So they sat there in the front Being Mad of the Education Center, it was Saturday, sat there in the shade under some wide-topped umbrella looking trees, a busy road outside the gate of the military base, they sat on a stretch of grass that ran the length of the old World War Two barracks, now used as the Education Center, where they held classes from the University of Maryland. Beyond the stretch of grass, the iron fence to the base, across the highway, beyond all that, were two guesthouses, beyond that was the town-let of Babenhausen. When he saw Remora’s curiosity he put his pen and paper to the side, snapped up onto his feet. The other students turned away with their faces empty, and continued to write out their zoological papers.
“Mr. Remora,” said Lee Wright, “what you doing here?”
“Nothing; just thinking about attending the University of Maryland, I got 90-credits with Central Texas College, but Maryland will only take twenty of them, so I pert near have to start my college all over, how about you?”
“What’s that? What do you mean?”
“It’s quite complicated,” said Mac. “I suppose you got all your credits from the University?”
“So with ninety credits you still have no degree?” remarked Lee.
“Oh, yes. I can’t raise a beef, if I choose to complain they’ll not even take the twenty-credits. They prefer them to be from a university, not a community college.”
“How odd!” said the Sergeant?
“Not really so strange, not really-I just lost a lot of time and money in the education.”
Then Mac felt a slight embarrassed at telling him his situation, without him asking.
“We all get screwed, now and then, you know, one way or another.”
‘Good god,’ thought Lee, what a misuse of time and effort and money, just to start all over.
“Yes, we all take a thrashing,” agreed Lee, standing three-feet from him, both looking in each others eyes.
“I’m awfully sorry about you losing all those credits, but did you sign up for the University classes yet?”
“I just thought you’d like to know, we need not go any further with it, I mean what’s done is done, and yes I am in the process of signing up.”
“Well maybe we’ll be in some classes together?” Lee looked at him now warmly. He had not anticipated this.
“Let me know which courses you’re going to take,” said Mac “maybe we’ll go together?”
“Yes,” said Lee. “I’m taking philosophy here in Babenhausen, this next semester, and in Frankfurt Anthropology.”
“Frankfurt’s forty miles away, I’ll take the course with you, and we can drive together…” adding, “you can be quite sure on that, it’s a larger school there, and I think stricter,” said Mac.
They had unknowingly both decided at that point to break away from the norm, and not be independent, but a little more interdependent in selecting and going to university classes. They would eat together after school, find a bar and Lee would get drunk, as Mac never did, but he depended on Lee’s company, paid for his food, his meals, and drinks, even the gas, never asking for a cent, said once, “You’ll never find a better nigger than me!” And Lee assured himself he wouldn’t.
At times Lee got too drunk to even talk, as Mac remained distinguished, and to those young girls around him, he was considerate, Lee was a little to the contrary. It might even have appeared to Mac’s admirers, it would be a damn sight easier for him to get rid of Lee, save his money, and not have to watch Lee drinking to kingdom-come, because this was seemingly more than a phase for him, more like a lifestyle.
“How is everything going?” Mac would ask Lee, during those drinking spells, that only stopped when he was on duty, and he’d answer, “Oh, I’m fine…” and continue drinking, and you’d think the night had gone to pot, but it didn’t phase Mac all that much. There was evidently a reason for Mac’s generosity.
“I’m sorry,” Remora said looking at Sergeant Lee Erwin Wright, looking at him in his American military uniform, his white American face, that was square and strong, and would remain that way all the way to his mid fifties, and Remora noted his wavy auburn hair for once, as he held his hat and the wind blew it all, everywhichway, his fine sparkling bluish-green eyes, only dimly dubious, a solid good nose, upper lip thin, lower lip fuller, a handsome jaw. “I’m sorry, amigo, but you must realize all those times I’ve taken you out to eat, and buy you drinks-oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing it-but I need a favor, I need for you to lend me your ration cards, for whiskey and cigarettes.”
