that several trips might be necessary. Naturally, there would be a fee for him.

When I went to the village the next morning I was both shocked and disturbed. The village had been rebuilt to look just as it was when I first saw it. The memories of the attack resurfaced. For a while I was nauseous.

I asked a few of the older men what they knew about the event and what might have happened to the Americans who were missing. They said they’d ask around. My driver was an excellent interpreter and seemed genuinely interested in helping me.

I returned two days later, with a different driver. The men I had asked had no information. Of course not—Duc Phu Tan was not where North and I were held.

I explained to the new driver that my recollections must have been wrong; perhaps it was a different village. I told him that after we left the village we walked for several hours to another village, whose name I didn’t know. I told him it was several hours walk from a small river we’d passed on our return to our base. He knew of several villages that matched the description but without a direction, north, south, east or west, he couldn’t give me the possible names of the villages.

The next day I returned to Duc Phu Tan with the first driver. I found him more cooperative and ultimately, more talkative. During our return from the village I told him I was interested in snakes, that I had a small collection of reptiles, snakes, and lizards. He hated snakes, he said, and didn’t want to talk about them. I didn’t want to push him so we agreed to meet two days later to continue my search.

We went to another village, two hours to the northeast of Duc Phu Tan. It didn’t seem familiar but I went through the motions of inquiring about North. I showed his photograph but no one remembered him. After the snake bit him he must have been left in the rubble of the raid. Chances were that the local animals quickly devoured his body. I doubted that any VC or villager would take the time to bury him, although I’d read of the finding of remains in shallow graves.

I brought up the matter of snakes and the driver seemed more composed. I mentioned that in my hobby of raising pet snakes, I had made the acquaintance of several professionals.

One of them, I told him, was important in developing antidotes to snake bites and collected the venom from snakes all over the world.

When I explained that the man would be willing to pay for the venom of a very rare snake, thought to come from Vietnam, the comment about money caused a reaction.

Perhaps I can be of assistance, he suggested. I have many relatives who know about snakes.

This one is extremely rare, seen infrequently. It is recognizable by one unique feature, markings on its head which look like an eye, what would appear to be a three-eyed snake.

The driver stared at me. How is that snake known in your country?

I was told that on an expedition to find the snake, one of the guides was bitten. He died within seconds and all of the men with him gave the same description. The reason for the search for the snake was to get samples of the venom. It would be useful in research to develop antidotes which could be used on bites of other lethal snakes. I explained that while we do not have a snake of that description in America, antidotes could work on bites of other American snakes.

The driver was quiet and when I began to speak he turned his head away. Obviously, he didn’t want to continue the discussion. I must have hit a nerve. I said no more. I’d planted the seed of money and hoped that he would be interested.

It was on the way back that he made an offer.

If, and it’s only an if, I could find someone who knew about such a snake, what are we talking about?

I knew he wanted to know how much money. Before I came to Vietnam I did some research and discovered that one hundred American dollars would be a comfortable bribe. I offered him two hundred dollars. For you if you put me in contact with the right person. An additional two hundred dollars if he delivers.

He smiled. A big smile. I will ask.

But, I said, "if I get the venom of another snake, not the