(Lee had been selling his rationed whiskey to a bar down in Munster by Dieburg, getting double its cost, but Remora had been spending twice that amount on his nightly drinking and eating after classes at the university. So what could he do, Lee thought. He was already in debt to him, and he liked Remora, and his sporty Mercedes he drove in, even borrowed it to him now and then. And here the provider was apologizing, because he couldn’t afford to continue his lavished living on him, if indeed he could not contribute something. What could he say?
“Don’t worry about the cigarettes, I got ration cards from several of my friends for that item, and I know you smoke, but I know you don’t drink whiskey, rather beer, I sure could use your card!” Lee bolted like a rabbit, when a fox just grabs him, and gave him the card, he’d make perhaps even more than he was making, he knew every bar in town, and nightclub, and PX within fifty-miles. And for the most part, Lee Wright was thinking, what the heck you can do with a man like that, that talked so smoothly, but on the other hand was right, and generous, Lee surprised.
Lee looked at Mac with his cheerful bluish-green eyes, yet sturdy Army combat, war eyes, eyes that have seen death and destruction in Vietnam, in 1971, and Mac knew he was no coward, matter-of-fact, he knew he was or could be dangerous, even with his pleasant smile, if you didn’t notice how his eyes showed that, it was to one’s disadvantage (but Mac had heard, but not said a word on it-heard he taught a squadron at the 545th Ordnance Company, karate techniques, and played hard, so hard the squadron protested, and he stopped their training because they were as he said, “Cry babies”).
“In the morning if you like Lee, you can come with me and see how I do my black-market business, my buying. Maybe I can fix it up for you,” he said. “We’ll never get rich, but we’ll live well in the meantime.”
“Okay, in the morning if you like,” remarked Sergeant Wright. This was certainly the way to accept it, thought Mac; he could tell a thing or two about soldiers, he was one for two-years. He was all for America, even though he decided to live in West Germany, and had learned to speak German almost as well as he could speak English, and perhaps spoke more German than English. But of course, Lee couldn’t, I mean he spoke German, but could only understand, every fifth word or so, and his vocabulary was limited to perhaps one-hundred words, if that.
The morning had been as bright and warm as they come.
‘Here’s Mac,’ Lee mumbled to himself, outside of his apartment on base, in the housing area, where he lived. He walked over to his car looking refreshed and cheerful. But he wasn’t really odd, Mac thought, no, not odd, different, he knew much more than what he said, he’d not let on to what he did know either, always thinking, with that reddish completion.
“How’s Belinda,” commented Lee, Mac’s fiancée to be. He had only seen her once, a teacher that worked across the street at the American School, for the children brought over to Germany from the States by their military families. She was a pearl, he thought, a lightly black female that had-oh, much more class than Mac.
“Were getting along fine, I just don’t want to get engaged quite yet, but she’s pregnant, I just found out, so I guess I’ll have to sooner than later. Belinda was very impressive thought Lee, ‘You’re going to kill the very thing you love,’ thought Lee, because he knew Mac’s personality demanded he still get his oats out, in the wild female jungle, the one he creates and destroys. In many a night club women just flocked over him, some stripped in front of him, to get his attention. Whatever he had, it was as if it was voodoo or some black magic over these women.
As they went from PX, to PX, to German stores, and bars, Lee saw he had a network of buyers for his whiskey and cigarettes, and he’d even stop at a few apartments of soldiers, get their ration cards, he made a buddle of money this early morning, to forenoon-Sergeant Wright pondered. And he even stopped to say hello at a tennis court, to a young woman named Melody Brown (he didn’t know at the time, she was seventeen and the daughter to Sergeant Robert Brown, although she looked her age), Sergeant Brown being a sergeant that worked in one of the unites at the Babenhausen military complex. But he would later on find out much more.
Lee thought, ‘If indeed he had something going on with Melody, the Army was hard and cruel on such predatory things, and so were the soldiers with their daughters, revengeful on the predators. The girl was attractive, and he could see the young men around her were gone to pieces nervously with her, Mac approached her softened, and handled her as if he had magic.
‘They can’t know that much at her age,’ Lee thought. Lee was grateful that Mac had gone to showing him his life, but why? And why was he fooling around with a young, High School female,’ (so he concluded), he asked himself. She came running over to his car as they were about to take off, “I’m coming with you,” she said, looking at Lee for an instant, then back to Mac.
“No, you’re not,” he said.
“Oh, yes, I am,” and she opened the back door and jumped in.
“You’re not staying for anything,” he said.
“Not for anything?” she said. Lee had felt he might have missed something in all this, but she was asking for it, and he was willing, and when she left, Mac got thinking, as she went off to cry as if he wanted to take her with him but it was for some reason too dangerous. To Lee, she seemed hell of a lovely kid, with all the woman parts, and she seemed to understand the ways of a man and woman, but didn’t she know she’d be hurt by him sooner or later? It was the damnedest thing, both playing the damnedest game.
Lee had asked to be dropped off at the NCO club (Non commissioned officers club) figuring Mac would put on another show for him tomorrow, or Monday, sooner than later, but he wanted no more today, and this would give him a time to straighten things out if they needed straightening out with Melody, because Lee’s senses told him, he was still thinking, pondering on her.
“You’re not coming, I’m going to Darmstadt,” he asked.
“No, you were really something this morning,” he said, “You wore me out.”
Relieved of Position
“What now?” said Mac Remora, to the military inspector of his little Babenhausen store?
“I didn’t come out here to be boring,” said the inspector.
“Well, it hasn’t been boring around here,” said Mac.
“Oh, no, I expect not,” he said. “it’s been charming, but tomorrow is your last charming day-you’re being replaced, your inventories, and rumors and you’ve been under investigation for selling your liquor stock and rationed items to the local Germans, and making a hell of a profit,” said the inspector.
“You don’t know how I look forward to tomorrow,” said Mac.
“I suppose a robber gets tired of robbing his own stock,” the inspector remarked, “in any case, I’m glad to get rid of you!”
“Why not let up on the complaining, just a slight inspector,” said Mac.
“I expect I could,” he commented, “Since you put it so appealingly. “But you still may have to face fraud charges; we just need someone to point you out as his/her seller. Indecently we’ve had you followed.
“Oh, like a lion,” commented Mac.
Consequently, Mac Remora thought to himself: he’s going to try and prosecute ME, try and give ME a free ride right to the front door of the prison house, isn’t he? Or maybe that was just his fear taking over; perhaps the inspector just wanted him gone, out of sight and out of mind and just out of his hair. How should a man act when another finds out he’s a stinking thief. He felt the inspector was damned cruel but they’re all cruel he concluded, even if you’re straight with the records. Still, he had enough of the PX business, enough of their damn inspections. So he reasoned, as one often does to be able to accept the situation-oh yes, put horns on top of it, call it a devil, and be done with being polite: to the devil with it all. And that is what he was doing.
Three Months Later
One afternoon, late, Mac and Belinda had gotten married, she was showing, her blouses no longer tucked in, and behind her belt, and Sergeant Robert Brown had stopped Staff Sergeant Wright, nearby the Babenhausen PX, talk to him about his daughter, Melody. He was bearing a gun. He showed him the gun; it was hidden behind his coat, “Tell your friend Mac, I’m a good shot, plus he’s a big target, I’m going to shoot him. He rapped my daughter, and I can’t figure out why you are friends with him.” Brown remarked.
“Is it worth-while, go to the police?” said Lee.
“I did,” rebuke Sergeant Brown, “but there’s no hard proof! Maybe you can testify for me, get him to tell the truth.”
“There’s no good chance of it. He just got married and he told me Melody was constantly running after him, and to be honest, I saw her one day, clear as the day is long, likened a lioness after him.”
“It’s not very pleasant to hear my daughter is like that, she’s seventeen years old, no matter what, he took advantage of her,” said Brown.
“I should think it even more unpleasant to allow her to continue to do what she’s doing,” said Lee.
(Brown thought, daughter or no daughter, to continue to talk about it, was only going to cause more friction.)
“We’re friends,” brown said, “I don’t want to talk about that anymore, just let him know I’m after him-with a gun!”
“I wouldn’t think about that anymore, Robert, any person would be upset finding out what you’ve learned, but that’s all over. And if you shoot him, I’ll testify I’ve heard you threaten to kill him-don’t make me a part of your scheme.”
That night Mac got together with Lee for a short period, at a nightclub outside of Babenhausen; Mac having a soda and Lee a beer as usual. As they sat at a table, Lee listening to the night noises all over, with some lastingly emphasized words, he said to Mac, “Brown has a gun, he’s looking for you, says you’ve raped his daughter, he’s miserably in raged over it.” The fear was there like a cold clammy half-hollow iceberg, where once all he’d show was confidence, he looked sick.
“Does Belinda know of Melody?” asked Lee.
“I told her the night before,” his voice was of a deep sound, sort of coughing and grunts, as if he was thinking hard, as he talked. Lee could hear him breathing heavily. He couldn’t tell him not to be afraid, but he did say, “I told him, confronted him, about the wildness I saw in Melody, and that while I’m here if he shoots you, I’ll testify to the police to his threats.”
“Is he dead serious?” asked Mac.
“Well, who’s to say, but he acted like it, until I told him he’d be accountable.”
“I’ll have to check into this, maybe report what you said to the police, I mean I’ll report it.”
“Do you think his threats carry that far?”
“It sounds like he’d like to carry them out,” said Lee. “If you get shot…” Lee started to say then stopped abruptly. “Talk to Melody, maybe she’d be the best one to straighten things out?”
“I tried already to talk to her properly,” said Mac, “she’s out for revenge because I married Belinda. It’s really all about that.”
“You must have told her you’d marry her then?” Lee questioned.
“I shouldn’t have chanced it, but I did. You can hit me whenever you want, it was stupid of me to have said such a thing, but it’s what she wanted to hear, and I figured it would pass, but she thinks it was a solid deal.”
“Marvelous,” Lee said.
Lo and Behold
Six Weeks Later
“I’m ready,” Staff Sergeant Lee Erwin Wright said.
“You set in front,” said Mac, Belinda doesn’t mind sitting in the back, then we can talk on our way to the airport, and she don’t have to twist about looking at you as we talk, her belly is getting bigger by the day gets in the way you know (they were heading to Frankfurt; Lee was being relocated to Alabama).
“Yes, darling, said Belinda. “It sounds less strenuous, doesn’t it?”
“Of course,” said Mac.
“Finished with everything here in Germany, is that right?” remarked Belinda.
Just then, a Corporal Will Wilson came running up to the car, “I’ll see you this evening…!” he said (a white boy, no more than twenty-three or twenty-four years old, his new protege).
“Yes,” said Mac.
“I’m ready if you’re ready Lee,” said Mac.
“Must make the 3:00 p.m., flight,” Lee said. (Then it occurred to him, he found his self a new white partner. Chances were he’d not be bothered all that much in the bars, hanging around with whity, sure that was his hidden motive, especially when he hit on the white gals in the clubs.)
The car stopped at a stop light, “Is everything all right?” asked Mac.
“Everything’s fine, just keep going ahead and to the right, you know the way to Frankfurt!”
“He’s a marvelous friend, isn’t he Belinda?” said Mac.
He was sitting almost too relaxed driving, thought Lee, “Mac really likes you Lee,” said Belinda.
“What do you mean?” asked Lee.
“He doesn’t even borrow me his Mercedes, but you he does you!” she replied.
“Yes, I was always afraid I’d crash it, and have to pay to fix it, and that would be my paycheck for six-months.” Both Belinda and Mac chuckled.
“Oh,” said Mac, “you’ll never find a better nigger than me!” jesting.
And that would be the last time they saw each other, talked to each other. Oh, what about the gun-bearer? You see, Lee called on the phone trying to find out what took place about that mishap-if indeed anything at all-after he left, as a result, he ended up talking to Sergeant Sims, not being able to get a hold of Mac. He had said the following to him:
“For some reason, Mac had felt after you left, he couldn’t be hit, shot, he was safe-and perhaps in a way he was right-but he was found dead nonetheless, in a hotel room no more than two weeks after you left, such a shame, he had been with Melody of all things, that very night.
Perhaps she lured him there, but the gun that Sergeant Brown had was not the murder weapon, not at all, the police clearly stated that (as if it was beyond a doubt) and to the best of my understanding-of what reasoning that is that can be derived from this calamity-neither he nor she could just leave each other alone, they could not just stop it (both in some kind of fixation, beyond lust and compassion, perhaps we can call it, a tranquilized compulsion, like smoking cigarettes, the craving comes and until you light one, it doesn’t go away, it puts you under duress-although I think Sergeant Brown mellowed down after you talked to him, and perchance wasn’t the culprit as the police first thought, and everyone first thought-but I repeat his gun was not the weapon, and all the concluding evidence pointed elsewhere for malice.
For one thing, she, Melody was suffering, I saw her a few times, spoke to her in passing, we just simply ran into each other. But don’t you worry; you didn’t have anything to do with it. If anything you ironed it out somewhat, or tried to. At least I’d like to think so.”
(Melody’s Story) On one evening about two weeks after Sergeant Wright left for the states, Mac and I got together at the hotel garden, he got quite drunk. He was a gentleman as always. I had seen him earlier on that day, coming down the walk in at Babenhausen Military Base, we were between a fence, it all happened so mysteriously. After I asked him what time he’d like to meet me at the hotel garden-he had not eaten-but said he’d be ready to go as soon as lunch was finished; about frothy-five minutes to an hour. I trusted him only in that he would show up, in nothing else did I have confidence in him, because he was mysterious about his life, about everything in his life-a compulsive liar, who stacked lie upon lie until he forgot where he placed each lie, and sometimes confusing them, I got the truth-but only by holding in anger and hate, and I knew sooner or later that anger and hate, and under that, as my psychologist said, was hurt-it would come out.
It was a windy day but the sun was coming out, and it looked by the time he got to the garden cloudy, dark clouds were forming, and I knew behind clouds was rain. So I asked him to get us a room at the hotel in Babenhausen Township. I was going to shoot him right there and then, but it was no longer a wonderful day, and it seemed so downright nasty to have him dead in the wet grass, the devil forbid. Yes, I shot him in the hotel room, turned the music on loud, and had a 22-revolver, and shot him in the chest and head. Then I left the hotel and started down the road-buried the revolver in a cabbage patch. I saw his wife drive by, she was wearing a yellow and red scarf around her neck, I helped him pick it out, he said it was for his mother, he was always mysterious, but I knew beyond a doubt he’d show up, it’s just like fishing, he was caught on my hook, and I on his.
(Babenhausen, West Germany)
Police Officer (sitting sullenly in an interrogation room with Melody): I know you shot him, who else could have? We can’t find the gun, and we know your father’s gun is a 38 Special, and you’re the only one with reason enough. You have to own up to this (he said).
Melody Brown: ((Young Melody appeared not to hear the Officer, she was thinking: what in heaven’s name makes him say ‘I know you shot him’ he thinks I shot him) (she smiles, a reluctant smile to the officer, says to her mind’s eye: he needs to press the subject, to bring me into action.)) Thank you officer, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying, I think you had a few too many beers today. (Melody thinking: let him be with his scornful look, I could shoot him too, just like that, what’s the difference. Her second self says: ‘No, no, Melody you are too cold, it doesn’t make any difference what he says, he can’t prove anything unless he finds the gun in the cabbage patch, then he can trace it…’
The Chief of Police (talking to the Police Officer doing the interrogation, in private): Let her go, look at her she’s got her own demons chasing her, she’s not meant to be a killer, if indeed she killed him, and I’d bet a month wages she’d confess under harder and longer interrogation techniques; but let her go, we can close the case, we got enough crazy people out there to amuse us, and keep us busy, why torture an already tormented girl. Put the file in ‘Unsolved.’